Yesterday, when I got back home, I found one of our three puppies lying in the backyard. Lifeless. I only had enough time to bundle him up in an old towel and move him to an area that provided enough shade from the scorching heat of the sun before I had to attend to the second puppy. This little one was weak. Extremely weak.
I though that it was due to a serious case of dehydration – that their “biological” mother might no longer be producing milk enough to sustain the three of them.
I brought her to our bedroom, wrap her in another towel, fed her milk using a syringe, gathered her close to my chest, and rocked her like I would my own baby. Alternately, I sang her a lullaby (which all my kids know by heart because it was the only lullaby I would sing to them when they were young) and whispered tender words to her tiny ears. But despite all my efforts, she continued to shriek and whimper in pain (I didn’t know what was worse – the soft cries or the high-pitched screams. Both tore deeply into my heart.), shudders convulsing her frail body, her neck raised slightly apparently in a futile attempt to breathe in more air, and her small chest heaving. Shallowly. Laboriously. Pitifully.
I didn’t know the exact moment I started crying. The tears just came silently – unbidden – and were flowing freely down my cheeks. And, just like with my children when something bad happens to any one of them, I started to question myself. “Have I not been a good mother to my furry kids?” “Is there something that I should have or shouldn’t have done?” “Would they have been better off with some other, probably more caring, family?”
When she pooped a massive amount of foul-smelling blood, I realized right away that the problem had nothing to do with dehydration. The culprit was the canine parvovirus (CPV) infection, a highly contagious viral illness that mainly affects dogs. I knew right then that we were fighting a fight we couldn’t win. All dog-owners know that a two-week-old, unvaccinated puppy hardly ever survives Parvo.
I should have put her down, but I couldn’t. I wanted to be there with her (for her!) during the last minutes of her short life. I wanted her to know that I didn’t leave her, that there was someone who loved her and stayed with her until the end. It was my face that I wanted her to see and my arms that I wanted her to feel around her when she would breathe her last.
Suddenly, she opened her eyes. Surprisingly clear and alert, they looked straight into mine. And I knew that, with that single, solemn, last look, she was saying I love you, Thank you and Goodbye to me.
Today, with our third and last puppy, I went through exactly the same experience all over again. But, thank God, he is still alive… holding on… hanging in there… stubbornly and tenaciously clinging on to dear life. But this time around, I will be more prepared and accepting when the time comes. After all, I know now what we are up against.
I am certain that, just like a masochist, I will still accept and love with all that I have all the dogs that will come knocking on our door in the future. Because I know that no one deserves to feel unloved and abandoned – especially these furry creatures that could love us back with unconditional loyalty and service and unequalled joy and enthusiasm.
By the way, one would be inclined to ask: What was their mother doing while her puppies were dying?
Well, she was in our garden. Furiously digging its claws into the earth. Digging a hole for her babies.
Sometimes, being a mother really sucks.