"Jeez... come quickly! I've just hit your dog! I think I might've killed her!"
One minute we were calmly milking our cows—as calmly as two novice dairy farmers could, performing their second-ever milking—until this stranger raced into the dairy, his face red and flustered; his voice loud and harsh with distress. Those words clutched our hearts with a cold, hard fist. For a split second my world stopped turning, as fear pounded painfully in my ears, drowning out even the pulsing rhythm of the noisy milking machine. A moment of numbing shock and then all was fast and furious action once again, as Kanute quickly whipped the milking cups off cows currently in the dairy. It's debatable what raced faster, my heart or my feet—out to the roadside where our precious dog lay frighteningly still on the grassy edge.
Dearest Gypsy, our Kelpie X dog. From birth to death, our faithful friend and partner. My hands were the first and last Gypsy knew—holding her with the greatest love at her birth... and at her death 17 years later.
The first time I saw her she was still in her umbilical sac. I cleared her mouth and tickled her nose with a dry stalk of grass to make her sneeze and take her first breath of life. What an effective and simple trick. How grateful I was to have been taught this 'trick of the trade' by the best vet we ever knew. How many small rescued creatures with difficult (and non-existent) breathing, did I save with this action?
"All those puppies," I say. I still shake my head in wonder. "... and Gypsy the largest of the litter. She surely gave her mother a hard time." Poor little Candy—how my own stomach hurt in sympathy, although she was the only one actually living the pain. So distressed by the foreign feeling of contractions, Candy had wanted to bite, maybe kill the first perceived 'culprit' that emerged. So thankful I was there to whisk it out of her reach.
Within moments, Candy was too involved in the next delivery to think or care about anything else. In a lull after number four, Nature dictated a natural response and she began a thorough clean-up of her babes. Now I could sit back and enjoy the sight, as one by one, with only a little human help, they found a swollen teat to latch onto and began blindly sucking. Four babies. How wonderful for a first litter. I felt like a surrogate mother or maybe a granny, so pleased and proud of my 'little girl' as I stroked her golden head.
"What a clever little Candy mother you are," I crooned. What a precious experience to be the midwife, comforter and mopper of brows (both little Mum Candy's and my own). As we began settling into our new roles, Candy's eyes suddenly darkened and rolled again in distress. Once again her puffing and hunching and straining resumed. Five! There's going to be five babies. Oh WOW! Or so I thought. In the final countdown there were eight black, squirming puppies. Our joint motherhood began on this day, and would continue when this sweet-natured, ever-so-patient Mum couldn't keep up the necessary milk supply for her large family and supplementary bottle feeding was required.
There was never a doubt that one puppy would be kept when the painful time came for the rest to be weaned. Gypsy had stolen my heart from the beginning. True to predictions, as the largest of the litter she received the least attention, always considered able to look after herself. Our experience has been that this largest baby most often becomes the litter's most affectionate and 'needy' of loving. Despite her size Gypsy was always gentle, even as a puppy. We pledged ourselves to each other until death us should part.
"How perfect was her timing at that particular moment in our lives?" My eyes unexpectedly mist over. It still hurts, after all these years. We had just received the final set of test results. There would be no children from the two of us. There's a pain that never softens. Best leave than one alone, simply remembering— 'Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should'. Hmm... used that one more than a few times over the years. All that pent-up love had to go somewhere and this furry mother and child were the grateful recipients.
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Old McLarsen Had Some Farms - a memoir: Book Two - The Milky WayNon-Fiction
As the title suggests, my second book of memoirs encompasses tales from our decade of dairying on our own farm, back in our home State of South Australia. A different learning curve from the first farm, but no less steep. This time much experience w...