Safety First

This afternoon, my 5 year old buddy helped me with a feeding. He was great, petting the puppies while they waited, handing me bedding or newspapers. After they filled up on gruel, and returned to their clean enclosure, he really wanted to get in with them. We’d talked about sharp puppy teeth, nonexistent manners, claws, slurping tongues. He couldn’t resist. As soon as he’d gotten comfy on their bed, they advanced. All I saw was his head. His torso was covered in puppy bodies. He was laughing so hard, he couldn’t speak. I asked him if he was ok. He shook his head. I grabbed his arms and told him to stand up. The puppies were dripping off of him like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. After he caught his breath, he settled on the steps, outside of the pen with one calm puppy on his lap. He was fine with the whole situation, the puppies were fine too. But it reminded me that young children and puppies need lots of supervision.

When I started fostering these puppies, I knew we’d have lots of visitors of all ages. I promised myself that I’d never leave children (no matter what age) alone with the puppies. There are just too many unknowns. The mom could suddenly decide to get territorial, a child could drop a puppy, a puppy could need more than a child could give. I see this as a learning experience for anyone who comes to visit, with safety at the forefront of every encounter.

Especially as the pups get bigger. They just hit a milestone. I can’t scoop them up in one hand anymore. I did it last night – scooped up two whiners and held them close. But today, I need two hands to safely grasp those round bellies.

When I was 6 years old, we lived on 20 acres in the woods in Wisconsin. Our dog was a silver German Shepherd. He was the sweetest thing that ever lived and protective of his pack. One day the neighbor kids were over and we were coloring on the picnic table outside. Hans was lounging underneath, keeping watch over the brood. Those were the days in which older siblings were in charge and moms took care of other business. Well, our little neighbor slipped under the table and started to climb on Hans. He growled a warning, but this 4 year old didn’t understand. Then his jaws opened and closed on her face. Afterward, I remember my parents talking in hushed voices about losing everything if there was a lawsuit. But those were different times and neighbors didn’t sue each other, even if their kids’ faces were altered forever. We were very lucky. After that, Hans didn’t get to hang out with us so much. It was nobody’s fault and everyone’s fault. It’s so important for kids to learn that dogs are not playthings and for adults to remember to be ever vigilant.

My dad still owns that land. He lives nearby, but I don’t think he’ll ever sell it. Not with Hans’ grave under one of those trees.

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