We are officially five in our family.  My new charge is of the four legged persuasion and the closest I will get to having a daughter in my life.  C is a lovely brindle labradoodle.  Like any new gushing parent, I think she is smart, quick to learn, cute, gentle, good sleeper, good eater and smells good.  The kids adore her and I have had so many offers for dogsitters, I wish I had as many for babysitters!

C came by way of adoption, I suppose.  It felt very much like a business transaction, like purchasing a car – deposit, describe what kind we want, wait in line, pick one out, pick her up.  We always say adoption in regard to getting a pet.  I am still uncomfortable with adoption being used in so many other contexts.  We went with a breeder in our own state and after months and months of trying to figure out what kind of dog would be ideal for our family, C came into our life.  Like any new adoptive parent, I admit, she is perfect for us.

This breeder was interesting in that it really was just business, no application, no vetting.  I didn’t know it could be so easy.  We had plans to use a different breeder and that process felt more like adoption – application, deposit, phone conversation, invitation to visit the facility and travel to pick up the dog.  In the end, we realized that waiting indefinitely, traveling several states, the expense of it all…we could sidestep all of that and find a reputable breeder here in our own state if we just thought of a different type of dog.  For some reason, writing this reads just like things I have heard some adoptive parents say…We wanted to adopt from the United States, but the process is so long and dealing with ICPC and different state laws of how long a birthmother might change her mind, we decided to adopt from Korea.  It’s faster, the babies come younger and healthier and I don’t have to travel.  The adoption analogies keep coming to mind and continue to make me cringe.

After being with her litter siblings and having only been weaned for two weeks, C was cleared for pick up.  We went the one day George and I both had the day off.  The process may not have felt like an adoption, but I still had the idea that I was adopting a pet in my head.  I spoke with the breeder several times, inquired about the mothers of the puppies and kept asking him, don’t you have questions for us?  The preparation was exciting – hiding shoes so they won’t get chewed, closets closed for the same reason and all the lego had to disappear from the living room!  Oh rapture!  I got my living room back.  The boys were none too happy to have to put away their toys for fear of teeth marks, drool and holes.  There was a crate to purchase, food, bowls, shampoo, napping bed, leash, collar and treats.  All fun.

The first day was a marathon drive up and down to get our puppy.  The meet was cute, the boys were super excited and I went inside to get the lowdown on puppy care and go over the paperwork.  C was in the shade, under the house, calm, quiet.  She is pretty much the same, sleeping under the bed, calm and pretty quiet.  I found out she was weaned at 6 weeks, but the breeder still brought her mother over to nurse the puppies in their 7th week.  It struck me wonderful to hear this.

The ride home was harder than expected.  I earned a fair amount of scratch marks on my arms trying to hold C on my lap.  She had never been away from her litter and surely never in a car.  It took some time to figure out she was not a fan of the sun.  Sitting on the sunny side passenger seat, no wonder she was not having my lap.  But of course, like a new mother, I took it that she was rejecting me.  C ultimately landed on P’s lap in the backseat.  Lovely.  He was beaming and it has been love for him since then.

It’s been a week now since C has been home.  Her personality is emerging.  We don’t need to sleep on the floor by her crate anymore and already, she is sleeping five hours in the night.  She has learned her name and has found her favorite napping spots in the apartment.

Adoption has not been too far from my mind watching my new puppy get used to us.  The courtship dance has been in full swing – treats to entice bonding, lots of smiles, kisses, hugs and tenderness to show and teach love, the invitation to eat, sleep, go outside, come closer.  It took a few days before C got the idea that this was all good.  So, if it took at least three days for C to get it, and she IS a dog, what does that translate to in human time?  Just how long do we wait for a baby or child to bond and connect with us?  In examining this past week, it was we humans that did all the work – calling the dog’s name, teaching her the right places to sleep, eat and poop. It has been our connection and love for C that has moved her closer and more connected to us.  It never occured to me that she wouldn’t come to me, I just needed to be consistent, present, observant, vigilant and the initiator.

To equate adopting a pet to adopting a child still feels ludicrous to me.  But I am struck by some of the similarities I felt becoming an owner of a dog and my anticipation in becoming a parent.  I wonder what I would be like if I was adopting a child.

One thought on “Five

  1. I also find it uncomfortable that the word adoption is used with pets, as well as with us humans. I am a mother by adoption, and I’m interested in reading the stories of adult adoptees. It will be interesting to find out what you are asking for in terms of changing the way international adoption is handled. Anyway, your comments about the uses of the word adopted resonated with me.

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