All of the puppies look pretty much the same. They differ in size, but because there are so many of them, it’s still hard to tell them apart.

Except for Einstein. He’s definitely the runt and his little forehead protrudes . But he’s not that far behind his next smallest sister on the scale. He’s been steadily gaining weight – a good measure of progress. He plays, he’s rough when he needs to be, he doesn’t get picked on any more than anyone else. Yet, I wonder, I worry. I watch him for signs of anything abnormal. But what do I know from abnormal? I’ve never done this before.

Kathy (Animal Shelter wonder-woman) and I have discussed him at length. Is he eating? Yes. Is he getting pushed out of the feeding frenzy? No. Does he nurse? Yes, in fact, I let him nurse for both sessions while I switch out the others. Does he play? Like a wild man. So we stop worrying for a little while.

Then Kathy mentioned him to the vet, who said that there is a congenital condition that does present with a huge forehead. But he might not have it, Einstein might be just fine. If he’s not, it’s in his genes and there’s nothing we can do about it, or it’s not a result of anything we’ve done. Einstein might be just fine.

Yesterday, he was crying and whining so loudly, that I had to scoop him up and carry him around while I prepared his dinner. His siblings slept soundly, but he just couldn’t be consoled. Finally, he fell asleep in the crook of my elbow as I mixed and poured with my left hand. It reminded me of the infant days with my boys – I got really good at doing things one-handed. Because, really, what do you do with a crying baby (puppy)? You pick him up, of course.

What is it about the runts? Wilbur was the runt that Fern rescued and we all grew to love. Is it something about ‘against all odds we will survive’? Is it about rooting for the underdog? Is it about helping others who need so much?

My boys left a school situation in which most of the resources were allocated to those in desperate need. The right thing to do, of course. But over time, I grew to realize that my children were suffering because of it. As the resources dwindled (education cuts are in the news daily), there was just nothing left for the kids who were doing ok. But I contend that these kids are not ok. They’re actually becoming another at-risk group because the resources are spread too thin. So we left.

We are fortunate to have choices. I home-schooled for a year, I researched the options and found a wonderful learning environment for my kids. But what if I had to choose between feeding Einstein and feeding one of the robust puppies. What if my choice determined how much he thrived.

We all want everyone to have equal access to the resources regardless of race or economic status or geography. But that’s just not realistic. In this country of individuals, there are going to be differences. And we celebrate these differences. But is there a limit? If someone is ‘too different’ do we shut them out, do we determine their level of survival?

Of all the kitten litters we helped raise last summer, we only had 2 obvious runts. They both died. One wasn’t eating or thriving in any way and had to be put down after 3 days in our care. I was absolutely devastated. How could this happen? What had I done? Well, actually, I’d done nothing. It was the law of nature at work. The other kitten was 10 oz. when he came with his 4 siblings. It was hard to help raise that many little guys. But little Divot (golf course rescue) ate well, gained weight, stood up to his siblings, loved to cuddle. He made it all the way through 4 weeks with us, through his neuter surgery, put up for adoption, then his eyelid started attaching to his eye. He had to be put down because of this congenital condition. It was absolutely the right thing to do. He was suffering and would have had a hard life. But… my heart broke. The last few nights he was with us, he slept on my bed. He was so considerate, giving me most of the pillow. That last night, he burrowed under the covers and curled up in the curve of my knee. It was a short life, but a good one.

And Einstein might be just fine.

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