I took Mazie home knowing she was pregnant. In fact, I knew before I met her. The idea was to check each other out and if we were a match, I’d wait for her. I think. I mean, maybe. One date and a three month wait? I’m not sure I’m that kind of romantic. But her eyes were compelling. So I drove south, breaking my Covid19 quarantine to see if I might be her human and she might be my new companion.
She appeared so traumatized. Her eyes were big and sad and wide and her tiny body shook violently when they brought her to me. So when the vet assumed I would take her, when after being corrected she suggested I could take her, when I waivered and she told me the arranged foster mom worked 8 hours a day, when she called the rescue foundation and told them she felt good about me and she had convinced them I should take her, and when, by this time, Mazie has stopped quivering and her body softened in my arms, well, yes, I said yes. Without any preparation, without any supplies, without even a leash, I carried her to my car and took her home. Pregnant belly and all.
I’ve never had puppies before. I’ve never given birth. I had zero experience to draw on. So I read a bunch of websites. I talked to a bunch of friends. I watched a bunch of videos. I did my research. I made my list. I worried about things like hemostats and lubricant, thermometer, teat bottles, and dental floss. When her due date approached, I had a pot of water on the stove for warming the towels stacked in a bucket next to the whelping pool. I had my blue latex gloves. I paid careful attention to all her behaviors and everything she ate.
Still, over and over again, I was told not to worry. Momma knows what to do. Even if she’s never done it before (and I had a hunch that she had), her instinct will kick in. Don’t worry, everyone said. She does all the work. Sit back and watch. I shouldn’t have to do a thing.
Except that I did. Right from the start. The first pup to emerge couldn’t get out. Feet first, then body, but her head was stuck. Momma cleaned her up, licked off the sac, but the head was still stuck. I knew from the videos to pull. But still the head wouldn’t come. I pulled again. Still the head remained inside her mom. Frantic, I found my phone and called the woman at the rescue foundation. Pull harder, she said. I did.
Pup #1 emerged with the membrane covering her face and not breathing. Momma cleaned her off and still no sound. Her mouth opened and nothing came out. Her paws were purple not pink.
“I’m sorry to tell you this, but she looks like a preemie and she doesn’t look good. You’re probably going to lose this one.”
Momma licked, doing all that she could, but already a second pup was emerging. Momma needed to attend to that one while I did what I could with the first. Stick my pinky in her mouth and check for obstruction. Turn her over and pat her back. Rub her belly. Breath into her mouth and nose. Again, the rescue foundation told me, “It’s not your fault. You’re doing a great job. But 5 puppies is a lot for such a small dog. You’re probably going to lose this one.”
No! No! No! No! No! My heart was screaming! Not the first one out!! Not the one I almost missed because I finally took a break from my vigilant watching and ran an errand. Not that one. Please God, no.
Truth be told, I struggled to stay calm. I almost burst into tears but that was a luxury and there was no time. I needed to focus. I didn’t have enough hands. Still on FaceTime but I couldn’t hold the phone. I was watching Momma with the second born, cleaning her up, eating her sac, and preparing for the third. (They came out fast, y’all!) Meanwhile, I needed something to warm the first. Not willing to move, to leave Momma’s side, I was panicked. I placed her on my chest, between my breasts against my skin, patting her back with my finger and every 30 seconds or so bringing her back up and breathing into her mouth and nose. I had no idea if I was doing it correctly. How do you give mouth to mouth to something so small?
The third puppy was emerging before the first made a noise. Now Momma was back involved with the first as the little one began to squeal. Checked her paws. The purple was fading. More squealing. “It looks like you saved her” said the rescue foundation. Meanwhile, she warned me, there could be development problems. She might need a bottle, she might not take a teat. She might be slow. There was a chance she still might not make it.
But she did.
Everyone, meet Blessing. Puppy #1. My first little miracle.
Within an hour of being born, after all five pups had arrived, Blessing was at her momma’s teat sucking like a champ. And her paws were bright pink.
Yes, she’s slightly smaller than the rest. But not by much. She’s tough. She’s experienced. She’s a survivor. And, like her momma and me, she’s gonna be just fine.
more photos with the rest of the litter to come!