"Doing a Doodle" - when parenting gets too much
When I left home my parents got a puppy. I would like to say I am irreplaceable and they were unsucessfully trying to fill a huge gap that I left... Not so. That Labradoodle replaced me pretty quickly, comprehensively, and no secret was made of it! My parents doted on her.
I have to be frank. I can understand why. Doodle was a completely lovable, if somewhat dishevelled looking, gentle giant. To meet her was to love her. Even I adored my replacement. And if her eyes were rather close together, well my Dad would never concede it and got rather touchy if it was suggested!
My sister and I often mention Doodle since we became parents.
Why this particular trigger you may ask?
Well, Doodle became a mummy once too. Long before we had our babies, she had a litter of 9 puppies. 9! That would be enough offspring to send any mother over the edge. But Doodle managed admirably... for the most part.
We watched Doodle's natural canine motherly instincts kick in when the puppies were first born. Licking them to keep them clean, organising them, keeping them in check, and allowing them all to feed from her. We felt her exhaustion when she hoped they'd had their fill of milk and so she would try and stand up and take a few steps (for a drink or frankly a moments peace, I am not sure), and they would literally remain dangling from her nipples.
We helped as much as she could, but she was a saint.
And when those pups got older and graduated to the outdoor run. She allowed them their freedom, but kept a watchful eye on the mischief making as they all bounced and pinged around the garden. They had opposing trajectories, like repelling magnets, whilst all of us tried to scoop them up and keep them out of harms way. She would periodically sniff and snuggle with her puppies, bring them into line when needed, and love them as only a mother can.
Once day it became too much.
Our Doodle; who had never, not even once, tried to escape, wander off, or run away... disappeared. She slipped out of the (we thought) secured garden and took herself off down the farm track by the side of my parents’ house and out of sight. The last time I had seen her, she'd had puppies hanging off her and was walking in the opposite direction to where we were.
I'd like to say I've seen my Dad as worried about my sister and I in the past... but he was beside himself when he realised she had gone missing.
I'm sure it felt longer than it was, but it took us an age to locate her. She didn't come back to our calls, the whistle (that she was trained to), or even the temptation of her favourite treat being offered. We now know she was out of ear shot, being about half a mile down the farmers track. She had never been that far away from any of us before.
Of course we found her, and she got lots of love and cuddles from us all. We were so relived she was ok.
Was she ok? She needed to escape. Had she planned to come back? Do dogs plan?
Since becoming parents, my sister and I have fully understood that dog.
Darling Doodle is no longer with us. But now whenever either my sister or I feel overwhelmed, have need to just escape, or take time out or away from parenting - we call that "doing a Doodle".
Doodle came back. We will always come back to our babies. But sometimes, we parents, need time to get some headspace and perspective. If you ignore these feelings they don't go away, they just build and build... and that won’t end happily.
Doodle was wise. She recognised how she felt on some level, and did what she needed to do. So if you feel like you need to do a Doodle - be kind on yourself. And honest. Find a way to get that break you need - whether it's a cup of tea for an hour on your own, or (and this does wonders) a whole weekend away.
There is always a way, if there is a will.
P.s. and special thanks to my daddy for sending me these gorgeous photos of The Dood.