Monday, June 11, 2012

and there were puppies

My friend adopted a stray corgi from her Mom's friend about four weeks ago.  Her family loves corgis and couldn't stand the thought of putting the dog down in a pound.  The adoption was contingent on her male corgi, Jackson, and so long as they got along she would adopt her.  And then Abby became part of their family.

The next week she came to work and told me that Abby was getting bigger.  Well, yeah, I figured she would.  No telling how long she'd been a stray; now she was being fed regularly.  I assured her to expect some weight gain and move on.  (Because I'm such a dog expert, you know.)

They took her to the vet to get her shots up to date and make sure she didn't have any heart worms (apparently those are fatal to a dog).  While there the vet guessed she was about a year and a half.  My friend pointed out that the dog had small nipples on her chest and the vet assured her that was just because she'd had her period once and it didn't mean she was pregnant.  To find out if the dog was pregnant would cost them about $200+ for a doggy ultrasound.  They declined.

She continued to get bigger.

My friend petted her belly and felt something move inside.  Oh, dear; puppies.

No good deed goes unpunished.  I read online about birthing corgis and volunteered to be a doggy doula if she needed help.  This breed apparently has problems and it's common for the puppies to present the wrong way, especially their first litter.

So for a week she and her husband had a moral dilemma about spaying Abby and terminating the pregnancy.  They never wanted puppies, after all.  The finally set the date for the spaying and felt good about their decision.

A few days later Abby started to show "nesting" signs.

Saturday morning she texted me that Abby was digging holes in the back yard and not eating.  Her temp dropped.  Birth was imminent.

Saturday afternoon she called and said it was time.  I took the bag I'd packed for Baby and we went to tend to Abby.  Baby was so excited.

Now remember that I'm not a dog person.  I like cats.  I know cats - but even then I know nothing about birthing kittens.  Our animals had always been fixed.  So this last week I've been studying about stages of dog labor and assisting dogs and reviving puppies - all via the tutelage of Dr. Google.

When I got to her house she had Abby in the kitchen floor on a bed next to the door, really the only place in her house where it was doable.  She was in the floor with her and Abby was having contractions.  Baby watched a movie and the vigil began.

Jackson was sequestered outside, but he, too, kept a vigil at the window.

A mutual friend of ours came for moral support.  My friend's two year old woke up and he and Baby played while we petted and bragged on Abby. That's what the people in the youtube videos did and it seemed like the right thing to do.

I can't tell this story without graphic descriptions, so if that's going to bother you please move on to another post.  Also, please let me note that I am not really a doggy doula.  I can't guarantee that we did anything right in this process; if you've found this post in looking for hints for dog births take everything here with a grain of salt and please call a vet for real advice.

About that time we noticed a fluid-filled sac coming out of her vagina on the contractions.  We'd read about this online.  What we read said not to mess with it - it would pop on its own and then eventually there would be puppies.  So we didn't pay it too much attention.  It kept getting bigger and bigger until it was almost like she had a pool ball coming out.  At one point we looked at it and wondered what that black thing was attached to it.  Abby was still pacing and it was difficult to see, but not too much longer after that we realized it was a puppy attached to it and it had to come out.

Except she couldn't get it out.  Fortunately we had interned under Dr. Google and were prepared for the steps to take.  My friend held the dog's head in a loose, generous head-lock.  I went in to help pull the puppy out with her contractions.  She yelped and got away and snapped at me several times, but it didn't take long for us to get the puppy out.

It took longer for us to get the sac off of the first puppy.  There was so much adrenaline that the seconds took hours to tick past.  Abby didn't know what to do and I couldn't get it open.  (On subsequent puppies we figured out that a dry washcloth did the trick, then go to a different corner on it and swipe clean the puppy's mouth to help clear the airway.)  We worked on this puppy for a while but were unable to revive it.

We consulted Dr. Google again because we didn't know what to do with the dead puppy - to leave it with her until a new one came or take it away.  Apparently there's two schools of thought on this.  We decided as mothers that we'd let her continue to love on it until the next one came.

Speaking of being mothers - please imagine a scenario that while we're doing this the two year old and three year old are constantly needing some sort of adult intervention.  This went on all night with them. If you have to do this again by all means let them be involved at a distance, but have someone there to help with them, too.
Attention was taken away from Abby only long enough to watch a bunny hop through the yard.

Another thing Dr. Google told us was that puppies would come every 15-30 minutes.  That wasn't the case at all with Abby.  The vet told us that was a breed-thing, plus turns out this dog was only about  a year old.  And on top of that we don't know who the daddy was.  We kept making great dane jokes because the puppies were much larger than we expected.

About an hour later another sac began to appear out of her vagina.  We were ready this time.  As soon as the puppy's head was out I broke the sac and started wiping out the puppy's mouth.  She tried to suck on my finger and we were all excited that this one was at least coming out alive.  Again Abby wasn't able to pass the shoulders and I had to help the puppy out on a contraction.  Abby cleaned her up and we wiped her down and it was fabulous.

At this time we were telling each other how awesome we were.  Our mutual friend had to leave.  We fixed the kids something to eat and kept an eye on Abby while we did.  I got the first (live) puppy to latch on and nurse to stimulate oxytocin release - and encourage better contractions.  (That's the only nursey thing I brought to the table.)

