CROSSROADS, MIRACLES AND COMMITMENTS
Maybe because I spend every waking minute with dogs, it’s easy for me to see the anguish in the faces of the trapped dogs as I scan the many “code red” photos that drift through my Facebook newsfeed. All they can do is plead with their eyes as they watch visitors who don’t give them a second look . . . plead and hope that someone hears them. They know they’re in a bad place . . . and for so many their worst fear does indeed come to fruition.
They named them “Benny and June,” and each time I saw their photo, I thought “surely a rescue or an adopter” will step up before their “expiration date”. Clearly bonded, they usually lay huddled together, and cautiously watched from a distance . . . Benny, very fragile and frightened, obviously comforted by being close to June, who had an easily treatable “cherry eye” . . . a mark against her since sadly, most adopters and many rescues, look for “perfection.” June seemed to be quietly resigned to whatever fate was in store for her.
As the kill date loomed closer, I made an “eleventh hour” decision to pull them both together . . . they were small dogs, and my gut instinct was that they needed to be together. Emotional bonds are important and need to be honored, for the sake of their health and happiness.
So they were “sprung from death row” and taken immediately to my veterinarian for assessment and vaccinations. Both had serious cases of kennel cough, and both were very thin and very young . . . Benny not even 6 months old, June, barely a year old. We decided to take care of June’s cherry eye during her spay at a later date, after she had time to put on a little more weight, get stronger, heal and overcome the kennel cough. A hard surgery like a spay is extremely taxing on a dog’s immune system, which is already compromised due to poor care and the stress of impoundment.
Once situated at my home, they met the rest of the pack, and we went through a list of names to see what they liked . . . Benny and June did not appeal to them, but Yuri and Lara did (gleaned from my favorite movie, “Dr. Zhivago” that happened to be on TV that week)
Separation anxiety is a given when I first get them home, so I keep them close for the first few days. They cried whenever I would leave them and I would just go back and talk to them. Once they realized that they were safe, they became a little more relaxed, especially when they understood that they were not going to be abandoned. Yuri and Lara seemed to be happy sleeping in the same crate, and for awhile I let them eat out of the same dish. But since Lara was putting on weight more quickly than Yuri, it became clear that she was eating not only her share but his as well and that changed. But each was comforted by the other’s presence.
As fate would have it, the good nutrition was helping not only Lara but the little “packages” she was carrying. In hindsight, when Lara was pulled from the pound, her pregnancy was already at a point of “no return” even though she showed no signs, a survival technique when mother dogs, or any other animal including humans, are living in danger. A spay immediately after rescue would have destroyed puppies that were already “wiggling” . . . killing them would have defeated the whole purpose of rescuing her in the first place, and would have taken a serious and possibly irreversible toll on her health.
Every crossroad I come to where I have to make a decision about or for a dog I have rescued, I try to filter out the “crap” and ask myself (and the dog), “is this decision the best one for your health, safety and happiness?” We, as a species, are arrogant “control mongers,” and we lie to ourselves all the time, mostly to make ourselves feel better. We say we understand that animals have feelings, and yet we consistently treat them as if they don’t.
The average mentality of a dog is that of a human 2-3 year old toddler, and they experience every emotion that we do as humans. Because they do not verbalize their fear, sadness and anxiety does not mean it’s less real or damning for them than it is for humans. We seem to believe that any being that does not have the ability to verbalize (in our own language) is somehow inferior and decisions have to be made for them. Our past history (and some still ongoing) of treating the deaf and mute, different cultures, different races, children, animals . . . it’s an endless list and we never seem to learn or evolve.
Lara knew she was going to be a mother. She did not have a voracious appetite at animal control . . . she hardly ate. Only when she felt safe did she allow her mothering instinct to kick in and start eating for the health of her pups. She only wanted what every mother wants . . . safety for her newborns. To deny her that would have been a fate as cruel as the “death room” at animal control.
Lara spent so much time at my side that I was concerned she would deliver the puppies in my lap. I had arranged a little “birthing bed” in the bathroom, but she showed no interest in going there unless I went with her.
