Indiana dog melts hearts by helping raise and nurse kittens

CHRISNEY, Ind. (AP) — Stop by Jessa McCauley's house at any time, and you're liable to find a happy jumble of dogs and cats, feeding bottles, puppies and kittens and little kids who like to cradle puppies and kittens.

McCauley, an office manager for pet rescue It Takes a Village, is also a former zookeeper at Mesker Park Zoo. She's a professional in animal-rearing and a practiced and agile bottle-feeder.

Good thing, too, because if you stop by McCauley's Newburgh crib now, you'll find a chihuahua dachshund mix nursing two kittens. The dog? Her name is Sudie, they call her breed a Chiweenie, and she's got three puppies of her own. They're all foster animals. The children — a 7-year-old girl and 5-year-old fraternal twins, a boy and a girl — are McCauley's to keep. So are her two pet dogs and two cats.

Confused yet? There's another foster puppy in there too, one that McCauley bottle-raised.

The Chiweenie-kitten pairing requires an explanation — but it is filled with enough sweetness to melt an iceberg.

"I got Sudie because a lady called (ITV) looking for a place for her," McCauley said. "Her neighbor had given (the dog) to her without telling her it was pregnant. She needed a foster home."

That was three weeks ago. The bun, or buns, would come out of the oven just a couple of weeks later.

Early last Wednesday morning, Sudie gave birth to her trio of puppies. Hours later, McCauley got notice of two newborn kittens whose mother could not nurse. The tiny furballs had been born the day before. Would she take them temporarily too?

"When animals have babies they have some pretty strong maternal instincts," McCauley said. "I was hoping Sudie would let the kittens nurse, but it's more about just having that maternal presence — a warm, nurturing place for them to be."

Sudie, whose face exudes warmth, proved her maternal instincts by growling at a Courier & Press photographer who tried reaching in for some baby love.

The kittens, whose eyes have only begun to open, weigh in at about five ounces each. The puppies are a little more than twice as big. McCauley knows because she weighs everyone daily. The kittens still need some bottle-feeding. Eventually — in about two months — ITV will seriously begin to find homes for Sudie, her pups and the two kittens.

In the meantime, plans call for McCauley's own dogs and cats and her children — who cradle tiny animals like babies — to get involved when the time is right. Sudie and the other fosters are secluded in their own room for now.

"My dogs and cats and kids are integral to socialization for my fosters," McCauley said. "People always ask, 'How are (foster pets) with kids and dogs and cats?' Well, at my house, they get all three."

The kids — Neila and twins Truitt and Larkin — have been raised in a household filled with the accouterments of a dedicated animal lover and volunteer. McCauley calls them "pet-savvy." She praises ITV, noting the organization has many such people in its ranks.

McCauley's husband, Sean, knew what he was getting into when he met her 10 years ago. She was working at the zoo then, and it was nothing for her to carry out middle-of-the-night feedings there. The zoo is where Sean proposed marriage.

Sean McCauley, who says he grew up loving animals himself, said all the creatures in the household are an incalculable benefit to the children.

"We've had geriatric dogs, and we've had puppies born in our house," Sean said. "It's pretty valuable for the kids to see that natural life cycle.

“When new animals come, for us it's like Christmas.”

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Source: Evansville Courier & Press

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