Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Life Lessons from Elsie, the Dam, Part One

So the pups are ten days old now, and that makes Elsie a "mom" for only that long. But you'd never know it.

Over just these ten days Elsie has moved from confusion and uncertainty to confidence and clarity. Though once unsure of what to do or how to handle herself, now she operates as if she's been mothering litters for centuries.

How I wish growth for humans could be as swift and certain!

Lest you think I'm a french-fry-short-of-a-Happy-Meal, I can assure you that I realize much of Elsie's "growth" is rooted in instinct. I know she's, well, a dog, and that I and other humans are not.

But I do think I (and we) can learn from her.

Here's my growing list of lessons from Elsie (and what illustrates the lesson to me) as I watch her assume this new role with grace and ease:

  1. It's okay to not know everything; that's why we need others. (Elsie's confusion about her labor and whelping)
  2. It's even better to admit we don't know and let others help than to pretend we do (when we don't) and make things worse. (Elsie's allowing us to help her in her delivery)
  3. Everybody needs a break sometimes. We can't be on call 24/7. (Elsie's recent forays outside and away from the whelping box)
  4. Boundaries are good things; they protect us. (the whelping box walls and how they keep these maneuvering, squiggly pups safe from accidental harm) Boundaries can even be liberating! (knowing the pups are safe allows Elsie the freedom to come and go without stress or fear )
  5. Even when you do all the right things, you may end up with outcomes you didn't want or expect. (losing "yellow" earlier this week to suffocation)
  6. We can't only be givers; to be healthy, we sometimes need others to give to us. (Elsie's need for our affection after investing so much of herself in her pups)
  7. People aren't mind-readers; when we're in need we have to ask. (we wouldn't have known of Elsie's need had she not "asked" for our attention; we assumed she was content mothering her brood)
  8. We don't have to let other voices, no matter how loud and insistent, pressure us into doing less-than-the-best. (Elsie's selective deafness to the pups cries; she nurses them when they need to be nursed, but not always when they want to be nursed; she knows better than they do what's best for them)
  9. Taking a break from responsibility -- taking time to play -- is restoring and good. (how invigorated Elsie seems after romping with her buddies, Baxter, Kenya, and Ridge )
  10. Our circumstances, even good circumstances, may call us to do unpleasant things for a time. But these won't last forever. These too will pass. ( Elsie's licking and stimulating the pups to void and defecate into her mouth and then ingesting it -- something she will only have to do for about two weeks, but something that, if she didn't do it, could have even worse consequences for her pups)
So these are my first ten Life Lessons from Elsie, the Dam. :o)

I'm sure the list will grow, and I'll post Part Two when I have ten more.

In the meantime, I (of course) have ten Life Lessons from Newborn Puppies (would you expect anything else?!). I'll post them tomorrow or later in the week.

'Til next time,


JuliaR said...

Great observations!

I responded to your query at
but don't see it. Just wondering if you got my second comment at that post? Not earth-shattering, just curious.

Joan said...


I never got it (that's weird). But I did check up on your guy at your web site. I'm really puzzled why your comment didn't come through; maybe just a blogger glitch?