Sunday evening, September 27, 2015, she didn’t eat supper, and was particularly snarly with dogs in her vicinity. The rest of the pack seemed to understand and gave her space. She still insisted on being next to me or in the crate that was by the chair so she could watch me. We watched each other until 2 in the morning, and then I decided it was time to go to bed if I was planning on any functionality the next day. So I took her to the bed in the bathroom and closed the door. She whined only once and then was quiet. Fifteen minutes later, as I was getting ready to “bed down” everyone (yes, the dogs keep my hours . . . if I’m awake, so are they), I opened the door to check on her one last time.
My first clue was a little bit of blood on the floor, and my eyes immediately darted to Lara, who had found her way to the bed and was gently licking a precious little baby the size of a mouse. When she spotted me, her tail started wagging a mile a minute as she looked up at me, with a look of gratitude, love, joy . . . almost as if to say, “Look at what I have to share with you.”
The vet had felt two and possibly three little ones during her exam, so I waited for the second one. I knew it wouldn’t be long because she was uncomfortable . . . and yet still trying to care for the first one. Thank goodness it did not take long because my different “what if” bridges began popping up in my head.
What if the second one was stuck and she can’t deliver, what if it’s turned upside down or something, should I transport her to the vet RIGHT NOW???? At that instant, her contractions started and a “bubble” emerged, but it didn’t “pop” out!
Was the puppy stuck? What if it gets sucked back in? Should I pull like they do on human babies? Maybe I better call the vet RIGHT NOW . . . so what if it’s 3 in the morning. Lara might die.
Fortunately, one last push by Lara and the puppy was out and she immediately started cleaning it up, but the head was still covered in the sac . . . should I help her remove it? Is it suffocating?? Why isn’t it moving more??? Should I take them all to the vet RIGHT NOW????
Two healthy babies, without my interference, only petting and talking sweetly to Lara. They were wiggly and mom had things under control. Convinced that there would be only two and that all was well, I bid them all good night, and left the bathroom. But it was the reaction of the other dogs that was equally amazing.
They were all sitting quietly and watching the bathroom door. It was an atmosphere of reverence, and the most alert and concerned was Yuri . . . he was trembling as if he knew Lara was in danger. I picked him up, held him for awhile and told him that Lara was fine and that he’d have a chance to see her very soon. I put him in his crate for the night, left some biscuits for him and headed to bed with my “bedmates” who seemed to say, “It’s about time.”
I lay awake for quite a while . . . amazed at the courage of a little dog who only wanted a safe haven. She wasn’t concerned about the “what ifs” of her future. She was a mom and was going to defy all odds to care for those babies. She second-guessed nothing . . . her job was to nurture those puppies.
As I thought of the many who had that opportunity snatched from them, I cried silent tears for their pain and for their loss at a chance for life. They all demand nothing of us, ask nothing of us, and yet we can’t spare ten years, often less, out of our lifetimes to share with an animal who was born to be our partner, loyal and devoted friend for the rest of his or her life.
This entire family, mom and pups were destroyed by Nueces County Animal Control in Texas . . . I could not save them because I could not find transport in time. I will forever remember them, and have vowed to never let lives like these slip through the cracks again.
My last thought as I drifted off to sleep was, “Thank you, Lara, for the gift of your presence in my life. I love you, precious little girl.”
When I awoke and checked on Lara, she had been busy delivering two more little ones for a total of four. I’m sure her thoughts during the first two births were for me to just go to bed and not stress her out with my “what ifs” She had them and herself all cleaned up and the puppies were nicely packed in a little pile, obviously tired after a hard journey into this world, and from the looks of their tummies, a good meal.
Welcome to the world, little munchkins.
The puppies will be ready for adoption in approximately 12 weeks. If you think your home may be the right one for one of Lara’s babies, please start the adoption process at this link: Terms of Adoption
EXTRAORDINARY DOGS INC. is a nonprofit organization registered as a 501(c)3 public charity in New Mexico. Please remember that our operation and successful rescue and retraining depends on your generosity. ALL contributions go directly to the care of the resident dogs, and are tax deductible.
If you would like to help “death row” survivors like Yuri, Lara and her puppies, you can use the DONATE link below or the “send to friends and family” under the paypal address: LIFELONGFRIENDS@EXTRAORDINARYDOGS.COM
Thank you for caring!