The Strawberry Moon

The middle of the night. The rural Alabama countryside was lit by the glow of the full moon.

In most major U.S. cities, tens of thousands were holding protests and demonstrations. In Washington D.C. throngs lined the streets. In New York and Los Angeles, it was standing room only. There are a lot of world events happening right now.

The June moon was completely full. Farmers used to call this the Rose Moon. Ancient Germans called it the Mead Moon, or the Honey Moon. But long before Germans, farmers, or honeymooners, the Algoquian tribes that wandered North America called this the Strawberry Moon.

The Strawberry Moon was believed to be mysterious and powerful by Native Americans and Farmers. Also, by sorta-columnists.

Michael’s father, a third-generation Alabamian farmer, always told him that a Strawberry Moon was a magic thing.

So before bedtime, Michael went to look at the moon. And he wasn’t alone, either. People were looking at the moon in Malaga, Spain; Genoa, Italy; Omsk, Russia; Nice, France; Des Moines, Iowa; and Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Folks all over the globe were simultaneously watching the same heaven. And for a brief pause in time, there was no such thing as a coronavirus, or riots.

Before bed, Michael put his 2-year-old pregnant cocker spaniel into the barn. Her name is Bama. She usually sleeps in their den, but not tonight. Because Michael had a feeling that tonight would be The Night.

Michael’s oldest daughter, Sarah (8 years old), went with him to make sure her dad did everything right. She was asking a million pregnancy questions:

“What’s gonna happen if Bama has her puppies tonight?” and “Will it hurt?” and “Don’t you think Bama should sleep in my room, just in case?”

They helped Bama into her bed under the barn’s workbench. Michael placed a walkie-talkie baby monitor beside the dog. He let Sarah keep the receiver unit in her bedroom.

That night, the family settled for their naps beneath the light of the pink moon, and it was the same kind of restless sleep you experience on Christmas Eve, or the night before your own wedding. Pure excitement.

At 11:48 p.m., Sarah came bursting into her mom’s and dad’s bedroom, waving a baby monitor and shouting, “IT’S HAPPENING!”

In a few moments, all three of Michael’s daughters had dragged him off the bed, down the stairs, and into the barn.

Bama was panting and whimpering, lying on her side. Her mouth was open, her tongue out. She looked at her humans with that same helpless look all mamas wear. It’s a look that seems to say, “This sucks.”

The family gathered around the dog and talked to her quietly. “It’s gonna be okay, Bama,” said the girls.

Bama’s water broke. This was followed by biological events that are too messy to talk about. This is a family column so I won’t describe these events by using graphic medical words like “discharge,” or “amniotic fluid,” or “slimy membrane sac.” That just wouldn’t be polite.

All I can say is that you don’t want this stuff happening in your dining room.

“It hurt to watch,” said Michael. “Honestly, it stressed me out.”

The first puppy made its appearance. The family cheered. The girls giggled with elation. Bama’s panting stopped for a moment when she grunted and pushed. Behind the dog appeared the Miracle of Yuck.

“I was gagging,” said Michael. “I won’t even tell you what Bama did with the placenta.”

Next, animal intuition kicked in. Bama cleaned her first puppy to stimulate its breathing and to start blood flow. To watch a mother dog care for a newborn, purely out of her instinct, is nothing short of reverent.

Bama had four puppies. A fifth was on its way, but something was clearly wrong. The last puppy emerged, but wasn’t moving.

“It laid there,” said Michael. “And we all just looked at each other, I think we knew.”

The girls started to cry. Michael was doing his best to cheer them up, but it’s not easy explaining to children that no matter how pretty the moon outside might be, this world is not fair. It is a hard fact you get used to when you’re an adult, but it never gets easier.

Bama kept licking her motionless newborn until she finally gave up. She collapsed from exhaustion and her breathing slowed. Her other puppies gathered around her belly to feed. The fifth puppy was starting to get cold.

Young Sarah lifted the fifth puppy into her hands. The little girl’s chest was heaving. “Can we name it?”

“Of course,” said Michael.

Michael’s daughters crowded the cold animal. One of the girls began rubbing the puppy’s ribcage with her hands, whispering to it. Another began pressing her cheeks on the dog’s wet fur.

“It’s no use,” said Michael. Then he searched for the right words even though none were coming. Still, a father’s job is to try. So he did. He was going to say something about grief when he was interrupted by the sounds of girlish shouting and squealing.

“LOOK! DAD!” shouted Sarah. “HE’S ALIVE!”

The little animal began to squirm in their hands, and soon the animal was feeding from its mother like a professional. To say the family was overjoyed would be a lie. They were moonstruck.

“It was the best night my family’s had all year,” said Michael. “And with the way our world is lately, we’ve needed a little cheering up.”

You can say that again.

33 comments

  1. Sandi. - June 7, 2020 7:05 am

    What a precious dog story with such a happy ending! I do hope Michael let his daughters keep all five puppies, but especially the fifth one.

    Reply
  2. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - June 7, 2020 11:10 am

    Way to go, Bama! The world needs more puppies right now – or, at least it needs to hear about puppies right now.

    Reply
  3. topdock - June 7, 2020 11:23 am

    The miracle of life! Some of it is instinct but most of all, there has to be love.

    Reply
  4. Penn Wells - June 7, 2020 12:28 pm

    Great story, WHAT DID THEY NAME HIM??? 🤷‍♂️

    Reply
  5. Robert M Brenner - June 7, 2020 12:41 pm

    Nothing better than man’s best friend and small children getting to see the “Miracle” of birth and the joy of seeing that puppy come alive because of their tenderness…

    Reply
  6. Carol - June 7, 2020 1:24 pm

    Oh, Sean! How do you do it? Over and over again: thrilling, inspiring, comforting… what an amazing gift you have, and I wish you would be recognized for the brilliant writer you are, while you are still around to know about it. Your words will last, and be read and savored, as long as Earth and humankind last.

    Reply
  7. Mary - June 7, 2020 1:27 pm

    🙂

    Reply
  8. Bobbie - June 7, 2020 1:33 pm

    Nothing like a puppy story to bring both smiles and tears. Beautiful story. Yes, like one reader says, we need more puppy stories, definitely more good news😀🐶👏👏👏

    Reply
  9. Bobbie - June 7, 2020 1:35 pm

    Beautiful story. So needed right now. Thank you Sean. God bless you❤️

    Reply
  10. Judy Cobern - June 7, 2020 1:42 pm

    Beautiful story with a perfect ending

    Reply
  11. Denise DeVries - June 7, 2020 1:53 pm

    Every column I read makes me appreciate you more. A positive outliok is so hard to find.

    Reply
  12. MJ BREAUX - June 7, 2020 2:42 pm

    Awe, I love a happy puppy tail/tale! 🐶❤️

    Reply
  13. johnallenberry (PhDude) - June 7, 2020 2:54 pm

    Thank you for this. You’ve done it again! Handed out hope like candy from your pocket and got me crying like a baby.

    Allen (PhDude)

    Reply
  14. Amy - June 7, 2020 3:20 pm

    Sean thank you for a beautiful story! Thank you! ❤️🐶

    Reply
  15. Cathi Russell - June 7, 2020 4:08 pm

    Needed this today! Thank you Sean. Happy Sunday.

    Reply
  16. Patricia Gibson - June 7, 2020 4:22 pm

    What a wonderful story! Thank you

    Reply
  17. Linda Moon - June 7, 2020 4:37 pm

    In High School I had a friend named June. I’m looking at her autograph in my Yearbook right now. Among other things from so long ago, she wrote “Name your first child after me.” If I had, my baby girl would’ve been June Moon. High-School June and I also had a mutual friend named Bama. She was not a dog. Giving birth is not pretty for dogs nor humans (Guys, remember this). This “Moon” (me) was struck with the joy of your story, Columnist. Thanks for cheering me up!

    Reply
  18. Berryman Mary M - June 7, 2020 5:04 pm

    Wonderful story about the miracle of life and love. May we take a moment to count our blessings and look for miracles. Thanks, Sean

    Reply
  19. Tom - June 7, 2020 5:50 pm

    They named him “ Seventeen “ ! As in National Championships “

    Reply
  20. Christine Washburn - June 7, 2020 7:36 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful story of new life. We all need an uplifting, sweet, life giving message of hope.

