All dogs begin as pups, of course; Billy was no different except his arrival was harder than most puppies. His birth began on a cold day in January about five years ago. He was born on a neighboring farm near Old Tom Brennan's farm. Something very special took place on that day; that would change the old farmer's life and his.
"Mom!- Mom!" A ten-year-old girl her bouncing blonde braided pigtail trailing out of a knitted hat. A scarf tied around the neck of her winter ski jacket came darting into the farm house out of breath.
"Mom, Mom it's Molly," She said again.
She took a few seconds to catch her breath. She looked up at her mother, her bright blue eyes and nose wet from the cold air. She found her mom in the laundry, loading it with whites.
"What is it, Sara?" Her mom replied.
"Molly, it's Molly, She is having her puppies in the barn! Mom, she's in the barn" Sara said. She looked at her mom with excitement and concern and for help. The news did not surprise Helen Jensen, only of the location. She was a Top dog breeder of Border Collies for over 15 years. Helen and her husband Wayne loved the breed.
Molly was a champion. Best in Show, Best in working class and held two Championships in agility compaction. There was always a waiting list for her pups.
Molly's family tree had a very long list of champions, and this was Molly's last litter. She was ten years old, and it was time to retire. Molly's age was catching up with her. Her hips were beginning to bother her, and she was slowing down. She stopped competing the year before.
Helen looked at Sara and sighed wondering how Molly managed to slip out of the house. "Okay, listen to me, sweetie. Call your dad and Dr. Martin. Their numbers are beside the phone. Then I want you to bring the flannel diapers on the top shelf in the utility room and hot water to the barn. I'll get the blanket and heat lamp, meet me in the barn OK? Now you scoot."
Sara hurried off to fulfill her mom's wishes. While Sara ran off to carry out her orders, Helen put on her coat and gloves. She hurried down to the basement to get the heat lamp, a small electric heating pad and placed them in a low-sided plastic tote.
As Helen entered the cold barn, she called out to Molly. She knew Molly would not respond, but it made Helen feel better to do it. It was the end of January, and the temperature had stayed below -20 for the last two weeks. A cold barn was not a great place to bring prized little ones into the world.
She had an idea, where Molly would be, and sure enough, she found her in the old metal horse trough curled up in the corner. Molly looked up at Helen and wagged her tail. One of her puppies already arrived, and Molly was attending to it as another was emerging.
Helen placed the tote down beside the trough, spread out the electric blanket and placed Molly over it. She forgot the extension cord. By this time, Sara ran into the barn and saw her mom,
"Mom, are the puppies here?" She said excitedly. Handing her the bottle of warm water and white flannel diapers.
Helen looked up at Sara. "Well, one is a baby, girl," Hellen said, smiling up at her.
"Sara get the extension cord from dad's work bench, plug it in and bring me the other end." Her mom asked.
Helen was in charge now and didn't like the situation. Sara handed her the other end of the cord, plugged in the blanket, set up the heat lamp and clicked it on. No light came on. Helen turned to her daughter,
"Is it plugged in Sara?" Hellen asked
"Yes, I did what you told me. I'll check it again." She said. Sara ran back pushed it in tightly then looked back at her mom. Nothing happened, no lights appeared on the blanket's control.
"Try a different plug, Sara," Helen told her patiently.
Helen watched her and saw there was no difference. She gave a huge sigh. She remembered that the heavy winds from the week before took down a tree and the electrical line to the barn with it. The electrician was not due until next week.
Sara looked at her mom and reminded her of this,
“I just remembered myself," Hellen said.
Helen picked up the little pup, wrapped it in the flannel diaper, looked at it and smiled. Little squeaks and whines came from the puppy. "Sara come here love; I have a new job for you. Open your coat." Sara knew, she would become a temporary incubator. She smiled, sat cross-legged beside her mom on the barn floor opened her jacket letting her mom place the puppy inside her warm coat.
"Now you must be careful baby, okay? Just sit still," Helen said.
Sara beamed and smiled at her mom. She loved her new duties, "Yes mommy." Sara said.
Helen returned to helping Molly now. Talked to her in her soft, warm voice, carefully guiding out the next little arrival.
