11 January 2009


An Intimate Portrait With Man's Best Friend
Part Eleven

On Easter Sunday morning of 2003 my sister let me sleep through the much awaited first birth from her 3 year old Poodle, Snowy. A crying bunch of Apricot beauties plopped out in the center of her bed, three boys and one girl. The father Buddy, paced nervously through the house as he couldn't comprehend who was interfering with his beloved snow-white girl, and why she was so bitchy towards him. I dangled him over the bed, when he got a look at the mass of tan shiny rats desperately sucking his Lady's breast's---he was dumbfounded. Feeling confused and betrayed he was shooed out of the room by her crazed glassy stare and snappy white fanged smile. For his life and ours---would never be the same.

The enchantment was instant. One could simply not get enough of the four inch, close-eyed Chinese egg rolls. Their sweet watermelon pink noses, tongues and bellies, made me want to lick them like lollipops. But Snowy was doing just fine without assistance from the humanoids ogling her at each waking moment. Their squeaking cries signaling her for food and warmth.

Since they were born on my sister's bed, an impractical choice which would prove to be dangerous for these squirming quadruplets. As they blindly pulled themselves along the mattress towards the warm crevices of the covers, or scent of their Mumma, eventually reaching the edge of the bed then tumble and thump to the carpeted floor. Only a three-foot fall, but as my brother-in-law said, "To them it must have seemed like a sky scraper."

I was horrified the first few times as they would hit the floor either whaling in terror or stunned silence. I realized they were resilient and kept my fingers crossed. We began laying pillows, blankets and comforters on the floor around the bed---a safety net for the four tumbling blind mice. One even managed to find a hole in the seam of the comforter and crawled in it for warmth. Which I discovered upon my morning inspection when one was missing. I began to panic, looking around the bed, on the floor, under the bed. As I moved the comforter I noticed it protruding like a hot dog in a bun, nestled quietly asleep in the filling. I proceeded to untangle its needle hook claws from the white thread. Then laying him down to sleep safely with the others. Thankfully none were injured, and as to date there has been no brain damage.

As the days wore on Snowy singled out the runt. She began carrying him in her mouth, hiding under the bed, attempting feverishly to bury him by digging a hole in the carpet. The poor minuscule, blind-squealing-bundle was tucked in her jaw like a bone. She repeatedly terrorized him in this way. I insisted Snowy was trying to kill him by because he was either sick or the smallest. I volunteered to become his surrogate mother. With the Vet's guidance I attempted to feed him new born formulas with a bottle or eye-dropper. Keeping him warm by tucking him in the collar of my shirt; laying wedged between my bosom and neck, heated by the warmth of my heart.

His pugged face and unusually wide tongue made us wonder if there were some torrid affair with the local Bull Dog. The indescribable smell of his breath was a cross between a freshly opened can of dog food and mother's milk. So intoxicating and addictive, "Chanel" could create a new men's cologne called "Puppy's Breath"---it would drive women wild. Snowy eventually accepted him. He fought his way to her teats, pressing in between the others. (Surviving his tumultuous childhood, he is now a 2 ½ year old 15 pounder named Jake.)

At three weeks old their eyes opened. It is unknown whether they could focus on these gargantuan bare skinned humanoids continuously in their faces. Although they did lock their sweet, round, milk chocolaty velvet eyes upon ours. And expressionless, listen to you banter and coo a foreign language into them. I was enamored by all of them. So much so my life took 2nd place to this litter of love.

Once they developed their sight---their need to maneuver took precedence. On nimbly legs their drunken stumble kept them from wheeling over stuffed animals, and rubber toys scattered along the play pen like an obstacle course. After weeks of learning how to roll from their backs onto their feet---vocalizing erupted. Actual chirping was heard coming from Sunday's mouth (the male I kept). Soprano notes pealed from the gums of their toothless mouths---beckoning the warm underside of their mother's belly. Unaware as to what sound was coming out of their own months---they attempted to mimic Snowy, and horrify their neglected papa, Buddy.

When the white-bone needles broke threw the skin of their gums---they took delight and fascination in the wiggle of your toes. Your bare feet with a selection of 10 knobs to chew on--- provided enough entertainment for all four.

Once they began trusting their fleshy Amazon friends. While sitting floor level they'd climb your legs, arms and chest with the goal of reaching your hair, chewing on it or suckling on your bulbous ear lobes in a fervored attempt to draw milk. While their tiny breath blew warmly inside your ear, they'd continue to crawl up behind your head and rest under the mane covering your neck. At times I expected them to meow---reminiscent of a litter of frisky kittens.

