Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rosie Toes

Mama Bette and her 5 hungry pups

     I picked up the limp, wet body and tenderly cradled it in my hands. With no time to spare, all eyes in the room focused on what I would do next. Bette stared up at me pleading wordlessly for me to accomplish what she could not. I rubbed the newborn puppy with a rough towel hoping it would take its first breath. No luck. As the seconds ticked by I kept working on the pup trying to stimulate that first sign of life. I did not hear the other four pups squealing noisily while I struggled to save their sibling.
Bettenon Gala's Rosebud at 2 weeks
     Rosie, always a bit of a drama queen, made quite an entrance that night. Suddenly she inhaled the life-giving oxygen her body craved the second she separated from her mother, Bette. Now I sighed with relief and began to take stock of the pup’s overall health. A girl, good, that makes three girls and two boys. She was small, probably the runt of the litter, but now trying to wiggle out of my hands. As soon as I made certain the pup breathed freely, I handed her back down beside her mama and let nature take over. Soon she took her first drink of milk.
     Born 1 hour after the rest of the pups, she must have been stuck a while in the birth canal. Gary and our family friend, Phil, had gone out to an overnight grocery for vanilla ice cream to start Bette’s milk flowing. She gobbled it up and we took this as a sign that she had finished birthing puppies. Wrong! As the clock hit 3 a.m. Bette went back into labor and quickly produced this last pup. We all marveled as the runt began pushing the bigger pups out of her way to the milk.
Bette and Rosebud (ages 7 & 5)
     The process started at around midnight and four pups came along in 15 minute intervals. We just about called it a night when suddenly Bette began straining again. We watched for another hour to see if more pups arrived. Rosie turned out to be the last of the litter. Finally sure that Bette and the pups were settled and resting, Phil headed home and Gary and I collapsed into bed. That’s when we noticed just how noisy and squeaky the puppies were. Exhaustion helped us fall asleep as the sun rose overhead. When we woke a few hours later, the first order of the day turned out to be moving the puppy playpen from our bedroom to the kitchen. Now we all could sleep more easily.
     The first day of Rosie’s life we nearly lost her, however as time passed she spent 14 years sharing our home with us. There’s something very special about having a pet be born under your roof and live their entire life with you. “Rosie Toes” earned her nickname because of the wonderful habit she had of dancing around us and greeting us with a basenji baarroooo when we returned home. There are many more stories about these two characters and I hope you’ll stop by my blog again soon to enjoy them.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Gift of Life, an Acceptance of Loss

     One of the toughest parts of pet ownership arrives on the day you must give your beloved friend up. Sometimes this comes as a surprise; sometimes it’s preceded by months of illness. It might happen because you must move or because you can no longer afford your friend. The time frame makes no difference because anytime I’ve had to give up any of my pets, my heart swells and nearly breaks. Thankfully these hard days stand out as punctuation marks between endless days of enjoying my pet’s companionship.
     Noelle arrived on a warm October afternoon, a 5-year-old basenji girl who had spent many days in the show ring. Placing a lead on Noelle’s neck was pure pleasure. She stepped out beside me and loved to strut her stuff just as if she was in the ring at the Westminster Kennel Club show with the whole world watching. We rescued her when her breeder needed to adopt out some of his older dogs, in effect she moved into retirement.
     At first, we both felt lost in our new relationship. I missed Rosie, who had died about a month before we adopted Noelle. Our new dog hadn’t ever lived in a house, splitting her time between the backyard and her crate in the garage. I taught her about the trials of stairs, the pleasures of pillows, and the joys of being the sole dog living on the premises. I lavished her with time and when she seemed anxious, I slipped on her leash and we went walking. In those early days, we went directly to the back of the small, quiet park in our neighborhood. We ran together around the cement circle at the back of the park until she felt safe and secure again. Then we returned home and to whatever we’d been doing. In those first few weeks home we did this half a dozen times a day, helping us both take on a healthy glow.
     Comfort slowly replaced Noelle’s fear. Soon she enjoyed my company, although she ran away from Gary and all visitors to our home. I tackled her "standoffishness" by letting her come downstairs and join the party when she was ready. An edible chew toy went a long way to reinforce this behavior in a positive way. The ache in my heart from Rosie’s loss was slowly replaced by the joy of watching Noelle settle in and begin to enjoy her new life. The more comfortable she became, the more successful I felt in welcoming her into our lives.
     Soon I discovered that Noelle had the sweetest temperament of any of the basenjis I’d ever owned. And although I’d missed her puppy days, I also missed housebreaking problems and destructive chewing while she teethed. She became the special gift of life in our home and helped us heal the holes left behind by Rosie’s loss.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Flying Leap of Faith

Kindu's 1st day home--8 weeks

     I did it again and could hardly believe it myself. I adopted a new puppy, convinced not just myself it was a good idea, but somehow my husband supported me in this impractical idea. As I waited on the bed for the intravenous hydration solution to finish infusing, I watched out the window as Gary played in the backyard with our newest family member, Kindu. Who would have believed it—a basenji that retrieves! Never in 40 years of owning basenjis had I ever seen one fetch more than a few times.
     Watching, it was easy to see Gary’s middle age drop off his shoulders, like a cape flung away on a warm spring day. He smiled and laughed as the little dog dragged the stick under his body, trailing a good eight inches behind him. It made me laugh just to watch. I thought of my inspiration for why this was the right year to replace our last basenji, Noelle, after 15 months with no pet. Pastor Brian’s message on Sunday about the song in Ecclesiastes (put to music by the Birds) hit home, a time for joy.
     That’s what a dog brings into my life, laughter.
     What’s that? You never heard of a basenji! I hear that every time my dogs come up. Dyed-in-the-wool basenji fan that I am, it’s hard for me to fathom not knowing about the breed. It’s just the best kind of dog in the world for me—doesn’t even bark. That doesn’t mean they aren’t great watch dogs, they just go about it in their own quiet way. Well yes, they are a tad bit stubborn, maybe even persistent to a fault. They want their way about everything. And yet, they are such characters that I can never resist them.
Always jumping and playing
    Gary bellowed as Kindu grabbed one of the ties he was using to erect a puppy fence to protect the tomatoes we anticipated planting. First the 13-pound pup runs past the window with a work glove in his mouth. He frolicked by so proudly, trying to grab Gary’s attention by stealing something. Then 6-foot-3 Gary runs past trying to catch the little guy and retrieve it, bad knees and all. I had to hold my breath to keep from laughing out loud at the sight. The sight of them made it easy to remember now why I trusted God that this was His perfect moment to bring a puppy back into our lives.
Trusting God, that’s always a tough one for me. I’d like to think I can do it on my own, independent and all that. However, deep inside I know that everything and anything that comes into my life is simply a blessing from God. Even the health tests that I don’t like so much that have preserved me from a terminal, debilitating disease; even with God’s grace to prosper when I followed His Way versus trying my own path. Purchasing the pup was a leap of faith that God wouldn’t have made dogs so important in my life without good reason. My doctors had advised me to replace my dog as soon as possible. Yes, there is a plan, just not the plan I’d laid out—but the one the Lord has mapped out for me.
By the way, this is Kindu II. Our first Kindu came into our lives as a Valentine’s gift too. I met that first Kindu when he popped out of Gary’s coat pocket one afternoon when he picked me up to go home from the hospital. Ahh, but that’s another story!
Hard day of work in garden

As I watched, Kindu II literally flew through the air, all four running feet off the ground, circling around Gary as he hauled the extra dirt from the garden. Yes, indeed, God provides everything we need in abundance, even models of flying leaps of faith.