VIOLA - As soon as I managed to push my way through my brothers and sisters for mama’s warm milk, she’d stand up. For a nanosecond, I’d swing from her long, worn-out nipple and then drop. There was never enough milk for me.
I’d lie in a heap with my siblings, wondering when or if our mom would come back. We were wet and cold, our eyes still shut. My swollen belly ached.
One day when my head felt too heavy to lift, I stirred at the sound of a soft voice. Someone with warm, gentle hands was listening to my insides, her ear on my chest. She wrapped us in a fuzzy blanket that reminded me of my mom.
I was lifted, prodded, and poked. Eventually, there was sweet milk! Not from my mom’s large, doughy belly, but from an inflexible nipple. I could hear my brothers and sisters slurping and sucking, too.
A few days later, we were all moved again. We bumped around in that same blanket until we stopped in a place that smelled salty. It was quieter, with fewer people, and there was a new gentle voice.
In the new place, I was drinking as much as my tiny belly could hold but my stomach writhed in agony. The milk would come burning out of my other end. My sisters and brothers had the same problem. We were miserable. The pain was too big for our little bodies.
Three of my brothers and one of my sisters died. I overheard the words “parvo,” and “poor babies,” and “sleep.” My eyes were beginning to open.
I thought of the lady that would feed my sister and me as Mama Voice. She’d hold us, feed us, and wipe our mouths and butts. She was always there for us. My sister squawked and squirmed. It hurt to be held and we no longer wanted to drink. We just wanted to be left alone. We wanted to join our other siblings, but Mama Voice wouldn’t let us. She’d stick syringes in our throats and squirt water down.
I wanted to help my sister, but I could hardly take care of myself. The same people who took my brothers and sisters were back. They had my sister in a box and when they picked me up I used all the energy I had to thump my tail just once.
Mama Voice noticed my tail thump and asked to keep me with her. Now Mama Voice and I were alone. She became my whole world. I would drink and take long naps. Then I’d hear her voice, sometimes other voices, and we’d do it all over again. Mama Voice kept whispering to me, “Hang on. Keep fighting. Be strong.”
I hung on. I fought. And I became stronger. One day, Mama Voice offered me wet food on her finger and I licked it. Mama Voice wept. I didn’t think she’d ever stop crying.
Every day my stomach hurt less. Every day I loved Mama Voice more. Before long I was running around Mama Voice’s yard, playing with her cats, and stealing her flip-flops.
Mama Voice has a big heart and home. There were three cats and eight dogs for me to play with. But she said it was time for me to find my forever home. Mama Voice sounded sad as she explained it would be best for me.
On a clear Tuesday morning, Mama Voice said goodbye to me and slipped me into a soft, red crate. She introduced me to Kristin and Tony and told me they would help me find my new mom. I had to travel over 2,947 miles.
I rode in taxis, on a ferry, in a van, on an airplane, and finally ended up in Milwaukee at General Mitchell Field. Kristin and Tony were taking me for a walk in the airport when we heard, “There he is!” and a lady came running toward us.
Kristin said, “We found her, Ruben. That’s your forever mom!” My goodness, it was a lot of excitement for a puppy who had traveled all day.
It turned out I wasn’t home yet. But Mom and Papa knew I’d be tired and we stayed together in a big room with a giant bed for all of us. The next day, we traveled from Milwaukee to rural Viola.
I have a brother and a sister again, and all sorts of cats and barnyard animals. My house is warm and Mom loves to go for walks and spoil me. I wish you could see me right now—I haven’t stopped thumping my tail.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve died and gone to heaven.
Love, Ruben (I was named after the owner of Mom’s favorite restaurant for buritos in Isla Mujeres.)
Thank you to Isla Animals, Mama Voice, Michelle, Anna, Kristin, Tony, Erica, and John, Lea, and all the others who gave of their time and heart. At Isla Animals Dog Rescue they like to say, ‘Caring Is Global.’ It sure is!