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I foster puppies. It’s the same concept as fostering a child, in some ways. The abandoned or abused pups are found, and treated with deworming pills and other things, if need be. We’re then given a call to come and collect them and give them a home for a while. The whole things revolves around ensuring the puppies aren’t sick in any way, before they’re (hopefully) adopted to their new homes, where they’ll be given lives of happiness and love. I am currently fostering two gorgeous little puppies, one of which is 4 weeks and one of which is 6. I’m always delighted and amused by the very strong personalities that accompany each new pup I foster, and it’s no less amusing with these two. Spending all of my days with them, I’ve begun to pick up on a few invaluable trinkets of wisdom from them. I know it may seem surprising, but I feel we’re always able to learn from the various experiences we have, and the people (and animals) that cross our paths. And learning from two creatures that have been on this earth for so short a time, well, let me tell you that it’s humbling, and wonderful. I’ll try to express some of these lessons here.

The most obvious lesson these pups have taught me is that sometimes it’s okay to bark. I mean, not when you’re sharing your food. Barking or growling then is rude, and it just makes others around you not want to be there. But if you’re asleep and your friend bites you on the bum, or you’re playing and they sit on your head, then it’s okay. I know you’re probably not seeing the lesson in this right away, but bear with me. Puppies know what they want. They know when they’re hungry, they know when they want to play and with what, and they know when to bark and say “stop”! In this sense, they know where their own boundaries lie. And we ought to, too. We ought never let anyone push us into a situation or even a space in which we’re not comfortable. But since we’re the only ones who can hold ourselves accountable, and know where these boundaries lie, we need not feel too shy or embarrassed to speak up. Be honest, be loud, be heard.

Play is vital to a happy puppy – and, I feel, to a happy human, too. I admire most the fact that puppies have no sense of past or future. They’re entirely devoted to the now. One minute they’re enthralled with the crunchy leaf outside, and the next the squeaky chew toy has won their attention, and the attention each thing is given is whole and devoted. Now, I’m not saying we need to jump from one thing to another, one person to another, in a minute by minute flurry of activity, but I am saying we need to live in the now. The past has happened, and whilst we need to know where we came from to know where we’re going to, we can’t live in it forever. We need to make peace with it, be thankful for the experiences we’ve had – both good and bad – and then resolve to live. We also can’t exist with a fear of the future. We don’t know what’s coming, we never will. We can hope, wish and pray all we like, but there aren’t any crystal balls or palm lines that’ll let you in on what life has in store. So don’t let fear cripple you. If you spend all of your time worrying and waiting for what might/could/can’t happen, that’s all you end up doing – spend all your time worrying. Rather hope for the best, give life your all, and grab at every opportunity you’re given with both hands. A life half lived is no life for anyone, or anything.

Love. And love a lot. I fetched these puppies from the Haven late Thursday afternoon, and that night they were asleep in my arms. Every morning when I come down, I am greeted by whimpers and wagging tails, licks and nibbles that make me smile. I marvel at how these puppies, abandoned and possibly abused, can love to easily and so honestly. They will love anyone, as long as they’re given the chance to. If you treat them kindly and look after them, make them feel safe, they’re yours for life. I don’t really know if any other animal can love as unconditionally as a puppy. And I’m inspired. We spend our time rationalizing our issues, and finding complications, and reasons not to pursue a loved one or fall in love at all, yet I can’t seem to understand why… With all the horrors of the world, the deaths at the hands of man and at the events of natural disasters; with all the pain and suffering we encounter, why would we so quickly and easily turn down an opportunity to love? A friend, a family member, a lover… All of these people, in our lives, deserve the very best love we have to give them. I know things happen, relationships end and people fall apart, but when you know that the person standing in front of you is someone you could love, and when you know that they are standing there hoping you’ll let them love you, well, I don’t see how any amount of justification can excuse turning it all down. Like the puppies you need to jump in, all paws forward, and just trust it’ll all be okay.

There seem to be all manner of lessons one can learn just by interacting with a puppy, and I’m enjoying finding out just what these lessons can mean for me. At the end of the day, maybe they have it as simple as it needs to be. Eat when you’re hungry, bark when you have something to say, play whenever you get the chance, sleep when you’re tired, and never ever forget to love anyone whose willing to let you.

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Adulthood is tricky. I’ve been at it for a few years, but I’m not quite sure I’ve got the hang of it. Whenever I start to believe I know exactly what I’m doing, something happens and I’m left trembling in my childlike size 3 boots. The matter is compounded by the fact that the things of my childhood have become even more wonderful since reaching my 20’s. The other night in a bar with friends, whilst enduring decidedly horrid karaoke from people who were seemingly trying to contact life on Mars (unsuccessfully, I add), a machine came on which blew bubbles out into the crowd. I was in love. My little childish heart skipped several beats and before I knew it, I was on my feet in the middle of the room, bouncing amidst a bubbled bliss. It was magical! Well, until I got a bubble in my eye, but up until that moment I was in Heaven. I joke about being a Never Never Land baby, but at the age of 23, I’m pretty sure I’ll never grow up to resemble the granny panty wearing, can’t stay up all night, retirement fund candidate my peers seem to be transforming into.

Tomorrow, my parents are going away for a week. This equals an entire house to myself. Being 23 this ought to mean responsibility. It ought to mean ensuring there’s enough food in the pantry to last the week. It ought to mean feeding the fish, taking out the trash and washing the dishes. Instead, my childish imagination envisions turning every radio in the house onto the same station as I dance around the house (quite likely in my underwear) and sing into my hairbrush. Glimpses of midnight feasts with left over Easter Eggs and a glass of wine scatter across my mind as my mother’s instructions for when the garden service are due float into one ear before being chased out by my imaginary self – again in my underwear. Images of a house full of friends with whom I can chat and laugh at all hours of the day and night warm my heart as I remind myself of my over-active imagination, that tends to see me turning on all the lights in the house in the middle of the night because of a “strange shadow” jumping at me from behind the couch.

In my world of continual playtime, daily adventures and happy-go-lucky living, there’s very little room for behaving like an adult. Instead of feeling proud of myself when I make a responsible, and adult decision, I feel decidedly disappointed in myself. Seemingly antithetical, but what can I say? If being an adult means I never get to blow bubbles or climb mountain at midnight; if it means I constantly have to think things through before I say or do anything and can’t list ‘chocolate flavoured Steri Stumpie’ as my favourite drink; and if it means I never get to sing and dance in my underwear at 1:30 in the morning… Well, bloody Hell, you can count me out!

Onwards! To the sandbox!