Prior to Maggie coming into my life with her eight newborn puppies, it had been a long time since I’d dealt with puppies at all. Bo was our last puppy – he was a black German Shepherd; mom was AKC registered, and the owner had bred her with another AKC male but before her heat cycle ended she broke out & came home several hours later with a big male lab. Since the owner had no way to tell which male’s seed had taken, he gave the puppies away, and I couldn’t pass one up. Rosie taught Bo a great deal – she practically house-trained him for us. Puppies really learn better when there’s an adult dog to guide them. Bo and Rosie went for a run one day when Bo was full grown – he was as big as Rosie, but people were afraid of him and I suspect someone shot him. At any rate, Rosie came home; Bo didn’t. Rosie stayed home for several months thereafter before she started traveling again. If you’ve ever had a Pyrie, you’ll understand what I mean by traveling.
Peaches was our next dog after Bo – she was six months old when our friends gave her to us. Max came next – he was nearly a year old when we found him.
Maggie was a good little mama and took good care of her puppies. Plus it was summer, and so we could move them outside during the day after they got to four weeks old. They were still a handful, but they were well-behaved, and Maggie kept them in line and taught them the things a mama dog teaches her babies.
Baby’s puppies nearly drove me insane. Within a week I understood exactly why her people couldn’t take it anymore (this doesn’t mean I approve of what they did, just that I understand how someone can reach that point). They were uncouth, unmannered, filthy little blighters, and Baby stayed as far away from them as she could manage. Add in the fact that it was November and cold outside, and you’ll understand what a nightmare those monsters were. On the other hand they were the cutest little puppies in the world, and they were extremely affectionate and loved being handled. In truth I didn’t hold their heathen-ness against them. They’d have been much easier to deal with if Baby had been interested in them, or if there had been fewer than nine.
I swore when they moved to their next foster home that I’d never take a whole litter of puppies again. It occurred to me that I’d be much better off sticking to older pups or adult dogs rather than young puppies. I decided that I just wouldn’t do puppies at all except in the summer months, when I could put the pups outside for several hours at a time.
However, when several friends contacted me regarding Merry & Pippin, how could I say no?
(Yes, I DID name them after hobbits.)
I held off at first – I still had four of Maggie’s pups, plus Maggie, Max and Peaches, plus Baby. But then Hershey was adopted, and Hershey’s new mama’s best friend wanted Lil’ Bit, and suddenly I was almost two puppies down. I heard that the pups in question were outside in a crate with a thin blanket thrown over it & no bedding, and that they weren’t being fed regularly. It’s cold at night in NC in January – too cold for puppies to be sleeping outside without their mama or any bedding. Reluctantly I agreed to take them.
The woman who had them voluntary surrendered them to a friend of mine, who brought them to me. They were bony, with bloated little bellies, and their hair was falling out and they were covered in a scaly rash. My friend told me not to get my hopes up – she’d fed them and bathed them but the male was lethargic and his gums were very pale, and she wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t make it. I took a deep breath and took them anyway.
Lil’ Bit, Chunkybutt, and Po, the last three of Maggie’s pups, had a veterinary appointment the next morning for their rabies shots. I carried Merry & Pippin along. It’s not the first time I’ve shown up on my vet’s doorstep with a “medical emergency,” and no appointment – and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
My vet gave me a long look , agreed to see Merry & Pippin, and informed me, “I’ve come to the conclusion that both you and your mother are emotionally unstable.”
“And when have you met a woman who wasn’t emotionally unstable?” I retorted, setting the crate on the exam table.
“While I’m sure there’s a special place in heaven for people like you,” he said, avoiding my question, “for now, on this earth, you are part of my own personal hell.”
I love my vet.
His prognosis for the pups was very good – they would most likely live with the proper care. He did a skin scraping and confirmed that the skin condition was mange – luckily it was sarcoptic mange, which is easily treated though highly contagious. He did a fecal culture and found a high occurrence of yeast – “Most likely from eating a great deal of garbage,” he told me. “Keep them isolated from your other dogs, give them these antibiotics, sprinkle this probiotic powder on their food, feed them a good high-quality food, and we’ll treat the mange with Revolution. They will be just fine.”
“What a relief! I was fully prepared to leave here without them.” I slipped the pups back into the crate. “And I’ll have you know that there’s a big difference between me & my mother.”
“And what would that be?”
“I rescue dogs with the intention of rehoming them. Mama rescues cats with the intention of keeping them.”
“Inconsequential details,” Doc said. “I stand by what I said.”
Tonight Merry & Pippin have had a bath and are now laying in the floor chewing on their toy flamingo. They had their second dose of Revolution last week, and Doc had told me that after the second dose they would most likely no longer be contagious, so I have integrated them into the pack. They’re so happy – they hated isolation. In the house they play with each other and with Jackie Chan – Baby won’t play much with them, though she tolerates them. All of my outside dogs are fine with them. Max has gotten to where when I bring a new dog or puppy in, he just gives me this look – very much like the look Doc gave me the morning I showed up on his doorstep with two extra puppies.
As for me – I’m back where I was before Hershey & Lil’ Bit were adopted: I have TOO MANY DOGS! But I’m happy, and my dogs are happy. Of the cats Jackie Chan is the only one who is happy – Cookie & Tudna hate dogs. There’s a lady coming to meet Chunkybutt tomorrow, and I really hope she loves him as much as I do. He’s a good dog. Once Merry & Pippin have their third & final dose of Revolution next weekend, they will be put up for adoption as well.
Of course I miss them when they go – but I’ve been lucky enough so far that my pups have gone to people who keep in touch with me – I’m Facebook friends with three of them! I have friends who tell me that they’d love to be able to do this, but they’d get too attached and not be able to let the puppies go. I tell them that I get attached too, and letting the pups go is not getting any easier. But I’m not in this to keep them. I’m in this to find them good homes so I can go back and save some more. I can’t save them all – but I will save as many as I can. And that makes it more bearable when the time comes to say good-bye. I love every puppy and every dog that has passed through my hands – I even love Baby’s demon spawn puppies. If I ever reach a place where I don’t fall in love with every animal I rescue, then it will be time to stop rescuing. Until then, I’m going to save the ones I can, and mourn the ones I can’t, and when I go to bed at night I don’t have a bit of trouble sleeping.