Brody: Some things just turn me to ‘mush’

Published 10:08 am Tuesday, August 20, 2019

There are some things that can just turn me to mush, no matter what else is going on around me.

Years ago, during my wildlife work, the St. Louis Zoo called to tell me a resident coyote died having an usually large litter. All nine pups lived and needed a momma.

At the time, we had four wolves with us. Their care and the copious notes to record were a full time job.

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But, after only a few minutes thought, I said I would be their momma so send them on over.

I arranged nine shoe boxes side-by-side on a large table, and when they arrived, each pup occupied one box.

That was the beginning of a roller coaster ride.

They had to be fed warm bottles of a mother milk substitute every three hours.

After each feeding, they had to be burped. I held them feet down, head up as they nursed. They were so frantic for the milk, they still gulped air, thus the burping.

By the time we reached the end of the row, it was almost time to begin all over again.

But I loved it all. It’s the mush thing.

They all lived and thrived and all went back to the zoo when they no longer needed warm bottles and mommas. They returned with a little part of me.

Then there was the time one of our Siamese females delivered five kittens. All were fine and healthy but one.

The last one born was much smaller and weak and it seemed pretty clear she wouldn’t make it. Even the momma cat thought this and totally rejected her.

At that time, we had a house guest, a wondrous lady named Joy Adamson, the same lady who wrote, “Elsa,” “Pippa” and other books.

She championed the cause of the threatened lions of Africa. She traveled around the world to attend the yearly board of director meetings of Tyson Research Center, a board on which I also served.

Joy saw this scrawny kitten, picked her up, slipped her into her smock pocket and named her Elsa.

When I looked surprised, she said, “The movement of my body and the closeness and warmth of my pocket will all feel like back in the womb. She will live. We will give her lots of warm milk and keep her rocking gently. You’ll see.”

I turned to mush. Here was this world famous lady who loved a tiny kitten and gave her life. It touched my heart so much and every day of Elsa’s long life in our home I remembered a great human being believed a kitten’s life to be that important.

I still believe this today and kept my cat “P’s” life going by using my pocket with him.

Once again I was mush when we had friends who had sheep that produced baby lambs every spring. One year there were lots of precious, soft-furred, doe-eyed lambs and they each had a momma ewe to feed and nurture them. All except one.

When a ewe has triplets she usually rejects one, mainly because she’s only equipped to nurse two. There is usually one little lamb that suffers rejection.

He runs from ewe to ewe, but none want him.

In this business, human beings have to substitute. Five times a day, someone warms a bottle, picks up the baby and feeds him.

I am the 11 a.m. feeding every day. Automatic mush time for me.

Each day I walked into the field full of mommas and babies and, as I walked among them, they scattered everywhere.

Only one didn’t run away. He looked at me, the light must have gone on, and he would break out into a dead run right into my arms. I am mush and his forever.

I would pick him up and carry him to a place where I could lean against the fence and hold him while he drinks his warm bottle. First though, he usually found my earlobe and he nursed it vigorously. But when I gave him the real thing, he settled right down and hunched inside the crook of my arm.

He made soft sucking noises as he filled his little tummy and usually fell asleep when he had finished because he felt content and loved.

I held him long after I needed to, not so much for him, but for me. I loved the mushy feeling, but finally, I had to take him back.

I felt bad because I know his momma doesn’t want him.

I struggled with a strong impulse to just gather that wonderful little being up and take him home with me where he would never feel rejection again. But I walked away knowing not to interfere.

I looked forward everyday to my 11 a.m. time with the little lamb. I knew he would run as fast as his little legs would take him straight to me.

He knew I had the warm milk that made his tummy feel good.

It did not take me long to recognize he gave me a sense of joy and peace I called mush.

Mush is the feeling animals so easily give to me. It is the feeling that made me dedicate my whole life to be their voice and their advocate.

The view from the mountain is wondrous.

Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in the Sun for more than 25 years.