logo


no avatar

SAVAGE: Becoming a mom at 60: diapers, feedings, heart full of love

• Mar 14, 2017 at 2:00 PM

At 60, I am the new mother of a toddler. Like other adoptive mothers, I now understand the unique biological drive that provides unconditional love for a child you just met.

In one moment, you are strangers; in the next, you are Tiger Mama, a fortress against harm from all threats real or perceived.

She is rambunctious, poops and pees at will, is tearing up my house, and I adore her.

Lucy is a midsize goldendoodle — smaller than a luxury goldendoodle; larger than a compact, supercharged engine. For seven months, her world was a small cage in an unheated Indiana barn without human contact. I am now the portal through which love and new experiences flow, the quiet place where safety lives and trust slowly grows.

Several months ago, I decided that our black goldendoodle, Roses, needed a sister. That was baloney. I just wanted my own dog — a smaller, blonder version.

I began searching Michigan rescue groups, then the Midwest, and finally nationwide. I applied for five different dogs over the course of a month. Doodles go like hotcakes.

I checked shelters twice a day and in the middle of the night. I put myself on waiting lists. My vision of a curly-headed, cream-colored doodle became an obsession.

Then late one night, an alert came. Fort Wayne, Indiana. I submitted my application, putting every ounce of my writer’s skill into service. Whatever could be said that made me the best version of myself was brought to bear. I showcased my husband, who is a much better person than I am.

You’d have thought I was applying for a job at the FBI.

Three days later, after I had moved on, the response came. She was ours, and they would expect us the next day. We loaded the car with blankets, water, two kinds of puppy food, absorbent pads, two soft toys, three chew toys, a collar, two leashes, the complete health records of our other dog, photos of our house, and our passports. I was leaving nothing to chance.

As extra insurance, I baked an apple pie for the foster mom. It’s hard to say no to someone who’s holding a pie.

We reached Fort Wayne two hours early and waited. I was a bundle of nerves. What if she wasn’t the right color? What if her hair wasn’t curly? What if she wasn’t really a goldendoodle after all? What if we just didn’t like her? What if she didn’t like us? What if, what if, what if?

Then the door opened and there she stood: a cloud of airy golden curls, shy and quiet, with soft brown eyes that begged to be loved. At that moment, she could have been purple and bald and it wouldn’t have mattered. My heart was flooded with more love than I knew it could hold. She was mine, and I was hers. The two dogs rode peacefully in the back seat all the way home, with Lucy napping and Roses standing guard.

Was it love? Absolutely. Was it easy? Not even close.

Having never been out of a crate, Lucy had no instincts not to “go” on a whim. Her favorite spot was the Persian rug in the dining room. I covered it with training pads. She switched to the Persian in the living room.

Tip of the day: Dog diapers are more expensive than human diapers, but cheaper than carpet cleaning.

After a few days, Lucy stopped eating, and our vet confirmed that she was sick. At that point, I would have given her one of my kidneys. Maybe both. Now she eats prescription dog food. Yes, that’s a thing. It’s designed to make sure I don’t suffer from the burden of disposable income.

Her protruding ribs weren’t evident until we trimmed off the mountain of curls. At 29 pounds, Lucy is underweight and needs lots of positive reinforcement during mealtime. I read to her while she eats. We are currently working our way through the Bronte sisters. She especially likes “Wuthering Heights.”

Lucy also is startled by the slightest noise. My husband biting down on a cracker in the next room makes her jump. Doorways terrify her. Heaven knows what she’s been through.

Our pristine house has taken a beating. Between the two of them, they shed enough to knit another dog. The housekeeper wants to negotiate hazard pay.

Chasing after a toddler all day is a full-time job. We installed an invisible fence — now Lucy can play outside without a leash, which means she does her business on the dining room floor only about half the time. And we started puppy school, where Lucy will do nearly anything for a stinky salmon treat.

Last fall, excited about being a new Michigander, I planted tulips — $300 worth. Now they’re springing up everywhere. Lucy thinks they’re delicious.

All love and giggles, Lucy lights up any room she enters, a four-legged package of joy. As I write this column, I can see her through my window, bouncing through the snow with the neighborhood dogs.

Soon, Lucy won’t need me so much. I’ll miss it, but for now I’m just glad she doesn’t chew the furniture.

— By Shari Savage, Tribune community columnist

Recommended for You