Two years ago my friend, Julie, told me about a litter of semi-wild puppies living under a trailer with their mom. The mom had a home, sort of. She lived outside, was starving most of the time, rarely had water and was not fond of strangers. However, she was fiercely loyal to her people.
We asked for and received permission to feed the pups and their mom and started going to the trailer two times a day with a mixture of softened kibble, scrambled eggs and hamburger. As it turned out, there was a cat there too. Everybody was grateful for the food and water. Julie and I also worked with the young girls who lived there, teaching them how to fill the self-watering jars we’d bought and instructing them on how much food they needed to give the animals to keep them well, once we were no longer doing it.
Within a couple of weeks the mama would let us touch her, tentatively, but the pups remained extremely shy and illusive. We’d secured a spot for them at a wonderful animal sanctuary south of Santa Fe that has an excellent track record of finding good homes, if we could catch them. Then Parvo hit. It wasn’t until the puppies became ill, one by one, that we were able to get them, and then we would rush them to the vet. Out of eight, we were only able to save three.
All the puppies looked just like the mom— blue/black heeler mixes, except for one who was black, brown and white. I called him Brownie and he was the bravest of the batch, but we still couldn’t catch him. One morning I went to feed them by myself and found little Brownie stricken. He was lethargic and limp as a dishrag. I scooped him up, put him on my lap and raced down the mountain to the vet, talking to him the whole way, telling him not to die on me. We’d already lost too many and he was my favorite. At the vet’s he laid on the stainless steel table, unmoving. She said it didn’t look good. That weekend was dicey, but it wasn’t Parvo. She never figured out what it was. We thought we were going to lose him several times, but by Tuesday he was well.
I can’t remember what day of the week I brought him home, but with seven animals of my own I knew I couldn’t keep him. And, as great as the sanctuary is, after his struggle to live, I wanted to find him a good home myself.
There was a message from Bill at Hand Artes Gallery when I returned from picking Brownie up, saying a group of plein air painters from Taos were in the yard of the gallery painting. One of them, Peggy Baucom, who used to work at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, had fallen in love with my work and wanted to meet me. Could I come to the gallery? I still had puppies and a mama to feed though, so I mixed up their meal and headed up to the trailer in my grubbies, passing the gallery on my way. I decided if the painters were still there on my return, I’d stop. They were, so I did.
As I extended my hand to Peggy, I apologized for how I looked and told her I’d been feeding puppies. “Puppies,” she said, “what kind of puppies?” She and her husband had been looking. I described them to her and then told her about Brownie, who was waiting for me at home as we spoke. She packed up her gear immediately and the whole group came out to the house to meet him.
It was love at first sight and she took him home that day. Her husband, Don, fell just as immediately and just as hard. My little Brownie had won the puppy lottery.
Oh, and as for Mama Dog, who’d had more litters of puppies in her life than any dog should, Julie and I had her spade. She wanted to go back to her family after her recovery and there was just no stopping her. But they’re feeding her now and she always has water. Whenever I stop by to see her she licks my chin and then gives me a little chin bite.
I’ve seen Brownie three times in the two years since, and he has grown into a strapping young man. Peggy and Don came up from Taos the other day to take me to lunch and, of course, the guest of honor was Brownie, whose name is now Beau. Julie came by to see him, too.
I knew you’d all love to know about my little man, so near death, and now living the good life. Oh, and like his mama, he gave me a few licks on the chin, followed by a love bite.
Love to you all,