If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know that for the past couple of months, I’ve been working full-time at my day job. Unfortunately, that means rescue efforts around the Farnival have been slower than normal.
But that doesn’t mean the stories stop coming. It just means that I don’t have time to write about them 🙁
Recently, one tale touched my heart so much that I want to share it with y’all. Meet Lucy and her 8 pups:
Here’s an abbreviated version of the email I got from Pamela and Wayne Thing about Lucy:
“Lucy, mixed lab, showed up at our house in the boonies of Perry County, Tennessee about 8 weeks ago, during the last few days of really warm weather. She was obviously very pregnant and lost.
She would not come near me. Ran away if I approached. She took up residence on our back deck. It is very quiet back there. No one goes out there much.
Feeling sorry for her… I put food and water out for her. Watched her for a couple of days. Put a doghouse and bedding I had around out for her. Still could not get close to her. So just continued to feed and water. Leaving her in peace and quiet.
When my husband returned home from a trip, we were talking on the front porch. Lucy sudden appeared and lay down not far from my husband. Looking at him so longingly. Next day the UPS man made a delivery and was talking to me in the driveway. Once again Lucy appeared and lay down not far from the man. Looking at him so longingly.
I began to notice that she would watch cars coming up the hill as if she was waiting for her owner to return and pick her up…as you can guess, her owner must have been a man, and that Lucy was dumped. Most likely because she was pregnant.
Then [one] Sunday evening she came out from under the lowest part of deck. Looking pretty wrung out and much lighter. She had dug under the deck and had her puppies. While I was giving her fresh water and food, she allowed me to pet her head for the first time.
We waited a few days until our daughter came home from college. She was small enough to crawl under the deck and hand out the puppies.
We moved Lucy and her pups into the house, making a barricaded room in our back hall and guest bathroom. We already had a dog crate and I made bedding from an old comforter.
I contacted our local Perry County, TN. Humane Society (PCHS). It soon became apparent that the two ladies (only members) were overwhelmed. The humane society here just can’t take them. If something doesn’t give soon, PCHS is likely to shut down.
I have discussed the option of sending mom and 8 puppies onto the Whitehouse area humane society. These are beautiful pups. The mom, Lucy, is very sweet of nature and polite in the house.”
Perry County, TN is fifty miles west of Nashville, meaning out of ICHBA’s jurisdiction. But Donna, Mason, and I are putting our heads together to figure out how to help Wayne and Pamela Thing, two unsung heroes that gave a dog in need food and shelter.
If anyone has any suggestions or ideas about how to help Lucy and her pups, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Adriana and Rosie)
Adriana, our four- month- old mutt, must be experiencing the equivalent of a toddler’s terrible twos. Every time I turn around that little freak is up to no good, scrounging through trash cans, running wild with socks, or returning from the mosh pit covered in tree sap and Tennessee red clay.
Our foster dogs Mellie and Rosie, both decent-sized yearlings, fifty and sixty pounds respectively, follow that puppy around like she’s the pack leader. Unfortunately, that means they not only egg on Ade’s mischievous streak, but they often assist in her crimes.
Their latest joy is toilet paper. If either Mason or I use the bathroom and absentmindedly leave the TP on the holder – where it’s supposed to be – we can kiss it goodbye.
Yesterday, Adriana streaked past my office door with a whole roll clamped in her little maw, white banner streaming behind her like she just finished a fifty-yard dash. Her two buddies, Mellie and Rosie, tromped behind, wearing goofy ecstatic expressions.
All three of those hellions know that ripping up TP isn’t Farnival approved, but if anything that knowledge seems to incense their gusto. Now, the game has become shredding the roll into as many pieces as possible before they get busted. I’ve come upon white cottony scraps clumped in the wet grass, scattered across the living room floor, stuffed between the couches, hidden under the bed, and even drowning in the water bowl.
Every time I catch them, I reprimand and they act shamed, three pairs of ears tucked low, but in their defense, my voice probably doesn’t resonate with firmness. To be frank, it’s hard to appear strict when my heart is really doing cartwheels. For me, playing animals equal happy dogs.
During the past year, I’ve come to understand that playing, even among puppies, is a privilege for homeless animals; the majority of abandoned dogs have to learn how to have fun, as though it’s a luxury. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applied to animals: dogs will only play when the basics like food, water, shelter, and safety are regular ingredients.
Just off the top of my head, I can picture several foster mutts that initially treated having fun – meaning romping with other dogs, by themselves, or with toys – like a foreign concept; remember Frida living under the Honda for 24 hours, Pippi camping by the gate, Jim Bob obsessively running in circles with a clacking jaw or Bentley greeting every dog he met by attacking anything within biting range? It took these poor curs weeks and sometimes months to learn the thrill of playing.
Joyfully, the energy from our current pack is nothing like any of the mutts mentioned above. In fact, at this exact moment (a moment I’m going to savor for as long as possible), the opposite is true; from the second Ade, Mellie, and Rosie got together, they’ve acted downright impish.
I’m not saying I’m thrilled about cleaning up toilet paper confetti every other day, but it feels damn good giving a few animals a place to play.
When the Magic 8, eight homeless three-week-old puppies rescued from a Tennessee ghetto, came into my life, I had no idea that I would need them as much as they needed me. But a week after they arrived, my dog died, and in those days immediately following Miss Annie’s death, I felt like the entire universe was f-king with me. Like I did something to deserve such a harsh judgment. I stopped eating real food, instead living on honey cough drops and green tea, and slept approximately four hours a night. I looked and felt terrible.
At first, I swear I tried to ease my grief by observing the M8 in action, but frankly, they seemed more like a burden than anything else; all I really wanted to do was crawl into bed, surround myself with my remaining pack members, and watch The Sopranos.
