The Battle to Save These Pups

I really don’t know what I’m doing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that in the course of fostering dogs and even more times in the course of fostering puppies.

And once again, I am wishing, wishing, wishing that I knew more or was a quicker study when it comes to caring for this litter. Granted, this isn’t an easy litter. In any way. And yet I can’t help but feel responsible, if only for my ignorance.

We lost another puppy yesterday. And whether or not I could have done anything about it, is probably not the point. But that doesn’t stop me from doubting and questioning and sinking into a pit of serious sadness over what feels like my inability to do anything to help them. I go through the same thing with my kids, just now I’m transferring that mama/caretaker guilt to fostering.

I was recounting the story for Nick on the phone yesterday (he is traveling this week) and I said, “I just wish they’d give me another litter – I know so much more now. I could do better.”

And then I thought about that.

How horrible is it that lives depend on me and I’m still learning?

But, you know what? We’re all still learning. That’s how this life works.

And here’s another reality – sadly, I was these pups best only chance. And I feel awful that I couldn’t do more; that I didn’t know more.

And now, the fight has begun. My fight to save these pups. I’m going into this eyes wide open. I know it’s most likely that I’ll lose. Nature and some horrible people in North Carolina who threw away this mama dog are to blame. Not me. That’s what I’m trying to keep at the forefront of this battle.

These puppies are three weeks old. None can stand up. None are really even trying. Why that is, I’m not sure. Maybe they were premies. It’s certain they had horrible prenatal care, and their mother should not be having puppies at her age. It could be that there have only been four of them for the last few weeks and the milk bar is over-flowing, so happy hour is nonstop. This has resulted in some seriously obese puppies. They haven’t had to fight for their share, so there isn’t much moving other than scooching over to the teat and then rolling over and going back to sleep.

After a long discussion with the vet, we have concluded that most likely Schnookie Putz succumbed to congestive heart failure brought on by the fact that he was gaining so much weight, but was not able to lift his chest off the ground. He basically smothered himself by growing.

We’ve got a plan, and in all honesty it’s probably a losing one. But it feels good to be doing something. The pups are on antibiotics on the off chance that there’s an infection at play. They are receiving nebulizer treatments 4-5 times a day to help keep their lungs clear. We have a humidifier going in their room 24/7 and have replaced the towels in the box with yoga mats to give them a tacky surface that will hopefully help them propel themselves forward better or at least encourage them to try.

The other big strategy is to give them more stimulation to try to ‘wake them up’ out of their stupor. Because I have only two hands, I’ve been blessed with a few volunteers who have been showing up to sit in my puppy room and help the pups move their limbs – bicycling them, repositioning them correctly, supporting them and bracing them.

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When the pups sleep, they position them on their sides so they won’t put more strain on their heart/lungs.

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If you recall Fruitcake, my swimmer pup, these are like three Fruitcakes, legs splayed out sideways or behind, only in more zombie-form. They aren’t motivated to move very much, unless it’s to reach a teat.

To counter that, I’m trying to distract Darlin’ and give her something else to do besides hover over her puppies. When they struggle, she is quick to rush to them and offer all she has – her milk. But too much milk will kill them even as it keeps them alive.

I’m still looking for more ways to help these pups. I fashioned little ‘corsets’ to pad their tummies and make it easier for them to get their legs underneath them.

The corsets do seem to work, but they aren’t fans and give up quickly. There’s not a whole lot else we can do until they decide to start moving on their own. Doodlebug offers the best hope, but Puddin’ Head goes into distress whenever he lies on his tummy for long, so the pups cannot be left alone. Luckily, Darlin’ sounds the alarm whining and barking when he begins to struggle.

Having volunteers has made this easier, not that any of it is easy, but I warn each one before they even come in the door that this may very well be a lost cause. It may break your heart. As much as I want and need their help, I don’t want to be responsible for the pain it might bring them.

I was speaking with another OPH person who has much more experience than I and mentioned that I was a little afraid to write about all this because I didn’t want to make people sad. And yet, this is happening. I can’t change that.

She said, “A lot of people don’t want to think about it, so they don’t.”

I get that; I do. I never wanted to think about puppies dying or people throwing away dogs, but the reality is that it is happening every day. So if telling their story here on this blog helps just a little bit, I will tell it.

I’ve had more joy than sorry in fostering and gotten many more happy endings than sad ones, but the sad ones are part of the story. No way around it. Rescue work is painful and difficult and messy and it will decidedly break your heart. Honest truth.

And yet, it’s worth it. For the ones you can save, and the comfort you can give to the ones you can’t.

So this battle is just beginning. It’s not one I want to fight, but I don’t really have any other option. We would greatly appreciate any and all prayers you have to offer.

I will post periodic updates on the Another Good Dog facebook page  as I can. Please join if you’d like to follow along.

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Published by

Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and occasional cowgirl who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

15 thoughts on “The Battle to Save These Pups”

  1. As a foster and volunteer I always say I would rather cry over them trying to save them in rescue…than cry because they had no chance in the shelter. Thank you for trying and caring Cara.

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  2. You are my hero! Education is the key here. Spreading the word through these articles will help. People will share them and someone will open their eyes because of it.

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    1. That’s the hope, right? I do truly hope my story makes someone think differently about dogs – spay and neuter is the answer to this crisis. If only the right people could hear the message. Thanks for reading and the reminder!

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  3. Cara you are an angel! I try to read all of your posts but perhaps I missed something, do you know exactly what’s wrong with them or is just related to the over-nursing? I wish I were closer and I would come help! Time to find that farm in Virginia!

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    1. They are just not developing normally. Not sure if this is because of Darlin’s age or that they were premies or if there is a genetic issue or something else. The problem is that they are growing larger, but still not standing so the pressure on their heart/lungs is too great.

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      1. I hate that for them and for you! They are such cute little chunky things though. Best of luck for you and Darlin’s pups!

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