The Ugly Orphans


Inside the gunnysack were four cold, hungry newborns, and three young people were determined to save them

Ace was just pulling the crawdad trap up toward the bridge when the children heard it. “Kittens, I think,” said Cindie. “Maybe in the tall grass there near the water.”

“No, it sounds like baby birds,” said her sister Vikki. “Over on the other side of the creek by those blackberry bushes.”

The two girls and their younger brother quickly clambered down through the brush toward the pitiful cries. “Over here!” shouted Cindie. “I’ve found a gunnysack!”

Anxiously, the young people fumbled with the twine and opened the sack. Inside were four very cold, very hungry newborn creatures, their eyes still closed.

“Kittens?” asked Vikki, holding one baby close.

“They look like tiny pigs,” observed Cindie, peering closely at another.

“Let’s get back up to the bridge,” said Ace. “Dad will know.”

“They’re puppies,” said dad. “Really young and really ugly. It looks like someone driving over the bridge threw out the pups to drown them in the creek. But they missed the water. These pups can’t be more than a few hours old.”

“Poor babies. We’ll just have to take care of them,” said Vikki, 11-year-old protector of all things living. “We’ll take them to grandma’s house and feed them right now.”

“Yeah, dad, we can check the crawdad trap later. We need to take care of the pups now.” It was unusual for six-year-old Ace (legally known as Adrian) to consider anything more important than trapping—and releasing—crawdads while vacationing at grandma’s house in Oregon.

“We’d better hurry. This one looks pretty weak,” observed Cindie, age 14 and the most practical of the three.

“Whoa, kids. Let’s think for a minute,” chimed in dad. “We’re on vacation 800 miles from home. We surely can’t take these pups home with us, and I doubt if anyone else would want four mongrel dogs. It might be better if …”

“If what, dad? Maybe other people can throw innocent little puppies in a creek to drown, but you’ve always said that we should protect living things.” The determination in Cindie’s voice was evident.

“Besides, dad. I think Heavenly Father intended that we be here this morning so that we could rescue these poor little things. We’ll figure out what to do with them later. Right now we’ve got to hurry and get them some milk.”

Minutes later mom and grandma were examining the foundlings—and asking the same practical questions adults usually ask when young people bring home newborn pups. Meanwhile, Cindie put some milk in a saucer and tried to feed one of the crying pups.

“I’m afraid that won’t work,” said grandma. “They’re so tiny that they’ll have to be fed from a bottle. Who would have a bottle with a nipple that small?”

“Maybe a doll’s bottle?” suggested Vikki. “But where can we get a doll’s bottle?”

“And that’s not all,” said mother. “For the first few days, they probably won’t be able to digest regular milk. I’m sure they’ll need milk from a mother dog.”

“But we’ve got to do something,” said Ace. “We can’t just let them starve.”

“Is there a pet store in Oregon City?” asked dad. “Perhaps they could help us.”

“I’m sure there is,” replied grandma. “But is it wise to spend the time and expense to rescue four mongrel dogs that no one will want? They can’t stay here, and you surely can’t take them back home with you. They’d never survive the trip.”

“It might have been kinder in the long run if you had left them at the creek,” mother quietly observed.

By now Cindie had located the telephone number of the pet shop and had started dialing. “We’ll find a way, grandma. Heavenly Father will help us. But first we’ve got to find a way to feed these poor crying babies.”

And a way was found. Two very expensive cans of dog milk and two doll bottles were purchased. Each pup was fed, almost constantly, and wrapped in a warm cloth. Eventually they received their names: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The days which followed were taken up with feeding and loving the puppies. The girls learned that newborn puppies cry mightily if not fed periodically—all day and all night. On short trips to visit uncles and aunts, the pups were brought along so that they could be fed—and so that they could melt the hearts of potential owners.

But to no avail. Aunt Janine already had a dog. Aunt Karen surmised that one more dog at her house would result in one less husband. Uncle Dennis had two dogs, and grandma had cats. No luck. Neighbors and friends were approached. No luck. Pet store owners were implored. No market for ugly orphan pups.

Each day in their prayers the family members asked Heavenly Father to help them find homes for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But as they prepared to leave for southern Oregon to visit grandpa, four little puppies still had no homes. A family council was called to consider the options. The family knelt in prayer, and each of the children asked Heavenly Father to help them find homes for the pups.

Finally a decision was made: The pups would go to southern Oregon—but no further. If grandpa couldn’t take them, and if no other homes could be found when the family reached Ashland, the pups would have to go to the pound.

The trip to grandpa’s farm was a happy one. The young people took turns feeding the now fat, happy pups, and they took endless delight in the puppies’ antics. Both Mark and Luke started opening their eyes. And the children discovered that Mark ate the most, that John cried the loudest, and that Matthew was a girl!

But the four pups were still homeless—and the family was getting closer and closer to grandpa’s farm. Three worried young people entrusted all to a kind Heavenly Father and offered many silent prayers from the back seat (plus a few were offered from dad and mom in the front seat).

One prayer was answered; grandpa took one pup! At least John would be spared, grow up on a farm, and be loved.

All too soon the time at grandpa’s was gone, and the prayers for Matthew, Mark, and Luke were still unanswered. Only one last faint hope remained: Brother “Cwik.”

The family stopped to have dinner and attend sacrament meeting with family friends, the Cwiklinskis. Cindie, Vikki, and Ace were heart-broken to discover that the Cwiklinskis already had a dog and a cat and a goat. There just was no way the family could take in three pups.

On the way to sacrament meeting, the pups were fed once more so they could stay in the car in the shade and not cry while their rescuers were in church. Before going in, Cindie, Vikki, and Ace each offered a silent prayer to remind Heavenly Father that after church they would drive to Ashland—the last stop for Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Cindie spent most of sacrament meeting with her eyes closed, praying for a miracle. Vikki cried softly into a handkerchief. Ace chewed his lower lip. Too soon the meeting was over; the family was in the foyer and moving toward the door.

Then a miracle began to unfold. “Cindie,” whispered Brother Cwik, “run out to the car and bring me those pups. Bring everything—the milk, the bottles, the blankets—everything. And hurry!”

Cindie was back in a flash, and Brother Cwik showed the pups to the Young Women of the ward. Matthew, Mark, and Luke were passed from hand to hand and lovingly fussed over as Brother Cwik recounted how the babies had been miraculously rescued.

If a potential dog owner wavered in her decision to adopt, Brother Cwik mentioned the canned milk, the feeding bottles, and the blankets. Luke went first—to a young girl with soft brown eyes. With his arms around Cindie and Vikki, Brother Cwik mentioned how earnestly the girls had prayed that someone would adopt the orphans. An older girl with long, blonde hair finally persuaded her parents to permit her to take Mark.

Only Matthew, the little female puppy, remained. People were drifting away now; super-salesman Cwik was losing his audience. It appeared as though no one would take an ugly orphan female pup. Suddenly, running down the hall with Ace came a nine-year-old boy, his eyes shining.

“Have you got any puppies left?” he shouted. “Dad says it’s all right. Are there any left?”

Indeed, there was one. A nine-year-old boy got his birthday present a week early, and three young people learned some important lessons about faith and works and the value of all living things. All the way home the family thanked Heavenly Father for hearing and answering prayers.

[photos] Photos by Grant Heaton