His name was Whitey McRowdie. His parents were Conan and Amber. His mom was 42 in People Years (6 in Doggie Reckoning), his pop a mere pup of 14 (2 years). He was a toy poodle and the best friend I ever had.

At birth, he had the biggest strike in the Animal Kingdom against him--prematurity. The vet determined that Amber's tiniest pup was two weeks premature, that she'd had two litters, in fact. When the first litter reached gestational maturity and was ready to be born, he was forced to come along for the ride whether he wanted to or not.

He certainly wasn't much to look at--a body the size and width of my middle finger, with a rat-like pink tail and paws to fit on the head of a corsage pin...a concave scoop where his stomach should have been...a head resembling a baby bird's with bulging sightless eyes. Fighting weight: two ounces on a postage meter. If I'd had a stamp, I could've shipped him anywhere!
"Ain't no way this li'l critter's gonna live!"

I was determined he would, Amber seemed determined he wouldn't. The instinct to cull the unfit made her push him out of the warm little nest. I pushed him back in, fitting him between his bigger, happily-nursing siblings. The next day, the vet gave me a syringe and tube, showed me how to put it down the pup's throat and inject formula directly into his tummy.

"If you can keep him alive a week, he might live."

For the next two weeks, I performed that arduous task, every two hours, day and night, placing him on a heating pad to keep his body temperature constant.

At the end of that time, he graduated from 6 ounces of formula every two hours to 12 ounces, supplemented with very watery pablum, strained egg yolk mixed with formula, and applejuice. By now, Whitey had a new name. There's a scene in Ghost Busters where the three men hunt for the little green slime ghost and one of them says, "Ugly little spud, isn't he?" That was the pup--an ugly little spud. So Spud he became.

He continued to grow, I continued to be surrogate mother. At four weeks, he was the size he should've been at birth, weighing 8 ounces. His sisters weighed 2 pounds. They liked to play "Spud-ball"--tossing him around. Guess who he ran to when they got too rough? As far as Spud was concerned, I was Mama, and he just happened to have been born with 4 feet instead of two!

We celebrated milestones, such as the day he got his first tooth--at six months. Did an IQ test for dogs we saw on PBS. Spud rated as having the intelligence of a two-year-old human. He understood 24 words. I think I have more baby pictures of Spud than I do of my own son who informed me he was jealous. I told him to imagine Spud was the baby brother he'd always wanted.

It was around this time that the vet finally decided perhaps he wasn't going to die after all....

...and he didn't...

...not for 14 years. The day we lost Spud was the day our entire family was devastated. After such a dramatic start and living for so long, he was as dear to us as any human member. He was my constant companion, my Little Buddy, my Baby, the family member who called the shots, the one who decided the Gentleman Caller was going to be permitted to stay.

Who says animals can't feel, can't love, can't experience emotion? Anyone who's had a beloved pet knows better. Anyone who's had a beloved pet will echo me when I say (to paraphrase slightly):

"Spuddy , I'm glad I knew ye!"


  1. Mary Ricksen // July 3, 2008 at 3:25 PM  

    I know just how you feel. I have had five German Shepherds since I was married and every one has been my baby. It's hard to explain to people who are not animal lovers. But they are missing something they will never understand. Go to my site and read my blog from yesterday. mricksen.com, you will see how much I understand. I love post about animals.

  2. Nightingale // July 3, 2008 at 3:25 PM  

    How heartwarming, Toni, and what a lovely story. I'm an animal lover too. My special friend was my stallion Bonito--in fact maybe he was my soul mate!

  3. Mary Marvella // July 3, 2008 at 11:56 PM  

    Awwww, too sweet. My family always chose the litter runts because they made wonderful dogs.

    I'll send Melba and my friend June here tomorrow to comment and to post soon.

  4. Beth Trissel // July 4, 2008 at 11:28 AM  

    Toni, this is the most wonderful animal story ever. I was totally 'there.' I'm tearful now.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Melba // July 4, 2008 at 2:49 PM  

    TONI, great story! I have a friend who raised a kitten the vet declared had no chance of survival. Just as you did, she willed the little thing to live. He was her baby! She was devastated when she lost him at age 4 to an undiagnosed heart defect. Perhaps animal moms know what we can't know and that's why they push these little ones aside. Or perhaps they were meant for the human serrogate who loves them. I would prefer to believe that they come into this world knowing we are in need of their love and attention. We always learn more from them than from another person.
    You story is very touching. My friend doesn't have internet, but I might just print you story for her to read.