We had been living here for a couple of years, my animals and I. There was proper hardwood flooring in the living room and a quaint set of stairs to the loft. The fall had turned cold earlier that year. It was toward the end of October and I was already in the habit of bringing the dogs in to sleep inside.
Oddly, Kajsa and Jasper weren't perturbed. Over the past couple of years Kajsa had become fiercely protective of her territory. She rounded up snakes and held them at bay until I could determine whether they were poisonous, and, if so, shoot them. She ousted the armadillo that were invading from the west. She howled at the coyotes and had been known to take off after them to protect her boundaries in person. She had even been known to jump into a pond after a feisty coon--and win. (Here, for example, for those of you who don't know about dogs and coons.) But this strange moaning and whining under the house? Unconcerned.
I tried to ignore it and go to bed, but that eerie moan worried me. Finally I got up and let the dogs out. They sat there waiting for me to come play. I pulled back the underpinning and sent Kajsa under the house to check out the sound. She went willingly, but was perfectly silent. She was gone a long time, and I heard nothing. I feared the aliens had gotten her, but she came immediately when I called, her tail wagging cheerfully.
At that point it was near midnight. The Sound was disturbing, but I decided that if it was small enough to fit through the underpinning, then it was too small to hurt me as long as I stayed inside. I expected it to have moved on by morning.
The next morning was bright and chilly. And the Sound was still there. I called my uncle to help me investigate.
He held a flashlight while I inched along on my belly in the dirt, ducking under water pipes, way back under the house where he wouldn't fit.. There, beside a cement block footing, was a tiny, brown--something. As I inched closer it moved its head.
Skin and bones with a head too heavy to hold up. A skeleton covered in velvet fur.
I offered it a bit of chopped hot dog I'd brought with me, but it was to weak to do anything more than lick it. I wrapped a towel around it and carefully brought it from the little dirt nest.
It was a female, older than it looked at first. Some kind of smallish dog in the gangley puppy stage. She kept her legs folded under her and couldn't seem to stand. My heart sank; I was pretty sure she wouldn't live. I offered her some warm milk with egg and she lapped it up. I gave her a warm bath to remove the fleas--she was crawling with them--and made her a bed by the fire.
She slept there all day, eating chopped hotdogs, milk, and water whenever she woke. In the afternoon she stood on wobbly legs and tried exploring a little. She made a puddle on my floor, and after that I took her outside every few hours. I gave her a second flea bath. Cleaned her ears, clipped her claws, and pulled fleas off her as she slept.
By the next day she was following me around the house and crawling onto my lap to sleep. I named her Heidi because she was hiding under the house, and because she had an adorable way of climbing onto my feet and attempting to hide under my long housecoat.