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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)

TITLE: From the Brink of Death
By Beckie Stewart


Our four children bounced around in the car. The forty-five minute ride felt like days to them. The dirt road was filled with potholes, but finally we pulled into the driveway of a blue doublewide trailer home set back from the street. On the right side was a metal fence with half a dozen doghouses lined up in the back area. As we got out of the car, the choir of various mini dachshunds lined the fence and welcomed us with their yippy melody. Mr. Braddock, a tall burly man, wearing jeans and a worn-out t-shirt, emerged from the front door. Though his voice was loud and intimidating, his smile eased our fears.

“Come on in,” he said. “The momma and pups are ready for you to see.”

Our four children dashed past Mr. Braddock and into his living room. The fragrance of dog instantly invaded our nostrils. It wasn’t an awful odor, but certainly one a non-pet owner would immediately notice.

Once inside, Mr. Braddock talked to us about the four reddish-brown fur balls as he placed them in front of us one-by-one in birth order. He said another family had already selected the largest pup. We thought he was a little too pudgy for our liking anyway.

“Can we take it home today,” our four-year old daughter asked holding the pup slightly larger than the runt.

“No. They need to be with their momma a few more weeks.”

“Awww,” my daughter whined and then giggled as the pup started gnawing on her thumb.

We all agreed on the pup in our daughter’s arms and made arrangements to come back for a visit the following week.

“How will you know which pups is ours,” our oldest son asked.

“Pick a nail polish, and we’ll paint her toe that color.”

“Pink! Pink!” our daughter insisted.

The visit the following week increased our excitement and tied us over until the day we could bring Gretel home.

“I want to hold her.”

“No, I do.”

The fighting began, and so mommy got the privilege of holding the young pup wrapped in a blanket on the ride home. The size of a full-grown hamster, Gretel was less rambunctious then when we first met her. Being new pet owners this meant little to us. We were thankful she slept the entire journey home.

Upon our arrival home, we found that our newest family member only wanted to sleep. Seeking not to alarm the children regarding our concern about their new pet, we settled them into bed. We regretted the attachment we had established as we laid the newspaper and blanket on the bathroom floor.

The wee hours of the morning greeted us with a crying puppy and a bathroom covered with dark black liquid feces. The odor communicated only one clear message. Parvo! Memories of our previous attempt at owning a dog flooded our mind. For a pup weighing less than a bag of sugar, our hopes were shattered.

A call to Mr. Braddock increased our fears. The owners of the largest pup had called reporting his death. The runt was also displaying the same symptoms as Gretel.

“Call the Vet. If he can’t save her, I’ll refund your money.” He was heartbroken, too.

“She has parvovirus,” my husband said when he returned from the vet. He handed Gretel to me. “If she starts to throw up, she’s a goner.” It was only moments later that within the towel, the small pup’s body began to heave and fluid came pouring from her mouth. The six of us began to weep. Her breathing became shallow and almost non-existent.

“Come on, Gretel. You can do it. Live, girl.” I said as I rubbed her body urging her to live. Miraculously, she survived.

Several weeks later, our newly, energetic pup could be found hiding under the couch, her snout poking out of the flap. There she waited to dart out undetected to nab one of our daughter’s dolls. She soon learned to come to the house with a ringing of the bell used to summon the children for dinner and fetch her toys at just the mention of the word.

In an unexpected way, these non-pet owners were reminded that all of life is a gift from God. We are grateful for each day we have enjoyed with Gretel and that the only lasting affect of her illness has been daily seizures. Otherwise, she has been happy and healthy for over eleven years.

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This article has been read 645 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 05/22/08
Very good writing here. You tied it together very well in your ending paragraph, too. I was pulling for the little pup, so glad she lived!
Dee Yoder 05/24/08
You certainly had me pulling for the little puppy, too. I'm so glad she lived and has had a happy and fun life living with your family!
Deborah Engle 05/26/08
This was well written. I was grateful this story had a happy ending.
Chely Roach05/26/08
I loved this, and it kept me rooting for Gretel to survive. (I nursed my latest "Dogzilla" back to life from whooping cough when she was a wee little pup.)
I like the title, but it reveals a bit too much. From the title alone, I knew that your puppy was going to fall deathly ill but survive. Just omitting the "from" could add a bit of mystery.
Still loved it...great piece.
Shirley McClay 05/26/08
Phew.. I was sure the pup was going to die! Good job... you kept me hanging on every word.. love the nail polish idea!
Debbie Wistrom05/26/08
Your dialog is great here. You told a complete and touching story in so few words. Keep writing.
Marlene Austin05/26/08
Great that you included good information concerning the deadly Parvo virus. Nicely done. :)
Jan Ackerson 05/27/08
Very good story, especiallly in the interactions with the puppies in the beginning half or so.

I thought the last paragraph fizzled a bit--since the story is really about the puppy, there's no need to summarize at the end. Leave us with the healthy puppy, perhaps wagging its little rear end.

I could just picture these little cuties!
Judy Doyle 05/27/08
Excellent story. We lost a puppy to parvovirus, so I was fearful Gretel wasn't going to make it. Glad it turn out well. Isn't it strange how animals become part of the family so quickly? Thanks for sharing.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/28/08
I enjoyed your interesting story and was glad the little puppy survived.
Joanne Sher 05/28/08
Great job of building suspense - I was definitely pulling for that poor puppy!

The thing that stuck out to me was the first paragraph - it seemed a bit long. I probably would have broken it up into a couple, or maybe even three, paragraphs instead. I also agree about the title giving too much away.

Otherwise, I was completely engaged in this one. Very nicely done, Beckie!
Aaron Morrow05/28/08
Great story Beckie, great details and flow. You did a great job of building the stress to the climax.
I think "Miraculously, she survived." could have been left out and then transitioned to the paragraph about her newfound health and enthusiasm. That would have shown me the miracle rather than told me the miracle. Not sure if that makes sense.
All in all an excellent entry. I really enjoyed it.
Nana Bunch05/28/08
Good writing - heart warming story. Loved the action as it moved from beginning to end - you did a great job telling the story!
Sara Harricharan 05/28/08
Oh, I'm so glad that Gretel survived! I was rooting for her all the way! I wanted her to be okay and everything to work out all right, the ending paragraph was just right! ^_^
Cheri Hardaway 05/28/08
Great story, and so glad the pup made it! You built suspense well. I think you had a good balance between "showing" and "telling." If I were to suggest anything to make it better, I might have started the story at the point discovering the pup had Parvo, and then flashing back to its acquisition into the family; then bring us back to the present and the happy news that Gretel made it! Hope that makes sense. Blessings, Cheri
Joshua Janoski05/29/08
You had me on the edge of my seat towards the end. I'm so glad that the dog survived! I think this is one of your best entries so far. Keep on writing. :)
Joshua Janoski05/29/08
Congratulations on taking 7th place in your level with this piece, Beckie!