Back in January, when the weather was practicing its usual funky North Carolina magic, two dogs turned up on the curve above Mona’s house. One was a small brownish blonde mix; the other was a tall black and white dog who looked rather like a dingo. These dogs were frightened, cold, and confused. They would approach any car that slowed or stopped, but would run away as soon as they realized they did not, in fact, know those people.
After a week or so of unsuccessfully attempting to corral these kids, Mona contacted Animal Control. It was a favor she wanted – just for them to come out and set a trap. The trap worked and the smaller brownish dog was caught. At that point Animal Control decided to take the dog back to the shelter (that wasn’t part of the trap borrowing agreement – it was late at night when the ACO found the trap and he decided to overnight the dog at the shelter and call Mona the next morning).
The next morning it was snowing, sleeting, slushing, and doing all manner of other unpleasant things. Mona called and asked if I’d be willing to go by the shelter, pick up the little gal, swing by Mona’s for vaccines, and take her home with me. I agreed – the roads weren’t snowy/sleety/slushy yet. I don’t drive on snowy/sleety/slushy roads. I loaded the big crate into the back of my trusty Toyota Matrix and set off, my son at my side.
Our county shelter is in a horrible location out in the middle of nowhere. How, you ask, does a county shelter expect to find homes for animals when no one can find the shelter? Well, evidently, the primary consideration back in 1742, when the shelter was built, was that the county already owned the land… because the county landfill is on the same site.
By the time I got to the shelter, snow was beginning to drift and blow across the road, but it wasn’t sticking. It was coming down a little heavier, though. My son and I went into the shelter and I told the chief ACO, “I’m here for the dog you trapped for SCHS.”
This is where the story takes a slightly Twilight Zone turn. This dog was trapped for us at our request. It was understood by all parties that the dog would be taken into our custody. AC, however, decided not to let me have the dog.
“She’s injured,” I protested, for this is what we’d been told by a neighbor. “She needs to be vetted!”
“There’s nothing wrong with that dog, and you can’t have her until the three day hold period is up.”
I didn’t know what else to say, so I left. I got about thirty seconds down the road when I decided that I was mad. “I’m going back,” I told my son, “and I’m not leaving without that dog!”
My son wanted to see me do just that, so I drove to the top of the road, did a U-ey, and headed back to the shelter.
“I want to see the dog,” I told AC. “I’m not leaving until I see for myself that she’s sound.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that dog.”
“I don’t care. I want to see it for myself.”
AC saw that I meant what I said, so he went back, got the dog, and brought her up.
She was on the smallish side of medium, with a face and build reminiscent of a Whippet, though she was obviously mixed with other things. She crouched low to the ground, her head turned away, tremors wracking her body.
“Let me take her with me,” I said.
“You know the law,” AC protested, “and we have to abide by the law. What if I let you take her and her owner turns up three days from now and wants her back?”
“Look, AC,” I said. “How long do we hold a shelter dog in quarantine before we put it up for adoption? Fourteen days. That’s a hell of a lot longer than three. If her owners turn up, have them call me – and tell them I have their other dog too. Now do my paperwork. This dog is coming home with me. This isn’t like releasing to the public, AC. I’m not the public. I’m SCHS. It’s different. Do the paperwork before we wind up spending the rest of the winter snowed in at the dump.”
So without further ado, the paperwork was done and I was loading my newest foster kid into the crate and we were headed to Mona’s, easy as that.
Thus far, the snow hadn’t amounted to much, and though it was bitterly cold, it had stopped precipitating by the time we got to Mona’s.
I carried the little gal from the driveway to the front steps. Mona came to the door. As we started up the steps, my son said, “Mama, look.” Lo and behold, there at the top of the other drive stood tall black dingo dog – also a female. She came part of the way down the drive, then went back up, then walked along the edge of the road a few paces, then came back to the top of the drive. The whole time her gaze was riveted on little brownish dog.
I sat down on the front porch steps, little brownish dog at my feet. She uttered a whine, watching her friend up the hill intently. I sent my son around behind the house with instructions to climb the hill on the far side of the other driveway and to walk slowly down the side of the road – I was hoping that the boy would push tall black dingo dog down toward us.
What actually happened was next door neighbor came by to pick up something, saw what I was doing, sat down beside me, and when tall black dingo dog’s yearning for her little brownish friend overcame her fear of strangers, and she came down to us, he gently put his arms around her and held her while Mona brought us a second slip lead.
Just like that, I had both of those dogs in my possession. It was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life.
