August 31 – Runt of the Litter

By Sara Etgen-Baker

Eddie, Sara, Fritz Von Etgen, and Dave – The Etgen Family

“Hilda’s in labor!” yelled Mr. Davis. I leaped off the porch, ran next door, and watched Hilda strain as five milk-chocolate-colored Dachshunds slowly wriggled their way from her belly. The first was a runt who immediately captured my heart. I giggled, watching it and the other four bundles of energy squirming beneath Hilda’s tummy, all begging for lunch at the same time. But the magical moment ended when Hilda nudged her runt puppy away. The runt inched his way back, but she shoved him away, pouncing on his tiny back and breaking his tail.

“She’s hurting him!” I screeched. “Make her stop!”

Mr. Davis scooped up the injured pup and placed him in my hands. “Run, kiddo. Get a shoebox and put that pup in it!”

I darted inside, gingerly holding the wounded pup in my hands; found a shoebox; placed the runt in it, and watched it stretch its tiny body ever so slightly.

“Hilda’s mean, Mr. Davis! Why would a mama dog hurt her own puppy?”
“Kiddo, Hilda’s not mean; her instinct tells her that her puppy’s too small to survive; she loves her pup and believes killing it is the loving thing to do.” Mr. Davis patted me on the back. “Kiddo, you got a doll blanket and baby bottle back home?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Go get ‘em. We’ll save ‘dis pup.”

I dashed home and found the two items. We wrapped the runt in the blanket; placed it in the shoebox; heated some milk; added Karo syrup to it; and poured the mixture into the baby bottle. The runt sucked on it, wiggling contentedly. I caressed its tiny body with my fingers; he fell asleep; serene and out of harm’s way.

“Kiddo, many runts die ‘fore they ever open their eyes. If’n we can keep this runt alive till his eyes open, he’ll prob’ly survive. If so, you can have him.

So for fourteen days, we handfed him until his eyes opened. I named him Fritz and took him home. Slowly, the runt developed into a high-spirited, mischievous, loving Dachshund with a slightly broken tail. We were constant companions, spending time together on the back porch where he licked my face and barked at anything or anyone just to protect me. Later, Fritz became my confidant; the one with whom I shared my thoughts and fears.

Fritz was primarily an outside dog, occasionally sneaking inside the house through the open door; I chased him around the house trying to catch him. But Fritz was half-a-dog high and a dog-and-a-half long with short, stubby legs and tiny feet; often running down the hallway and sliding out of control with the back of him always going in front of him.

For twelve years Fritz graced my life protecting me, showering with doxie kisses, entertaining me with his shenanigans, and showing me how to live exuberantly. As he grew old and achy, he lived optimistically showing me how to face adversity. Mostly, though, he taught me about friendship and loyalty.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

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8 responses to “August 31 – Runt of the Litter

  1. Reminds me that often the “least” among us are the most loyal and faithful.

  2. The unconscious loyalties of a dog 🐕
    They teach us lessons without words.
    A lovely feel good story.
    Isadora 😎

    • Sara Etgen-Baker

      you’re so accurate….with “unconscious loyalties of a dog”…I love that phrase. Thanks for reading and comment. Glad it was a feel good story for you! 🙂

  3. I love your story for several reasons: first, the puppy survived and blessed your life and secondly, because it drew me inward and I felt your thoughts and feelings. That is the greatest compliment to writing I think.

  4. Sara Etgen-Baker

    Oh, Letty–what a wonderful comment you left! You blessed my day and my writing. I’m grateful that my words drew you inward. Yes, a truly great compliment, and I appreciate your sharing. Have a blessed afternoon.

  5. The joy pets give us is unrepeatable. I loved your story.

  6. sara etgen-baker

    thanks for reading the story and for making such a sweet comment. You’re so right. Pets bring us such joy 🙂

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