Our dog Gideon is truly fortunate to have found his way into the world. His mother, Josie, a lovely Sheltie in the Banchory line, had whelped a healthy litter of five in her younger days, but Gideon was conceived in Josie's sixth spring. Unbeknownst to us, she had developed some troubles of a delicate nature. Her veterinarian later said that he couldn’t understand how she conceived at all.
We however, had some idea of how she had conceived, having seen to all the expensive matrimonial arrangements with a sire whose registered name was borrowed without interest from a well-known large stock brokerage. He is a handsome fellow who answers to the nickname of Broker. I’m not kidding.
All monetary considerations aside, the expensive honeymoon seemed to go well. Three days later we brought Josie back home and anxiously watched her for signs of pregnancy. The weeks passed and she did seem to be with child. We fed her extra protein rich cottage cheese and made her chicken broth to nourish all those little puppies within her.
When she was ready, I was ready; after all I was experienced, this was her second litter. I felt much more ready than I had been for Josie's first litter though I had tried hard to be prepared then too. I had my emergency directions on three by five cards and studied several instruction books extensively. I bought sharp new scissors and borrowed a hemostat from my neighbor. But I still remember the afternoon of the first litter with chagrin. I had been boiling my needed tools in a pot on the stove when a skunk weaving around in our back yard distracted me. It was broad daylight. I was alarmed. Was the skunk rabid? I called animal control and ran around closing windows. Josie was out hollowing out yet another nest in another flowerbed. Some prospective mothers hang flowered wallpaper, but Josie went for the freshly dug cool bowl of earth with bowers of flowers above her.
I realized that I better bring her inside before she got skunked, but she didn't want to come in. She was in the pacing and panting stage of labor. Oh my, I better get ready; puppies really were on their way. The last thing I needed was for Josie or me to get skunked. There might not be enough tomato juice in the world to cut the stench of a direct attack. And then there was the possibility that this drunk looking little guy might be rabid. Come on in, Josie, please.
I still hadn’t yet convinced my primally focused mother–to-be to follow my requests when I heard the doorbell ringing. It must be animal control, I thought, I’d just go meet them outside, in front of the house. I could hear the phone ringing inside and hoped the children would just let the answering machine pick it up.
At the front of our house was one of our blue uniformed local gendarmes, Officer Sykes. He said he was responding to the skunk report. I thanked him, but expressed surprise that he was from the police department and not from the animal control.
"They only work the county. You’re inside city limits. I can take care of it," he said, and laid his hand on his sidearm.
At that moment my thirteen-year-old daughter opened the front door. "Mom, the pot smells awful."
Officer Sykes wrinkled his nose and pushed my front door open further. I stood helplessly behind him on my own front porch. He looked at my daughter. "What is that smell and why aren't you at school?" he asked.
Before she could answer him, my sixteen-year-old daughter appeared at her side to announce to me that my answering service had a client crisis holding on the line for me. "And Mom, the pot smells just awful. Do you have to do that?"
"And you too," Officer Sykes said, eyeing my darling girl with her long blond hair, padding around barefoot in her flannel pajamas. "Why aren't you in school?" he asked, pulling out his investigative note pad.
"We’re home schooled," the girls answered simultaneously.
"And today we are having puppies," my younger daughter added.
"Smells kind strange here. I'd better check this out,” Officer Sykes announced as he strode in my front door. “This is toxic, we better open all the windows and air this house out. Get outside girls.”
I ran in behind him. "But I just closed the windows so the skunk smell wouldn’t come in. And I don’t want my children outside with a possibly rabid skunk,” I said. But the air in the house was worse then skunk. It smelled perfectly poisonous.
"You know there’s a law that everyone under sixteen must attend school," the officer said as he heaved open a window in my kitchen and the unmistakable strong odor of fresh skunk rushed in to compete with the aroma of the melted red plastic handles of the new scissors I’d been sterilizing.
"Mom, your answering service is on the line, some lady is in crisis and holding," my daughter reminded me.
"Sweetie, just tell them to tell her I will be right there, if she could just wait one moment." Just what I need right now, a client emergency.
I was more anxious than ever to get Josie in away from the skunk as I was totally bewildered about the officers approach to skunk control.
"How will you trap the skunk?" I asked him.
He patted his gun again. " I'm not going to trap him, gonna shoot him," he said as he peered into my saucepan of melted whelping instruments. “What’s the hemostat for?” he asked.
“To clamp the umbilical cord of the puppies,” I explained. "If you'd excuse me, I've got to get my dog in and then answer this telephone call. I thought you would just catch the skunk in some have- a- heart kind of trap. I had no idea you would shoot it. Won't it stink up your patrol car to take a dead skunk off in it?"
"I'll put it in the trunk in a plastic bag," he said. "I've got gloves. Well, I'll just go take a look around."
"Let me just get my dog first," I said. "I'll be right back." I darted out the back door wondering if I could scare that poor stupid troublesome little skunk off without getting sprayed.
As the door closed behind me I could hear the officer asking my daughter if we didn't have a fan we could put on to blow the plastic fumes out of the house. Why didn’t I think of that? I found Josie under a huge fern in my shade garden and drug her up the stairs and into the kitchen. The garden was ripe with his odor, but I’d seen no sign of the skunk.
Back in the kitchen, Officer Sykes unclasped his holster and said, "Okay, you’ve got your dog. I will be having to check up on this home schooling business, but I guess it was just plastic I smelled in here so I will go get the skunk now. You girls stay inside, I may have to shoot it."
While Officer Sykes patrolled our yard, I took the emergency client call. It was a very tender hearted woman that I had just started seeing who was worried that her husband might be having an affair. "Sorry, to make you wait," I said. "What's going on?"
"The skunk," she said, "the stinking skunk, he does have a girlfriend." I managed to get myself oriented to her point of view and after we both calmed down a bit we scheduled to meet at my office the following day.
Anyway, you can imagine how relieved I was when Officer Sykes returned from our garden and announced that although the smell of skunk was pronounced (that's what he said), he saw no sign of the offending creature and I'd have to call back later if I needed
more help. Oh, and he would be in touch about the school business.
That’s what happened the day that Josie and I whelped her first litter. As I said, I was much better prepared and more calm the second time, when Gideon came into the world and into our lives.
|*Josie with her first litter of five*|
The funny thing is that retrospectively it was that first birth that was so smooth. It was such a perfect home birth. Each one of the five pups was strong and beautiful and Josie was a natural at mothering. Well, she did nip a tiny toe off one little fellow, but all in all, it was a breeze.
Seven weeks later, named and renamed, cuddled and all loved up, we reluctantly said goodbye to all those five puppies who each were sold to wonderful homes. Even with all the usual expenses of stud fee, extra mama dog food, new scissors, vet bills, shots and food for the puppies, Josie had earned dog chow and vet bill money for years to come.
|*Growing up and ready for their new families*|
So the second time around I wasn’t even worried. You might even say that I was guilty of counting my chickens before they had hatched. But, if you'll forgive me, the annals of Josie's second litter are just going to have to wait until part two of this story. These memories of Sykes, skunks and scissors and all have just done me in. And the police sirens are howling and now the dogs are joining in. But I'll be back, with further tales of my attempts to have pedigree puppies who would pay their own way and how Gideon actually made his costly little way into the world and our hearts.
Part Two...click Here
Part Two...click Here
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