More Adventures of a Doodle Breeder
This story begins with a sad discovery. I placed a puppy with a family in Chicago, and it turned out one of their boys was allergic to her. In the 15 years since starting Westwood Labradoodles that has only happened this one time, and I found out later the poor kid was allergic to even a full poodle. He couldn’t have any dog. In any case, my puppy needed to come back to me. I had just had knee surgery and couldn’t go get her. Through the online doodle community, a friend of a friend said they would be willing to pick up the puppy and keep her for a week to give me time to arrange transport back to Ohio. Then…radio silence. The woman who picked up my puppy stopped answering my phone calls and emails. After two weeks, when I started threatening legal action because she had my puppy, she responded and began insisting I had given her the puppy and it was now rightfully hers.
I was unable to drive, and I reached out again to the online doodle community, describing my dilemma. A breeder friend, Barb Smith, now passed, of Illinois Labradoodles, offered to go get the puppy from the woman who had her, telling me, “I’m from Texas and I pack!” At that point I had never met Barb in person, but I had no reason to doubt she was serious. “No, no, no” I told her. “No need for that!” Instead, I contacted law enforcement in the woman’s community and described the situation. The person holding my puppy did not have a contract indicating ownership, and I had refunded the original owners. The chain of ownership clearly led back to me. As did the puppy’s microchip registration. So Barb went to the woman’s house with a police officer and her microchip scanner. Barb scanned the puppy, the officer looked at the microchip number, and told the thief to hand over the puppy to Barb. The saddest thing was that the woman had three kids who had become attached to the puppy in the weeks it took for all this to transpire. I knew this and had offered to sell her the puppy (at a discount, to pay for the time she cared for the puppy), and she had refused. Barb and the officer had to take the puppy away from crying children.
The next problem was how to get the pup from Chicago back to Ohio. An online doodle friend in Minnesota, Cathy, who I had helped in a sticky situation she was having as a guardian home for another breeder, offered to pick up the puppy in Chicago and bring her to me in Ohio. The first and only time I met her was when she brought me my puppy.
Anyone who disparages online friendships as ‘not real relationships’ has never really participated in an online community. This was one of many experiences I have had where people in online communities, who I had never met in person, acted on my behalf. Their loyalty and friendship was as strong as any developed in a ‘face-to-face’ relationship.
I've had a number of memorable whelpings, and usually they came as a surprise, in one way or another. On one occasion, though, I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge. I was still on crutches from my foot and ankle surgery a month prior. I decided I would have to deliver the litter sitting down in the whelping box with Callie, so I arranged all my supplies on the floor around the box so I could reach them. It turned out that wasn't the only thing that wouldn't be normal in this whelping.
Callie was in labor off and on for 3 days, and I slept for a total of 3 hours during that period. It was quite the experiment in sleep deprivation, complete with hallucinations. No kidding. During the last day I was hearing the theme song from 'Ghostbusters'. Not just imagining it, mind you. I could swear it was actually playing. Why that song, I have no idea. I haven't seen the movie for at least 10 years and don't remember being particularly fond of it! lol.
In any case, once hard labor started it became clear Callie's uterus was stretched too much for her to produce effective contractions...she was just huge. I did everything I knew how to increase the strength of the contractions and finally the first puppy was born. An hour passed, and I discovered the second puppy was just stuck. I could feel a paw but couldn't get a grip on it to apply traction. I spent over 2 hours massaging the uterus to try to move the puppy a little further along, and was just about to give up and take her in for a c-section when I managed to get a grip on the paw, then hook my finger around the leg, and out came the second puppy. She had been in the birth canal so long the placenta had started to dry around her neck and she was barely breathing as there was material clogging her nostrils. I reached for the suction bulb and clumsily knocked it away from me. It rolled away, finally stopping under a cabinet across the room. Unreachable. I placed my mouth over her nostrils and suctioned, like you see people do when they are trying to remove snake poison from a wound, then spit the material from her nostrils out on the floor. Lather, rinse, repeat. She started breathing and soon was happily nursing next to her brother.
Now that Callie's uterus was not as stretched, and the nursing pups caused the release of oxytocin (which results in stronger contractions) the next 3 pups were born pretty much uneventfully over the next 3 hours. Well, not exactly true. After pup number four Callie insisted she had to go out to potty. I accidentally dropped her leash and she got just far enough away that I couldn't catch the next pup before it hit the ground. And so puppy number 5 was born outside under the swing set, still in his sack. I took him and Callie inside and he was nursing next to the others in no time. Then 2 pups were born practically simultaneously. I was working on cutting the cord and getting the first of them breathing when Callie proceeded to take the sack off the other. As I reached to take the pup from her I saw the pup's entire large intestine lying on its belly. At first I thought Callie had pulled so hard on the umbilical cord that she had cause a hernia, but looking closer I realized the hole was far too clean for that. This was not a tear. The pup had been born with an umbilical hernia that went all the way through the wall, with an opening about the diameter of the cord on your ear buds. I fed the bowel bit by bit back into his belly, examining it as I did so. It seemed to be normal, without any damage, but whenever I stopped pushing on it, the pressure of his diaphragm when he breathed cause it to slip back out. I managed to get all of it back in, and, keeping pressure over the hole with my finger, wrapped his whole belly in Vetwrap (a stretchy bandage kind of like ace wrap). He clearly needed to go to the emergency room, but I could feel and hear heartbeats of at least two more puppies yet to be born. I couldn't risk their well-being for his. Luckily my 15 year old son was home from school sick, and I called him on his cell phone. He dragged himself out of bed and came out to the whelping area to help. Gus watched Callie for signs of the other pups' arrivals, as I did what I could to keep the sick pup alive long enough to get him to the hospital. He had gotten chilled while I was working on him, and his blood sugar had dropped because he hadn't been able to nurse when he was born. I placed some Karo syrup under his tongue to try to boost his blood sugar, and put him inside my shirt to warm him for the next hour while I delivered 2 more puppies. At that point I didn't think I could feel or hear any more puppies, so I took the pup out of my shirt and gave him a chance to nurse. The sugar and the warmth had done their magic, and he did manage to nurse a little. I left Gus with Callie just in case I was wrong about her being finished, and I drove the pup to Medvet. They put a stitch in the hole and gave him an injection of heavy duty antibiotics to try to stave off infection. The nurse came to the lobby to tell me he was ready to go and found me sleeping in a chair.
The final count was nine! Seven boys and 2 girls, and everyone, including Callie, was doing awesome. Even 'bowel-puppy' did pretty well....I kept him in a warming box, which stayed next to me wherever I was in the house. Even though he was pretty perky, I was just not sure he would get enough milk competing against 8 very vigorous siblings. So I am did a combination of bottle and tube-feeding him a goat's milk formula every 3 hours around the clock. After 2 weeks he was gaining weight and my optimism for him grew. But by week 4, when the other pups were getting ready to start solid food, it became clear he had more intestinal issues besides the one obvious at birth. WIth great sadness, and with the advice of my vet, I made the wrenching decision to euthanize him. As I've said before, breeding is not for the faint of heart.