Woman.  Childless. Mother’s Day.

Babies have never really been my thing. I was not one of those young girls that enjoyed baby sitting. Young children were an oddity to me. I simply was not exposed to them very much and I had trouble figuring out how to talk to them. This fact has stayed with me for my entire life.

Still, I have a strong nurturing tendency within me and I love to give to others, to my family and friends and to my dogs over the years. It’s not that I don’t have a caring side. And I have been told that just because you are not good with other people’s kids doesn’t mean you won’t be great with your own. And I held on to that.

Except that in my life, time moved forward and the opportunity vanished.

Coming out of my divorce, I had a fairly high debt load. I was unwise in the exit strategy and thus walked away with over $25,000 in debt from various lines of credit that we as a couple had taken out for home improvements which were in my name and which were on the house I was leaving behind. Brand new roof on that house that he was enjoying and for which I was paying. For the first six months of my departure from that home, I paid the mortgage because my name was on the note and he was unemployed. I couldn’t risk losing my good credit rating.

When I exited my marriage, I simply had to get out. Plain and simple. I fled from despair. And, I rushed to such an extent that I agreed on holding the debt because truthfully, there were no other choices in my view. He was not working.

In hindsight, perhaps I could have sought counsel to figure out a better way but that would have cost money. And money I had none. So, I carried this debt and was paying it off slowly while accumulating more debt of my own because life as a single person in an apartment on my income was far from easy. And, therefore, the idea of bringing another soul into the picture, of caring for her needs – for I had a sense I would adopt a little girl, never came to pass.

And while I was never one to go crazy over other people’s kids, I longed for my own. I truly did. And then, over time, I shut off that emotion. I pushed it down under into a place that I could hide from. A place where I could avoid it and focus on what I had in life.

I watch this weekend as mothers are lauded and celebrate their motherhood. I feel a particular press against my chest as I consider all that I missed out on in not having children. I lavish the love I would give to a young person – into my dog instead.

On Facebook, occasionally, I have seen postings from parents or mothers in my distant circle that suggest that people who treat their dogs as if they were children are silly, or plain stupid. I actually from one person saw a fairly long rant on the subject not too long ago.  I shook my head as I read it.  Obviously in her world, someone pissed her off by suggesting that the relationship that person had with her own dog was the same as a mother and a child. This person is not a personal friend – so I am thankful to say that her beef is likely not with me.
In my world, my dog actually helps me to anchor myself to a place of joy while I walk through life childless. Would it be possible for those that mock others for putting all of the love they have into a pet- would it be feasible even for them to give us childless women a break? To understand the concept of mercy. To allow themselves to reflect on the privilege they have in being a mother, of the gift and the incredible joy that it must bring them. And then looking at their childless sister who may be a bit wacky and realize that perhaps, this wacky friend who treats the dog in her life like the treasure he or she is to her, that this person is doing her best and trying to capture joy in her own life.

We know mothers are special. Mothers are the only people in the world who understand that life is not just about themselves. They sacrifice. They put everyone else first. They overlook their own needs. This type of message is fairly frequently blasted in the media and social media. I have been instructed by the popular culture that I will never understand because I have never been a mother. This message is something I endure even from my own mother. When this message is thrown at me so often, I dare say- I grow tired. It’s a presumption and it can feel disrespectful and down right mean. I understand that in birthing a baby, a woman places herself second to her child- for the rest of her life. It’s a privilege and an honor for which I wish so strongly that I could have been a part.

I will praise and laud my mother this weekend. I will lavish her with gifts for she expects it and because she does deserve it. I will take her out for a beautiful meal. I will bring her flowers. I will fill out a card with words of love and praise because I want to but also because she needs it. And, I will not be the recipient of any such praise from anyone. Ever.
And, that’s how it goes when life passes you by and you never had a chance to dive into the reality of womanhood in motherhood.

Happy Mother’s Day – all of those of you who have been blessed to either give birth or adopt. God bless.