    Reply
  21. MAM - June 7, 2020 7:54 pm

    Happy tears! Five puppies and three happy little girls. What more can you ask for? And the moon here was shining on a forest fire a bit too close for comfort, although still miles away. But God is in charge! I love your positivity!!!

    Reply
  22. Deborah (Debbie) Gillespie - June 7, 2020 8:02 pm

    I hope they named the little runt, ‘Strawberry”. <3

    Reply
  23. Karen - June 7, 2020 8:59 pm

    This reminds me of the birth of my beloved lab called Abe. I had moved to the country and wanted a dog. My friends’ lab was pregnant and they promised me a puppy. The night she began labor, they called me to come over. Of course their lab chose to deliver under the deck, so we laid on the deck and watched her birthing the puppies through the slats. After 5 puppies and no more action, everyone went in for a beer. I stayed and after about 15 minutes something black in shiny sac emerged. I yelled to my friends, “Hey I think she had another pup” and they yelled back, “Its just afterbirth!” Yes, this is the puppy I choose and yes I named her Afterbirth. But didn’t sound nice so we shorten it to Abe.

    Reply
  24. Steve (Lifer) - June 7, 2020 9:15 pm

    Just like that moon, you, Sean, are a light to so many in this dark world.
    As much as I’ve enjoyed reading your stories every morning for years now, in the past few months it’s often been the only positive thing out there. You my friend are a God send to so many of us & we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
    I hope the kids got to keep number five.

    Reply
  25. Nancy M - June 7, 2020 11:57 pm

    Puppy love!! So sweet! What did they name the poly little puppy?

    Reply
  26. Harriet - June 8, 2020 12:11 am

    That was wonderful. I agree with Carol – above.

    Reply
  27. Christina - June 8, 2020 4:37 am

    Yes, we all needed that! Thanks Sean, for paying attention to these glimpses of hope and sharing them with us.

    Reply
  28. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - June 10, 2020 7:06 am

    I love a happy ending!

    Reply
  29. Roger Brothers - July 16, 2020 2:19 am

    When I was a tow headed kid on a hard scrabble 24 acre farm on Sand Mountain my Daddy was trying to help one of his cows deliver in the barn. I was really useless to him or the cow so I stood in the hall of the barn out of the way.

    I knew the heifer was having a hard time and I whispered as sincere a prayer that ever came out of the mouth of 10 year old boy. I repeated a phrase I had learned in Bible school about “faith the size of a mustard seed”

    Daddy finally came out carrying the calf and laid it in the hall and started giving it chest compressions to try and get it to breath. He finally gave up and when I saw the crestfallen look on his face I was heart broken. He was the strongest man I ever knew and I had never seen that look before.

    He simply said “we needed that calf”.
    That’s when I turned away to hide the tears and started praying for my Daddy.

    He took the calf outside and then we returned to check on the mama. Lo and behold she had a calf by her side. She had had twins !

    Coincidence? Maybe so but you’ll never convince me it was anything less than a miracle.

    Reply
  30. Aunt Si or Martha Blackn - July 16, 2020 2:37 am

    Maybe that puppy & those children are an example of a lesson we are learning to practice and participate in during this particular time in life. To give a little extra attention, effort, care & encouragement to those that are floating and fading away in the midst of what we are I’ll equipped to deal with. Reach out and massage a failing heart, hold their hand. You may just revive them or maybe even escort them over; but either way, they will not be alone & forsaken.

    Reply
  31. Susan Patterson - July 16, 2020 3:31 am

    Sniff. Hiccup. Weep. Thanks. I wish all of America would read this.

    Reply
  32. Dickie Gammon - July 17, 2020 2:44 am

    Hey Cuz , what a beautiful story . It brought tears to my eyes but in a good way . I believe we all need a little inspiration in these trying times .

    Reply
  33. Dan Loftin - July 18, 2020 4:57 am

    That fifth puppy should be named “Jack!” After another great fifth!

    Reply

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