Better not mess with momma

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune
Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown -
Buttons, the momma Dalmatian - Stephen Harris

The phone call came from down in the Big City. Come and get your puppy, we were told. The litter had been weaned.

So not unlike an expectant father, I and the pup’s adoptive mother made the hour-long drive down the next day. The trip seemed to take about five minutes.

We had the pick of the litter, but the Lady of the House beat me to the punch. The puppy beauty contest was no contest really. The winner turned out to be a little darling with one brown eye and one blue. Lady picked the duo-toned beauty without even consulting with me.

There was no need, though.

Actually, the pup’s blue eye was only two-thirds blue, with a brown portion appearing to drain at the bottom of the pupil, replaced by clear blue. The Dalmatian was a cutie.

I called to the litter, and from out of the pack the winning pup stepped through the gate confidently and into my waiting lap.

The pup made her home in our storage building in the backyard. We left her tied during the day while we were gone, then kept close tabs on her when we brought her to the house for supper and a little evening time together.

The pup was an active, little, high-stepping thing. Her energy gave her a joyful countenance.

I had my back turned at the barn-shaped storage building one time, then I turned back to see the adolescent dog sprinting through puddles at the edge of the tobacco field next door.

With her head held high and with brown water flying, the pup completed one dash, turned and romped back again through the puddles, over and over. Her face clearly expressed unrestrained joy.

Out here in the country I grew lax on our walks and would let the Dalmatian off the leash. People and dogs don’t use leashes in my neighborhood here in the hometown, anyway.

So one time I let the dog off the leash during a walk up a side road, and she took advantage to frolic. At the pasture between the old Couch and Luffman homes the dog dived under an electric fence and got inside with a small herd of cows that included one calf.

I grew nervous.

The dog had never seen a calf and of course dashed over to play. The calf, of course, did not want to play. And now here comes the mother.

I called and called and whistled and whistled but the dog ignored me. We stood helpless outside the charged fence as the dog trotted around with the momma cow lumbering in pursuit. The cow couldn’t come close to catching the dog, and for some reason the dog didn’t have the sense to just slip under the bottom wire of the fence and flee.

So around and around the pasture the two animals circled. The cow couldn’t get to the dog and the dog thought she had nowhere else to go. My calls continued unheeded.

After about 15 minutes of this the dog must have gotten exhausted or decided to just give up and end it all. The dog flopped belly down in the grass in one corner. And here came momma cow.

If there had been a bull in the pasture my dog would have been a goner. However, as the momma cow, who looked to be a Hereford, closed in, the dog let out the most pitiful death yell I’ve ever heard. The cow stopped, frozen and apparently uncertain on what to do next.

The standoff allowed me to hustle over, reach under the electric fence and pull the dog out by the hind legs. The dog promptly got up and started prancing on up the road as if nothing had happened.

Some time later we wondered about the dog as she was about to become a mother herself. To be frank, we wondered whether such a flighty and hyper puppy would make a good mom.

My concern was laid to rest that first evening after I came home from work. I tried to get the dog to go out to use the bathroom. She had been inside in the basement all day after giving birth in the early-morning hours.

She wouldn’t budge.

I held open the door and coaxed and coaxed. I knew she must be about to bust.

The dog looked at the door, then looked at the pups. Back and forth, several times.

Finally I got her to get up from the bed and step just outside the door, urinate, and she hustled back inside to those pups.

I think she would have fought that cow, even a bull, over those pups. She turned out to be a fine mother.

Then after about three weeks night and day with those rowdy pups – six of them had survived – they were all over her, feeding and playing and gnawing. One morning I dutifully let momma dog out. I called her back inside as I had to go to work.

She didn’t want to come back in. She looked around at the sunny, pleasant autumn morning and how much open space lay before her in which to romp. Then she hung her head and headed back indoors for yet another day with those demanding pups.

Motherhood is a calling, a mission and a wonderful mystery. No matter the species. I have only to remember the momma cow and the momma dog and chuckle. May God bless all who answer the call.

And have a happy Mother’s Day on Sunday.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

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Buttons, the momma Dalmatian, the momma Dalmatian Stephen Harris

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune