Our last moments with the pups

It’s Thursday night. My husband is working late. One son has been away on a class trip all week; due home tomorrow. The pups will get their surgery tomorrow and go to their forever homes on Saturday. They may stay at the shelter tomorrow night. This could be their last night with us.

It’s almost better that I don’t know. And if you’ve been following, it’s exactly the opposite of what I said about anticipation being part of the process! Part of me can’t wait to not be responsible for 11 puppies. But most of me can’t imagine life without them. Who will greet me with bright, shiny faces every morning? Who will vie for my lap after their morning feeding? How could anyone else possibly meet their needs, know every little thing about them?

And of course, they’re ready for their new families. They need to stretch their legs and figure out what life is like without their siblings. They need to start doing their business outside which is only possible with some one-on-one attention. They need to stop being little baby puppies and move on to their next phase of puppyhood.

Tonight when I picked the pups up from the shelter I was reminded of my days in the library software world. We’d have a new software release yearly, and have to install it at all of the libraries. One year, we hit a critical mass of too few staff and too many customers. We had to work 4 weekends in a row to get all of the new software installed with minimal disruption to the customers. It was crazy and invigorating at the same time. We all got overtime pay, but that didn’t compensate for working for an entire month with no time off.

At the same time, the staff grew closer. We did little things to keep ourselves going. For example, after each successful installation, we’d wring a bell, broadcasting it throughout the company. The resulting cheer varied depending on who was in the building. When the president of the company was there, he’d always respond with something entertaining which was not so easy for a quiet guy like him.

Tonight at the shelter, the atmosphere was the same. Everyone was helping to get the puppies vaccinated, or organizing the supplies for tomorrow’s surgeries. It was electric. During a quiet moment, Jeff confessed that even on his busiest, craziest days, he goes home with a smile on his face because he knows that he’s making a difference in the lives of animals and people. That’s huge.

So here’s my big thank you to everyone who helped raise these puppies!

The volunteers at the shelter were always ready to help load puppies into my car and tell me about the time they spent with the little guys. They’d stay as long as necessary to clean up the inevitable mess left by 11 dogs-to-be.

Renee, at the front desk always had a smile for me, whether I was dropping off or picking up. It’s not easy to get 11 puppies through the door. I’d try to get them to the shelter before visiting hours, which meant that I left the door unlocked for a few minutes. That always resulted in someone coming in to renew a dog license or ask about a cat. Even though Renee had lots of work to do that had to be done before office hours, she took it in stride, shifted gears and helped who ever needed her.

Arte, the animal care technician was always ready to help me load pups, or distract them so that I could get in the play yard door with their food. She has a tough job, working behind the scenes as well as with the public trying to get animals adopted and at the same time, cleaning up after them and caring for their needs. She’s always smiling and knows exactly what’s happening with every animal at the shelter.

Jason and Andi are the Animal Control Officers. It’s their job to go out on calls, rescue animals, file reports. But they do so much more than that. They basically do anything anyone else can’t get to. That included puppy transport from my house to the shelter, garbage pick up at my house (those little buggers create a mess…). But more than all of that, they were always on hand to debrief with me about whatever was happening, offering suggestions about using shredded paper, or lavishing praise on my dog.

Jeff is the Animal Shelter manager. He’s the one who got us into this adventure in the first place! What a great guy. He’s full of energy and ideas, always trying to improve life for animals and people, but more than willing to help behind the front desk or clean up some poop. He helped us set up the enclosure at our house and transported puppies, food, bedding – whatever we needed.

And last, but not least, Kathy the shelter supervisor. This woman is a gem in the animal care world. We’ve talked every day for the past 6 weeks. Yes, most of our conversations center around puppy care (poop and food and behavior and schedules), but I’ve come to know Kathy as competent, compassionate and realistic. I could never have fostered these puppies without Kathy’s support and daily pep talks. One of the first days, she came to the house to weigh the pups. It was quite a production, but of course, she did it all quickly and with such care. And now I know that the precious hour she took out of her day was never regained. She’s responsible for so much at the shelter. I don’t know when she sleeps. But these puppies are thriving because of her thoughtfulness and knowledge.

The puppies are asleep now. I have to stop myself from waking them to give me one last face licking. They’re ready to move on.

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