About an hour and a half later another head appeared.  Again after the head was totally clear I ruptured the sac and cleaned out the mouth.  Abby was able to push her out by herself.

Two hours passed.  Abby was still having some contractions, but they didn't seem as strong as before.  We paged Dr.  Google.  Do dogs continue to have contractions after the puppies are born?  Do contractions mean another puppy is imminent?  We put the kids in the bathtub and let them play, occasionally walking back to check on Abby.  We were thinking it was over and I was going to get to go home after all.

At one point my friend took her son back to his bedroom to change his diaper when I glanced over and yelled, "Puppy head!  We have another puppy!"  I jumped over the baby gate, gloved up, and broke the sac.  This puppy was wriggling, but Abby wasn't able to push her out.  I helped, but this time the sac broke open to green bad-smelling liquid.  We didn't let her eat that placenta.  The puppy was in respiratory distress and I wanted wall suction, but we didn't have any.  You have to hold the puppy's head down below its body to let gravity help get the juices out while rubbing vigorously on the chest.  She was coughing and sputtering and it wasn't looking good.  The edges of her tongue were white, not pink.

I looked at my friend and said, "There's no way I can do mouth-to-mouth on this dog; it's covered in poop juice.  If it was Abby I'd try, but I can't do this.  If you want I'll tell you exactly what to do."  She looked at me, "I would never ask you to do that; and I can't do it, either!"  So we did the next best thing -- we created our own blow-by oxygen, kindof.  Every time the puppy opened its mouth to gasp for air we blew a puff of air into its mouth (without actually going mouth-to-mouth).  We did this for several minutes and she pinked up quickly.  After an hour she was nursing with the other two puppies with no real distress (it took all of them about an hour to 90 minutes to perk up enough to nurse).

And the vigil continued.  The kids went to sleep - her son on her bed and Baby on the couch, complete with one leg hanging off.

Neither of us had any caffeine. It was after midnight and we were running on fumes and pure adrenaline.

About three hours after the birth of the third live puppy we started to see a sac again.  By this time Abby was exhausted.  We were exhausted and sore from getting up and down, up and down, jumping over the baby gate to get to the kids, on our knees helping Abby, etc.  My haunches were on fire.  After an hour there wasn't much progression at all.  The three puppies continued to nurse, but Abby was giving out.

At one point she leaned over and tore the sac herself, spilling out lots of juice, no puppy in sight.  JJ held her while I felt to see how high the puppy was.  It was too high for me to be comfortable trying to get to it.  I would've had to get nearly my whole hand plus a dry washcloth up there to get a hold of the puppy.  I could tell it was head first (thank goodness they all were - apparently another problem with corgis is that they're notorious for complicated presentations) - but when I put my finger in its mouth there was no suck reflex.  We waited and tried to console Abby and encourage her to push, but after a while she was just not making any progress at all.

It was about 2am.  My friend took her to an emergency vet not far from her house.  She took Abby in and they took her back immediately.  Then she went to the car to get the box of puppies to take inside and she said she could hear Abby screaming from the parking lot.  I knew that was going to be traumatic.  Fortunately they were able to get it, albeit barely, and spare Abby a c-section.  They did an xray to confirm there were no more puppies and she came back home.

By this time it was after 3am and all I wanted was to go home and take a shower.  Baby was konked in the car until right before I pulled into the driveway.  "Mommy!", she said, "That was fun!"  Followed by, "I see the moon!  Is it up time yet?"  No, honey, it's still night night time.  And fortunately for me she went to sleep immediately in her bed and I was able to get a shower.  But I still felt really dirty when I got out of it.

Sunday I hurt so bad it wasn't even funny.  I was so stiff and could hardly move.  I stretched for a while and felt better, but I'm still stiff today.  My friend was, too, except I hate her a little bit because she was able to take ibuprofen and I couldn't because I'm pregnant.

As of today Mom and all three puppies are doing well.  (Although I'll be surprised if the 3rd one doesn't get pneumonia this week from poop juice in its lungs.  For humans we call that meconium and a lot of times those babies will spend the night in the NICU for observation due to respiratory distress.)

We realized today that we didn't get any good pictures of us actually working and birthing dogs because we both had our hands busy the whole time.

The moral of this story:  Please get your dog spayed.  This process was physically and emotionally exhausting for us and for the dog.  Call around - there are places that will do it for cheap because they, too, know the importance of protecting our furry family members.  Leave breeding to the experts.

A final aside:  I know what you're thinking and the answer is NO, we will not be adopting one of these dogs.  Zoloft is completely content being our only pet-child.


Neff Family said...

Oh. My. Gosh. That is an incredible story! Poor Abby!! It's so ironic because we just found a baby-baby kitten (like, 3 weeks old) and we've been consulting Dr. Google. I'd much rather have to bottle feed a kitten than BIRTH puppies. Yuck!! You're incredible!

genderist said...

It was an adventure that I'd wish on no one.

Kelly said...

Oh my goodness - Such a crazy, stressful, sad (but a little happy) story! You're seriously amazing! I hope you never have to be a doggie doula again!