Weaning is Not for the Faint of Heart

I’ve been thinking a lot about weaning. Mostly this is because I’ve been helping Schuyler let go of her pups and reclaim her independence, but also because my 16-year-old is straining to wean herself from our cloying care. But, really, isn’t that what raising a parent is all about? Teaching them that you can make it on your own? (As long as you have a cell phone and they’re paying the bills?)

Schuyler’s much better at this weaning process than me. She began weaning her pups at 3-weeks. In dog years, what’s that? Like maybe the equivalent of four months? Kind of standard for the very beginning of weaning a baby, too, I suppose.

The puppies were just over two weeks old, when she began struggling to keep up with their demands for food and they began sharing her bowl of kibble. I wetted the food so they wouldn’t choke on it and once the puppies discovered they could eat solid food they doubled their weight in a week.

As the pups embraced puppy food, Schuyler seemed less enamored of them and preferred to hang with me when given the option.

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Schuyler hanging with me in the office

So, over the past three weeks, she’s been shifting her time gradually to where she now only visits with them for a brief nursing session twice a day. Today, we’ll take that to once.

In fact, when she goes in the puppy pen now, she doesn’t even lie down to nurse them. She stands there looking mostly miserable until they’ve had their fill. Then she sits down, indulging them while she waits for me to come rescue her, but she never makes herself comfortable. She doesn’t want to stay. Peggy and Mariah snuggle up to her wanting her warmth, but the boys race around as if showing off for mom.

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Schuyler is ready to move on. It’s clear in the way she’s begun straining at the leash to chase after squirrels or deer. How she rolls on the rug, shakes the stuffed animals, and even attempts to engage Gracie in play. Gracie snarls and Schuyler hits the ground, but hopefully, she’ll gather more confidence soon and the two of them can become friends.

The puppies are bonding with me now the same way my teens prefer their friends to their parents. Schuyler seems WAY less upset about her pups moving on, than I am. I wish my kiddos clamored for my attention, the way Schuy’s pups whine for her.

At the same time, I’m really proud that my kiddos need me so little. Last week, Addie (my 16-year-old) drove herself to the metro station in Silver Spring, rode the train into DC, visited American University, met up with friends, rode the metro to a museum and then dinner and then back to Silver Spring, before driving nearly two hours home. Aside from three or four phone calls (The parking lot is full! The copier at the DC library is out of service! I can’t find the admissions building!), she managed just fine and had a great day. She learned that she can drive on 495, utilize public transportation, doesn’t want to attend American University, city food is expensive, and you want to take 83 north, not south, to get home.

I worried all day long about her, but I also trusted that she is capable and smart and independent, so she would be just fine. And she was. She doesn’t need me, and that’s a good thing. I do know that.

Schuyler seems to be coming to that same conclusion. Now, when she hears the pups scuffling or whining in the other room, she doesn’t stand at the gate and whine as she did for the first few weeks of weaning. Instead, she canvases the kitchen for food scraps and begs to go outside (or lets herself out if we forget to lock the lever-handle door!).

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Four weeks from now, Schuyler will be spayed, and after that she can go home to her forever home. (Get your applications in now for this amazing dog!) I’m certain that raising pups has made her a better dog, but I’m also certain that it is time for her to be a pup herself.

And speaking of pups…..here’s the updated mug shots –

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Peggy Van Renssellaer
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Alexander Hamilton
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Maria Reynolds
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Eliza Hamilton
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Angelica Church
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Hercules Mulligan
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Theodosia
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Lafayette
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John Laurens

 

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Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and occasional cowgirl who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

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