I’m not a dog person. I don’t dislike dogs, I just prefer cats. Well, there are some dogs I dislike. I don’t like Dalmatians because every Dalmatian I’ve ever encountered has bared its teeth at me. I’m afraid of Dobermans. My Uncle Don raised Dobermans and one bit me when I was 3. I don’t really remember it, but I was told about it enough to make me wary of them. I also don’t like pit bulls purely because of their reputation. I’ve heard too many stories about people being maimed or pets being killed by pit bulls that, even though — until recently — I wouldn’t have known a pit bull if one was attacking me, I didn’t like them.
So when my Aunt Ginny gave me instructions on what to do when I arrived at her house and it involved being friendly to a pit bull, I was more than a little worried. She said that the dog that showed up pregnant on their doorstep and subsequently gave birth under the neighbor’s playhouse was really very friendly though and I should have nothing to worry about.
When I did arrive at my aunt and uncle’s house in Northeastern Mississippi I thought that no one was home. I saw the dog almost as soon as I got out of the car and talked to it as friendly as I could. “Hi there dog. How are you? I understand you are a friendly pit bull, right? Don’t bite my leg, ok?” Then I saw my uncle and was relieved. I’d spilled a nearly full box of Annie’s Goldfish crackers on the floor of the passenger’s side of the car and my uncle said it was ok to give it to the dog. She was friendly — and liked to be petted. Each time I went outside she was right there, ready for some attention.
Ever since reading Lali’s post about puppy-sitting her friend’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and remembering when our neighbor’s dog had puppies when I was a child and how much fun it was to be surrounded by several tiny biting beings with breath that smelled of coffee grounds I wanted to hang around some puppies too. I knew I had a chance to do so the weekend I was in Mississippi. The first two days I was there I was too busy to suggest a visit to the puppies. I considered walking over myself on Saturday evening, but didn’t want to be mistaken for a trespasser in case the neighbor or her son were at the house. I did spend some time outside on Saturday evening, looking at the water, watching birds and petting the dog (whose name I’d been told was PD — for “Pregnant Dog”). She seemed to not want me to go into the house — she seemed to want some company and when I did try to head towards the house she pushed me away from it. I thought maybe she was pushing me towards her puppies, but didn’t really think that was possible (although I had recently finished The Story of Edgar Sawtelle which was rife with stories about Very Intelligent Dogs to whom pushing a human to check on puppies would be a piece of cake) so I waited until the next morning.
On Sunday morning my uncle received a phone call from the neighbor whose playhouse the PD had chosen to give birth under. The neighbor was spending a while with her ailing mother, so was unable to check on the dogs. Her son was stopping by occasionally to check on the puppies and when he was there last saw that the puppies were gone. The neighbor wanted to know if Uncle Jack would check to see if PD had moved them or if they were really gone. I was a little worried — having been looking forward to seeing the puppies. Uncle Jack grabbed a flashlight and we walked over, accompanied by PD and, sure enough, the puppies were not under the playhouse. We looked around a little more, wondering what could have happened to them (I suspected coyotes) but we didn’t see any blood that would indicate that there had been foul play. Then we saw that there was a small shed that I’d mistaken for an outhouse that had a gnome sized hole cut out of the bottom of the door. We walked to it, Uncle Jack shone the flashlight through the opening and saw movement. Then a small parade of brown and black puppies trotted out to greet us.
Delighted, I dropped to the ground to get closer to the puppies. All but one climbed on my lap and nipped at my clothes and shoes. PD chose to become part of the chaos and joined in on the fun. She would not stay still to nurse the puppies, even though they seemed to want some breakfast. Then, since most of her puppies were in my lap, she decided that she wanted to be there too. So I sat there, cross-legged in the Mississippi dust with a full-grown pit bull on my lap while she nursed four of her five 4-and-a-half-week-old puppies. Oh to have gotten a photo of that! It was certainly a moment to remember. (And I actually thought about Lali and her Cavalier experience as I sat there)
After a few moments, just about when I thought my ankles couldn’t stand the pain of being pressed into the hard ground PD got up and went back to my aunt and uncle’s house. The puppies still wanted to play a little, but eventually they went back into the shed with their less curious sibling.
I went back one more time, this time on my own, to get some photos of the puppies. I tried to get a video, but operating a camera and being a climbing toy for 5 puppies is a little difficult. If these guys had been old enough to leave their mother, I might have been tempted to take one home with me. They were really that adorable.
[Update: PD was euthanized on October 14th for complications due to heartworm & scabies. May she rest in peace.]