I’ve always been partial to the runts of the litter.
I am not sure why exactly, but something about seeing those tiny little life forms thriving and surviving makes my soul happy.
When I was younger, Mama’s cat, Bennie, was the runt of her litter.
The little black and white kitten was so petite and tiny, her personality being the biggest thing about her.
As she grew from a kitten into a full-grown cat, she became the provider for the rest of the litter, getting Mama to add more Deli Cat when the bottom of the bowl was visible, and she was the only one brave enough to stand up to Granny. Once she did, the tiny little 5-pound fluffball earned the Redhead Prime’s respect.
My second runt, Pepper, the evil beagle, was the smallest of her litter and that’s how she came to be mine.
The owner had not intended on having a litter but ended up with one by accident. He kept a few he determined would be good hunting dogs and sold one or two that could possibly be bred.
Pepper, he said, was the runt, so she was too small for breeding and hunting, and because of the peppering on her paws, wouldn’t make a good show pup either.
He had no idea the size of that little runt’s spirit.
The little 10-inch tri-color beagle would tangle with the big Shepherds and never backed down from a foe, regardless of its size.
In Pepper’s mind, she was as big as a Great Dane and as fierce as a lion. She could run with the big dogs and if she got trampled by Roubaix, she just rolled out of it and bounced back up.
I related to that little beagle’s tenacity so much.
She entered a blended family with three much bigger dogs after being an only pup for a couple of years and let them know who was the boss.
Pepper was weary of Roubaix, didn’t give two flips that Venus was the female in charge, and got into quite a few scrapes with Comet, only for them to curl up together later like the lion and the lamb.
It didn’t matter she was relatively the size of a football with legs; she was not going to let their size intimidate her.
Venus, my soulmate in fur, was another runt in my life, being a much smaller dog than her mate and her son.
She never was known to be aggressive, but she could cower Roubaix with a glance.
Her role was to nurture everything around her, from random turtles she collected to her human people.
She ruled over the other pups as the matriarch and they all seemed to adore her, especially the next little runt to join the pack.
Pumpkin was found at the bottom of the puppy heap, holding tightly to my foot as I sought to adopt a new pup one afternoon two months after Comet died.
“How did you get down there?” I asked her as I held her up and looked into her little black face. She only had smidges of white, unlike her littermates who had the traditional Border Collie markings.
When I took her to the front of the shelter to fill out the paperwork, they told me she was the runt of 11.
I laughed. “I tend to be attracted to the runts.”
Even though she was tiny, she let us know she was a primo herder immediately, as she dutifully nipped Cole’s heels the minute she was brought home.
Pumpkin, to be a smaller Border Collie, has the bravest of hearts, standing up to a bear one night.
It was right after we had lost Pepper, Venus, and Roubaix all within a month, and Pumpkin was left to raise one little Doodle on her own.
Doodle scurried back inside but Punky stayed outside protecting Lamar. The bear was just a few feet away, and neither knew what it would do, but Punk refused to back down.
Once they both were inside, my little fluffy nugget couldn’t stop shaking. Once she stopped, she hopped in the bed with Doodle, probably the only time she slept in the bed, normally preferring to be somewhere she can be on guard.
Doodle was about five months old when the bear incident happened, and to be the runt of her litter, she knew the safest place was inside.
When the lady I got her from pulled her out of the box in the Walmart parking lot, she told me the only girl in the litter had been the tiniest.
She’s still not very big for a pittie-mix, making us question if she’s crossed with a chihuahua or some other small breed.
Despite her initial shyness, Doodle has an endearing personality, demanding to be treated like a toddler, pushing her head to your mouth for a kiss, and occasionally wearing a tutu.
I’m not sure if the animal kingdom looks at the smallest of the litters to be adorable and cute like we do, so they have to figure out how to stand up for themselves and not get pushed around when they are learning how to walk and feel their way through the world.
Most runts I’ve encountered have learned how to be resilient and figure out their strengths in order to survive.
They have scrappy spirits and stubbornness at times but know how to charm themselves back in your good graces.
And they are all overcomers – no matter how bad the odds were stacked against them, they overcome. It took Doodle weeks to figure out how to get on the couch on her own, and when she did it, she was quite pleased with herself. So much so, she rested for a bit, then jumped off and tried it again, just to prove to herself it wasn’t a fluke.
There’s evidently a lot we can learn from the runts.