Unconditional Love

It is said that one of the reasons that a person enjoys a canine companion is the aspect of unconditional love.  A dog’s nature seems to be one that throws all cares away and just drills down to excitement, contentment and sheer joy at the human’s return after having been abandoned for most of the day.  There is no grudge.  Rather, there is a body swaying back and forth with such vigor and a tail that spins around with sheer abandon.   For the human, any stress or tension that may have existed on the commute home melts away at the greeting and display of such pure affection.

Why can’t humans behave this way with one another?  Why does our experience with romantic partnerships as well as relationships in general not include such joy in greeting one another at the end of an extended absence?  Of course our response is likely that we are more complex beings.  But is that true?  And if it is, is this a benefit?

Certainly, we humans have a basic need for community in some fashion.  Being completely isolated and having merely a dog for companionship might not satisfy nor be prudent over the long term.  However, even now after all these years, I find myself yearning for a place of solitude.  Once there, I am not sure that I will be truly content.  There are no guarantees.  But as I reflect on my youth and position memories next to more recent feelings, I realize that my longing for a solitary place of my own has been at the forefront for most of my life.   I understand the draw to the hermitage.

There are memories of a time when the movie Jeremiah Johnson was at the top of my list of favorites, along with Harold and Maude.  I watched those movies alone – over and over again.  The appeal of the first one was living away from demands of society- living alone, and fending for myself.  Being in nature, limited expectations from others.  For a high school graduation present, my parents took me to a summer resort on a lake in Wisconsin.  I recall taking a row boat out on the lake with them and we coasted and rowed around the lake.  Mom was entranced by the majestic homes that dotted the shoreline.  I remember sitting in that row boat dreaming of living in one of the tiny boat houses, small quarters that would offer just enough room for a bed, maybe a table and a view.   And in those visions, I imagined myself living there with my dog.  My vision did not include sharing the space with another human.


Much later in life, I recall describing Iceland to an interested party.  The rugged landscape for some is considered the Wild West.   For me, it is a terrain filled with raw resources and  potential for hours of reflection.  I imagine myself living in a small cottage on the cliffs, a tiny garden and a dog.   Recently, watching a show on Netflix which hails from Wales called Hinterland- the lead detective’s mobile home accommodation on the coast, isolated from the masses with the wind whipping through and the waves crashing below, seems the perfect setting for writing, hiking and having a cup of tea.  And of course, a loyal canine nearby.

Throughout my life, I have had canine love and it has never disappointed.  Fairly regularly, I receive advice from well meaning people that I will find someone special.  A gentle soul that will provide a safe and enjoyable life in partnership.  Mom hopes that he can play the guitar so that I can sing and enjoy beautiful moments of music with my true love.  A teddy bear she says, someone warm and huggable.

Until then, I have accepted and become satisfied with the life of solitude that is paired with the unconditional love I receive from my canine friend, and for now, that time is with Sofie.   Maybe when I am old and grey, it will be in a cottage by the sea with my faithful friend nearby.  I imagine this space with books, tea, a writing desk, a window looking out at nature, a warm bed, a small village not too far away for basic provisions.   This for me would be my ideal final chapter.

Bonjour Mon Petit Chouchou!

She is lying in the gutter that forms between my foam pillows and the decorative pillows that I have pushed up again the headboard to give her more cushion. She found this sweet spot within about two months of her arrival. It took her at least a week or two to move from the very furthest corner of the bed, sitting up most of the night watching me, to the present completely relaxed pose she now occupies.

Prior to her journey north, Sofie’s Foster Mom shared with me that they had no concrete history. All she knew was that Sofie along with hundreds of others were regularly being rescued from puppy mills across the country and that her existence up until that point would likely have meant that she never came out of a cage. Her future would have been likely that of a mass breeding machine to fill the vast orders coming in from various pet shops. Those cute little adorable puppies in pet shops are for the most part originating in a puppy mill. Not all puppy mills might be as horrendous as the pictures I have in my imagination- most coming from images I have seen on the internet. But very many are that bad. I have heard that in some cases, they don’t even take the dogs out of the crates to wash them down with gushing water from a hose. There is likely pulling, grabbing, pushing and general harm coming at the hand of the owners of these mills, making the idea of the human hand conjure up all kinds of scary for these little dogs. If a female is not sent to the pet store for commerce, then likely she will live years of her life cramped into a crate – her only exit for breeding if necessary.