We came inside to thaw out and have a bite of stew. Mona took these photos to send to North Shore – she was pretty sure they’d take these girls, who were a little thin but very attractive, and fearful but non-aggressive:
After we had stew, Mona’s hubby came home. He said we should name the dogs Thelma and Louise. The names seemed to suit them. Thelma was the little brownish gal; Louise was tall black dingo dog.
Thelma and Louise were very people-social and dog-social. They also learned to be cat-social. They weren’t overly fond of the goats, and like the rest of the dogs, they considered chicken to be a menu item of high repute… like most of the rest of the dogs, they never had the opportunity to sample live chicken.
Our official photographers, Tammera and Jessica, snapped these photos for us:
Within two weeks of catching them, I noticed that Thelma wasn’t feeling well. I took her to my vet, where she was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. Luckily, Lyme is easily treated with drugs in the Doxycycline family. Unfortunately, her antibiotic schedule conflicted with the North Shore transport.
Louise went to North Shore the same day as T. Rex, another of my fosters. (Read more about T. Rex here https://heathermcamp.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/t-rex-and-the-dinosaurs/)
I was heartbroken that day. T. Rex was a special foster, one that I’d spent a great deal of time and energy training to be nice. Louise was also a special foster – I’d had to work to earn her trust, and in one fell swoop, not only did I betray that trust, but I ripped her from her bonded friend Thelma as well. Unbeknownst to me, Mona snapped these candid shots of me apologizing to Louise:
It turned out that it was a good thing that Thelma didn’t make that transport. The week after Louise left, I called Mona.
“I think Thelma’s pregnant,” I said.
“She couldn’t be,” Mona said. “She’s been with you the whole time!”
Other than pups too young to be neutered, and of course livestock, I won’t have an unaltered animal on my property.
“I’m pretty sure she was pregnant when I got her, for her to be starting to show now.”
Another week, another conversation with Mona:
“I am 100% positive that Thelma is pregnant.”
So Mona wrote to North Shore and asked if they wanted us to abort her or let her have the pups. To my relief, North Shore’s response was, “Let her have them!”
Let me stop right here to say that if North Shore had said to abort, I’d have had Thelma at the clinic the next day. I’m opposed to human abortion. It strikes some of my critics as hypocritical of me to oppose human abortion and support animal abortion. My stance is this: Puppies and Kittens are being euthanized in animal shelters all across this country every day. They’re the victims of a mass genocide perpetrated by people who don’t alter their pets. They starve in gutters and on gravel country roads. Baby humans aren’t being euthanized. There are families out there eager to adopt baby humans; puppies and kittens aren’t so lucky.
I will abort a dog or cat, but I don’t do it happily. It’s a hard decision to make. It’s hard on veterinary surgeons and their staff, who are left with viable third term puppies and kittens that have to be removed and euthanized. It’s hard on the mother dogs and cats, who, especially if aborted later in the pregnancies, grieve for their lost babies.
Do I support it? Yes, because it’s a necessity in the current pet overpopulation crisis, and preferable to euthanizing a six week old or ten month old or fifteen year old unwanted pet. Do I like it? Hell no.
So I was beyond relieved to learn that North Shore wanted Thelma’s puppies.
I made arrangements with Mona to move Thelma to her house prior to delivery. It’s not that I didn’t want them; I’d have LOVED to raise them. However, my home is chaotic, full of teenagers and dogs and cats and parakeets and what have you. Mona’s is quiet, and I deemed it a much better home for whelping and raising puppies.
It didn’t quite happen that way – mainly because Mona didn’t believe me when I told her that Thelma would be delivering soon. She thought I was exaggerating the progress of the pregnancy.
Thelma delivered her puppies in my big crate in my bedroom with me by her side. She delivered seven beautiful, fat, perfect puppies, almost as motley a litter as Maggie’s pups had been. I sat with her from the time her labor started, around midnight, until she delivered the last pup around six in the morning. A few hours later, Mona’s oldest daughter and my oldest daughter came by to collect Thelma and company and take them to Mona’s.
Thelma enjoyed her time at Mona’s… but I was very gratified that she was tickled to death to see me every time I came over, and she was always sad when I left. She was a wonderful little mama dog. When it came time for Thelma and her puppies to go to North Shore, I was at work and so I didn’t get to say good-bye.
So now I’m sitting here crimping up again, just like I do when I tell these foster tales, and I’m sure you, Gentle Reader, are wondering yet again WHY I continue to put myself through this heartbreak.
I think these photos answer that question: