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Jubal’s Song
by Bridget Byrne


This story starts like many stories, ”It was a dark and stormy night…..” when the campers visiting a campground in the Ozarks first saw Jubal and her traveling companion Rook. As the wind wailed through the trees the rain pounded on their tents they could see during lightening flashes two dark dogs huddled together under a nearby tree doing their best to escape the storm’s fury.

It wasn’t until the next day that they met these two wanderers. The male, Rook was a big gangly puppy, and the female Jubal was much smaller and appeared to have recently had some pups. Both were so covered with ticks that when the campers patted their heads ticks would fall off in handfuls. The dogs were friendly but very fearful of being shooed away or worse. The campers checked around and found out that the dogs had previously been owned by a farmer who had died six months previous and had left seven dogs behind that were foraging for themselves. These two appeared to be the survivors but just barely.

They must have survived on what they could forage from garbage containers and generous campers. From their startle responses, not all their encounters with humans had been positive. But they eagerly accepted the bits of potato chips and cookies the campers had to offer both having rib cages where you could see each rib sticking painfully out of their sides.

The next day the kind people could not bear to leave the dogs behind so drove them back to Kansas City. The dogs were terrified, obviously never having ridden in a vehicle before but clung to their rescuers, seeming to trust that these kind people would do their best.

They were taken to a kennel that was willing to board rescued dogs and were housed together in a pen outside. Whenever someone would approach, Jubal would pull back still wagging her tail but not daring to look people in the eye. Rook would walk between Jubal and in a very good-natured way block anyone from coming too near. When taken inside to be given veterinary care, both dogs once again panicked. Their paws had never touched carpeting or a tile floor and both were sure that the baths they were given were a prelude to drowning.

A member of the local Border collie rescue group came to see the dogs at the staff of the kennels persistent requests. It was obvious that neither of the dogs were pure Border collie and the limited resources of the organization had been directed towards purebreds and taking one dog at a time rather than two. However, going into the pen with the two dogs she saw in both gentle spirits whose trust in humans deserved to be honored.

After being neutered and spayed both dogs went home with her to be fostered by her. At first afraid to go in the house the two soon learned the ways of dogs that sleep indoors although Jubal still made nest outside under the bushes “just in case.” She proved to an incrediblely sweet dog that would move by your side and gently place a paw on your lap delicately requesting a hand on her back. But she never played. Despite the lure of Rook who would awkwardly chase a ball and the other two dogs who lived in her foster moms house she would only soberly watch them. We wondered at her age thinking perhaps she was older than we first thought. The vet wasn’t able to tell us how old the puppies might have been when she left them and we fretted about there being abandoned puppies in the Ozarks.

Soon Jubal had gained weight and was house broken. We noticed that she had a very unique set of vocalizations that she and Rook communicated to one another. It seemed a bit like Basenji talk but the interesting thing was that Rook seemed to be using a second language when he spoke to Jubal but to Jubal it seemed normal. And it seemed to be as though she was singing. We placed them on the website. Rook was soon adopted and another couple adopted Jubal. She left a quiet, affectionate dog that seemed to get along with everyone. So it seemed we had another happy ending to tell about Jubal. There was something about her leaving that disturbed her foster mom though…something just wasn’t quite right.

The following day, which was the 4th of July, we received a confusing and panicked call from Jubal’s new people telling us she was in labor. This couldn’t be…she had been spayed a few weeks prior! But after the first puppy was born, well, how can you argue with that?! Amidst the fireworks and in labor Jubal quickly and happily returned to her foster home.

Relieved she ran to her old kennel and gave birth to her last baby. We frantically began calling anyone who might know about puppies. Being confirmed “spay and neuter” people, there was little personal experience of this tiny miracle. All the puppies were born alive despite their mother’s being antheized for her “spay” surgery. We named them Ben, Spirit, Paul Revere, Liberty and Belle, just seemed appropriate for the day! It seems the vet thought he saw signs of an earlier spay and had not in fact spayed Jubal. What we believed had been evidence of giving birth to an earlier litter was in fact a prelude to her having puppies. Again our inexperience with unaltered pets had fooled us and apparently fooled a couple of vets as well! We also learned that Jubal was much younger than her serious demeanor suggested, probably less than a year old in fact.

