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I told Gill recently about my adventures looking after a neighbor’s chocolate lab puppy while he and the family are in Europe. I explained to her that I’m having flashbacks — to the time when she and her siblings were young and watched my every move. Most of the time, that was fine. But, as every mother out there knows, a mother has no privacy. If she has to use the toilet, three sets of eyes are right there, watching. If she has a bath, three sets of eyes. If she tries to nap, taking advantage of her kids’  nap time, at least one of the little darlings won’t feel sleepy and will toddle into mom’s room, attempt to pry open her eyelids and ask, “Whatcha doin’?”

And so, for the next two weeks (I made it through one week already) I have the eyes of the puppy focused on me 24/7. ‘Hershey’ apparently finds me and my habits infinitely fascinating.

Since she’s a puppy (although at 60 pounds, she weighs 2/3 of my weight and really doesn’t look like a puppy) she is curious about everything. She especially likes my soaker tub. There is a step leading up to it that she mounts to watch the water filling the tub. She seems to want into the tub — perhaps a function of her recent trip to the seaside with her family. She discovered the joys of water ad swimming and playing fetch in the surf. I could almost see the hamster wheel in her head whirring:”This must be the ocean…it’s wet like the ocean. (She knows this because she has been frantically licking the tub for the last few minutes.) It’s smaller than the ocean but that’s okay. I’m small…I can fit in the tub, no problem.”

With that, she tentatively puts her front paws on the rim of the tub, apparently trying to figure out the best angle to launch herself into the water. At this point, I have taken off my clothes (which she has also licked) and am putting my feet into the water. (My legs have also been licked — no doubt akin to the pre-rinse cycle, like the dishwasher.) With my clothes abandoned on the floor next to the tub, she gives them a once-over, licking and sniffing the bra, underwear and socks. When she is satisfied that she has given them sufficient attention, she turns her gaze back to me. Her tongue hangs out of her mouth, a silly smile plastered on her face. She is happy.

As I settle down into the warm water, attempting to luxuriate in the relaxing vibe, the great tongue lashes out yet again. This time, it’s going for my neck, shoulders, face. “Hershey”, I say, “Back off!” She, looking somewhat crushed, steps away. Her woebegone expression says:”But I just wanted to help and let you know that I love you! Don’t you like me?” I then find myself explaining to a now-psychologically traumatized puppy that I do in fact love her  but my skin will be slimy and possibly rashy if she continues her ministrations.

I wash my hair, sticking my head under the tap to rinse the shampoo away. The look she gives me is one of adoration. Had I, to her doggie mind, just conducted some amazing scientific experiment that would save the world? Her expression certainly suggested that. I challenge any Nobel laureate to receive half as much adoration as I did for washing my hair. Trying to grab my towel from the tub rim, I encountered the furry head and lashing tongue yet again. It was a struggle to dry my hair with Hershey tangled in the towel. But I managed — sort of. I am a bit biter, though, since her fur looked better than mine.

Stepping out of the tub to dry myself, I was again treated to another onslaught of the puppy tongue. Apparently my wet legs were particularly delicious apres bath. She seems to approve of my brand of soap. At this point I wondered if I had given her enough water that morning. I’m under instructions not to leave a bowl of water out for her all day since she’ll drink it all and spend the day peeing. Well, I reasoned, she’s had enough water just from this bath to keep her topped up for the day.

The real piece de resistance was the body lotion — as  I rubbed it into my legs and arms, the tongue darted every which way, trying to get places I had just lathered. She REALLY liked the lotion. When I sat on the floor to put on my shoes, she gave them the once-over, only allowing me access to them  when she signaled she was finished with her quality control inspection.

And so the day continued: she jumped on my bed for snuggles, ‘helped’ me cook and eat dinner, showed me the sights in the local gully and woods, introduced me to all her doggie friends in the neighborhood. She helped me feed and clean the canaries, with Mrs. Beeton(my pink parakeet) casting a stern and disapproving eye on her, ready to chastise her with what we call ‘her bad noise’ whenever Hershey got too close or did anything Mrs. Beeton construed as vaguely threatening. Mrs. Beeton runs a tight ship.

So I am, after all these years, learning again to have a shadow following my every move, eyes always on me, someone always wanting attention, food, or a bathroom break.  It makes me wonder how I survived raising three human shadows. The good thing about a puppy is that she can be, in a moment of crisis, lashed to the deck or put in her crate. The world in general tends to frown on doing that to children …although I do recall that I had a harness and leash for Gill and Crazy D. True, I got some nasty, judgmental glances, but the leash idea worked! And I don’t think they suffered any long-lasting trauma from the leash. But perhaps, now that I think about it, that might explain their free-spirited approach to life and their dislike of rules, restrictions, or arbitrary boundaries. Well, too bad. A mom has to do what a mom has to do.