A notable canine family reunion took place last Sunday, as eight of ten Portuguese Water Dogs from a litter born in early 2010 gathered at the Danehy Park to visit their mother, Spray Baker-Brelis of Cambridge.
As I watched the rambunctious siblings roughhousing, I kept finding human analogies in their interactions. Or, maybe it’s the reverse, and we humans haven’t evolved quite as far as we’d like to think.
The reunion reminded me of when the “Octomom” appeared on the Today Show, and her eight unleashed toddlers ran amok, nearly destroying the show’s set. The noise and energy level were as high as a four-year-old’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, and I wondered if Spray was feeling cranky as I always did accompanying my kids on such occasions — and poor Spray couldn’t even look forward to a glass of wine when she got home!
The most intriguing dynamic was the one between Ezzie, the only puppy who didn’t leave home, and her wayward sisters and brothers. As her littermates arrived from far and wide, Ezzie greeted each one with a preemptive snarl and hip check. While the guest-siblings seemed pleased to be reunited with each other, Ezzie made it clear that the returning prodigals had better keep their distance from Mom! Was Ezzie the loyal daughter asserting the primacy of her caretaking relationship with the family matriarch, or was she expressing her resentment at having been left behind, like the spinster sister in a Victorian novel?
For her part, Spray remained somewhat aloof, withholding even, from all her offspring. There she was, a single mother enjoying some well-deserved peace and quiet after the tumult of raising ten healthy pups, only to see them boomerang back just as she’d accustomed herself to their absence. I pictured the thought bubble a cartoonist might draw over her head: “They’re not all staying, are they? I already turned their bedroom into my study!” Finally, even Spray lost patience with Ezzie’s acting out and put her paw down with a hip check and shrill bark, as if to say, “Shut up! I’ve had it with all your drama!” Afterward the atmosphere was noticeably calmer, until it was time to line everyone up for a group photo.
As we head into the holiday season and anticipate our own family gatherings, maybe there’s a lesson here. It would be a true miracle if everyone got along, so keep your expectations low and try to stay out of the fray.
Read more about Spray and her ten puppies on owner Morgan Baker’s blog, Midlife Musings.