"When is Dr. Martin getting her?" Helen asked not taking her eyes from what she was doing.
"He's out on a call. I don't think he will be able to be here, mom." Sara said.
She looked at her mom wanting it to be OK. Helen showed no concern but was disappointed.
"When is dad coming home, love?" Helen asked.
"I couldn't reach dad, mom, he's not at the office and not answering his cell phone. I left a message I hope he gets it.”
Sara worried that she might have failed in her duties. Helen looked up at Sara, saw the worry in her daughter's face and said softly, “You did a great job love, don't you worry about that, sometimes things like this just happen. Thank you."
"It's cold out here mom, what are we going to do?" Sara asked.
"We're going to take this one step at a time, or one pup at a time," Hellen said.
Helen didn't want her daughter to worry, she needed her right now. The second and third were born then fourth, and the fifth puppy arrived about 15 minutes apart. Each was wiped down after Molly's personal inspection, wrapped then placed in the jacket.
Sara was very pleased to be such an important part of this. Helen and Sara chatted about what was going on, what the fluid was from and why it was there. Molly's wanting to eat the placenta sack grossed Sara out a little. Helen placed it off to the side.
"That's an instinct love. Molly is hiding the birth evidence to protect her puppies from predators taking them. When she cleans the puppy, Molly is clearing the mucus from the puppy's snout and her licking helps to start it breathing on its own and, of course, loving them." Hellen said.
Sara canted her head in awe of this wonderful process of life. Mom and child began small talk about school and general chat as they waited for another puppy to be born. Sara checked her phone. Twenty minutes elapsed from the last birth then thirty, and then forty minutes passed. Helen watched Molly as she still contracted, but no signs of a pup. She looked at Sara.
"Pass me the phone love," She said.
Sara looked at her mom. "What's wrong mom?"
Helen smiled, "I need your dad. I need Dr. Martin I need somebody a lot smarter than I am. Molly may need some help that I don't know how to give. If it's what I'm thinking is happening." She said.
As Helen spoke into the phone, Sara's excitement rose because her mom spoke to someone. It soon vanished when she realized; her mom was just left leaving a voice message. Helen keyed the phone again, but this time her mom put down the phone, looked over at Molly then at Sara. Helen bit the corner of her lower lip and entered another number. This time, she reached someone.
"Hi Tom, thank goodness I caught you at home, this is Helen Jensen, how are you?" Hellen began.
Helen continued with the small chitchat, then went into the reason for the call. Sara's eyes beamed. She knew Mr. Brennan would know what to do. The Brennan's lived across the road from the Jensen place. His farm passed down through his family for over 150 years. The Brennan's had over 5000 acres and grew corn, wheat, and hay. The last 20 years concentrated heavily on white face and Black Angus beef cattle. Old Tom kept about 30 head of sheep for his hobby, herding.
He and his beloved dogs Sammy, Luna, and Jerry entered and competed in herding competitions throughout the Province. Tom held herding events and gave classes for obedience in the spring of the year. Molly was one of his Luna's pups.
They called him 'Old Tom' to separate him from his son, Tom Jr. The name Old Tom seemed to fit a little more with each passing year. He was in his late sixties six foot four inches still in great shape for his age.
Tom had a gentle nature about him, loved to tell and hear a good story. Old Tom was a wealth of information, and right now Helen counted on his experience to help her. Helen looked down at her daughter and winked at Sara, who sighed in relief,
"Thank God Tom, that is so great, we're in the old horse barn, see you when you get here and thank you so much.” Helen closed her cell phone.
Molly still struggled with the third pup and nothing showed for the effort that she put out.
About 15 minutes had passed before they heard Tom's half-ton truck drive up to the barn.
Sara looked up at her mom and said smiling, "Tom is here."
"Mr. Brennan love, not Tom." Helen corrected her daughter.
Tom called out in his low voice. "Hello. Is this the nursery?"
"We're over here Tom," Helen replied.
Tom walked around the corner of the large barn. He smiled, when he saw little Sara and Helen huddled over Molly. Old Tom went down on his knees joining Sara and her mom.
