Welcome to my weekly feature where authors share about the hobbies, careers, or passions of their characters. And Merry Christmas!!
I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest, Emily Heebner…
Animal Love and the Internet
I’m grateful for the internet. However flawed, it lets folks research any topic at any hour in the comfort of home. It allowed me to write about puppies being born.
I had married into a family of animal lovers. Not that I didn’t already love animals, I did! I grew up with a beloved dog, Cookie, a great friend and confidante. But in typical suburban fashion, my mother did most – okay – all of the animal care herself.
So when I became matron of my home plus dog, I put my foot down. “Everybody helps!” I declared.
Now that we have our third dog, Sally, plus two cats, plus lizard who’s determined to out-live us, I continue to study. Especially that night I arrived home late and almost drove over a furry larva in our driveway.
It was to be the night we switched from cat loathers to cat lovers.
I was opening our gate so I could pull my car in when I noticed a fluttering leaf out of the corner of my eye. Exhausted, I wanted to ignore it, but the night was hot and still, so I looked again. Lit by my car’s headlights was a furry larva near our hedge, squirming across the driveway. I left the car running, ran for the house and called, “Honey, come quick! Leave Sally inside!”
“Is it a rat?” I asked.
Umbilical cord attached, the wee one was brand new, probably dropped by her mom when I opened the gate. We learned from the internet we should’ve given the mommy time to retrieve her baby. But we were unschooled and quick to adopt hero mode.
Soon “Solo” was swaddled in clean towels, with a ticking clock and a heating pad close by her box.
The internet taught us much. Since the mommy wasn’t there to lick, my husband assumed operation poop training, which entailed wiping Solo’s butt with warm, damp cotton balls. I was better at bottle feeding, getting her to latch onto the hummingbird like nipple as she sucked and “swam” in the air with her arms.
On the third day, the vet said to bring her in. While he checked her, our larva-kitten pooped on the table. I watched the vet pick up the piece of poop, throw it away, then stick his finger in her mouth. What? The moment flashed so fast, just like the wiggling leaf on the driveway that was now our tiny pet. Did I really see the vet stick his finger in her mouth? The same finger that picked up the poop?
Next day, Solo was lethargic. I put her on our bed to play but she lay still, then moved, dragging her back leg. I quickly put her inside my shirt, looked up fading kitten syndrome, phoned the vet, got in the car, and phoned Eric.
It was a different vet on call so we squealed about the other vet’s poopy finger moment. This new vet explained that without her mother’s milk, Solo was extra vulnerable to infection. He loaded her up with more than the recommended antibiotics and with a doubtful smile, wished us well.
Flash forward: Solo will be four years old this spring. She’s healthy. She and Sally are good friends.
In Seneca Lake, Arthur helps a Labrador deliver her puppies in a saloon. One gets stuck but survives. The internet and Solo taught me how to write that scene.
It’s 1944, and high school senior Meg Michaels has always obeyed her grandparents’ wishes, till now. They’re urging her to give up her dream of Cornell University and accept a ring from wealthy Hank Wickham before he deploys overseas.
But Meg has studied hard and yearns for something better than life in the rural Finger Lakes. Plus Meg’s suddenly fascinated with her childhood friend, Arthur Young, a handsome Seneca Indian farm worker. When Meg and Arthur nurse a sick puppy to health, their friendship transforms into love.
But locals look down on “injuns” and resent the fact that Arthur’s farm job exempts him from military duty. While the war rages in Europe, Meg and Arthur must fight their own battles at home…
They all watched, hoping a puppy would begin to appear. Brandy grunted and contorted, but nothing changed.
“Dang it.” Arthur wiped his forehead into the upper part of his sleeve. Then he carefully slipped the fingers of one hand inside Brandy’s swollen vagina. She squirmed at first, even growled some. But as Arthur’s hand made its way farther inside her, she breathed through her nose, poised, as if she trusted him, painful as it was. Her eyes fixated at the towel beside her head.
“Good girl,” he murmured. “I’m gettin’ him, Brandy.” Her belly lurched. “Hold still now, girl.”
Arthur’s hand began to reverse direction. He pulled so slowly, Meg wasn’t sure at first. A tingle of dread ran through her. Minutes seemed to pass. Then his forearm tightened.
He shook his other hand toward Meg.
She grabbed some clean ones from the whelping box.
“Sac’s broke.” He was pulling a wet tail and tiny paws from Brandy’s birth canal. He wrapped a towel around them. Brandy’s belly contracted. Then swoosh, the puppy slid out. Meg handed Arthur a dry towel which he wrapped around the pup. Brandy watched and panted, then gnawed on the cord and began to eat the afterbirth. But the puppy lay still.
“Gol dang it—”
Arthur picked up the lifeless pup and rubbed him vigorously in the towel. He stood and stepped back from Brandy, swinging the pup belly up, over his head, then down between his knees in an arc. He did it again, then checked the puppy’s nose and mouth.
He swung the puppy again, then checked his mouth. A soft gurgle could be heard.
“Atta boy—” said Charley.
“C’mon, big guy.” Arthur rubbed him roughly in the towel. “Wake up.” He wiped the pup’s nostrils and blew on his face. The puppy squirmed just slightly. Arthur rubbed and rubbed, as if summoning a genie from a magic lamp.
Meg stood beside them. “If you can wake up,” she said, “we’ll make you fat as Ol’ Pete.”
Arthur stopped rubbing and studied the pup’s face. “We’ll call you Li’l Pete, how’d you like that? Folks’ll think you’re one part hog.”
Charley tried to grin. “His ma swears he’s pure pup, Art. She ain’t been near no hogs.”
“Keep rubbing and talking.” Arthur handed the puppy to Meg. He stooped down to check Brandy. “Comin’ head first. This one ain’t stuck.”
Emily Heebner, MFA is a fiction writer, professor and theater professional. A Cornell University graduate, she worked extensively as an actor, then wrote documentary scripts for dvds including The Hours, Tuck Everlasting, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Passion. Seneca Lake, her Coming of Age novel, explores interracial romance. Published by The Wild Rose Press, it’s available in Print, ebook and Audiobook formats.