Pipi’s Pasture: The story of a dog named Bernie
After writing about a mother’s love last week, I’ve reminded myself of another example of mother’s love, except that the mother in this story is a dog. Her name was Bernice — or “Bernie” for short. She was our son Jody’s little black and white Border Collie that he adopted from a shelter. Bernie lived with us when we were north of Craig (before we moved to Pipi’s Pasture).
Bernie had given birth to puppies shortly before Jody adopted her, and then she had another litter after that. Even when she didn’t have puppies, Bernie had great maternal instincts, indeed, often sniffing out batches of kittens but always in a caring, curious way — never doing them harm.
One summer morning, after corral chores, Bernie and I were on our way back to the house when we heard soft “meowing” sounds. From its sounds the kitten seemed to be in some tall grass between the haystack up on a little hill and the barn. Thinking that a stray mama cat might be moving kittens to the barn, I didn’t want to scare her off so I didn’t investigate. I warned Bernie to leave the kitten alone, and we went on to the house.
A little later I missed Bernie so I called for her. She didn’t come. I suspected that she might be investigating the kitten so I searched for her. I found her hiding in a corner of the coal shed, but I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Bernie was there, quiet as could be, and a little kitten was nursing on her. The kitten wasn’t newborn, but it wasn’t very old either.
I stood there, mouth open, trying to decide what to do. I left the coal shed and looked around for a mama cat or other kittens, but I couldn’t find either. I went back to the house, gathered up some old towels and rags for bedding, found an eyedropper, and warmed a little milk. I made a bed in another shelter with a door so Bernie and the kitten would have protection from predators and other cats. Then I went back to the coal house and gathered up Bernie and the kitten.
Bernie whimpered when I took the kitten from her, but she followed me to the shelter. When we got there I filled the dropper and put it in the edge of the kitten’s mouth. It drank the milk greedily. Bernie stood watching, trying to nose the kitten. When the kitten had nursed some milk I put him on the bedding. Bernie settled down, too, and the kitten started to nurse once again.
We continued the routine several times a day. I fed the kitten, and then it nursed on Bernie. Later on, a veterinarian told me that since Bernie had given birth, she probably came back into her milk, and so the kitten was actually getting nourishment from his foster mom.
Whatever the reason, the kitten thrived. As he grew, the kitten started drinking milk from a dish, and I stopped the feeding routine. He continued nursing on Bernie. Later, when the kitten had grown up, we would often find him up on a pole or walking along a corral fence with Bernie alongside but down below, probably wondering why her baby had climbed so high, and the kitten probably wondered why his mom didn’t join him.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to witness many remarkable animal stories, but Bernie’s adoption of the kitten is at the top.
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