"How long has it been from the last pup Helen?" Tom asked as he took in the situation.
“Almost an hour, I have tried to help, but nothing seems to be working for me,” Hellen said.
Tom began an inspection of Molly turned the dog gently when he was done Tom looked at Helen, leaned in and whispered low in Helen's ear not wanting Sara to hear.
"I need a pair of your gloves," Tom said. He leaned closer and avoided eye contact at his next request. "Do you have any Vaseline? Or maybe he paused his cheeks blushed "KY Jelly." He whispered.
Helen smiled at the old farmer for being so thoughtful.
"Yes Tom, I have all three. I'll be right back." Helen said.
Helen got up and left the barn. Tom saw the concern on Sara and started a little conversation with the girl.
"So, looks like you're going to busy for the next couple of months from the look of things aren't you Sara?" Tom said.
Sara nodded; half smiled and then asked. "Is Molly going to be okay, is the puppy going to die, Tom? Will, can you fix her Tom? Then corrected herself quickly, Mr. Brennan?"
Tom smiled patted her head. "I think everything will be just fine Sara. This little fellow just coming out turned a little inside Molly. I'm going to try to straighten things out and help it along the way that's all. It happens sometimes, don't you worry." Tom said.
Sara looked at Tom then at Molly wondering how on earth he will straighten the pup out, and how on earth did the pup get bent in the first place.
“Will it hurt Tom.” Sara looked up at him again. “To straighten the pup out I mean,” Sara asked.
Tom chuckled to himself. “Naw, honey the pup and Molly will be fine I'm sure. You have to trust me okay?" Tom said. Sara only nodded.
Helen returned carrying what Tom had requested. Tom placed his hand inside the gloves and applied the jelly to his fingers. He asked Helen to move Molly's head.
Sara looked for a while and then would only look at Molly's eyes or her mom. Molly whined a little as Tom worked the jelly and fingers into Molly. It wasn't long before the placenta was free, and a puppy started to emerge. He laid it down in front of the dog, and Molly began to clean it. The newborn pup made no movement as Molly licked the pup off and still no movement.
"Little guy came rump first, Molly is a small dog for that, but it happens sometimes. It's damn hard on them both, though; I'm glad you called me Helen." Tom said.
Tom did not take his eyes off the new arrival. Sara looked at Tom then at her mom.
"It's not moving mommy, it's not moving Tom, is it… is it.. dead?" Sara said.
Tom carefully lifted up the pup after Molly nipped the puppy's umbilical cord Tom laid the pup on its back, brushed his thumb across the pups snout, blew into the pup's muzzle. He slid his finger across the belly, then blew softly again. Soon little white spotted legs twitched, and little whining sounds came from the little Collie.
Sara's eyes beamed. She looked up at Old Tom as if he was a wizard and smiled. Tom laid the pup down in front of Molly. The dog soon returned to finish cleaning her new baby. He looked over at the frightened little girl.
“Had to jump start him, Sara, that's all. Just the six I guess. Good size litter for her. We should move them into the house and get them out of this place, I'll get Molly for you." Tom said.
The three carefully moved the new family to the waiting nursery, just off the pantry in the farmhouse. Sara carefully laid three puppies next to their mom. They soon found what they were looking for and began nursing. Tom Smiled as he looked at Sara. Then handed her the last one he had helped bring into the world and said softly to Sara, "He's a little fighter Sara; I wonder what you will name him," Tom asked.
Sara looked at Old Tom as her hands petted Molly gently.
"Oh I have a list of names all made up," She said.
Sara pointed at each and began to name them in turn. Then added a touch of royalty to her voice and batted her eyes, as if she were the Queen.
"I shall dub this little guy, Sir William Wallace." She broke from being the Queen for the moment and back into the ten-year-old farm girl.
“At least that's what will be on his registration papers."
Tom nodded "Well that is a fine name for such a brave little guy Sara. I suppose though you could shorten it up, just a little, and call him Billy."
"Yes, what a great name," Sara said. Her royal voice returned, and she cleared her throat.
"Yes it shall be Billy," She looked up at old Tom and giggled.