photo by Sheri Dixon

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wendy- A REAL Texas Miracle

Whenever we go on vacation the most stressful and time consuming part is farm care- we've got a truly daunting amount of critters to care for. We've always had the good fortune to have friends, family, co-workers, neighbors or a combination of all those willing to pitch in and "do time" down on the Dixon Homestead.

This year our farm sitter was Ashley, who works for me. Ashley's knowledgeable and sensible and I had no qualms whatsoever leaving our cast of demanding and spoiled characters in her care. We went through The List of everyone's schedules, care and feeding and we left after the breakfast feeding Day One of vacation.

At lunchtime I got a text from Ashley.

"I know we covered all the animals and their care, but I don't remember and don't see anything on the list about the beagle".

That's easy.

We don't HAVE a beagle.

Not so fast, Dixon...

Apparently, when Ashley got to the farm a mere *four hours* after we left, she was met in the yard by a purebred friendly beagle who was eager to welcome her and walked the yard AND THE HOUSE like she'd been born here.


And she was pregnant.

"FINE. Feed the damn beagle and IF she's still there when I get home I'll figure something out."

On our entire trip, I informed the boys "We do not need another dog. I'll find a home for her because we DO NOT NEED ANOTHER DOG".

By the time we got home, Joe was home from his summer trip too and his calm but firm opinion on the matter was "I can't stand that dog- all she does is whine and bark all the damn time and she's always underfoot".

I took her to work and had them give her a rabies shot and guess how far along she was...pretty far.

She had this weird habit of screaming non-stop every time she was touched but she didn't shy away or act aggressive. It WAS annoying and more than a little creepy.

She ravenously ate everything she could grab but again, never aggressively.

I sat on the porch petting her velvety ears but not making eye contact with those milk chocolate brown eyes- not out of guilt or dislike, but because she seemed to scream...less if you didn't make eye contact.

After a long while I got up and went inside.

"Her name is Wendy", I announced to the boys, and they knew That Was That.

Joe's mom went into the hospital up in Oklahoma and I went with him to help them through the hospital/doctor/home health care maze that I know so well and hate so much.

Wendy was pregnant when I left on a Thursday and not pregnant when I got home on Saturday. Just as I'd predicted whenever Joe said how much he didn't like her, she had the pups under his house.

Six puppies of unknown fatherhood- 3 black with white tips and 3 yellow with white tips. She was an excellent mother and now even MORE hungry than before. Because of the extreme heat of the summer and the fact that our house doesn't have air conditioning but Joe's cabin does, under Joe's house was actually the coolest spot on the place.

After a few weeks the puppies started venturing out and we started feeding them mushed up kibble. By "we" I mean "Alec", who became willing Keeper of the Tail-Wagging Horde.

Wendy patrols our property end to end and back and forth, sounding off with the signature Beagle Bugle if anything's amiss (to her thinking). If she's really upset, she'll barrel back to the house and circle it once, twice, thrice baying all the time. It took me a while to figure out that beagles never work alone- she's summoning a pack that isn't here, but instinct compels her all the same.

If her alarm reaches a particular level of urgency the 100 pound+ Great Pyrenees lifts her jowly head from the porch and lumbers off to see what's up. They make a cartoonish pair of guardians, but I feel safe knowing they're our Homeland Security.

Last Saturday night both dogs were frantic just past Joe's place- something was NOT RIGHT in the woods by the neighbors' pond. Alec went over there multiple times (garbed in his usual boxer shorts...period) with a flashlight and saw nothing but called the dogs back.

Joe looked with his high powered flashlight and the neighbors looked with their spotlight. Nothing.

Each time Alec came back he counted puppies- 6 puppies each time.

Finally whatever it was left, or the dogs plumb wore out and it was quiet.

Next morning Alec came to me over at the barn. "Mom- we're missing 2 puppies".

His puppies. Stoic, serious Alec, Keeper of the Tail-Wagging Horde- now smaller by a third- was still obviously crushed and sick with sadness.

We looked. We searched all the places the puppies play and sleep and hide. Nothing.

I was more than a little sick myself, remembering that very day all the puppies had followed Wendy to the edge of the woods, near the pond. Secretly, I had Joe go check the pond for puppies who'd maybe gotten stuck in the mud, or wandered in too far...Nothing.

I'd been waiting for the weather to break at least enough for the thermometer to read below 100 and Sunday it did- we snagged all four pups and set them up in a pen in Alec's room. I'd been toying with putting them down by the barn- moving some goats around to give them a stall and attached paddock to run in, but the thought that something was out there that eats...puppies was not conducive to making that any sort of a good idea.

So Alec tried not to think of the grisly ending of the puppies- the 2 shyest of the litter, we figured when "whatever" pounced, they froze instead of ran.

Black Saturday.

Imprisonment Sunday.




Wednesday night after feeding we were in the dining room and heard a puppy. Now all our windows are open and the house is odd shaped and the ceilings are vaulted and everything seems to bounce off the trees outside but still... didn't seem to be coming from INside.

Alec bolted out the door and returned a few seconds later

with a puppy.

The smallest of the litter, hungry and a little dusty, but tail wagging to beat the band, Wendy next to her, smiling.

Alec fed her and reunited her with her siblings and she settled down for a long nap.

Twenty minutes later we were in the dining room and heard a puppy.

Alec was out the door faster than the speed of light and returned a few seconds later

with the other puppy.

While Alec literally reveled in a pile of 100% accounted for puppies I sat on the porch and stroked Wendy's velvet ears. I can look her in the eyes now while petting her- she's seemed to beat back whatever devils made her crazy. I apologized for snatching her babies, told her that she was the BEST mother in the world, but now we'd keep her puppies safe and she could relax. Her eyes softened, melted, understood.

She sighed and wagged her tail.

Where the HELL were the puppies???

We'll never know. Best I can guess is that whenever they all scattered out from under the house those 2- the shyest 2- were so scared, so physically and mentally petrified that it took several days of Wendy nursing them, tending them, guarding them, before they felt brave enough to follow her back home.

And they came one at a time, meaning they were in two separate hiding places.

Four nights somewhere away from the houses, in the woods where the coyotes howl in packs of more than a dozen, bobcats saunter, hawks and owls peer down and the occasional cougar strolls through with only their 25 pound floppy-eared mother between them and becoming part of the food chain.

Rick Perry be damned. We know the REAL Texas Miracle.

Her name is Wendy.


  1. Imagine those poor pups to afraid to move. What a brave mama, but aren't we all just like Wendy?? sweet girl.

  2. ya. they've recovered amazingly well and are just as mischievous and destructive as the others- poor Alec was hiding behind his sofa the other night from them LOL