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.


  1. What a sad tale. However, because of your actions, five dogs will have a second chance at a good, normal life. That two didn't make it is heartbreaking. Don't lose sight of the fact, though, that but for you, all seven would be not be here today. I, for one, applaud what you do, and admire you for it.

    1. Thanks, Keith. And thanks for not giving up on me (and the blog)--it's so good to see your name pop up in my comments notifications :)

      Off to catch up with you, too!

  2. Guilie you've done a fabulous job taking these pups on and getting so many through, congratulations to you and the other foster carer. (And I thought I had it hard feeding my lambs every 4 to 6 hours - every 2 hours must have turned you into a zombie queen). How sad to lose Chicharito and Persie but remember they got to feel love and care and warmth and kindness, even if for a short time, and that is a precious gift. Love your work :D

    1. Aw, Mandy, thank you. You actually brought tears to my eyes (clichéééé--Matt would mark this in yellow and write REALLY??? :D ). Yes, I was a zombie queen for that first week; I think I slept around 8 hours the whole week, haha. But they grow so fast that I'm glad I spent that much time with them then.

      Thanks for the visit!

  3. These animals have a guardian angel in you! How anyone can just dump them on the street is beyond me and what about their mom? She must be heartbroken to have her pups taken away from her. Why wasn't the mom spade? All these questions. It sounds like the first one may have been the runt and the other who passed, there was nothing you could do either. You gave your best!! 150% worth nobody can ask for more and now there are 5 great pups around. I told my hubby about the dilemma and he claimed he saw zoos with something. My husband said make a big soft plastic bag and attach nipples on it, cover it in fake fur and have some pump on the other end that, when the animals suckle, it will pump the milk into them. He claimed to have seen this but I never have. I told him to make it!

    1. Wow, Birgit--thanks for tuning me onto that zoo nipple bag! I'll research it further, and I do hope your husband starts manufacturing them; I'm sure there's a demand (sad, but inevitable).

      Yeah, poor mom... I wonder what happened to her, but I'm afraid it's nothing good. Spaying (and neutering) is a bit taboo in this backwater of the world. People still feel they're cheating their pets out of a "full" life--no, don't even get me started. I could choke them. I'm volunteering now as well for an organization that sterilizes dogs and cats for free--yes, for FREE!--and it's frustrating to see how few people take advantage of such a service. I'll write a post later this week about that (I need to vent, haha).

      Thanks so much for the visit, and for your emotion. Yes, animal rescue is frustrating, but the fact that there are still people out there who can feel for these voiceless ones is the only thing that gives us hope :)

  4. Guilie, my heart was breaking as I read this story yet filled with admiration at the same time at your can do attitude. Two conflicting emotions ... yet this is how it is much of the time. Bless those pups, and bless you as you continue to foster the ones you have with you.

    1. Thank you, Susan! These little ones need all the good vibes they can get :) Have a great beginning of the week!

  5. Such a heartbreaking story, but without you, none of the puppies would have survived. What you're doing is SO wonderful, Guilie! ((HUGS)), All the best to you and the pups.

  6. Omg I do not know how you do it I would totally suck at being a foster mommy I would seriously wanna keep them all. ♥

    Awww ='0( that breaks my heart as well that their lives were taken but, at least you gave them the fighting chance they deserved you're a blessed foster mommy. ♥

    The black one looks like a Rottweiler but, most likely could be a Rottweiler mix just going by his brothers and sisters still adorable as heck all the same. ♥

  7. Lovely blog you have here! Big hello from India.


No love like Dog Love--or Blog Friend Love!