Mama Dog waddled into lives, hearts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2017

She waddled into our lives on a summer day five years ago. A terrier-looking friend tagged along with her.

When you looked into her big eyes, there was sweetness and maybe a bit of loneliness. Our plan was not to keep either dog. We had an army of donated cats and since losing our golden retriever, we had vowed to give dog ownership a rest.

So we worked with a local veterinarian toward getting them adopted through a rescue organization. Before we made a trip to the vet office, a friend adopted the terrier, and she took responsibility for getting her spayed, etc.

That left us with the big, 150-plus white bulldog. One day, I loaded her into the car and took her to see the doc. During the visit, they determined she was pregnant.

Hopes of a rescue adoption ended that day, at least until after her puppies arrived. We took her back to the place we found her, a piece of property we own about a mile from our house.

Every day we fed her and watched for signs of the impending birth. Finally, one day she didn’t show up when we went to feed her. After a search, we found her with babies under a neighbor’s storage building.

My husband retrieved them and relocated them to the barn on the property. In the process of the move, we discovered something no one figured out during her doctor’s visit. Mama dog was deaf.

Eventually, we took the family to our house. Mama was afraid of getting into the truck, but so relieved when she realized we weren’t taking her somewhere to dump her, something that probably happened more than once.

We found homes for every puppy but one, Buster, the one that looked the most like his mother. Her son quickly became her ears, and woke her to eat if she didn’t see me bringing the food. If she was sleeping in the drive in front of the house, he alerted her if any vehicles came her way.

She became our Mama Dog, the name we called her, and she latched on to my husband. If he was outside, she moved around with him, keeping him in her line of sight. If I sat beside the water, often she was there with me, too.

Unfortunately, when the veterinarian spayed her, she found she was heartworm positive, but said the treatment would probably kill her. Her advice was, “take her home and love her.”

And that is what we did. Every day, she knew we loved her. We petted her, fed her and talked to her. Even though she couldn’t hear, I got the feeling she understood in a way beyond hearing.

A while back, she developed a cough, which got worse, something that happens with heartworms. She wasn’t in pain; it just slowed her down.

Recently, the humidity and heat started bothering her and she spent most days sleeping on her bed in the carport. Mama Dog still managed to follow my husband around, something she did all day Saturday.

Monday morning we found her under the gardenia bush beside the fountain. She was breathing hard and had trouble standing. I managed to get her back to the carport. Around lunchtime, I went out, gave her some water and sat beside her. As I stroked her head, I told her if she was tired, it was fine for her to go. I promised her I’d take care of her baby Buster.

When I went out to feed the dogs later that afternoon, Mama was gone, her head resting on the cushion. I told her goodbye and covered her with her favorite blanket.

Who knows why animals come into our lives. I like to think they come as teachers who show us how to love unconditional. All I know for sure is that it was a blessing the day that bulldog waddled into our lives, and she will be in our hearts forever.

R.I.P Mama Dog

Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.