The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Mountain Mother - Dog Story

By Diana J. Felts © 1986

Issue: May, 1986

In the spring of 1967, my husband and I were newlyweds, living in the town of Boone, North Carolina. While he attended school, I worked at a variety of occupations to make ends meet. When not working, I did much walking, hiking and sight-seeing throughout the area. I was interested in any and everything that went on in "my" new mountain home. One morning, a neighbor stopped by our apartment to tell a bit of news. That morning she had heard a strange noise in her garage and had gone to investigate. In the dimly-lit, far corner of the garage she had seen a movement, heard a whimper or two. Shining her flashlight into the dark corner, she beheld a mother dog and four newborn pups.

"A mountain dog," she told me, "the poor old wild thing came down from Tater Hill last week, looking for a place to have her pups! I guess she chose my garage because we don't use it much any more. She's in terrible shape," the neighbor continued, "thin and ragged. We fed her, but what will happen to the pups?"

As soon as possible, I visited the "Mountain Mamma" and her children. Sure enough, she was a sorry sight, her ribs could be counted and she was nursing the pups. I brought her fresh milk and table scraps. She ate all I brought in a flash, and turned away from me. It was obvious that she did not like humanity but her four suckling pups bade her stay put.

I visited daily, hoping to gentle the pups if not the mother dog. One day when I visited, the mother dog was not "at home" in the garage. She had left briefly, to exercise, I suppose. I took a good look at the pups. Each of them had an extra toe on the two back feet but, other than that, they seemed normal and healthy. I knew they were ready to be weaned as they nibbled the dog food I held out to them. I was ready for the day! Scooping the four pups up into my skirt, I carried them quickly back to my house. I had been canvassing for weeks, to find adoptive homes for the "foundlings" and now I took them, one by one, to their new adoptive families. I did not see this as meddling, but perhaps I should have had second thoughts on the matter!

I "placed" three of the pups with nearby neighbors and the fattest, prettiest one I kept for myself. He promptly found my bed and fell asleep with his tiny head on my pillow. He was strong and bright and I knew, from the size of his mother, that he would make a good watchdog. I was pleased!

For two days I enjoyed the little fellow, named him , spoiled him, and almost forgot the mother dog, in my joy at having a pet of my own. The third day, as I cleaned up from breakfast, I heard a loud "Woof!" at the door. Curious, I opened the door saw a surprising sight. The old mother dog stood, a pup at each side, her paw on the screen as if to say "Open up!" I opened the screen and she "Woofed!" again, louder. The pup I thought I "owned" raced out from under the bed, where he had been chewing my sock. He dashed between my legs and right out the door. The mother dog turned, as if I no longer mattered, and marched her children up the street. Sniffing, she followed a trail of puppy smell to the last house, where she "Woofed" again, the door opened and her last pup ran out. With great, malnourished dignity, the mother dog walked back past my house, stopped by the empty garage where she had given birth. At once, I saw another, larger dog loping down the mountainside towards her. She stood stock-still, with the four reclaimed children until "Papa" arrived at her side. Then, as if glad to be shed of us, they all six turned tail and began the climb back up the mountain. I watched them go. When they were half-way up Tater Hill, they stopped for a second, staring down at the houses; then they continued until they were lost in the trees and mist.

I have thought many times how devoted this old, starved Mamma dog was to her four pups and how she must have wanted them to be raised wild and free in the rocks and caves above Boone. I never saw any of them again, after that day.