Motherhood Revisited

By Pat Wahler

At an age when most women are cooing over grandchildren, I became a new mother.

It happened after I retired. My beloved Schnauzer had died six months earlier, and the ache of seeing his empty bed started me thinking about adopting a dog. I needed a calm and dignified senior canine who would enjoy lounging beside my desk while I sat at the computer to type. The idea prompted me to begin browsing hundreds of pictures posted by pet rescue organizations online.

Everyone told me it’s impossible to look at photos of pets in need without going to the next logical step. They were right. I traveled to mobile adoption events held in pet supply stores where crates were stacked like so many blocks. Inside were teacup-sized dogs, pups big and shaggy as a pony, and plenty of shapes in between. But the furry face that tugged my heartstrings lay snuggled in the arms of a volunteer. At ten weeks old, the bundle of white and wheat-colored fur wasn’t much bigger than my neighbor’s guinea pig with a pronounced under bite below his enormous brown eyes. My heart melted when I cuddled him, and the intoxicating scent of puppy breath sealed the deal.

I filled out an adoption application.

Not long after turning in the paperwork, the pup belonged to me. Remembering I didn’t have the supplies for a little one, I balanced the whimpering fellow against my hip while pushing a shopping cart up and down wide aisles. I soon collected a mountain of puppy pads, puppy food, puppy chew toys and a puppy-sized collar. While standing in the checkout line, the pup tucked his head against me, and my body began to sway in a side to side motion that had been totally unnecessary for decades.

All along the drive home, I called various names out loud to see how they sounded. Gizmo? Champ? Baxter? Nothing seemed quite right until I said, “Winston.” The pup whined in response. He had a new name.

As soon as we got to the house, I proceeded to do what any responsible parent would and covered up the electrical cords. Then I strategically positioned an old baby gate, while remaining vigilant over Winston’s thorough sniffing of the carpet. While locking the gate into place, I caught the scent of Winston doing what a puppy does so often. Scrambling for the carpet cleaner, realization hit me like a freight train. This wasn’t a wise and white-whiskered old fellow. I had a new baby. My days of peaceful lulls and tranquil ponderings were over.

Instead of blissfully going to bed and sleeping until morning, I stumbled outside with Winston at nine o’clock, at midnight and at four o’clock AM, clutching a winter coat around my nightgown while the wind howled around us. He enjoyed the late-night excursions far more than I did, picking up twigs and chasing any leaf that blew across his path while I watched in bleary-eyed resignation.

On the advice of the veterinarian, I signed us up for puppy socialization and a training class. My empty calendar soon filled with reminders and appointments for Winston. Sometimes, between the daily home agenda for feeding and potty training, classes, play dates, practicing his lessons and vet appointments, I wondered what had possessed me to adopt a puppy. Yet whenever I sighed over the duties involved in motherhood, Winston would gaze at me, tilting his funny little head from side to side as though asking what could possibly be the problem. And as any new mother knows, after one look at her baby’s adorable face, the difficulties of things like colicky nights and dirty diapers fade blissfully into oblivion.

Although raising a baby isn’t any easier now than it was the first time around, I must admit there have been some unexpected benefits to revisiting motherhood. Winston is a master at keeping me off my computer chair. Between our long walks, games of fetch and trips to the dog park, there’s no time for sitting around. As a result, we’ve met great people along with adorable furry friends we wouldn’t otherwise have known. My energy level has inched higher than it’s been in years, and I’ve discovered a secret – naps aren’t only for babies. Standing on the scale doesn’t shock me quite as much as it did before Winston came home. Best of all is the fact that it’s impossible not to laugh when a puppy swipes a sloppy kiss across your chin.

For the truth of the matter is, on the day I adopted a puppy, my life transformed in the blink of an eye from laid-back to lively, melting away years and reminding me how I used to feel so long ago.

What a serendipitous decision it’s been–for both of us.

About this writer

  • Pat Wahler

    Pat Wahler

    Pat Wahler is an award-winning writer from Missouri. Her debut novel, I am Mrs. Jesse James, is scheduled for release on April 24, 2018. Connect with Pat at

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27 Responses to “Motherhood Revisited”

  1. Chris Monroe says:

    Knowing you for as long as I have makes me believe, erroneously perhaps, that I have a little more insight into what makes Pat, Pat. Reading this short story reminded me of one of your first published articles in Readers Digest.
    I said it to everyone I showed that story to “ This is my friend Pat, and she wrote this”. There is always two things received from a person who writes, the published story and the suggestions in it you can glimps about author. The thing I see in your writing is you and I really like that person.
    If your intent was to show us a person who discovered something about herself. Spot on. Heart warming and life encouraging story.

  2. Oh, puppyhood. I remember it well. Good for you for rescuing. My last three dogs have been rescues. Two were puppies and one a fine older gentle soul.

  3. Puppies are no joke. I remember one day getting so fed up, I tried to give mine away on Facebook. I’m pretty sure I didn’t mean it, but boy did I get a lot of pushback from my friends, mostly as encouragements that things would get easier. I wouldn’t really have given him away, but I am definitely glad those puppy days are behind us.

  4. Linda O'Connell says:

    Pat, your puppy is a heart stealer, and I am sure he is worth all the extra work. Your sweet story almost makes me want a fur baby, too.

  5. Alice Muschany says:

    I can vouch for Pat’s love for Winston. Like any proud Mama, she brags about his latest feats to her writing buddies and is quick to whip out her phone so she can show off her ‘baby.’ But Pat, have you given any thought to not raising any only child?

  6. Dianna Graveman says:

    What a fun story, Pat! A tail for all of us “dog moms” to treasure.

  7. T'Mara Goodsell says:

    I so enjoyed this stroll down puppy-lane. No wonder you are such a proud mom. That face is absolutely irresistible!

  8. Great story, Pat. I have an older dog now, so I’m in that “I’m not going to do this again stage.” But I felt that way before I had this one, and look what happened! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Pat–When we got Radar almost 4 years ago, I said, “This is the last puppy we get.” I hope we stick to our guns because 1) I’m getting older and 2) puppies are soooo much work.

    However, they’re so darn cute…

    Winston is lucky to be in such a great home.

  10. Yep, every time I thought we’d give the Tiny Terror back to the brother who’d brought her into our house that Christmas morning, something happened.

    I think it’s called puppy love, Pat. :-)

    (Thanks for the lovely reminder of why I put up with Libs. I suspect she and Winston would get along wonderfully!)

  11. Pat, it’s been too long since I’ve smelled puppy breath or puppy paws! I enjoyed your post!

  12. Anna Riley says:

    Congratulations to you and Winston. He’s adorable and sounds like you each bring lots of joy to each other! He’s a cutie :))

  13. Lynn Obermoeller says:

    Very sweet story… you are much braver than I would be adopting a pup!

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