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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Judy the nurse dog




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  • An excerpt from James Herriot’s Dog Stories, chapter 43, “Judy the Nurse Dog”:

[The veterinarian had been treating a farmer’s sick calf.]

I had been aware of a big dog sitting near me all the time, but as I neared the end of the injection a black nose moved ever closer till it was almost touching the needle. Then the nose moved along the rubber tube up to the bottle and back again, sniffing with the utmost concentration…

This was something more than mere curiosity; everything in the dog’s attitude suggested intense interest and concern.

“You know, Eric,” I said, “I have the impression that this dog isn’t just watching me. She’s supervising the whole job.”

The farmer laughed. “You’re right there. She’s a funny old dog is Judy – sort of a nurse. If there’s anything amiss she’s on duty. You can’t keep her away … I think Judy feels a sense of responsibility to all the stock on the farm.”

Judy … stationed herself comfortably facing the [calf], very much like a night nurse keeping an eye on her patient.

“Will she stay there?”

“”Aye, nothing will shift her till he’s dead or better,” Eric replied.

[Five days later, with the calf’s health improving]

 “Well, Judy’s happy at the way things are going,” I said.

“Yes, she is. She likes to be in charge. Do you know, she gives every new-born calf a good lick over as soon as it comes into the world and it’s the same whenever one of our cats has kittens.”

“Bit of a midwife, too, eh?”

“You could say that. And another thing about her – she lives with the livestock in the buildings. She’s got a nice warm kennel but she never bothers with it – sleeps with the beasts in the straw every night.”

[One week later, the calf nearly fully recovered]

“By the way, I don’t see Judy around.”

“Oh, I reckon she feels he’s cured now, and anyway, she has something else on her plate this morning. Can you see her over there?”

I looked through the doorway. Judy was stalking importantly across the yard. She had something in her mouth – a yellow, fluffy object.

“What is she carrying?”

“It’s a chicken.”

“A chicken?”

“Aye, there’s a brood of them running around just now. They’re only a month old and Judy seems to think they’d be better off in the stable. She’s made a bed for them in there and she keeps trying to curl herself around them. But the little things won’t have it.”

I knew she would keep at it because that was the way she was.

Judy the nurse dog was still on duty.

Judy is the only animal I have ever known whose concern embraced all her fellow creatures.


  • Editor's note: James Herriot spent a lifetime working with animals but had met only one like Judy. This is interesting as we now also have the story of Jasmine - and, it seems, other animals who have served as nurse to others. How strange. We all are familiar with the sentiment of loving one's own children, of one's own family; yet, we have seen animals caring for other animals, even those of different species! And we are forced to ask, who is the more advanced? - the Jasmines and Judys with an out-reaching spirit embracing all, or many of our kind laboring under narrow and provincial views love?