My mind was in no place to write about the M8’s devious and silly antics, let alone care about them, but unbeknownst to me they had already started to knit their magical healing powers into my vulnerable heart.
With EIGHT four-week-old puppies crying, eating, peeing, chewing, running, and playing, I was forced to take an active role in life, whether I wanted to or not; like mopping when several wormy poop piles greeted me every morning, or sitting outside in the blaring southern sun, herding the M8 away from the road, or even just the act of bathing, feeding and medicating them kept me from crawling into my own “den” and obsessing about my best friend being dead.
After about two weeks of moving through the motions, feeling nothing but numbness, the M8’s magical healing powers began penetrating my haze, and I started to notice small things that didn’t exactly make me laugh, but they sure caused a smile.
How could I not smile when Junior, a six-pound beast, squatted over his food bowl, all four legs spread wide for optimum balance, protecting his grub from his seven siblings? Or when Jeannie bowled over poor Charmaine while she was taking a poop or when Gloria got into a determined tug-of-war with a spruce tree a million times her size?
As they grew bigger, as their energy increased, their magic grew exponentially until one afternoon their antics caused me to burst out in laughter. I hadn’t laughed for two weeks, and I forgot how good it felt.
It was a game of chase that did it. I had thrown a bunch of wilting sunflowers into the yard for compost earlier in the day, and Livia, the ferocious, intelligent one, had found one and dashed over the grass, around the magnolia tree, leading the scrambling pack with that sunflower – the stem twice as long as her body – gripped in her tiny maw.
A few times she flipped ass over teakettle, but she always hopped back up and bolted forward, flower in mouth, while her litter mates chased in mad pursuit, ears bouncing, tails wagging, wearing stubborn, excited expressions. Nothing about what they were doing was complicated. It was a game of chase with a sunflower, but that’s exactly what made it so special.
Later that night, after eating my first real meal in fourteen days, a pound of strawberries and a Swiss cheese and tomato sandwich on sourdough, I crawled into bed with Adriana, the beauty of the M8, who curled up like an elbow noodle in the crook of my neck, her stinky sweet puppy breath washing over my face, and the idea struck me that their magic was so powerful because it involved finding joy in the simplest, cheapest things that the world has to offer, like playing tag with a sunflower, tug-of-war with a spruce, tearing apart a magnolia leaf, chasing a frog, or leaping into a cardboard box.
The M8 were feverishly alive, and it was contagious.
On Monday evening, Mason and I were walking on the Springfield Greenway with eight dogs. Needless to say, our pack attracted a lot of attention. Plus, the greenway was busier than normal because fishing season on the Sulphur Fork Creek kicked off with a free fishing day last weekend, meaning no license necessary. We literally got stopped every fifteen minutes or so.
A white-haired fisherwoman named Bernice asked if we “took in dogs.” When I explained that we had been known to take in a dog or two, she told me her story: a feral pregnant mutt had had a litter of eight puppies that are living in a bramble patch in her backyard, which consists of mostly dirt and weeds.
The pups were one-week-old on June 10th. Bernice had strung a tarp above the pups, but in two days we’ve had several inches of rain, and the thought of them drowning has surfaced more than once. Since the pups are so young, they can’t be separated from their mother, and nobody, not even Robertson County Animal Control, can catch the mother.
On Tuesday night, Mason and I spent four hours trying to capture her at Bernice’s house in a rough neighborhood in Springfield, TN, filled with “crack-heads” and “whores.” I only know about the drug addicts and hookers because Bernice filled me in, claiming one female neighbor gets inside four different cars everyday, and sometimes the men even bring her pizza.
If we cage the mother dog, then Donna, ICHBA’s founder, has found a foster family with a safe and warm barn that is more than willing to let the mom and pups stay until they are weaned. (Thank you, Kristen!!)
At one point, during the four hours we were at Bernice’s house, I wrapped the puppies in a fleece hoodie, loaded them in the backseat, and drove to Nancy and Charlotte’s house, which was less than a mile away. The three of us gave all eight puppies warm baths in a metal tub that Nancy filled with warm water. We used small dabs of Dawn detergent because every one of those pups had fleas, which we tried to individually pluck from their coats, but it was close to impossible with the pure black ones. Afterwards, Charlotte wrapped them in warm towels and put them in a basket, and all nestled together, they looked like something straight out of a Hallmark calendar. Nancy suggested calling the mother dog Dawn and it stuck, so from here on out I’ll refer to her as Dawn.
Around 8 P.M., Mason and I decided to leave Bernice’s house because, by then, the pups had gone without food for too long. We arranged them inside a crate with blankets and hung the tarp over it, hoping Dawn would go inside to feed them, and Bernice could trap her. What ended up happening was she sat outside the cage crying, while her babies whined and whined for milk.
Bernice called me about an hour and a half after we had left, letting me know the mom still wasn’t feeding her pups, which meant those needy little creatures had been without nourishment for five hours. Mace strapped on his headlamp, drove back to town, and carried the puppies to the same bramble patch where we had found them. This morning Bernice reported that Dawn had spent the night inside the thicket feeding the pups.
Our biggest worry now is that Dawn is so angry after our failed attempts to catch her that she’ll move her pups somewhere nobody will be able to find them. Luckily, it hasn’t happened yet. The pups are still alive and well. If ANYBODY has ANY suggestions on how to catch the feral mother, please email us at: email@example.com. We’ll take any help we can get.
Until we figure out how to catch Dawn, all we can do is check on the pups daily and bring food for the mother. Bernice said she likes Kibbles-N- Bits 🙂
You know I’ll be keeping you posted about this little venture, frequently. As soon as the rain stops, a passing thunderstorm, Mace and I are going back to Bernice’s this evening. Wish us luck.