She Wears a Pantiliner With Her Onesie

The hugely pregnant dog had puppies on my birthday. It'll be an easy date to remember, but I won't have any problems remembering this particular litter in years to come. Raising dogs is much like raising kids. You have to be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. If you fall somewhere in the middle, it's the best you can ask for, really.

This is where I'm going to tell you how things went horribly, horribly wrong. This is where you'll want to skip out if you're queasy, if you'd rather think that birth is nothing but miraculous and awesome, or if you think that all dog breeders are evil creatures who never regard the life of the animal, but simply raise puppies until a dog can't physically do it any longer. Although, if you fall into the last category maybe you should stay. You'll be horrified (I know I am) but you might come to realize that sometimes there are breeders out there who really and truly care about their dogs.


Rhythm had 7 puppies, and I was there to assist as usual. I learned with her first litter that she refuses to take the sack off the newborn puppy and it'll suffocate at birth if I don't intervene. Seven boys, all healthy, and mama was doing well. She started into labor with #8 and I waited quietly for her to bring a life into the world. But it didn't come, and the clock ticked on.

Rhythm, like many of her breed, suffers from something called uterine inertia. This simply means that sometimes her uterus will just get tired and decide it's done. It matters not that there's still work to do and lives to produce. I had Oxytocin on hand from the vet to help kick-start the contractions again if I needed to, with instructions to call before using it. After 2 hours of laboring, I called. I was told that if she didn't produce a puppy in an hour I could give a second dose of Oxy. Two hours later I called the vet, who made a house call at 2AM and determined that the stuck puppy was dead. It wasn't shocking news to me, and we decided that maybe her uterus needed to rest a bit and would pick up enough strength to expel the puppy by morning. If not, we'd meet at the office and remove the puppy with forceps.

I got 3 hours of sleep that night before taking Riz to the vet. The puppy was stuck behind her pelvic bone, and was difficult to get a grasp on. At the time, we were thankful that a c-section had been avoided. Like a human, it's just more difficult to recover from, and poor Rhythm had been through enough. X-rays determined that there was one more puppy way up in, Oxytocin produced it quickly, but it, too, was dead.

Seven live puppies, and mama was tired but much more comfortable. We went home Saturday morning happy, and spent the day napping, Rhythm and I.

Sunday morning I realized that the puppies were thin, and Riz lost the sparkle in her eyes. Clearly there was an infection somewhere. A call to the vet for antibiotics safe enough to pass on through nursing, a trip to the pharmacy, a grocery run to buy supplies for supplemental puppy feeding, and the day became a worried blur of watchful care. Despite all we were doing, we lost a puppy. The day didn't end well.

Monday didn't start much better. Rhythm was weak, smelled horrific, and was quickly losing interest in her babies. An emergency run to the vet admitted her on an IV drip and heavy antibiotics. We feared an emergency spay would be necessary simply to save her life, and I told the vet to do anything necessary to save her. It's hurtful to lose puppies, but I just couldn't lose my mama. Thankfully she responded well to the antibiotics and we avoided surgery that would have been so hard to recover from in her weakened state.

With mama away, I was in charge of puppy care. Newborn puppies cannot regulate their blood sugar very well and need to eat every 2 hours (or more) to avoid a drop in sugar levels. While this sounds fairly harmless, I know from past experience that they'll go into shock, start having seizures, and most definitely can die. My life is now lived in 2 hour increments, scrambling to get into town for groceries and back again to feed babies, setting my alarm every 2 hours at night, frantically shuffling laundry, vacuuming, cooking, or doing dishes in free minutes of daylight. I've officially adopted newborns, and I've forgotten what fun it is. I wear milk stains on my sweatshirt, I forget to comb my hair before taking Micah to the bus, I walk around yawning so often it's like my mouth has a permanent twitch.

I went to bed after the midnight feeding on Monday thankful that at least all 6 puppies were vigorously active and ate well. I woke for the 2AM feeding to a dead puppy. No signs of a downward spiral, just death. Do puppies suffer from SIDS? Is it something I did wrong? Could the others all be dead by morning? I did all I know how to do for the puppies, and set my alarm for 4AM.

Tuesday morning still found 5 live puppies in the box, and I was grateful. Josh was home sick, so after a quick trip to the pediatrician I ran to the vet to visit Rhythm. She was much better and was so glad to see me, but I couldn't stay long as I had to get home to feed the babies. They wanted to keep her another night just to be sure she was definitely on the mend.

Sometime during the night, two puppies started fading. I worked to get them to eat for over an hour, and gave them drops of Karo syrup on their tongues to keep their sugar levels up. While feeding the others, I heard a horrible gurgling sound. They were aspirating their formula. Pneumonia would be setting in. Death would be inevitable. If I started to cry, I would never stop.

Because of my fight for his life, one of the puppies made a heroic comeback by morning. He was weaker than his littermates, but alive and eating. The other puppy didn't make it. Four puppies of nine, and mama in the hospital. How does one get to this point in less than a week? Because of the aspirating, I made another emergency run to the vet. The one that had struggled with death had some lung congestion, and was treated accordingly. The other 3 were declared healthy. I obtained new feeding equipment to avoid aspirating in the future. Mama was well enough to be released and came home with her puppies.

The antibiotics that Rhythm is on will kill the puppies if they nurse. Not that she has much milk at this point anyway, which is good. There's no fear of mastitis. Small victories. She's thrilled to be able to mother her babies even if she can't feed them, and I'm thrilled to have her expert care to help me. Puppies need outside stimulation to encourage elimination, and mama does a bang-up job of that. It's something I'm more than glad to hand off.

To keep the puppies from attempting to nurse, Rhythm wears a baby onesie, snapped over her tailless rump. Puppies have a knack of crawling into places they shouldn't, so I take a head count approximately every 5 minutes. She'll need a shave to avoid getting too warm, and wears a pantiliner in her onesie to contain the post partum mess in her clothing. But she's alive, and she's home, and she's being the best mom that she can be to those babies that we're sharing the responsibility for.

We're praying that our baby count holds at 4, because it's been just too brutal already to think that anything else is even an option.


Karen Deborah said...

how sad. your right about birth in any species. when you know how much can wrong it makes you realize the miracle is that it ever goes right!!
I'm sorry this time has had so much loss. Your lovely corgi.
After touching one and meeting in person they are a fabulous breed--shedding and all.
I had a little taste of this with the baby squirrels and one died. I knew it would and made it comfortable and let it go. A squirrel is not a corgi.
rescuing Sammy has been enough challenge.
I was worried about infection with a dead pup, in a human that spells sepsis.
Hopefully the puppies will thrive now.

Annette {This Simple Home} said...

Love and hugs....and belated birthday wishes.

Trisha said...

Oh my! I am so sorry that you lost the puppies and that the poor Mom had to go through so much. Just reading your post, it is clear that you are not just into breeding dogs for the puppies. You care about the puppies AND the Moms.

I hope things get easier soon!