Millie was barely old enough to have a litter. Half Maltese mixed with yorkie and chihuahua, she is tiny and intelligent. We had planned to spay her after the holidays. New Year’s Eve, semi-terminal, ancient Jack found enough of a spark behind his failing heart for romance. The first of March, against all odds, Millie gave birth to five perfect puppies, each one as different as the next.

David fell in love immediately after I cleaned up the mess on the bed, which is the place Millie chose to deliver. My skills as midwife were tested, but everybody was hale and hearty. We decided to keep two puppies in the family, and find adoptive homes for three.

It was an easy decision to make on the first day, with a box full of puppies more hamster than canine, and all the linens in the wash. It wasn’t so simple seven weeks later.

Every time we scooped up the little brood and took them into the yard to play, it was hard to think of them being anywhere else but with us. When the day finally came for the three who were to be adopted to leave, David wept openly.

Rationally, we knew each puppy was going to an almost ideal home for a life of love and good care. But emotionally, it was truly difficult to go through with it. Practical concerns like too many little dogs in one house, homeowners association rules, etc. gave us no choice. Plus, we wanted each dog to have somebody’s devoted attention.

As strange as it may sound, I gained some understanding for the feelings of my children’s birth parents. Now adults, the kids were small when we adopted them and brought them home. I wondered often in the early days what it must be like to have a child whisked into the world beyond the scope of vision and hearing. I could only imagine.

I sent puppies home with people I know and trust and who will keep me supplied with pictures, and it almost broke my heart. Somewhere out there are six people whose children went home with strangers, and were never seen again.