Sofie was seven months already when her puppy mill was shut down, so she was set-up for a life of breeding. Now, almost two years later, I bring my hand to her face slowly, she bats my fingers with her quarter sized little paw. Her mouth opens just slightly and so slowly- she wants to bring my finger to her mouth to gently gnaw on it. She has come such a long way. And still, when now lounging with me in the morning, any noise, any intrusion, anything unknown will send her back to her fear zone and generally she would run to her crate in our den to seek safety. Her crate in our home is small enough for her to sleep in but big enough for her to turn around, she has her toys in there, a small water bottle that one would imagine providing to a rabbit or a hamster– it was interesting to see that the bottle’s packaging when I bought it had a little picture of a papillon on the cardboard backing. Just like my Sofie. She loves sitting in her crate- we always have the door open, just in case she needs to rush to it during the day or if she simply wants to take her midday nap. We have also provided her with a soft bed that sits at the foot of my armchair in the den- I can dangle my hand down to her while I watch TV and stroke her soft coat, which she enjoys.
A colleague of mine is a Foster Mom for Rottweilers that are rescued from Puppy Mills. She just took another one in (her pack now counts 3). This new arrival of hers has legs that are premanently bent because her crate was way too small for her and she had been locked up in one for around 3-4 years. Pictures on my friends’ iPad show that Kona has one of the sweetest faces but there is concern over her health as she keeps losing weight and she is already so emaciated. I learned over he weekend that Kona had turned a corner and that things were looking good. What a blessing to have these Fosters that are willing to put everything they have into these souls.

I am learning so much from Sofie and so grateful to have the privilege of helping her become better, freer. I signed a contract two years ago that suggested that Sofie might never be a normal dog.. she might never play. She may never want to come when I call her, she might never want to really snuggle. Sofie suffers in my view from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- every display of fear, her body tensing up, her flight responses to something as little as opening the kitchen cabinet and accidently letting it close just little too loud, filling a glass with icecubes from the refrigerator dispenser, having the TV on too loud- never mind the construction work on our road these past few weeks.  The other night, I attempted to take Sofie out for her walk but the neighbor and his daughter were throwing a Frisbee and laughing – having a great time. The Frisbee was often careening out of control- banging into the newly laid asphalt and the mailboxes. Sofie tensed up completely and would not walk down the driveway- too scared. I picked her up gently and walked her a block away to a safer space and let her down into the lush grass. She tentatively walks on the grass always looking back to the pair down the street at play- making sure they were still at that safer distance. When I walk her along the paths at the nearby lake, it is marvelous for her. There it is quiet, there are not that many people – it’s a pedestrian only zone, so no cars And here, she relaxes completely, sniffs grass and branches dangling down and walks normally with me. The only challenges she faces here is that she is just so darn adorable that any families with kids results in these squeels of joy as they come running towards us. “Can I pet your dog?” – at least they asked. Still, they have given themselves permission to quickly rush in close to examine her, and Sofie is backing up… backing up… looking at me.    Help.    I gently tell the children that my dog is very scared of people and I am so sorry …and I go to Sofie and pick her up. Depending on the children and the situation, I might engage a bit longer to help educate and give them an opportunity to learn and then I tell them the rules “always bring your hand to them first slowly from under – not top, do not hover over her head, it’s scary… yes, like that- let her smell you first.”

I am hopeful that over time, she will continue to heal. We already see progress almost every day. But then, there are set backs and we then work patiently with her at her pace- to come back forward towards being safe and healthy and loved.