One of my favorite quotes about dealing with disappointment and upset is from a child's cartoon movie called "Finding Nemo". It is one of the times that Nemo's father, Marlin, feels especially uncertain about finding Nemo. The fish that is helping him is named Dory and she sings a little song to help motivate Marlin.
Just keep swimming.
What do you do?
You move forward.
When I found out at the ultrasound that Sheba did not take, the rug was yanked out from under all my plans and dreams that I was trying to achieve with that litter. Keeping my own livestock guardian dog(s) to raise, starting my breeding program, Having the first puppy in our family since 2005! My daughters first ever puppy. All gone with the simple words "sorry Deb, I do not see any puppies in there."
So a couple days of moping around feeling sorry for myself, then shake it off and on to Plan B! What is Plan B? Heck, I don't know, most of the time I make up life as I live it!
Just keep swimming.
Well, a week before her not-expected due date, I noticed that Sheba was bagging up (no readily available wiki link for that term LOL - her mammary glands were swelling). My first thought was false pregnancy. My second thought was WHAT IF - what if she had one puppy in there? We had NOTHING set up for her, no place for her to whelp or rear a litter of puppies.
Just to be on the safe side (I really do hate being caught with my pants down, i.e. unprepared, and it happens more often than I care to acknowledge) we decided to take her in for an xray to confirm it was a false pregnancy.
I really do dislike being disappointed, especially on something that I have already been disappointed on, so I tried very hard to not even let myself consider that she might, indeed, be pregnant. I just needed to make sure it was a false pregnancy, that was all.
So the tears and unexpected offer of a hug probably surprised my vet a little bit when he said "Congratulations, you're having puppies". Five of them, by the head count on the xray.... due in 4 days!
I do not think I can describe the insanity of the next few days. And all that on top of Fair week with our two kids in 4H.
Just keep swimming.
But, we did manage to get a place set up for Sheba, a kiddie wading pool for a whelping box, Thrift Store blankets for whelping mats, scale ordered, towels ready.
I did not announce it to any but a few individual people. I guess I just didn't want to have to share something that had been yanked away from me - again. Yes, I saw the puppies on the xray. And even though it took a few days to sink in, I mean really sink in, there was no doubt that she was, indeed, pregnant. I guess it was some sort of coping mechanism.
Of course, Sheba went over due. She was due on Friday and started whelping Monday morning at 4:00 a.m. She had a very slow delivery, spacing the first 3 an hour apart, and then she went 3 hours until the fourth one. We thought she was done, had miscounted on the xray. She acted done.
Six hours later, she had another one - the first boy! He was a little slow to start, but by midnight was eating and acting like a healthy puppy. I was relaxed enough that after 4 nights of getting up every couple of hours to check on Sheba, I checked her and the puppies at midnight and then slept straight through to five the next morning.
When I went out to check on them, I saw one puppy, lying on its side, flattened, and gasping. I reached down and picked him up, noticed he was damp and freezing cold. Of course, after 80 degree nights for the past month, the last two nights dropped down to 60. It was the boy, and I was so angry at myself for sleeping through the 2 a.m. check.
I brought him into the house, tucked him under my shirt and got two hot water bottles to put on either side of him. Gasping is not good. Cold is not good. For the next three hours I dribbled warm karo water into his little mouth and by eight, he was warmed up, breathing normally and resting.
I leaned forward to get up and take him back out to his Mom to see if I could get him to nurse and he started a heart-wrenching crying. I thought he was hungry, but he didn't nuzzle or even try to get on to eat. I called the vet and we decided to bring him in to see if he needed subq fluids.
I went into the house to get ready to go and when I got back outside where my Dad was watching the puppies, he said "Debi, aren't we supposed to have 5 puppies? Because there are 6 in there!".
I looked and there was a pile of 4 puppies and another pile of 2 puppies. I counted, recounted, counted to 5 on my fingers to make sure I was not adding up to 5 incorrectly in my sleep-deprived state, and yessir, there were 6 puppies!
On the way to the vets office, I figured in my mind how long it was between #5 being born and #6 - somewhere around 14 hours! I had little hope that he was going to make it.
The vet gave him some fluids and a vitamin shot and sent us home with some puppy formula. Having raised orphan animals before (many years ago), I knew how to syringe feed, bottle feed, and stimulate them to urinate and defecate.
I knew many things could happen, I knew he might not make it, but I was going to give the little guy everything I could to give him the best chance possible.
It was a struggle. He didn't want to nurse, on the bottle or on Sheba. He didn't like the formula and I ended up dripping a little bit on his tongue basically every few minutes. He had bouts of crying like he was in pain. I took him out several times to Sheba to see if I could get him to nurse. Both she and I tried to get him to defecate, but he didn't and I was more worried about what was going in than what was coming out, figured there wasn't much to come out if nothing was going in!
Just keep swimming.
On the suggestion from another breeder, I put some butter on his bottom hoping that it would encourage Sheba to lick him and get him to go. She had not been very interested in him from the moment I found him, licking him very little and then ignoring his cries. She never pushed him away but neither did she treat him like the other pups.
I knew that this lack of acceptance from the dam could mean that there was something wrong with him that we could not see. Dams have been known to reject puppies with serious congenital problems, etc. He was born very, very late.
Sheba still was not interested in cleaning his bum, so I was trying to encourage her when he did finally have a bowel movement. Quite a bit came out, it looked pretty normal and I was just relieved that he had finally gone as I had been considering giving him an enema to get things moving.
He was fussy most of the night. I kept giving him formula, hoping he was getting most of it in his belly. At around four I stimulated him to urinate and he had an explosive bowel movement, bad enough I had to take him to the sink and wash him off with warm water. Diarrhea is not good.
I got him dried off, and he actually perked up a bit and sucked on the bottle a few times. At 6, I needed to heat up some formula and use the rest room, so I put him in a basket we had prepared for just that purpose. When I got back, he was sound asleep, all snuggled up in the fuzzy blanket we put in there. Since I was pretty much exhausted, I decided to take advantage of his peaceful slumber and get some zzz's myself. I woke and checked him at 7 and he was still sleeping soundly, so I continued to let him sleep.
At 8, I heard him start to move around and got up to heat him some formula. I picked him up, and he didn't seem very interested in eating, so I gave him some with the syringe. Afterwards I stimulated him to urinate and he had another explosion of diarrhea - but this time it smelled like blood and was red tinged.
Another trip to the vet, who gave him some medicine and said he was well hydrated, that he probably just had some tummy irritation. I had noticed on the way to the vets office that he was not as warm as he had been before we left, and on the way home from the vets, he continued to feel colder and colder.
Once we got home, I attempted to give him some more formula and he settled down and was resting snuggled against my chest with a blanket. That is when I noticed he had blood coming from his rectum. I called the vet and he said we had done everything we could, hopefully the irritation would work its way through. I got a hot water bottle to try and help bring up his body temperature and attempted to dribble some formula on his tongue with the syringe.
He immediately started gasping and passed away less than 20 minutes later.
I think that not having a bowel movement caused a tear inside and when he had the first bout of diarrhea it allowed enough room in there for him to start bleeding internally.
I explained to my children that when you love an animal, when they pass away they go to a place called the Rainbow Bridge - and there they wait for you to join them when it is your time to go to Heaven.
It helped my daughter to know she would get to see him again, and that he would be happy and healthy enough for her to bottle feed him, which she so desperately had wanted to do.
It helped me to know that we loved him in the few hours that he was with us.
Just keep swimming.