Giftless, with no food found to share with his waiting family, Woofer returns weeks later to the birthing nest at the Lake Erie Marblehead Lighthouse State Park fencing that surrounds the lighthouse keeper’s museum building to find his mate — Mother — and his five pups missing. Alarmed, he twirls in panic. Not again!
Of German Shepherd and Terrier mixed descent, Woofer is instinctively driven to search for his lost family. Circling rapidly, Woofer sniffs at the empty nest and immediately picks up the scent of man. He glances in every direction, fearing interruption from unknown and dangerous sources that usually arise with the smell of a humankind. Sensing no instant disaster, Woofer cautiously returns to his intimate investigation of the flattened, tall brown grass that had served as Mother’s birthing nest beneath a dense lilac bush entangled in the fence.
He stops suddenly and pokes his nose through one of the squares of the chain-link fence, flaring his nostrils into the gusts of cold Winter wind that sweep above and past him toward the museum building. The smell of his newborns and of man flows toward the museum.
Woofer knows of the dangers of man. His hair bristles along his back as he lingers to absorb the scents. His pups have been captured, he is certain. But there is another scent to consider: that of his mate. Mother’s scent is not among those that flow beyond the fence.
Carefully pulling himself away from the fence, Woofer glances around once more, pausing to listen to the loud slapping of waves pummeling the flat and mounded rocks surrounding the base of Marblehead Lighthouse that stands only yards from the frothy surf licking its rocky base.
Woofer’s brief concentration on the waves is born of senses other than that of curiosity.
A year earlier, the same white-capped Winter surf took the lives of his first litter, washing the tiny, blind and helpless pups out into its treachery to mercilessly drown them. Six promising lives were lost while Woofer could do nothing to retrieve them from the water’s cruel work.
Ill from the whelping, Mother hadn’t moved from the side of the low rock base that extended westerly away from the lighthouse. The spot where she’d begun to give birth was unprotected. The birthing had begun suddenly, and Mother was bound to it without getting an opportunity to seek better accommodations.
The Winter storm had risen quickly that day, roaring and surging over the rock wall where the six small lives were vulnerable, and Mother was too sick to help. It was all Woofer could do to keep Mother from washing away, too.
Grabbing her by the scruff of the neck as the water raged, Woofer pulled his sick mate from the pounding surf and back-pedaled to shore. Determinedly, he plunged back into the water, calling to the pups, but it was too late. Their small rubbery bodies were no match for the surging, giant waves. Blind and silent, they were tossed and pitched and soon disappeared in the enormous swirls. Woofer gulped water himself and gasped for strength and breath.
Mother whined to him from the rock face, a plaintive squeak for help. He fought the high, slashing waves to return to her, grabbed her up once more by the ruff, and skirted the rocks, dragging her to safety by slipping and stumbling to a grassy retreat.
For days, they mourned. Mother weakly whined out across the stilled waters, as though the lost pups would answer her pitiful plea and happily bound back to her.
They searched the rocky shores for any signs of the little bodies. But their precious first litter were gone forever, destroyed and buried by the governing Mistress Power of Lake Erie.
Woofer shakes away the daytime nightmare. Encouraged by the strong scent of his mate the wind brings him, he trots toward the woods to find her. A strong, untainted scent means life. He hopes against hope for the lives of his second born litter and his beloved mate.
(Concluded in next post above…)
+++++Credit: Story and Photos from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg