One spring night when all the humans were asleep, a floppy-eared brown and white beagle started having puppies. Her owner got up to sit beside her box, stroking her when she got tired and telling her what a good mother she’d be.
Five hours later, six puppies were nestled in the box beside her. The mother dog had licked them clean till they squirmed and mewled newborn puppy squeaks. She’d snuggled around them so they could wiggle up to her and drink her milk. Now they were resting after the adventure of being born, and the tired mother was going to sleep.
When the puppies grew up, they’d be brown and white with bits of black, like their mother, but right now they were black and white, except for their round pink noses. Every one of them was as cute as a calendar picture. The owner would have loved to pick them up and cuddle them, but she knew the mother dog wouldn’t want anyone else to touch them yet.
“Six adorable beagle puppies!” she said. “I wish I could keep you all. But you’ll make whoever buys you very happy.”
She hoped that selling them would make her some money too, but right now she didn’t care about that. She just cared that they were all healthy and perfect.
The prettiest of all was the one who’d been born first. She was the first one to drink, and so she was the strongest. As the puppies grew over the next weeks, she would always knock the others out of the way if they were drinking where she wanted to. Her brothers and sisters rolled and tumbled and found another place to nurse; it was easier to let her do what she liked.
“You’re a strong little girl!” the owner told her. “Whoever chooses you will have to make sure you don’t boss them around.”
* * *
Kate and Julian had just gotten married. They moved into a beautiful apartment with a view of the ocean. They both worked long days in busy jobs, but they liked their work, and they loved their life together. On the weekends, they always had breakfast at their favorite coffee shop near the beach.
One chilly Saturday morning, it was so bright and beautiful that after breakfast they walked down to the beach and along the boardwalk. Lots of other people were out too, riding bikes, skating, or walking their dogs.
“You know what would be perfect?” said Kate.
“A dog,” said Julian.
“We could go to the animal shelter on Rainbow Street,” said Kate. “They must have lots of dogs.”
“It’d be more fun to have a puppy that we could train the way we want,” said Julian.
They pulled out their phones and searched online as they walked.
CUTE BEAGLE PUPPIES!
Three males and three females. All tricolor (black, brown, and white).Ready to leave their mama in 3 weeks. Come and see them now—be ready to fall in love!
The picture showed the prettiest puppies Kate and Julian had ever seen.
“Aww…,” said Kate.
Julian was already dialing. “Can we see them today?” he asked.
* * *
The puppies were even cuter in real life than they’d been in the picture. The black on their faces was fading to brown, and their pink noses had turned black. Their fur was soft as velvet.
Staggering around the kitchen floor on their short bowed legs, yipping with shrill puppy squeals, they tried to chase a soft blue ball with their mother. Sometimes they bumped into each other and stopped to wrestle, nuzzle, and lick as if they’d forgotten what they were doing.
“They’re gorgeous!” Kate exclaimed.
“But she’s the cutest,” Julian said, pointing to the bossy puppy who’d been born first.
They watched as she shouldered through the pack to get the blue ball. She hit it with her nose, jumping back in surprise when it rolled away. One of her brothers bumped into her, and they both tumbled over. The brother wandered away, but the little girl puppy rolled back to her feet and started after the ball again.
“She’s smart,” said Julian.
“And beautiful,” Kate murmured, as the owner picked up the puppy and put her into Kate’s waiting arms. “You’re the most beautiful little girl ever, aren’t you?”
Smiling at each other over the puppy’s head, Julian and Kate stroked the floppy velvet ears and the round bulgy belly. The baby beagle chewed on their fingers, wriggled against them, and licked their faces. Even her sour-milk puppy smell seemed sweet as roses.
The owner was smiling too. It made her happy to see people falling in love with a puppy.
“Her name is Bella,” said Kate.
“Because she’s so beautiful,” Julian agreed. They had been studying Italian, and one of the first things they’d learned was that bella meant “beautiful.”
“How are we going to wait three whole weeks before we take her home?” Kate asked. She could hardly bear to put the puppy down again, even though the mother dog was looking anxious and Bella was squirming.
“You can visit again next weekend,” said the breeder. She knew this dog was going to a good home.
Text copyright © 2013 by Wendy Orr
Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Patricia Castelao