People ask how I do it—how I give the puppies back.
(click to enlarge)
This was on their last day with me, minutes before we left my apartment. The dogs normally whined incessantly, but that last day they didn't make a sound. None of the puppies ever do. They know.
I usually get them at 4 weeks old, but it's been my experience that their eyesight doesn't fully kick in until week 6. So I'm the first mom they really see. I feed them formula, I wean them to canned food and then the harsh reality of dry food that will undoubtedly be the staple of the rest of their lives. But even with the dry food, I mix it up with water or formula so it's easier to chew with their little teeth.
Puppies this young need lots of attention, way too much for the average dog owner. They must eat many times each day. They don't understand how to lap up water. No puppies should ever be separated from their mother before 8 weeks old at least—they can develop deep anxiety disorders that haunt them for their entire lives—so when I get them, I hold them and pet them often, to teach them to be calm and make them better pets for their real owners. If the dogs are messed up in the head, their frustrated owners might bring them back to the shelter and that may not be a happy ending. So I teach them as much as I can, to give them their best shot out there in the world.
We learn to follow without a leash (I am an expert at this), we learn to come when called (this has varying degrees of success, depending on the dog) we learn to not steal food from their siblings' bowls (this...sometimes doesn't stick very well). We learn that when I leave, I will come back, and there is no need to cry or panic.
And then...we take a ride in the car, a ride that is very quiet, and we walk into a building they vaguely remember by the scent. When I put them on the counter, they usually don't look at me anymore, they just look down. And when I leave, I cross my fingers that their new lives will be at least tolerable.
Some of the dogs, I know where they go—their new owners send me photos as they grow, with funny stories. But I can't help worrying...for some, it won't be great. I picture them tied up to a post, in the hot Florida sun, with no shade and no water and nothing to do, adopted by people who thought they were cute when they were young but now think of their pets as a nuisance. Maybe the dogs remember what it was like with me, when things were better, and the blankets in the corner were soft.
I know they don't understand why I give them away—that's why they look at me like this, in the photo above. But there is only a certain amount I can do out there in the world. And there will be more...puppy stores are everywhere, the "puppy mills" keep cranking out too many dogs, idiot shoppers will keep these places in business. I'll end up with a new batch soon.
And when I do, I'll teach them how to drink water and how to pee on the newspaper, or at least try to make it there before there's an accident. Their bladders are small, you can't expect too much. And when they wake up in the middle of the night and blindly wander too far from bed, I'll scoop them up and put them back where they belong, again and again. After doing it once or twice, I think they get lost on purpose, just to make sure I'll come help.