Enthralled by their presence, I'd pose them around the house so I could catalogue their growth by burning it into a roll of Kodak film. It was the beginning of "Aunty's Baby Dog Book." My addiction to their faces connected me to each one as if I'd given birth to quadruplets. Nurturing, playing, cuddling, becoming a surrogate mother took precedence over my own daily meals and baths. Their innocent eyes put a glow on my face. Being childless, I had entered a world of motherhood---an experience foreign to me. My conversations were monopolized by puppy stories. I proudly shared my puppy photo album as if it were my own new born. My friends had noticed an apparent shift in my personality. A new level of calm centeredness had permeated my being. Healing the void within by protecting and unconditionally caring for the vulnerable creatures of the earth.

At six-weeks-old the boys were biting, chewing and rough housing with one another, by ganging up on the smaller ones. Jake (the one Snowy tried to bury) and the little girl, Lilly were taking a beating---mainly her---as they began using her as a chew toy. Boring a sore into her lower back. Coupled with her inability to push through at feeding time. She began a downward spiral of dehydration, weight loss and atrophy. Unnoticble until....

One morning I woke to find her hovering under the first step of the stairs. I was horrified to see her shaking, crying uncontrollably, unable to use her hind legs, and her bum covered with feces. I rushed her to the Vet's. It preempted a two week period of one on one nursing. I dusted off my Florence Nightingale whites and committed myself to Lilly.

The Doctor was instantly smitten by her. After a bout of emergency antibiotics and IV fluids, he carefully advised me of an every two hour feeding regimen and medicine plan. Lilly needed warmth, food and a soothing of her frayed spirit. When around the boys she needed constant supervision and to be separated at night. She gazed her sweet eyes upon me as I carried her around the house tucked under my arm upon my breast. At bed time Lilly laid lovingly next to my shoulder as we went peacefully to sleep.

Within 48 hours Lilly became progressively worse. She squealed in pain at each attempt to hold, move, or pick her up. Her stomach became distended, her fever increased and every 10 minutes she whaled out in pain. I wept as I saw the look of death upon her sunken innocent face and frail body. It was a look I'd never forget, since it was the same look of death I saw upon my mothers face just a year before. I wondered, would Lilly die in my arms the way my mother had? All I knew was that I had to tell Lilly I loved her and allow her brothers to be with her one last time.

I unwrapped her from the hand towel she was bundled in and laid her on the seat of a soft cushioned chair. And one by one I brought her brothers to her. Sunday was the first out of the play pen. He appeared scared. He cautiously sniffed her face then remembered she was one of them. Lilly laid with death around her. Sunday knew she was sick because he used his nose to cover her up with the towel. He expressed empathy. I didn't know it was possible in animals, never mind in a 5-week-old puppy. Next was Jake then Bee Gee (the largest male my other sister took). They both were afraid. They sniffed at her but seemed too scared to go any further. I was content they had said goodbye.

I took her gently in my arms and went up to my bedroom. I laid with her on my bed, lit candles and prayed to God and the angels who looked over animals. My voice cracked as I called out to the Universe to send Lilly a Vetnerian spirit to heal her, take away her fever, and assist in a full recovery. Even though my pleas weren't heard for my mother. Through the sorrow I cried out in faith that the Divine Spirits would hear me and come to her aid. We fell asleep in each others arms.

I woke the next day to a spunky little girl by my side frolicking with my fingers needing to pee. A miracle I thought, wait until my sister and her husband see the revitalized Lilly. I took her to the kitchen where she ate ferociously. Then tousled around the floor with her brothers. We were all amazed. The first 72 hours being the most detrimental---Lilly made it to day three and was holding her own---on the road to a happy pup hood. I breathed easier---and thanked the Divine Power for healing her, and for guiding me on how to care for my sweet, Easter Lilly.

In the interim the Vet had their eyes on her for a Father's Day present. My sister wasn't able to keep the entire litter, so at 8-weeks she'd rest her sweet gaze on someone else's face. Lilly slept with me one last time before I left NY for a business trip. With her tiny eyes resting shut I held her in the crook of my arm and kissed her goodbye. I bid her a wonderful life in a new home with a great family. I asked her if she could---to come back one day and see me again. The tears of farewell stung my eyes as I knew when I returned---she'd be gone.

By the time I returned Sunday, Bee Gee and Jake were approaching nine weeks old. Sunday seemed to have missed me terribly. Unbeknownst to me he had chosen me to be his lifelong friend. Sunday was feeling unprotected and not really identifying himself with a master. Snowy and Buddy belonged to my sister and her husband. They were keeping Bee Gee so they doted on him. We all fawned over Jake since he was the cutest, most lovable and had the happiest wagging tail ever seen (their tails were not docked). It clocked back and forth like a pianists metronome. Therefore, Sunday was at the bottom of the puppy pole, but not any longer, since Lilly was gone he could wiggle his way into my heart.

