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Special delivery: Lawn mower carries beagle to puppies' births
Clermont man goes above and beyond to help dog through labor
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Joe Townsend sits with his dog, Gabby, and her puppy, Four, on the lawn mower he used to drive Gabby to the vet when she had her puppies in Clermont. - photo by David Barnes

Joe Townsend didn’t quite know what he was in for when he took in his son’s dog, Gabby.

The now 4½-year-old mixed beagle has been with him since February 2013, but both she and her recent puppies were a surprise for everyone. And getting her to the delivery was an ordeal unto itself, with Townsend carrying her to the vets’ office on his riding lawn mower.

It began when Townsend’s son Logan found Gabby as a stray dog.

“He took her to a veterinarian, and the veterinarian said she was approximately 6 months old or older, maybe 8 months,” Joe Townsend, 61, said.

Logan tried to find the owner, but no one ever claimed her. He decided to keep the dog but soon had to ask his dad to take her.

“Reluctantly, I said OK,” Joe said.

But caring for her has proven to be difficult, as Joe said he didn’t have the money or the transportation to have the dog spayed. And that became a problem one day last February when Gabby got loose during a walk.

“She saw those dogs in her territory and she took off. She was gone, dragging her leash,” Joe said. “I don’t have a good ability to walk, but I was going to find her.”

He was unable to find Gabby within the next few hours, but she returned later the same day.

“Gabby comes running down the hill with her leash and she’s messy, muddy, dirty,” he said. “We had never gotten her fixed (but) it didn’t sink in. I was just happy to have her back.”

Though Joe might not have thought Gabby was pregnant at that moment, the realization set in the next day when he found her with yet another dog.

“That time, I knew she was going to be pregnant,” he said. “Out of desperation, I called over to Dr. Ingle’s office.”

He chose Dr. Fred Ingle, owner of and veterinarian at Clermont Veterinary Hospital, because he doesn’t drive and Ingle’s office is close to where he lives.

“I can carry Gabby well on the lawn mower over across the road,” he said. “Also, I knew his reputation. His reputation as a large animal vet was outstanding and still is of course.”

At the beginning of April, he called Ingle and admitted that he considered having the puppies aborted, which the doctor told him was not an option at that point.

So Joe planned for the puppies to come May 1, but on the weekend of April 22, Gabby began to have problems.

“Something was wrong with Gabby,” Joe said. “She was not eating (and) going to the restroom a lot. I didn’t think that was labor though. I thought she was just getting close, but May 1 was the target date.”

The problems continued so Joe took Gabby to see Ingle, and they were asked to come back later that day. But as the two returned home and Joe was parking his lawn mower, it was already time for the first puppy.

”She (Gabby) started to tip off (the lawn mower) and she yelped,” he said. “When she yelped, she landed on the ground (and) half a puppy came out.”

With one puppy already born, the next three came in the following hours.

“She’s licking the little puppies (and) she’s doing her perfect mother job, and I’m trying to keep fresh bedding (and) help her the best I could,” Joe said.

Ingle called to see how the delivery was going, and said Gabby needed to come back to the office. By the time Logan came to help, there were two more puppies left to deliver.

“She had to have a cesarean section,” Ingle said, the surgery performed by his daughter, Dr. Linda Ingle.

“We took an X-ray to make sure how many more puppies were in there,” Linda Ingle said. “We got them out just in time. If he (Joe) hadn’t have come up, they would have died for sure inside of her.”

The problems weren’t over yet, as the two puppies had to have CPR.

“We had to stimulate them very aggressively,” Linda Ingle said. “We did everything we could.”

She said such situations are not unusual.

“We do have a lot of C-sections,” she said. “(There’s) not really a lot of times we have to revive the puppies, but sometimes we do.”

Yet she credits Joe for his effort to care for the mother and puppies.

“This guy went above and beyond to get here,” she said. “He came up on his lawn mower, which the reason I think that’s pretty significant is because he cared enough about his dog and the puppies that he did whatever he had to do to get to the vet. Thank goodness there’s still people like him.”

Now over 2 months old, all of the puppies except for one have been sold, Joe said, and he plans to keep the other.

“Initially, I was going to keep all of them,” Joe said. “But I’ll be 62 pretty soon, and it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.”

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