The arrival of Mama Ethel, and witnessing a birth – Part I

Currently, five humans live in this little house of ours, plus 13 dogs. I might be turning feral.

We’ve been fostering homeless dogs for a while now. First there was Bernie Sanders. Then Skippy, Joey, Chicken, and Cheeto. We found good homes for all of them. Cookie, a tiny black terrier mix who weighed about five pounds, stole Neale’s heart, so Cookie has stuck around, giving us a pack of three dogs – one large, one medium, one small. Cookie’s the bitch. We still have Buddy the Wonder Dog, of course, and Yobe the terrified boxer mix. You read about her at the end of my book. If you didn’t, shame on you. Remedy that shit right here.


After Cookie, we agreed to stop fostering for a few months until we could adapt to having three dogs. But THE HUSBAND met a little brown and white pup he couldn’t leave in the kennel. We named her Goosey. Goosey spent Christmas in the mountains with us, and then went to an awesome family who sends us frequent pictures. I can’t remember how I agreed to foster Bean, a tiny Miniature Pinscher puppy who made Cookie look like a giant. I put a bell on his collar so no one would step on him. It was like having a hamster running around. He was super-frisky and snuggly with gorgeous caramel and black markings, and we found him a home with rich people who flew here on their private plane to get him.

“I’m done for a while,” I told Bob. “There’s been a lot of poop in my life.”

Well. Last Wednesday, the rescue group I work with needed a foster for a pregnant terrier mix. My brain said, “NOOOO, THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA.” So I only inquired very preliminarily about it without committing to anything. “I have weekend plans, so I wouldn’t be able to take her until

Nico and Yobe

Sunday,” I said. I figured they’d find another foster by then.

But I came home early from my trip and texted them that IF they still needed a foster, I could take her Saturday. I purposely threw in that “IF” to seem all cautious and reserved-like.

Within seconds they had arranged for the dog to be delivered to me the next day. I hadn’t mentioned it to Bob, because why do that? The next day, we were sitting on a bench at our 10th and final elementary school spring carnival, hoping our kid wasn’t writing numbers and signing our names at the silent auction table, when my phone rang, and a man named Hank told me to meet him in front of the Pet Supermarket in 30 minutes. What Bob heard: Oh, hi! Yes! Awww. That’s fine. Okay, I’ll see you there in a bit. I hung up.

Bob: Who was that?

Me: Oh. Um, I have some bad news.

Bob: How bad?

Me: Really bad.

Bob: Oh, no. Okay. What is it?

Me: We’re fostering a pregnant dog and we need to leave in 15 minutes to go get her.

Ethel and her belly

Bob: OH! Oh. You scared me. Okay, let’s go tell the kids.

I mean, seriously? Is this man even human? I will love him forever, and never again complain about his infatuation with all things Red Sox.

Back at the spring carnival: We rounded up the children and gave them the news, and they started screaming in joy and bewilderment. We drove to the parking lot. Hank pulled in and handed off the dog, a baby pool, and two bags of puppy chow. “Good luck!” he said, then drove off quickly, like, before we could change our minds.

But we could not have changed our minds, because this dog is just dreamy. She is indeed a terrier mix, medium-sized, with salt-pepper soft curly fur and a happy face. She sat directly in front of me and looked up and smiled. For real. Her teats swung beneath her like untethered chandeliers and her belly was literally the size of a watermelon, and she was smiling. I am usually the namer of the foster dogs, but since I had sprung this on the husband, I let him do it, and he named her Ethel. “Is that some kind of old person joke?” asked Nico.

Ethel had been dumped at a high kill shelter just a few days earlier, and my rescue organization, S.A.F.E. (Saving Animals From Euthanasia) had picked her up. They estimated her to be around four years old. We brought her home and let the other dogs come outside to meet her. Everybody made nice, and pretty soon Ethel was up on the couch watching basketball with Bob. So was Cookie.

Ethel started having contractions Sunday afternoon. At first I thought she was just scared and shaking, but Google explained to me that it was unusual for her to be scared for 2-3 minutes every hour. That evening, she stopped eating, and I figured she would be giving birth that night. “What do we need?” asked Bob. Like I know. He’s the paramedic. I called Mr. Google again, and he said we needed sterile scissors, dental floss, rubber gloves, iodine, towels, and ice cream. We had floss and towels. I tried to boil some scissors but they fell apart.

Ethel woke me up at 2:30 am Monday morning; she had somehow dragged her gigantic belly up on the bed. I think she was scared; she wanted me to pet her. When I stopped petting, she put her head under my hand. Insert teary face emoji. A short while later, I felt a wet spot and I leaped up, because dreamy dog or not, no living being was gonna give birth on my bed. I had the kiddie pool all cozy with blankets and towels, and I settled Ethel there. She kept trying to crawl under my bed, but look, I had some rules.

I woke up Bob, and we talked to her calmly while she pushed and pushed and panted and walked in circles for 35 minutes, and finally, with one last groan, a shiny gray grapefruit-sized ball appeared on the towel. “Go get the kids,” I said. I wanted them to see what happened next.

10 responses to The arrival of Mama Ethel, and witnessing a birth – Part I

  1. Sarah Boyd says:

    Oh my gosh I can’t wait to read the next one! I hope you are loving every second of this!

    Hugs, hugs, and more hugs for sweet Ethel!

  2. Patti Peeples says:

    THAT was massively entertaining. More! More! (and by that, I mean more blogs. And more dogs.)

  3. Sherry says:

    I love your stories. Can’t wait to hear the rest of Ethel’s story.

  4. GiGi says:

    This is all so exciting. Even though I know how it ends (up to a point), I love reading all the details!

  5. Jathan says:

    “Currently, five humans live in this little house of ours, plus 13 dogs. I might be turning feral.”

    If your left hook is as precise as your opening ones…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *