SNOW. GLORIOUS SNOW.
There are few things I find more perfect than the way the country landscape looks after a glorious snow. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, tis truly magical. And while most, I know, were cursing under their breath this Sunday past at the misfortune of having yet another heavy snow, I was relishing it. I ran outside for just a few minutes to take some pics, and then spent the rest of the day swaddled in a warm, fleece robe, sipping on an endless cup of joe, and making the most I had of the excuse to light the fireplace. Days like that I don’t mind not having sunshine. The magic of winter provided all the light I needed. As luck would have it, it proved to be a rather perfect ending to what had been an emotionally grueling two weeks for me.
Lil Girl decided to have her pups the Friday before last. Ill-timed is the best way to describe it. It came right after the death of the Old Man’s Godfather and mentor, and just sort of inserted itself into our preexisting plans to shop for clothes—as the Old Man was going to be a pallbearer—and our both being able to attend the funeral. As was, I was unable to go, missing not only that but the wedding of my nephew just this past weekend, because of complications that arose after the fact.
Unlike the first, this litter was complete only after a long, arduous labor. Over twelve hours to be exact. It started with barely a sign of labor—with the first being born outside while she was going potty (good thing I was paying attention), and then continued only after being aided along with medication the Old Man had to run and pick up from the vet. Thank goodness that the Old Man was around to administer the injections or we would’ve been in trouble. Pissy doesn’t have a gag-response when it comes to having blood and goo up to the elbows helping out with birth, but shies away from needles when it comes to animals. Things that just make you go ‘fucking’ Ewww! Eventually they all arrived though, and we added eleven more darlings to our little family. To say I was exhausted after having to hover over the whelping box for twelve hours would be an understatement, and I won’t even begin to speak for Lil Girl.
All the pups seemed to be doing fine until about Sunday, when I started noticing that there was a problem with one. He had begun moving farther away from mom and seemed a bit listless when I picked him up. I spent the rest of the day and evening keeping a careful eye on him, constantly moving him next to mom, encouraging her to clean him, and helping him nurse on her by cradling him in my hands so the others couldn’t take the nipple away. I also spent a lot of time in between ‘kangarooing’ him, which means I lay him on my chest between my breast, simulating mom’s heat. By bedtime he seemed to be doing well and I thought we were past the danger point.
Monday morning panic set in when I found the pup had crawled away from the others and was lying still and cold. My first reaction was to move him back towards mom to try and get him to nurse, but after realizing that he had no interest in nursing, and she had no interest in him, I decided to take him out of the box and care for him myself.
Fast forward 26 hours. I hadn’t slept. From the moment I took that puppy in my hands he became a round the clock job. I gave him drops of liver juice every couple of hours. I tried to hydrate him often. I gave him a drop of Karo syrup to get some energy back into him before trying to get him to nurse/or bottle feed every couple of hours. Attempts at trying to leave him with mother was unsuccessful, leaving him on a padded heating pad produced pitiful cries of distress, so he lay most of the time on my chest to keep warm, and seemed to respond better to the beating of my heart. I stayed awake. I stayed alert. I thought he showed signs of improving near morning, as he managed to nurse on mom a couple different times with my aid, but then he began to turn again. I finally admitted defeat and called Ed.
Doc Ed, as he’s called, is our country vet who has a practice in the neighboring town, and also as luck would have it, is one of my husband’s best friends. The Old Man refers to him as ‘Bon Jovi’, because of his wild eighties hair and unconventional personality. In a pinch, it’s fortunate to have someone like this in your life that’s willing to make house calls when you need expert assistance. Last Tuesday was such a day, and for that I’m grateful.
Relinquishing control is not something I’m good at. Especially when it comes to tending to one of my young, and I consider all these puppies MY young. I knew this pup was beyond help I could any longer give it though, so I was relieved when Doc Ed showed up an hour later. Relieved, but terribly embarrassed, and found myself apologizing profusely for the state of the house and myself. I am normally a very tidy person, but blankets were strewn about the couch, throw pillows piled on the loveseat, laundry piled up, and dirty dishes from making formula, lactating pudding, etc., cluttered the counters. Worse was my appearance: I had two day old pajamas on that were covered in puppy poo, my hair was dirty, and my eyes swollen from lack of sleep and crying.
Ed examined the pup, tended to it for a few minutes, and even attempted to get it to nurse, to no avail. After looking in on the other ones, he told me he was taking the little one with him to see what he could do for it at the clinic. He tried to reassure me that sometimes this just happens and I shouldn’t blame myself, and then told me I needed to get some rest. I guess I must’ve looked worse than even I assumed. He would later call the Old Man to give him an update on the puppy, and told him that I looked like a ‘train wreck’ from stress and lack of sleep. I think I knew deep down the pup wasn’t going to make it. My parting words to Ed were “I can’t watch him die. I’m not strong enough. Don’t bring him back unless he’s thriving.”
Ruh-Roh-Raggy, as I’d named him, didn’t make it. He passed away sometime that night, and Ed called the Old Man the next morning to let him know. I can only assume because he didn’t want to have to break the news to me. The following three days were ones of great heartbreak for me, as I questioned every step I took to care for him, and even the decision I finally made when I’d called Ed. I wondered if it would’ve been best just to continue caring for him myself till the very end; at least allowing him to die on the chest of someone who had loved him during his very brief life. I still don’t know. I did finally come to the conclusion though that this is something I’m not cut out for, and will not be breeding again. I become too emotionally invested in my puppies, and the potential loss of one is something a breeder has to expect, but something I can’t accept.
I was unable to make that funeral and had to watch the Old Man go alone that day. At the time I thought the arrival of the pups and the poor circumstances that followed, as having come at the worst possible time; but now think otherwise. In a way, the distraction from Carl’s death it created proved to be a blessing in disguise for the both of us. I was able to distance myself from the pain of having to endure yet another funeral, and the Old Man had something to look forward to after the fact. Needless to say we spent this last weekend cooing over the ten, fat, healthy pups that we have, and marveling over their every twitch, yawn, and whimper. I feel blessed.
I won’t be sad to watch winter slowly slip away, but I’m willing to indulge it in its last hoorah as I bid it farewell. Soon tank tops and shorts will replace sweaters and boots, and depression will be boxed away in the closet with them. The sun will warm my skin again, and the sound of my own laughter will echo in my ears. In the meantime, I have a bouquet of babies to warm my heart.
Life is good.