Sunday, August 10, 2014

Black & White Sunday -- August 10

The newest members of the family, albeit temporary. (More about them in yesterday's post.) From the left: Ochoa, Snijder, and Nena.

Thanks to Nola and Sugar for hosting the B&W hop--so glad to be back!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

An absentee blogger's excuse

So some seven weeks ago, I got a desperate call mid morning: someone had found a box of puppies, less than ten days old (their eyes were still closed) in the street. Seven puppies. Who needed to be bottle-fed. Who would, most probably, die anyway. But an animal rescuer that gives up before giving it not just the best but everything is not an animal rescuer at all.

So I took them in. Just for a week, they told me. Another volunteer, with better facilities (remember some members of my seven-pack aren't exactly friendly, and I had no idea how they'd react to puppies, of all things), would take them in the following weekend.

Okay. A week is doable.

They arrived in a donated cat carrier, all seven of them, asleep and twisted around each other like snakes. I took out the one closest to the front and held him in my hand, and my heart sank. These puppies were newborns. Two days old, three tops.

I prepared myself for heartbreak, sooner or later. Probably sooner. Then I prepared a batch of milk substitute, also brought by the volunteer. Each can costs Naf. 50 (about USD 30); raising orphaned puppies has become a luxury.

I can't understand how it's possible, full into the 21st century, that we haven't come up with a better solution for feeding infant animals. Let me tell you: bottles do not work. They hate them. It feels artificial; there's nothing, let alone flesh, surrounding the nipple for their little paws to press against; there's no warmth, no furriness. And there's air going through along with the milk, which is, of course, Not Good.

Seriously. To any inventors out there, I'm begging: please--please--come up with something better.

One puppy did die, the day after I got them. He probably (we weren't going to do an autopsy on a tiny days-old body) aspirated some milk into his lungs, which caused inflammation and infection, and he asphyxiated. He died literally a minute before the vet got to him. Not that the vet could've done anything. No one could. (I keep telling myself that. Doesn't seem to work.)

That first week was hard. I camped out on the sofa, the puppies in a laundry hamper next to me. I slept when they slept, which wasn't all that much. I brought out the bottle as soon as I heard the first whimper. At that age, they need food (and liquids) every two hours, but they didn't like the bottle, so they drank very little. Slowly they began to understand that that ugly plastic thing that tasted funny was, strangely, where the food came from. Slowly they began to drink more, faster.

I ended up keeping three--fosters, not permanent additions to the family... at least not yet. Another foster took the other three. A load shared is a load halved, right?

Ochoa (black) and Snijder, 4 weeks, discovering
the pleasure of sticks--and of fighting over them.
When one began to open his eyes, we were able to calculate exact date of birth (count back ten days, presto): June 18th. We called them the WK pups (WK being the Dutch abbreviation for World Cup). And since they came to me the week before the NL-MX game, we named the three brown ones after Dutch players--Persie, Snijder, and Fer--and the black ones after Mexican players: Ochoa, the biggest one (seriously, he's double the size of his siblings), Rafa (for Rafa Marquez), and--oops, the third one was a girl. We tried several variations, but ended up with Nena (baby girl in Spanish). Her future mom is going to call her Nona.

The tiny one that died was Chicharito.

This past Wednesday they turned 7 weeks old. The week before, at 6 weeks, they got their first vaccination--and just in time, because a parvo epidemic has hit the island. May and June produced a record number of abandoned puppies, and most of the little ones are sick now. Several have died--including, today, one of the WK family, Persie.

Beautiful, smart Persie. Run free, little one.
I'm heartbroken. He didn't live with us for more than a week, but it was an intense week. He was the one that least liked the bottle (opposed to Ochoa, for instance, who got over the plastic discomfort pretty fast once he figured out there was food at the other end), so I spent a lot of time with him on my lap. My chest. My arms. He was the first one to open his eyes. The first to crawl out of the basket. The first to walk. He was so, so smart, and he would've been a fantastic adult dog. The world has been cheated out of a canine jewel.

I know I've been neglecting you. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry, too, for ending on such a sad note. It's a sad day. On the other hand, none of them had halfway good chances of making it, and here they are, five of them, alive and healthy and strong--and four are going to fantastic homes. The fifth one will find his "golden basket", as they say in Dutch; it's just going to take a bit longer. Which means we get to enjoy him all the more.

Oh yeah, cutie. You get to stay in this pack a bit longer.