The second night back I slept on the living room couch. Puppies scattered along every crevice of my body. Wedged beside my head, my arm, in between my legs, Snowy at my feet, Buddy under my other arm. At 7 o'clock in the morning their excitement of seeing a humanoid sleep with them, woke me. They jumped off the couch and ran all over the house. Up the stairs into the bedrooms, the bathroom and of course peeing and pooping on the rugs before I could catch them.

As I was cleaning up after Bee Gee and Jake, Sunday was in the bathroom getting ready to vomit. I ran to him while he was dry heaving and snatched him off the throw rug and placed him on the newspaper on the floor. Out from his mouth came a blonde hair ball. I thought, "Gee he must have chewed on my hair a lot, or is this burnt grass?" I bent down and with my bare fingers plucked it up to throw it in the waste basket. When I did it began to uncoil. I threw it in horror. I scrubbed my hands with soap and boiling water and looked again, this time with a tissue in hand. The closer I got I noticed the coiled Vermicelli had dark brown horizontal stripes and was moving; it was a worm.

I was frantic thinking that they laid all over me through the night and at any moment worms could of slithered out of them---into me. My skin crawled, my psyche was traumatized for days afterwards. My sister was away so I called the emergency clinic asking if it was Ring Worm. She replied, "Round Worm. All puppies have them. It's time for them to be dewormed and given their shots." My days and nights were filled with the re-enactment of the episode. I shunned the puppies for days until they were dewormed. I researched the human contraction of Round Worm and began herbs to kill the "infestation" I was convinced I had.

I questioned myself if I really wanted a puppy. I was uncovering a fear of commitment over having to care for a dog. What if he dies or we're separated like the other dogs from my childhood? All that pain and sorrow again. I really never wanted a small dog anyway---especially a Poodle. What if I move and can't have pets? As the list expanded, the fear grew. Then Sunday began following me throughout the house.

Jumping up wanting me to hold him. Shadowing my every step by laying at my feet no matter how often I moved. Convulsing with excitement and joy when he'd see me in the morning. Bouncing off my calves when I walked around the backyard, trying to grab at the hem of my sundresses. His beautiful peaches and cream face dotted with a black Licorice nose, his personality and affection---was making it extremely difficult to renege.

By week ten Jake was ready to leave the den. Five dogs had become overwhelming and my sister had to let him go. Papa Buddy had already taken over the paternal pup rearing, while Snowy was recovering from "Chewed Teat Syndrome" and was more than happy to just lounge and eat steak Bon-Bons.

During this time Bee Gee and Sunday discovered their love for water. The grateful duo frolicked in a freshly filled kiddy pool every afternoon. They learned how to fetch Buddies beloved squeaky ball, run like Greyhounds, hop and leap through the air like bunnies---flying on the wings of the thrill of the fall. Blackened by dirt from rolling in the holes they dug like two junkyard dogs and yuking it up in the mud like a couple of swine, brought me to my knees with adoration. The same loving eyes a mother has while watching her children play outside for the first time---had shone upon mine. When I placed them at the top of the lemon yellow plastic slide on the swing set---they slid down in delight---further into my heart and mind.

When Sunday and Bee Gee neared 5 months old, these two Tenors learned to howl Indian chants in the morning as a wake up call. Baiting me downstairs to release them from confinement. I ignored their seductive pleas, as I attempt to break them and me, of their separation anxiety. Their manipulative serenades wean them towards independence---while floating a furry smile up the stairs to my face. Bee Gee had grown into a sweet, dopey, big, fury blonde bear---out weighing his parents, at 12 pounds.

And Sunday well, everyone thinks my one testicle male puppy, is a girl. I believe I've acquired the first gay Poodle. He's afraid of children and strangers, basically anything that moves. The excessive barking and growling he's adopted from Snowy, which I hope to change with obedient training and socializing. His morning kisses as he tucks his nose under my chin, wiggling up my arm to hang over my shoulder. Are enough to keep me engaged with this little blonde ball of softness, this feisty spirit of puppy love---for atleast another decade.

As 5 ½ years have gone by, this 16 pound pup has filled a void in my life I didn’t know existed. His unconditional love, his extreme patience, protectiveness, dedication, obedience, understanding and joy, was a gift I was unaware that I needed…..until I finally rescinded and opened my heart to make the commitment to love and care for him, as he does for me. Only then, did the hurts and pains from my past have the ability to heal, as I was swathed in love that he so endlessly and effortlessly provides his humanoid friend---me.

Copyright June 2003, R. B. STUART. All Rights reserved. No reproduction of this blog in any form.

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