Emotional roller coaster.
Fleur and Gosheven lay together in the bath pool, their paw pads becoming as wrinkled as prunes. Fleur lazily reached over with a huge paw to turn on the spar feature, the water soon bubbling up around them. Gosheven smiled as his paw pads were stimulated by the bubbling water.
“This is lovely,” he mewed, holding his left forepaw in the water so the bubbles burst against his pads. Fleur watched him, her smile at his antics warming Gosheven from his ears to the tips of his toes. Fleur caught hold of Gosheven’s left forepaw and examined it, the puma wiggling his toes as she did so.
“one handsome paw,” fleur mewed, “just like the rest of you Gosheven,” Gosheven suddenly ducked his head beneath the water and took a quick look at Fleur’s body, finding a dirty brown furred body, ill defined stripes and spotted belly and paws. The paws large and fat. Fleur smiled at his frantic examination of her.
“Let’s go somewhere where you can make a better examination,” she mewed. Gosheven wanted to examine fleur with his eyes and paws, to love every inch of her. Taking her left forepaw in both of his. He found Fleur’s paw to be fat and well padded, with spotted upper part and sole. Curling her toes slightly, fleur made the spots on the sole of her paw disappear in bunched pinkie black pads. Gosheven whimpered with desire for his mate, embracing her in his paws and kissing her nose. Fleur splashed Gosheven with her free forepaw, the puma releasing his hold on her paw and clambering from the water, fleur following. Crawling away, fleur felt Gosheven take one of her hind paws in his forepaws. Wiggling her toes, she pressed her pads into his paw. Gosheven felt her pads pressing against his, and it was wonderful!
“Stroke my paw Gosheven, please!” Fleur mewed, pressing her toes into his paw. Gosheven did as she asked, fleur purring contentedly. Both cats crawled to Fleur’s place, Gosheven keeping in contact with his mate at all times by touching one of her hind paws with one of his fore. Once they’d made it to Fleur’s warm place, they curled up together, noses touching, holding tightly to fore and hind paws, their pads pressed hard together. Fleur, still wet from the bathtub, let her fur dry naturally while Gosheven examined her with eyes and paws. He found a large mixed breed big cat, with dirty river mud brown fur, ill defined black stripes on her head and back. Fleur had spots round her nose, on her belly and on the soles and upper parts of her paws. Her legs had the same striped dirty brown fur as her body. Fleur’s tail was extremely long, and her party trick was to curl it round and tickle her nose or the pads of her forepaws with the tip. Her paws were large, fat and heavy, her toes powerful and agile. Fleur’s paw pads were pinkie black, her claws black. Fleur had a neat trick of curling her toes to make the spots visible between the pads on the soles of all four paws disappear in folds of pinkie black paw pad. Gosheven loved it when she did this. Fleur, when she realised Gosheven was examining her paws, would often curl her toes, the spots vanishing before his eyes. He would then rub her pads, trying to relax her paws to make the spots reappear, fleur pretending her toes were unwilling to uncurl, until she’d had her fill of paw pad massage that was, then she’d slowly relax each one of her paws AS GOSHEVEN MASSAGED IT. This was a favourite game of theirs, and lying there, they played it. Gosheven, having relaxed all four of Fleur’s paws, his own toes would curl and it was now Fleur’s turn to massage his pads. This gave her an opportunity to examine Gosheven from nose to tail. She found a large cat, with grey golden eyes, and a gentle expression. His body fur was dark brown back and legs, with a lighter belly and underside to his tail. His paws were large and well padded.
Meanwhile, Jinghua and Weici did their best to keep out of Theo and Petra’s sight. Jinghua knew now that if she even thought of harming Petra, the hounds of hell would be at her heels, and worse her throat. She had a sinking dread that the slap she’d had from Theo’s paw was by no means the worst that could happen to her, the funny furred cat was dangerous, and as for the puma, he was a friend to the funny furred cat, so should be considered as dangerous as her. Weici was soon as frightened of fleur as Jinghua could make her, the sow panda’s tales of horror making her cub forget the fact fleur had been kind to her. Jinghua told her cub to be on the look out for the funny furred cat and her puma friend, for they were dangerous.
Gosheven and fleur finished their game and padded from their rug, fleur intent on finding Weici and showing her the pool complex. When they reached the pool, fleur padded up the slope to the water slide, where she found Yi Jie, Liang, Jinghua and Weici. Scenting her, Weici screamed and threw herself down the closed slide, Jinghua turning to fight fleur. Yi Jie, sensing trouble, threw herself on top of Jinghua, Liang staring at fleur in incomprehension!
“What the hell’s going on?” He asked. Fleur ran to the viewing screen, slapping the button with her paw and staring anxiously at the screen. She saw Weici lying at the bottom of the water slide. Fleur picked up the microphone and spoke gently.
“Weici, this is fleur, now I don’t know what your mother told you, but please, trust me. You are in danger where you are, crawl forward.” Weici laid still, the water pouring in a torrent around her.
“I’m going to sort her out,” Liang said, galloping down the slope. Fleur saw him appear on her screen, scoop up Weici and carry her gently to safety. Fleur relaxed as soon as Liang waved his paw at her to signify all was well. Jinghua, still pinned under Yi Jie’s forepaws, snarled and spat at the funny furred cat.
“What has fleur done to you that were not totally justified?” Yi Jie asked. Jinghua wriggled and twisted in an attempt to free herself.
“She’s defending those who are indefensible!” Jinghua yelled.
“Your hatred of Petra is indefensible, not Fleur’s actions. I wish I’d never helped you birth your cub now. Not that I’d wish any harm on Weici, but I think in hindsight, it would have been best for you to go it alone.
“No, no I couldn’t have!” Jinghua yelled.
“Why not?” Petra asked, padding near, “Pandas have been birthing their cubs for years without help.” Jinghua stared at Petra.
“My labour was dreadful, and the paw massage was the only thing that helped, along with the distraction of the resistance game of course. That was a great game.”
“The paw resistance game?” Petra asked, “What’s that?” Yi Jie smiled.
“A bear takes one of their hind paws in both forepaws and presses the hind paw hard against the forepaws, trying to press the hind paw so hard against the forepaws that they slip and free the hind paw. It works, though it needs a lot of strength. Most novices link the toes of their forepaws, pressing the sole of their chosen hind paw hard against the linked toes of their forepaws. This is done while rocking back and fourth, some cubs play the game, but so do adult bears, especially labouring mothers to be, as it takes their mind off the pain their going through. Enabling them to think about something else, you see?” Petra saw.
“Of course, we cats can’t do that kind of thing,” she mewed.
“No,” Yi Jie replied.
Liang returned with Weici, the cub none the worse for her slide. Fleur looked at them.
“Entertain Weici for a while Liang, oh, I don’t know, try the paw resistance game, that’ll keep her occupied.” Liang smiled at fleur, remembering how he used to play with his paws when he was a cub.
“I like paw play,” he said. Yi Jie smiled at him.
“Ever since Brunetta’s learned she can massage her own paws, Liang’s been trying it out. Come to think of it, so have I. If we ever have another cub, I might try stroking and tickling my paws during labour.”
“I don’t need a reason to stroke or tickle my paws Yi Jie love,” Liang said.
“You’re always at it Liang, you are at it most mornings before we start the day.” What she didn’t mention was that both she and Liang massaged each other’s fore and hind paws before they put them to their locomotive use each morning. Liang smiled at his mate.
“It’s not just me who likes paw play, in fact, you know a lot about it yourself Yi Jie, so don’t act as if you don’t.” Yi Jie smiled.
“Oh all right, we’re both lovers of that game.” Yi Jie was still pinning Jinghua down, and the sow panda reminded her of this by biting her paw.
“Let me go!” Jinghua demanded. Yi Jie let Jinghua go, only for the enraged sow panda to fly at fleur. Liang leapt to his paws and threw Jinghua down one of the slides, the disgraced sow panda screaming as she disappeared.
“She’s dreadful!” Petra mewed. Liang looked down the slide down which Jinghua had disappeared.
“I think Jinghua’s just ungrateful,” he mused. Petra knew the sow panda hated her to her marrow, but what trebled Petra wasn’t the fact she was hated by the panda, but that she’d done nothing to warrant her hatred. Liang looked at the white lioness, Petra’s perplexed expression making him run to her and throw his paws round her. Petra snuggled up to Liang, enjoying his attention. Petra began to cry as the stupidity of the situation hit her.
“Hey Petra dear, don’t cry, please don’t cry,” Liang pleaded.
“I did nothing, said nothing, and didn’t even raise one of my fat white paws to her. Now, now she’s treating me like I’m dirt!” Liang stroked Petra’s shoulder until the lioness lay down. Liang took both her forepaws in his and massaged them thoughtfully. Petra felt the panda’s oil softened pads working over her pads and toes, the sensation soothing her.
“Pandas do wonderful paw massages,” she mewed. Liang smiled raising his left forepaw, showing her the brown sole of his paw.
“We pandas use oil when we play with our paws; Brunetta and Kodiak have started using it too, as have Arki and Allie. Do you know, Allie’s in cub, and will be having her cub any day now?” Petra smiled at the news Liang gave.
“I’m glad Sam and Allie are about to have a cub,” she mewed. She thought for a while, “Fleur was the one who introduced the oil,” Petra mewed, “yes I can see how massaging oil into your paws would be beneficial and pleasurable.” Liang let Petra go, the lioness smiling at him.
“Let’s go downstairs,” fleur said to Weici, the panda cub clambering onto Fleur’s back and holding on to her fur with all four paws. Fleur decided she’d introduce Weici and Geming to her massage oils. Finding Geming, fleur put it to him.
“Paw massage is nice without oil, but how would it be with?” Was his response.
“Come with me and you both can find out,” fleur replied. Geming followed fleur to her bathtub, where they met Kodiak, Arki and Brunetta.
“Let me guess, you three are here for paw massage with oils?” Fleur asked. The bears smiled.
“Weici and I are here for the same reason,” Geming said. Fleur decided she’d have to teach one of the bears to help the others with their paw massage, as she, being a cat, couldn’t really demonstrate how to stroke their paws. She looked at Kodiak.
“Kodiak,” she said, “you used to live with a human child didn’t you.” Kodiak looked down at his paws, the memory of Billy’s rejection of him still painful.
“Yes I did,” he replied.
“, While you were with Billy, you also learned how to stroke your own paws didn’t you? So you know how to stroke and massage a bear’s fore and hind paws too don’t you?” Fleur asked.
“Well yes, I taught Brunetta how, what do you have in mind?”
“How would it be if you taught these bears, Arki, Brunetta, Allie, Geming, Weici, Yi jie and Liang? Teach them how to stroke their paws, and how to stroke each other’s paws. When you get confident, teach the paw resistance game and then try expanding their imaginations.”
“Pretend play, as in pretending the toes of your forepaw are caught by the toes of your hind and you can’t free them?” Kodiak asked.
“Yes,” fleur replied, “I can shampoo animals, but I’m no good at teaching them how to play with their paws, I can’t demonstrate anything, as I’m a cat. We need a bear to show the pandas how. How about if Arki takes on the job of showing the mothers to be how to massage their paws during labour. That would be good. How do you feel about that Arki?” Arki smiled.
“I’ve always wanted a job,” she replied, “and that’s a good one. I know Allie’s in cub, and she’ll need to be shown how to stroke her own hind paws during her labour.”
“I’ll show you oil that can be used to enhance paw massage,” fleur mewed, “then you can try both dry and oiled massage. Dry massage for the young cubs, oiled for adults to begin with. Then try the oil with the older cubs, before trying it with the younger ones. Don’t use the oil with pregnant bears though.” Kodiak and Arki nearly rubbed their forepaws together with excitement at their new posts.
“When do we start work,” they asked in unison.
“How about now,” fleur replied, “we have two pandas to start with, plus Brunetta, who I’m sure wouldn’t mind pretending she knows nothing about paw massage so you can teach her from scratch and gain experience?” Brunetta grinned:
“You know me and paw massage,” she said, “the more the better.” Fleur laughed merrily.
Kodiak smiled at his mate.
“I’ll teach you how to massage your paws, and then you can teach the mothers to be,” he said. Arki smiled, padded over to him and took his left forepaw in her right.
“I didn’t used to like having my paws touched, but now I’ve got used to that, I can learn the pleasures of a full massage,” she said. Kodiak hugged her.
“I massaged your paws during bramble’s birth and you liked that,” he said, “treat this as an extension of that, the only difference is that you’ll be stroking your own paws.” Arki smiled.
“You never know, I might relive my cub’s birth, but with paw massage this time.” Kodiak smiled at her and tickled the pads of her left forepaw with the toes of his right fore, Arki laughing helplessly.
“If you get into physical difficulty with a cub’s birth Arki, call me,” fleur said. Arki promised she would.
“My paws are missing their massage,” Brunetta said suddenly, “strangely; I’ve forgotten how to massage my paws.” Kodiak looked serious.
“I’d better show you, and quickly too,” he said.
Kodiak led the bears out to a room where they could gather round him. Once there, he sat down comfortably, flexing the toes of all four paws.
“Now let’s see if I can touch the pads and toes of my hind paws with my fore,” he said, bending one hind leg until his left hind paw came within reach. He reached forward with his forepaws and took hold of his left hind paw, the toes of his forepaws visible as they felt their way over the pads on the sole of his left hind. Kodiak pulled his hind paw closer to him, settling the heel on the carpet and bending his back slightly, in this way he could explore the entire surface of his hind paw. Kodiak examined his hind paw with both forepaws, unable to hide a smile as the sensation of his pads feeling their way over those of his hind paw and toes registered itself in his brain.
“How does that feel?” Arki asked.
“I’d recommend trying it,” Kodiak said, transferring his attention to his right hind paw. Arki sat down and copied Kodiak’s example, and soon had her right hind paw cradled in her forepaws.
“I would try this,” she said to the rest of the bears. Very soon, all of the bears present were sitting down on the carpet, smiles all round telling Kodiak they were enjoying exploring their hind paws with their fore. Kodiak looked round the group, watching how the other bears explored their hind paws, while they in turn watched each other and him.
“We adults all look like cubs!” Liang laughed.
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Brunetta said, stroking the toes of her left hind paw with infinite care, “this feels so good,” she said dreamily. Geming helped Weici stroke her own paws, guiding her forepaws over her hind, the tiny cub smiling with pleasure.
“I didn’t know my paws could give me so much pleasure,” the cub purred. Geming guided WEICI’s paws over her own, then let her guide his forepaws over his own hind paws. Arki was finding the pleasures of paw massage in a whole new way. She knew she’d have to experience all the massage techniques if she was going to recommend them to mothers to be in labour. Arki closed her eyes, trying to remember what bramble’s birth was like. Arki tried to imagine sitting on a rug instead of lying in a bathtub, her contractions coming stronger and longer with every passing moment. Arki tried to amerce herself in the memory of the birth, trying to feel each crushing pain, while stroking her hind paws to see if anything got easier. Her imagination failed her, though the paw massage felt good. Isaac, wandering in and seeing what was going on, settled down to massage his own paws, grinning at Arki and the others as the sensation of paw pad on paw pad brought back memories of cubbish games. Games where he and his sister would crawl about, each tickling the others bellies and paws. Isaac, feeling the toes of his right forepaw playing over the pads of his left hind paw, felt huge longing for those carefree days. Isaac’s paws relaxed, as did his whole body, his toes curling round those exploring his left hind paw. Isaac breathed deeply, smiling broadly.
“This is wonderful,” he said softly. Arki smiled at him, wishing she had a cubhood to remember.
“Isaac,” Arki said, “please, would you stroke and tickle my paws like we were cubs? I know you want to go back to your cubhood, and I didn’t have one, so please, could you? Would you?” Isaac looked at his former mate.
“We could play,” he replied, “play with each other’s paws; explore them by sight and touch.” Arki smiled and crawled over to Isaac. She smiled as she felt Isaac’s warm forepaws gripping hers.
“Take my paws in yours and stroke them Isaac, please. Also, if you can, describe them to me too?” Isaac smiled.
“I will,” he replied. Arki sat down in front of Isaac, letting him examine her fore and hind paws. This he did with infinite care.
“Your paws are white, with black claws,” he said, “you have white soles to all four of your paws, and those soles have black pads on them.” He gently touched the pads of Arki’s left hind paw with the toes of his right fore. “You also have five toes on each paw, each toe having its own black pad.” Again he touched Arki’s paw, singling out each toe on her left hind paw. “This is only one paw I’m describing, but the other three are pretty similar. I will now take hold of your left forepaw and guide it over the sole of your right hind. This he did, Arki laughing as her toes tickled the pads of her paw.
“Now I must do the same for you,” she said, “I want to Isaac, please.” Isaac grinned.
“Catch me first!” He challenged, crawling away from her, Arki crawling after him, catching hold of his right hind paw and tickling the bear’s toes until Isaac had to stop crawling he was laughing so much. When he’d stopped crawling, Arki tickled the pads of his paw, Isaac curling his toes to trap hers and put an end to the tickling.
“You rogue!” He laughed, “But this is wonderful, just wonderful! It’s a pity we aren’t cubs, for if we were we could play with each others paws. Now we can’t as we are adult.”
“Why can’t you?” Kodiak asked, “Brunetta and I do, and so do Liang and Yi Jie.” Arki smiled.
“I’d love you to play with me, tickle my paws, trace round my pads and tickle my toes while I try to tickle yours. Then we could play the game where each of us pretends the toes of one of our forepaws is caught by those of one of our hind and, no matter how we try, we can’t free the trapped paw. The other could encourage the trapped bear until he or she tears their paw free or, exhausted from struggling, asks the other to massage the pads of the offending hind paw.”
“I remember those games,” Isaac replied, “They were fun.”
“They still are,” Brunetta said, “leave Snowy with her computers, and get back to basic play is what I say. Play with your paws and those of other bears, so that when you have cubs, you can play with them and stimulate their paws to feel everything around them. Let cubs enjoy exploring with and playing with their paws. I love everything about my paws; I only wish I knew as a cub what I know now.” Kodiak smiled at Arki as the polar bear explored Isaac’s left hind paw with the toes of her right hind.
“That’s it, use your hind paws to explore each others hind paws first, and then explore hind paws with forepaws,” Kodiak said. Isaac and Arki did so, as did Brunetta and Kodiak, Geming and Weici, Liang and Yi jie. While they were at this, Shuang and Shen wandered in, saw what was going on and decided not to take part in it. Shuang knew that if she ever had a cub, Shen would insist she went to get help from fleur or whomever was in charge when the time came.
Carefully, the polar and brown bears, along with a few pandas, explored each other’s paws, and also got to know each other’s soft spots, as well as what to avoid. For example, Geming didn’t like having his belly touched. It was all right when he touched it, but others were forbidden from touching it. Liang loved playing the trapped paw game, and he would get into a real frenzy, fighting to free the toes of his forepaws from suddenly evil and grasping hind paws. The others urging him to greater efforts to free his trapped paw, Liang struggling with all his might until he gave up, and someone massaged the pads of the hind paw trapping his toes, releasing them. Brunetta and Kodiak played like cubs, thoroughly tickling each other’s paws until both had all four paws tingling nicely. Brunetta wondered if Narbethong, the koala wouldn’t mind learning how to stroke his own paws; they were large enough to be of some use other than their intended one. Maybe he’d go for something like paw massage?
Meanwhile, Allie, now heavy with cub, padded sluggishly round the room where she and Sam spent most of their indoor time. Allie was a big polar bear, her paws huge and well formed. She knew that before long she’d be having her cubs in the house, and was anxious about the impending birth. Memories of her previous labour, cold and enclosed in a den on a frozen hillside haunted her. She battled for hours to give birth to her cub, the contractions horrendously painful, her paws rapidly becoming stiff from constant scrabbling and curling her toes into the snow wall of her prison for support. When her cub was born, Allie’s paws felt heavy and useless.
Now she was pacing, contractions making her stop, lower her head and straddle her hind paws while moaning in agony. Sam, at a loss to help her, watched Allie’s struggle.
“I will go and find fleur,” Sam said, Allie gasping and stamping her paws in reply. Sam found Arki coming up the stairs towards him, and when Arki heard Allie was in labour, Arki followed him back to where Allie was pacing. As Arki entered, Allie stopped pacing, braced her forepaws, spread her hind and gave herself up to another painful contraction. Arki heard Allie’s moan of pain, watching her stamping her paws and panting hard.
“Allie,” Arki said gently, “can I help?” Allie stared at her.
“I’ll do anything!” She whimpered, “Anything Arki! My cub’s on its way, might be two cubs, I don’t know, and, and it’s worse than before! The labour that is. Tell me Arki; tell me what to do to ease my pain!” Arki, having been given a crash course in paw massage for bears in labour, smiled at Allie.
“Copy me,” she said, knowing that to practise what she’d been taught would reinforce it in her mind, as well as show Allie what she needed to do to ease her pain. Arki sat down, Allie following her example.
“Now bend one of your hind legs until you can reach the pads and toes of your hind paw with your forepaws Allie, gently now, concentrate on bending that leg, and taking your hind paw in both your forepaws. Feel the carpet against your fur, concentrate on that. Then, when you reach for your hind paw with both forepaws, watch your forepaws, and then feel the pads of your forepaws gripping those of your hind paw. Concentrate on that rather than on your pain. Focus your world through your paws Allie!” Allie did as Arki asked, groaning as another contraction gripped her, but all the while bending her left hind leg, watching carefully until her left hind paw came towards her enough so she could reach it with her forepaws. Once she could get hold of her hind paw, Allie gripped the heel of her left hind paw with her left fore and the toes of the same paw with her right, squeezing them as her pain increased.
“That’s it,” Arki said gently, “briefly squeeze your toes with your forepaw, then release them, squeeze and release, make it a rhythm you get into. Then between contractions, rub your pads with your other forepaw. Once another contraction takes hold, grip the heel of your right hind paw with your left fore, and squeeze the toes of that hind paw with those of your right fore. Do this for two contractions, and then switch hind paws Allie. Allie did as Arki suggested, alternating between using her forepaws to grip her hind paws, squeeze her toes, or rub the soles of her paws. Arki demonstrated everything to Allie as she spoke, rubbing her own pads and gripping the toes of her hind paws with those of her fore. Arki then introduced rocking back and fourth during contractions, witch was said to ease painful contractions quite a bit. She advised Allie to rock when she had her worst contractions, while also holding tight onto which ever of her hind paws she had hold of. Allie found that by doing all Arki asked of her, as well as breathing deeply and making as much noise as she liked during her worst contractions, that things became easier, and labour slowed down. Allie found herself enjoying the games she and Arki played with their paws, for they made the birth of her cubs easier to cope with. Arki watched Allie intently, imitating her, encouraging her in whatever she wanted to do, be it pacing, bouncing on her toes, or playing with her hind paws. Once Arki had shown Allie once and the in cub female polar bear had mastered everything, Arki switched from teacher to supporter, encouraging Allie to rub her paw pads, squeeze her toes, or rock back and fourth. Arki even encouraged Allie to try and bear a contraction silently, curling her toes and rubbing her pads with her forepaws as much as she wanted, then in the next contraction, Arki asked Allie to yell as loudly and beat the carpet with her paws as hard as she could. All this was an attempt by Arki to focus Allie’s mind and give her something to do. Allie threw herself into everything Arki suggested, trying to outdo the older polar bear at everything, in this way, they spent four hours, but to Allie, as Arki found out later, this time had seemed like minutes. Allie watched Arki’s demonstrations with wrapped attention, encouraging her to rub her paws and curl her toes so her pads bunched together, hiding the white fur between her pads. Once Allie encouraged Arki, Arki turned Allie’s words on her, asking her to do the same. Allie did so, and the two polar bears rode out Allie’s labour together. Allie knew that things were going well, for she could feel it, even though things were slower than they had been. Her cubs were very close to being born, and they weren’t distressed at all. Indeed, Allie fancied she could feel their relief in the slower delivery. Allie’s contractions had become longer and gentler, easing her cubs into the world rather than shooting them into it. Allie could feel the first cub’s birth drawing near after the fifth hour, and got to her feet.
“Cub’s coming very soon,” Allie panted, now quite calm, though still in pain, but despite the stronger contractions, this was pain she could control, nothing like the uncontrolled agony she’d been in during her first half an hour of labour.
“What do you want to do now?” Arki asked, “How do you want to have your cubs Allie? Squatting on your haunches or lying on your side?” Allie looked at Arki, her cubs telling her she could consider this for a minute.
“I’ll try birthing one squatting, and one lying down,” Allie replied, now certain she had two cubs on the way. Arki knew this would be the hardest part for her friend, as Allie would not be able to distract her mind from her pain or the effort she’d have to endure and make to deliver her cubs. Allie bounced on the toes of all four paws as she felt a contraction building, then with a yell of:
“Here Goes! Got to push!” She squatted and, bracing her hind paws and gripping the carpet with the toes of her fore, bore down hard against her first cub. Arki got to her own paws and padded round behind Allie to see what progress her expulsive efforts produced. Allie’s first effort produced nothing, but her second brought two forepaws into the world, Allie shrieking with effort, then puffing and blowing while she bounced on her toes during the lull in contractions. This bouncing worked the cub into the world inch by inch. Allie had to press down to deliver its head and shoulders, but its body came with relative ease, Allie gasping and whimpering.
“Reach down with your forepaws and catch your cub,” Arki said gently, Allie rocking to and fro from heels to toes and back again, feeling her cub working its way into the world. She reached down and caught her cub, pushing down strongly one last time to bring its hind legs into the world. The cub’s hind paws seemed to be stuck, but Allie, sensing this, eased them free while breathing hard through her open mouth. Coming down from her labour and sitting down, she cradled the tiny cub in her paws, the wet little bundle of life almost lost in her huge embrace.
“Well done Allie!” Arki whooped, congratulating her friend. Allie examined her cub quickly; anxious in case her second cub should make an appearance. Allie and Arki waited, but no cub came. Allie knew polar bears sometimes experienced delayed labour if there was a second cub, and this could happen at any time. Allie also knew that this could be stimulated by bathing in warm water, strenuous swimming, or paw massage. Allie knew her second cub was ready to be born, but her body wasn’t ready to let go of it. she’d heard of one mother to be who’d had a normal labour, delivering one cub, then six hours later, while playing with her newborn cub, she had delivered a second cub. Apparently, while playing with her first newborn cub, she’d felt an overwhelming urge to birth another cub, and had obeyed her body’s instructions. One huge effort had the second cub born, the first cub bemused by its mother’s sudden squeal of pain as she delivered her cub. Allie didn’t want this to happen to her, but she knew for certain there was another cub inside her.
Allie didn’t have to wait long. Once she’d cleaned her first cub, Arki checked Allie over, feeling how hot her paw pads and toes were, the new mother enjoying her friend’s attentions. It was while Arki was massaging Allie’s hind paws that the contractions started, Allie moaning and panting as her second cub made its presence known. Lying on her side as she already was, Allie pushed her newborn cub away with one paw so she didn’t hurt it, then she clenched her teeth, settled one hind paw in Arki’s cupped forepaws, and strained hard to deliver her second cub. Allie, the sole of her left hind paw jammed hard against the pads of Arki’s forepaws, squealed and grunted with effort, feeling her second cub coming slowly into the world.
“Nearly there Allie!” Arki urged, “one more push my dear, just one more!” Allie knew massaging her paws wouldn’t help here, even though Arki was doing her best to stroke the hind paw she held. Allie just had to brace herself and get on with it. Snarling with anger, Allie bullied the cub into the world, the cub coming with a final rush, Arki catching it.
“Well done!” Arki yelled. Allie smiled weakly.
“Two cubs,” she gasped, “wonderful!” Arki smiled.
“you did wonderful work,” she said, stroking Allie’s left forepaw. Allie smiled at her friend.
“I couldn’t have done it without you,” she replied, “Arki; you saved me and my cubs from a horrendous time. You kept our minds off what was going on! I’m sure my cubs felt the massages and distractions as much as I did.” Allie laughed: I’ll bet you were scared the first time you helped a bear have her cubs,” she said. Arki smiled.
“I just got on with it,” Arki replied, giving away nothing. Allie examined her second cub as gently as she had her first, exploring it by sight and touch as she had her other cub. Allie fed her two cubs, all the while looking at Arki.
“You look tired,” Allie observed. Arki smiled:
“I am,” she replied, “but I don’t want to miss a minute with these cubs.” Allie grinned:
“Auntie Arki,” she said laughing. Fleur padded in then, saw the two cubs and Allie’s alertness and guessed Arki had worked with her to minimise stress and effort. Fleur smiled at Arki.
“How was your first time assisting a mother to be?” She asked Arki. Allie stared at the female polar bear.
“Your first time?” she asked, “well, ‘twas wonderful at my end.” Arki grinned and took Allie’s paw.
“You did brilliantly,” she said, kissing her friend’s nose. Allie smiled.
“I remember everything about the birth of my cubs, all the games, and everything. I will treasure those memories. It was a really lovely experience.” Arki looked into Allie’s face, tears filling her eyes.
“Thank you Allie,” she choked. Allie laid the cub she was feeding gently down on the carpet and embraced her friend.
“Arki,” Allie said softly, “I loved every minute of our time together. Every game, everything. Hey, I tell you something, now you can imagine yourself in labour while you stroke your hind paws to see what happens.” Arki smiled.
“You know about that?” she asked.
“I do,” Allie replied, “I could feel you trying to imagine birthing bramble wile you were learning to stroke your paws and play with your toes in the paw massage and play lesson. If you’d like, I could re-enact my cubbing so all can see what the massage and play techniques do for mothers to be. I don’t mind.”
“No Allie,” Arki replied, “this time was mine and yours alone.” Allie smiled.
“I hope you remember it all,” she said, “or I will have to remind you.” Arki smiled.
“We can play those games you and me,” she replied, “and you can teach them to your cubs too. Teach them how to stroke their paws, how to play the paw resistance game and tickle their toes, and of course, how to pretend play too.” Allie licked Arki’s ear.
“I wish we’d videoed the birth of my cubs,” she said sadly.
“We did,” snowy mewed, padding in with a DVD in her mouth and throwing it on the rug, “there you go.” Allie stared at the DVD in its case.
“of course!” she whooped, “Snowy’s cameras! How much did you get snowy!” Allie demanded, anxious to see if the tigress had captured the lot.
“Everything,” snowy mewed, “every angle, every shot, and some close up too. I even got shots like the emergence of your first cub. I got everything, You Arki, Allie, the births of both cubs, Allie reaching down to catch her first cub. I didn’t edit a thing, but got some really good shots of the affects of the paw massage and paw play. It will act as a case study in the effectiveness of the methods. In truth, I started taping when I saw you Allie struggling in the first stages of labour. I got it all. Right down to the way Arki’s pads bunched as she curled her toes to encourage you to do the same Allie. I can get close ups of individual eyes, or paw pads if needs be.”
“I’m glad you got that on tape,” Allie replied, “thank you snowy.” Snowy smiled.
“now what of the cubs around whom this little drama revolved?” She asked, “let’s take a look at them, closely too.” Allie, who’d resumed feeding her cubs, waved a paw at snowy to settle down until they’d finished their drink, and then she would examine them with snowy, fleur and Arki.
Allie found she had two fat cubs with beige cream fur and tightly closed eyes. The cubs mewed and spat as their mother’s paws worked over them, Arki and fleur reluctant to touch the cubs at this early stage. Allie examined each cub from nose to tail. When she came to the cub’s paws, she examined them with infinite care. The cubs had creamy beige paws with well defined black pads. As Allie touched the paws of the two cubs, they curled their tiny toes round hers, holding the pads of her huge paw against their tiny ones.
“Where’s Sam?” fleur asked. Snowy laughed shortly:
He ran off the minute he’d got Allie help. He couldn’t stand the sight of Allie giving birth to their cubs.” Allie smiled.
“I wonder if the rest of the community would like to see the births of my cubs,” she thought aloud. Fleur knew she wanted to, but would anyone else?
“I’d like to Allie, and maybe Theo would too. Other than us two though, I don’t know if there are any other takers.”
“Yi jie and Liang might want to see how it all works,” Allie said, “for they are thinking of having a cub aren’t they?” fleur thought so.
Arki left Allie and her cubs alone for a while, taking the DVD with her. snowy knew all about the technology, she didn’t, so the tigress helped her load the disc into a machine so Arki could watch the video. Arki watched as she and Allie worked through Allie’s labour with the paw games Arki had been taught. Fleur wandered in and watched the unfolding birth of Allie’s cubs with interest, noticing how Allie playing the games with Arki soothed her and made her labour easier. Fleur saw Allie’s paws clench as she bore a contraction, both forepaws gripping one hind paw, her right forepaw quickly squeezing and releasing the toes of her left hind. This seemed to help her cope. Allie was clearly in pain, but the panic wasn’t there, nor was the stress or constant need to push which often tired bears out before they’d got half way through. Fleur watched the whole video, noticing how Allie was preserving her strength with Arki’s help until she needed to use it to deliver her cubs. By the time Allie lay down to deliver her second cub, fleur was smiling at Arki, knowing she’d done a good job.
“Well done Arki,” fleur mewed, “you kept her calm that’s the main thing.” Arki smiled, tears in her eyes at the realisation of how emotional she still felt about the whole thing. While she was working with Allie, Arki couldn’t show her emotions, but now, with the cubs safely born, she broke down, knowing she’d been as close to another bear as she’d ever get. A huge paw drew Arki into a bear’s embrace, and Arki looked up, straight into Allie’s face. It was clear she’d witnessed the video too.
“Thank you Arki,” Allie said softly, kissing her nose, “you saved me and my cubs.” Fleur looked at the two bundles of fur which crawled about on the floor. They looked like animated puffballs, but they were actually two healthy polar bear cubs.
Allie’s cubs now safely born, Arki went downstairs, Sam meeting her in the hallway.
“has, has Allie had her cubs?” he asked his eyes terrified.
“she has, and she and they are safe,” Arki replied. Sam looked relieved.
“Thank you,” he said hoarsely, padding upstairs to where Allie and her cubs had settled in the cubbing den.
Sam didn’t get far, for Allie booted him out the door, her maternal instincts telling her male polar bears were bad news when cubs were about. Sam, his nose stinging from an angry smashing blow from Allie’s paw, stood flat footed in the doorway to the cubbing den.
“They are my cubs too!” Sam whimpered. Allie snarled and blew her fury, then, remembering she wasn’t in the frozen lands any more, relaxed.
“I’m sorry,” she said contritely, “I forgot where I was for a minute.”
“You probably forgot who I was too,” Sam thought, “you saw male polar bear and flipped!”
“I’m sorry Sam,” Allie said, “come, embrace your cubs.” Sam lay down and took one of the tiny bundles of fur in his paws, hugging it tenderly. Allie watched as Tears filled Sam’s eyes and he began to cry.
“They’re lovely,” he choked, stroking the eldest cub’s back, while it batted at Sam with its tiny paws.
“We’ll have to name them soon,” Sam said.
“I think I’ve got names for them,” Allie said, “we have one male, the youngest cub, and a female, who is the eldest cub. How about if we name the youngest cub Bjorn, meaning bear, and the female Orsa, which also means bear, but is a female bear.” Sam grinned.
“Bjorn and Orsa ay?” He asked, his grin widening into a smile of pleasure, “I like those names.” The cubs, feeling cold, snuggled up to Allie, Sam watching them intently.
“What a day,” Allie remarked, rapidly falling asleep. Sam stationed himself at the door to the cubbing den to deter intruders while his mate and their cubs slept.
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