Jubal turned out to be a near perfect mother. She was very attentive to her pups and seemed to want to be sure that they caused no problems for her foster mother. She even cleaned up outside after her pups when they were old enough to spend part of their time outdoors. But she never sang during this time taking her responsibilities quite seriously. As her pups got older she completed her final duty as their mother. That was to teach each of her puppies to be polite and deferential to older dogs. She relentlessly pursued each of her pups. Always good-natured, she was still determined. She ignored their squeals of protest as well as their efforts to hide and each was taught to lie on its back when an older dog approached. Once they demonstrated that they understood the lesson she let them go. But she remembered from one day to the next who she had not yet taught. The last pup born, Belle, eluded Jubal for as long as she could but finally Jubal caught her too, by lifting her by the back leg from under a coffee table!

Meanwhile in a small town in the Nebraska Panhandle, the Rader family sadly lost their Border collie mix, Boq, suddenly of Pancreatitis. Boq had been with them for twelve years and had helped the family through another tragedy-the death of their seventeen year old daughter, Samantha, the summer before in a tragic boating accident. Samantha had been the only girl in the family and had been special to all who knew her. She was a beautiful young woman who had been like a second mother to her two youngest brothers James and Matthew and a strong-willed and vibrant presence wherever she was. Her sense of fun and thirst to enjoy life created a spark where ever she went. Her protectiveness towards those she loved or who seemed vulnerable reminded those around her of an avenging Greek princess. Yet when she nurtured, she was extraordinarily kind and gentle.

To make their burden greater Debby had lost her mother the year before. Debby and Terry had done a miraculous job in pulling themselves and their four remaining children Shawn, Michael, James, and Matthew through the darkest days of mourning. Their community had opened its arms and surrounded them with love and empathy. Yet the fun and joy was still missing in their lives and the loss of their beloved dog Boq seemed to only be another stop on a long and sad journey.

Once Jubal’s pups were raised she traveled to Nebraska to join the Rader family and their two cats Bob and Tar. Jubal fit in immediately and began to allow herself to be the puppy she really was. She chased balls, convinced the cats she was no threat and actually was occasionally even naughty (Jubal?!).

She seemed to make her own assessment of what everyone in the family needed. She covered James and Matthew with kisses if they had a skinned knee and played with them whenever she could. She and Debby developed their own relationship and Jubal once again began to sing. This time she sang primarily for Debby whenever she had been away from home at work etc.

At first afraid of men she shied away from Terry who has a loud boisterous voice but loves animals. Jubal taught Terry to speak and move more gently and she seemed to accept Michael for whatever he offered. Jubal loves company and greets everyone with unbridled joy when they come to her house. If left uncrated at night she “visits” every member of the family, checking on them like a mother hen.

So this small frightened dog from the Ozarks who “depended on the kindness of strangers” has found her calling and the Raders say that what they needed in their lives was “a Jubal”!

Debby says of Jubal: “She fills some of the places Samantha left. She is nurturer to Mathew and James and a combination of friend and daughter to me. We share the female experience even though she is “just a dog” I feel that we commune on a level that transcends species.” To Terry, she is a little girl whose trust is not easily won but it’s worth pursuing. To Michael, she is someone who loves him just because. She has come to help us heal and to challenge us with her sly ways, the little minx. Today, James said that Jubal reminds him of Samantha and he is right.”

Every night James, in his prayers, thanks God for Jubal.

It is an open secret among those who take in rescued dogs that those dogs often become the rescuers. Jubal has left a bit of her gentle and healing spirit with all who have known her and we are all grateful for Jubal. She is finally home and can sing again.


 

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