Prissy the Shar-Pei
Growing up, the first dog I remember in our family was Prissy. A rescued Shar-Pei, she was one of the sweetest and gentlest dogs you could hope for.
I remember her wrinkled cinnamon-roll tail and her round manatee-like muzzle with equal fondness.
The most interesting thing about Prissy wasn’t her breed, however. It was how devotedly she approached the life calling of “Mother”.
She gave birth to exactly one litter of puppies while in our care. Apparently, that wasn’t remotely sufficient for her big heart.
If a puppy ever graced our backyard, her cinnamon-roll would spiral in the closest thing to a wag she could accomplish, and she would scootch under the old truck we had in the back and produce toys we didn’t even remember giving to her. Anything to please the young pup. Balls, frisbees, dirty rags that used to be stuffed animals … whatever she could find.
I had a cat named Bella who would routinely balloon with kittens. (No, we were not conscientious pet owners. I now know that unfixed outside pets are neither normal nor acceptable, but middle-of-nowhere Texas was not known for its forward-thinking)
Now, Bella would wait as long as possible before having her kittens. I swear, it seemed like their eyes were already open at least once when I first met a littler.
Additionally, she would suffer through the only the merest brush of motherhood. She grudgingly suckled her kittens until such time as they could be trusted to eat solid food, then soundly ignored them forever.
Prissy, on the other hand? ADORED these so-young castoff kittens. She took over their raising, which included suckling them from teats that long ago should have dried up after her own litter was gone.
Many times, you could look out the back window and see her lying in a patch of sunlight, a nearly-grown catling suckling happily at her belly.
One night, I was driving home with my mom when I thought I saw the glint of light off tiny eyes.
“I think I just saw some kitt–” I began.
“–NO YOU DIDN’T!” mom tried to convince me.
Alas for her, I was not convinced. We turned around and found ourselves the new owner of two teensyweensy kittenthings.
We took them home (one short-haired and black, the other long-haired and gray) and set them in a wheelbarrow so the rest of the backyard menagerie could get used to their scent.
Bella hopped up next to them, arched her back like she’d landed in water, gave me one VERY offended look, and proceeded to disown even the notion that the other kittens existed. She tolerated their presence in her domain, but did not stoop to share square footage with them. Ever. Their sin of existing simply could not be forgiven.
Prissy, on the other hand, circled the wheelbarrow like a mad thing, whining and begging to be given the kittens. When we finally gave in and let her mother them, I’ve never seen her more relieved or happy.
Poncho the Goat
Then there was Poncho.
Poncho was a goatling we bought at a flea market called First Monday probably hours after her birth. She was a frail, black and white darling of a kid, and we bottle-fed her for months.
Prissy adopted her instantly, which led to some very interesting moments where you could look out the back window and see Prissy, standing, allowing a baby goat to drink milk from her, and looking at least a little bemused about the whole thing. Kittens and puppies knew to drink laying down, of course, but whatever this weird tall dog needed, Prissy was going to offer. Even if the creature DID headbutt her in the belly in the middle of a meal.