In the afternoon of Christmas Eve in 1963 1 received a message in my surgery asking me to visit a dog in difficulty having pups. The village to which I had to go was a few miles away and when I arrived there it took me a little while to find the cottage and when I knocked on the door a small girl of about 9 years old quickly opened it. I told her I was the Veterinary Surgeon and had come to see her dog. She told me her mother had taken her 12 year old brother to town to buy him a pair of trousers for his Christmas present and that was a four mile walk and she would not be home again before 5pm.
The front door through which I had entered led into the darkish front room which had a banked up fire, a couple of chairs and a sofa and not much room for anything else and in the corner of the sofa the little Jack Russel terrier lay panting. She had been like this for two or three hours and an examination made me decide to take the bitch back with me to surgery.
Just as I was about to wrap her in a blanket I suddenly became aware of a whimpering sound from the other corner of the sofa and lo and behold it was a little baby. The girl told me it was a Christmas present from her mother to the family and the little boy was two weeks old and that she was in charge until her mother returned and had a bottle of milk ready when needed.
I took the dog to my car, alerted my nurse by radio telephone to be ready for a cesarian operation and drove to my surgery. All went well and four lovely pups were nuzzling into their proud mother in a towel strewn cardboard box an hour later when I set off back to the cottage. On arrival the door was quickly opened and the joy on the little girl’s face to see her dog and pups will always be remembered. The baby boy had been fed and changed and was fast asleep in his corner of the settee and back once again in the other corner lay the bitch and her pups and now was the time for me to leave. Tea-time dusk had arrived and I bade farewell, walked down the three steps to my car and looked back and there was the little girl silhouetted in the doorway and she shouted, “Thank you and a Happy Christmas!”
There was a tear in my eye as I drove away and every Christmas Eve since I remember that occasion vividly. The little girl is still my client though sadly the little baby boy died in his thirties.
Drawing by Briony Atherton.