Saturday, 10 November 2012

Of Births and Birth Days

What sweetie pies. Under Dog and one of his sisters, called Easkey by her eventual owners

Today is a special day.
It is Under Dog's birthday.
Tomorrow is a special day too. It will be Top Dog's birthday.
I am afraid I can't remember what time Under Dog was born, but Top Dog arrived in the wee, small hours of the morning.
I don't feel too bad about not remembering, because it was quite a day, one that put me strongly in mind of the 101 Dalmatians.

Juno, my dear, beautiful hound who I haven't written about because I still miss her so much, was their mother. She died two years ago.
We don't normally keep un-neutered animals, because there are so many unwanted creatures desperately needing a home that it seems wrong to bring any more into the world, but therein lies the sting. We longed to have Beshlie's offspring, and have often wished we could have had Top Dog's pups because he is so fabulous - but these things are not to be.
With one exception.

My lovely Juno

When we got Juno we decided that just once, we'd have pups.
It didn't all go quite to plan though, but - c'est la vie, non?
The following summer, I went to England to visit family. In one house where I stayed, two new young puppies were wreaking havoc and on my return home I said to the In-Charge: 'We definitely don't want puppies. It's babies all over again, with no nappies, but with itchy teeth.'
'That's what I've said all along,' he replied.
A week later, Juno came into season.

For a fortnight we continued resolute, but then one day the In-Charge strode in.
'There is the most beautiful greyhound in the Post Office,' he said. 'What about it?'
For an agonising half-hour I umm-ed and aahh-ed until finally we gritted our teeth and he went, hot-foot back to the village.
Five minutes later he was home again, looking slightly startled.
'Well?' I asked. 'When's the wedding?'
'He's gone,' the In-Charge said. 'To Wales.'

It took awhile to get over this extremely cold, wet damper, but eventually we put it behind us and  realised that we had, after all, only given in to a moment of pure sentimentality.
What we didn't know was that Juno had, meanwhile, taken the matter into her own paws and formed a highly questionable alliance with Bruce, the Labrador cross who lived up the road. She had also galvanised Ezra, the dear but hopeless collie dog we had rescued from hideous abuse, into action that no one thought he was capable of.

Top Dog - probably the most beautiful puppy in the world

We didn't even know she was in pup until we couldn't help but be sure.
For a Lurcher, she was becoming quite stout.
In a fit of anxiety that I hadn't been feeding her extra, nourishing rations, while making sandwiches for the boys one day, I gave her a massive spoonful of peanut butter (I have no idea - don't even ask). It was eagerly accepted, but it stuck the poor lamb's mouth together so firmly I thought dental intervention might be necessary, but she seemed quite happy to spend the next half hour un-clagging it on her own. I stuck to random tins of sardines after that.

On the 9th November, my mother was flying over for a long weekend. At lunchtime, just as the In-Charge was preparing to leave for the airport, Juno suddenly went into labour. She was, not surprisingly, alarmed, in pain and very anxious that I shouldn't leave her alone. I knew exactly how she felt.
The first puppy was the worst. My poor Juno was a complete novice and - let's face it - for most of us giving birth is an extremely painful process.
'Good luck,' the In-Charge said, bolting out of the door. The look on his face spoke volumes. He would, I knew, be gone for a good two hours. I nuzzled the puppy into Juno's side and thought how lovely it would be to welcome my mother with a clean, warm basket of gorgeous pups and their proud mama.

They were all beautiful puppies. Here playing in their favourite tea chest in the shed

Ho ho.
An hour later the second puppy was born.
An hour after that I rang the vet, just as the third pup appeared.
'Is this normal?' I asked. She didn't commit herself, but told me to ring her again if I had any concerns.
I already had lots.
My mother arrived and said all the right things. Being quite a veteran in the maternity department, both personally and from playing midwife to numerous animals, I felt she could be relied upon to know what was going on, but alas, it made no difference to poor Juno. The puppies continued to arrive at hourly intervals. I rang the vet again, but she said it sounded as if everything was progressing - slowly, but progressing.
Around midnight the eighth puppy was stillborn. To be honest, both Juno and I were so exhausted that our sorrow was tinged with blankness. The In-Charge took the poor little mite away and my mother said she thought that was probably the last one, and urged us to go to bed and leave Juno to get some rest with her babies, but some instinct made me stay with my hound.

Tiny Calypso who lives in England

I'm glad I did. Four more pups were born by 3am, including Top Dog and one final stillborn baby.
By the time Top Dog arrived, Juno was so exhausted that she could barely raise her head and was unable to give him more than a cursory lick. He was born without a protective membrane, and was too weak to suckle. I gave him some arnica and aconite and held him between her legs, to keep him warm, and to keep him fastened onto a teat. Every few minutes he gave a feeble suck, and for awhile I feared we'd lose him, but slowly my determination paid off. Gradually he perked up a little and eventually she was able to wash him and he was able to feed properly. I know if I hadn't been there, he would have been dead in the morning and we would all have been heartbroken. The first dog we had when we got married was white, and of all Juno's 12 puppies, Top Dog was the only white one, and his sister, Calypso, the only gold. All the others were black, or black and white.

Beautiful, gentle Calypso, the sun to Top Dog's moon

I took them all to the vet the next day, the pups in a laundry basket lined with a blanket and Juno - although hardly able to walk - determined not to let them out of her sight.
'Oh, I see you've got two fathers to this litter,' the vet said as soon as she saw them.
It was only then that I realised the blindingly obvious. Half the pups were collies, the other half lab crosses.
The little minx, the trollop, the wanton hussy!
But she was the best mother you could have hoped to find. Ever.
And the dearest hound.

Birthday boy with Model Dog, who looks so like his mother

I can't believe it was 13 years ago today.

And I can't believe that Under-Dog is still with us to celebrate this birthday.
The back injury he suffered years ago has taken its toll, and he has dreadful lumps - he isn't at all well. I didn't really expect that he would make it to 13, but I'm glad he has.
They had birthday cakes for tea, and there are sausages in the fridge for breakfast.
And in England, Calypso and her family are celebrating too.
Happy Birthday, lovely dogs.

Apple tarts for tea

In celebration of Writing from the Edge's first birthday, 
I will be having a wonderful Giveaway! 
Don't miss it!


  1. Happy Birthday doggies - they were indeed the most beautiful pups and very handsome grown-ups.
    Love your writing - made me smile & also brought a lump to my throat.

    1. Ah - thanks Mairead. And you are quite right, they are still as gorgeous as ever.

  2. Wonderful story, great pics..... so joyful to read ... as always....


  3. Big aaaah moments throughout this, And beautiful pix of beautiful pups who grew into beautiful dogs. But twelve puppies!!!! My goodness.

    1. My goodness indeed! I don't know where she hid them all beforehand. It really did start to feel like the 101 Dalmations, bless her.


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