The pups were growing stronger and more independent each day. Sometimes they did not return at night. Dog Otter, as is usual with their kind, had not stayed in the holt with Otter and the pups but had his own hide-away near-by. One evening as Otter was settling down at moon-rise to sleep, she caught the unmistakable scent of him at the entrance, sniffing deeply. Her stomach turned within her and she longed to go out to him but the older pup was all bristling fur and teeth, low growls coming from his newly adult throat.
That was it! He had shown the final sign of maturity and Otter pushed her offspring up to the entrance, chittering furiously. Dog Otter had retired to his own holt but the youngster trailed him, nose to the ground, as if spoiling for a fight. His mother put herself in front of the pup and bared her own teeth. The conversation between the two of them was more snarl than speech as she had known that this day or night must come. The young male had to realise that she was his mother, not a potential mate. Time for him and his brother to move on and make their own life. They were prepared, could feed and care for themselves, she should chase them both away.
Torn between her duty to her sons and unbreakable maternal care, she chased, scolded and pushed the two of them until they slid into the river and swam downstream. Watching the two black blobs with triangles trailing behind them, Otter lay on the bank and knew the greatest sadness of her life until a whiskery snout nuzzled her chin and rubbed her head.
“We always knew.” Dog Otter reminded her. “I lost them the day they were born.”
“So you did. But you always stayed close to make sure all of us were safe.” Otter’s face turned up to his to return the nuzzling. “I knew but…they are my first litter. I wish I could keep them with me.”
Dog Otter chuckled and rolled her onto her back, scrabbling at her tummy.
“Don’t you remember what the old tree told us? Nothing is for always. Like there is snow-time, green-time, hot-time and pretty-time… things change as they have to. Some things are for a short purpose. Some are for a time like the leaves on the trees but not much is for always. Those pups of ours, we were for a purpose and you did it well.”
“But we are for always?” Otter looked up into her mate’s brown eyes, full of hope.
“As much always as we can do. And we can make more pups.”
He gave her a gentle shove down the side of the bank into the water where he joined her in a splashy romp. “More pups anytime. Now if you like.”
Otter felt free and happy. Things were happening as they should and now she could be Dog Otter’s mate for a leaf-time just enjoying his company again.