Sunday, August 30, 2009

Time With Puppies

A friend asked me to check on her litter of six-and-a-half-week-old puppies while she went out for a few hours. These are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, the breed I fell dramatically in love with last New Year's Eve (http://mygreenvermont.blogspot.com/2009/01/call-me-casanova.html) so I was honored to be asked.

For a Cavalier litter, this is a large one: three males and three females. Five are black-and-tan, marked like miniature Rottweilers, and one is the rusty-red that Cavalier devotees call “ruby.”

The minute I arrived I scooped them up and deposited them on the grass outside, where they promptly did what good puppies do and were praised for it. Then I scooped them back inside (it was a windy, cold afternoon) and sat down on the floor.

You remember Gulliver and the Lilliputians? You've watched those documentaries of divers beset by Great White sharks? That's how it was for me, except these sharks were small and mostly black. Six pairs of tiny jaws fastened on six of my fingers. When I gently pried them off, they immediately found six toes. When I hid those away, they made for my pants, my shirt, my hair.

And as they chomped they looked at me with their big, round , wide-apart eyes set in big, domed heads with tiny noses and blunt muzzles—the full set of neotenic features shared by most mammal babies and designed by Nature to trick any other mammal, no matter what species, into nurturing behaviors.

Every once in a while a pair would break off to do miniature alpha-wolf rollovers on each other, complete with growling and eye-rolling. And those who lost hold of my clothing or skin would instantly find a fraternal ear or paw to gnaw on. High-pitched cries would ensue, sudden shifts in position, more alpha-wolf rollovers and then, in the blink of an eye—utter silence. The Sensational Six were asleep in my lap.

No, that's wrong. It was only five. A sixth girl (properly known as a bitch, but that seems a bit harsh at this point) was toddling about looking lost until she found my fingers. I picked her up and cradled her in my hands, like an almond in the shell. I rubbed her tummy and she kept her eyes on mine, and then her eyelids drooped and she was asleep. I set her down among her brethren and got up quietly.

And somehow I managed to leave them all there, every last one, when it would have been so easy to put one under my shirt and run.

15 comments :

  1. That breed does sort of make me wish I could justify a small dog here...they are achingly adorable.

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  2. I'm proud of you (and would have LOVED to have witnessed this).

    One day, though, you're gonna cave.

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  3. Bridgett, when Leo gets to be about four (which will happen any minute now) you could get one. Cavaliers are not snappish around children, or anybody, but they are fragile. Small dogs are wonderful, and so much easier to deal with.

    Indigo, cave? Moi?

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  4. I just looked them up online. Oh my gosh. How adorable!

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  5. Waxwing, Now you understand why it took such moral stamina not to steal one...

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  6. Eh, the problem is that our big dog "works" at our house--she's our house alarm. She has a rottweiler face and does a good job...when she goes, and it won't be long (she is 12), it'll be another big dog if it's anything. Our cats are our frivolous pets.

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  7. IRL friend here in st. louis with a new cavalier at:
    Ephemeral Chaos

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  8. Bridgett, I checked out Ephemeral Chaos--it's a beautiful little dog.

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  9. Just wanted you to know, Lali, that I've been a cat person all my life -- only putting up with dogs when they were in the same space as I. But this breed -- I want one. NOW. (Trying to convince my husband and son it will help my getting over my daughter's absence. Not working so far)

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  10. Dona, if you're having such a gut reaction to these dogs, it means something--namely, that you should get one! They are friendly and lovable, and I believe that one of them would be a help to you as you go through this difficult stage. They weigh around 12 lbs--perfect infant weight.
    BUT, the breed has serious genetic problems--heart disease among others--so you need to be sure you find a breeder who will give you written guarantees of health. Do you have a vet you trust and who could help you?
    If you send me your e-mail address (mine is lali@laligallery.com) I'll send you a picture of the litter I babysat

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  11. six puppies is five puppies too many.

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  12. your descriptions are so good, though. just brilliant.

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  13. Laurie, I think by now the breeder would agree--about the puppies, not the descriptions (though I'm glad you like them).

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  14. Pictures of this litter are available??? You know my email.

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  15. Photo (taken by the breeder) is on its way to you. I actually took a pad and pencil with me the day I went to see them, thinking of doing some sketching. What was I thinking?

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