I drove as fast as I dared down the winding Stokes County road as a damp misty fog rolled into the valleys with the coming of night. One hand on the wheel, one hand on the stick, and an ice-cold puppy between my breasts, supported only by my bra (and oh, was I ever glad that I’d chosen to wear the one that fastens in the front!)…
Maybe I’d better back up and start from the beginning. I’m sure you’d like to know how exactly I wound up with a puppy in my bra, snuggled between my boobs.
It had already been a crazy day. We’d been to Lowe’s for a new electric fence box and to Wal-Mart for travel rations, and BACK to Wal-Mart for tires and to Lowe’s for a spool of electric fence wire, all before lunch time. Hubby installed the new fence box between the two trips to town. I spent over an hour after the second trip stringing new and/or repairing old electric wire and in several places attaching new plastic fobs to the fence posts. Nanuq and T. Rex seem to have a taste for bright yellow electric fence fobs, and had torn down the wire that was attached to the bright yellow fobs they ate. Unfortunately the yellow ones are actually better fobs than the black ones, so it’s yellow ones we’ll be using here on out, and we’ll just have to make sure the fence is always on to prevent further destruction.
But I digress. You, gentle reader, care not at all about my electric fence problems. I hooked you with the puppy in my bra, and that’s what you want to read about.
Evening had fallen. I was reading a book, Facebooking, and halfway watching Celebrity Ghost Stories on Biography. It’s not because they’re Celebrity Ghost Stories – it’s because they’re Ghost Stories. I like to get a little spooky once in awhile. I could care less about the Celebrity angle.
Just as I was beginning to pay more attention to the book than the other distractions, my cell phone rang. It was an old friend, Dottie, and she was absolutely in tears. I could hardly understand what she was saying – but I got enough to know that Allie had puppies and was dead.
“I’m hanging up,” I told Dottie, “I’ll be there in a minute.”
I grabbed some felt blankets, jumped in the car, and headed out.
I know that Dottie is absolutely heartbroken. I have been in her shoes many times, and when I got to her house I made sure to give her a hug. I’m pretty sure that’s the proper thing to do in this sort of situation – I speak dog so much better than I speak human, but Dottie understands me anyway.
Allie was on the enclosed back porch. Her neck and head were swollen horribly, and it appeared she seized a little before she died. Even though it’s been cool lately, I was pretty sure I was looking at a snake bite victim.
Here’s the thing about snake bites. When a snake bites a human, it’s generally on a foot, a leg, a hand, or a lower arm – in other words, far enough from the heart that there is time to administer anti-venom and far enough from airways to be safe from suffocation. When a snake bites a dog it’s usually around the head. Venomous snake bites swell fairly rapidly, and a bite to the head or neck can swell until the airways are obstructed. I’m no vet, but to my layman’s view, that’s what happened to Allie.
The pups were two or three days old, and Dottie said that Allie died on top of most of them and they smothered. There were three left, scrabbling at Allie’s dry teats in frustration. I quickly scooped them up and slipped them into the pocket of my hoodie. I reassured Dottie that snakebites can happen to anyone and that I’d make sure the pups were cared for, and I was off.
I immediately called our puppy expert, Emily. Emily is not just our puppy expert. She’s also the mother of four children, the younger three of whom she homeschools. The oldest, Maya Sings, was homeschooled until this past fall, when she decided she wanted to go to high school. Maya & my youngest daughter have gotten to be good friends. They’re the same age and have some classes together. Emily handles a free clothing closet ministry for her church, is very craft-y, and helps to manage her husband’s band and Maya’s budding singing career. In addition to all of this, Emily is one of our most reliable foster moms. Shortly before I called her, she’d been down to the animal shelter to pick up a guinea pig and a rabbit, and had submitted photos of some puppies for approval in our Operation: Puppy Love program.
I called Emily and explained the situation. Did she have any puppy formula? It just so happened that she did. Could she take these three on? Of course she could.
I sped down country roads, around curves and up hills and down into valleys, over the river and through the woods, to Emily’s house I went. The pups in my hoodie pocket squirmed and whimpered. I kept my shifting hand in my pocket (except when I had to shift gears) and the other hand on the wheel. The pups were chilly but they were squirmy and whiny and so I was confident they would be all right.
When I got to Emily’s, she wasn’t there – she’d gone to Mona’s for bottles. Maya met me at the door with her younger siblings in tow and took the pups off my hands. I headed back for town, thinking that it was a good night not to cook. I hit the Hardees drive-thru, got supper, and headed toward home. I almost made it, too, when my phone rang again.
It was Dottie. One of the dead pups was moving. I told her I would be there directly – she offered to have her husband meet me halfway instead. We met at a small country store/gas station. He rolled his window down and passed me the pup, which was wrapped in a tee shirt. I unwrapped the shirt. The pup was cold as death, and I thought there had to be a mistake, this pup couldn’t possibly be alive – but then it groaned. I quickly handed the shirt back.
“Don’t you need something to wrap it in?” Brian asked.
“No,” I responded, “I’m going to carry it in my bra.” It was the only warm place I could think of where I could hold the pup skin to skin, hands-free.
“Good Lord,” Brian snorted, and he left as I stuffed the pup down the front of my shirt.
Back in the car, I unfastened the top three snaps of my bra and wiggled the pup around until his chest and paws were against my chest. Then I pulled my hoodie down and hit the gas.
I drove as fast as I dared down the winding Stokes County road as a damp misty fog rolled into the valleys with the coming of night. One hand on the wheel, one hand on the stick, and an ice-cold puppy between my breasts, supported only by my bra (and oh, was I ever glad that I’d chosen to wear the one that fastens in the front!). As I drove I tried to reach Emily, to no avail. No problem; I’d just turn up on her doorstep.
And I did.
Maya opened the door, saw me standing there, and said, “I thought the rest were dead!”
“They thought so too,” I said, stepping inside. In the living room, I pulled the pup out of my bra and passed it to Emily. “No promises,” I told her. “It’s too cold. It might not make it. But I know that if anyone can pull it through, you can.”
Emily looked grim. “I don’t know,” she said. “I’ll do my best.”
I flopped down beside her on the sofa and grinned at her. “Did you ever know that you’re my hero?” I demanded.
She laughed at me. She usually does – but I meant it then and I’ll always mean it. Emily is absolutely my hero.
Will the puppies live? I don’t know – but if Emily can’t save them, I’ll know it was because there was no saving them.
As I drove home, I couldn’t help but think about how much death I’ve seen since I got involved in the animal rescue and welfare world. I’m pretty sure the only thing that keeps me going is that I speak dog better than I speak human… and the dogs that I save tell me every day not to give up. So I don’t.