The tiny pup leapt right in the middle of the sleeping older dog. She raised her head and sniffed the little intruder curiously, then gave her a good sopping with her tongue. I was uncertain as to how our dog, Ruby, would accept the new puppy, so I was standing nearby, ready to intervene if necessary.
It looked like I wasn't going to have to worry. The little Chihuahua mix, which I named Lupe, tired herself out climbing all over Ruby until she finally curled up against her and fell asleep. Ruby, who was a Boston Terrier/Sheltie mix, gave her a final lick and settled back to sleep as well.
For the next couple of days, I spent a lot of time observing the two dogs together. Apparently Ruby had adopted the new puppy as her own. When Ruby settled down to rest, there was Lupe, lying right beside her. It began to look like Lupe was nursing from Ruby. The puppy was latched on, and making nursing motions and sounds. Lupe had just been weaned, so I didn't really give it a lot of thought. I just assumed she found comfort in doing this, and that Ruby was more or less a pacifier for the pup. While watching them one day, Lupe opened her tiny mouth and yawned. Her little pink tongue was covered with white liquid. For just a minute, I was confused.. The only thing she had to eat that morning was some puppy chow and a drink of water, but it looked like milk on her tongue. My mind raced. I wondered if Lupe could possiblly really be nursing her.
I watched very closely, and sure enough, Ruby was producing milk. This was remarkable to me. Ruby was an older dog, and had never had a litter of pups. I called our vet and told him what I had observed. It wasn't real common, he informed me, but yes, it was possible for a dog who had never had puppies to nurse puppies, or any other animals, for that matter.
I began to think of Ruby as The Miracle Mom. She wanted to mother a puppy so much that she actually nursed our new addition.
Lupe played rough, but Ruby never seemed to mind. She was a five pound ball of energy that tagged after Ruby wherever she went. One day, Ruby walked by with a squirming brown attachment hanging from her tail. It was Lupe, who had obviously decided she wasn't going to let go of Ruby's tail, no matter what. Lupe's little teeth were wrapped tenaciously around the tail, and she was being dragged along as Ruby went about her business. Ruby let the little firecracker puppy do just about anything to her that she wanted. It was a rare thing for Ruby to snap at the puppy, and when she did, it was half hearted.
As Lupe got older, she did stop nursing from Ruby, but they still remained inseparable.. They played tug of war and slept together every night.
Ruby's health began to deteriorate. Her movements became more cumbersome and her eyesight began to fail. One morning when she rose, she moved very slowly, and seemed to have trouble seeing. A trip to the vet confirmed my suspicions. Her failing eyesight had become total blindness. The vet seemed to think she would be okay, though, if she remained at home in her own house and yard where she was familiar with things.
Lupe still tried to play with her. Ruby was still very patient. Lupe often approached her with a mock growl, and Ruby responded by licking her face.
Ruby became very lethargic, and I knew her days were numbered. I was dreading a trip back to the vet, but suspected I would have to take Ruby for her final trip there. I was spared this, however, when Ruby left me one evening. She passed away peacefully in her bed, with Lupe by her side.
I don't know if animals have human emotions or not, but I know they have feelings. Why else would an aging dog, who had never experienced motherhood, become a mom to a rowdy pup?
Parenting skills must transcend species. Ruby allowed Lupe to play with her, sleep with her and even nurse from her. Some might call it instinct, but I would disagree. I call it a mother's love.
Copyright 2006 Betty Castleberry
~The author is a retired-early-by-choice RN who lives in Texas with her husband and three parrots. She has a daughter, step daughter, and five grandchildren. She is a published author, and loves to write for the Lord. Email her @ firstname.lastname@example.org