Sorry for being missing in action, but Penelope’s puppies came down with diarrhea, and caring for them has been consuming pretty much every minute of my time.
We first noticed it on Sunday afternoon, but by the early hours of Monday morning their poo issues had escalated from ‘worrisome’ to ‘alarming’. Because puppies have lowered immune systems and no fat reserves to draw on, diarrhea can send a healthy puppy into a tail spin within 12 hours. Just like with human babies, the main concern is dehydration. Dehydrated puppies can crash with stunning rapidity, so I spend all of the late hours of Sunday and the early hours of Monday monitoring them for it.
The smallest girl, who has always been significantly more petite in both size and weight than her siblings, had the hardest time of it. By 8 am Monday morning, she’d had two rounds of subcutaneous fluids, and was nursing with lackluster enthusiasm. I knew I had to get a stool sample in as soon as possible, to find out what the problem was, and to try and learn how we could treat it.
Like a lot of breeders, I use two different veterinarians on a regular basis. My ‘main’ vet is my reproductive specialist, who I use for everything and anything breeding related. They do our c-sections, our timing tests, our inseminations and our semen storage. However, since they’re an hour away, I’ve used a local veterinarian for some of the smaller, more minor issues that come up with our dogs, such as xrays, cremation for Ellie and shots of oxytocin when Penelope’s milk wouldn’t come in. Since they’re in Durham, just five minutes away from me, they seemed the logical choice for doing a stool culture. I called and asked them if I could come in, then groggily jumped in the car, carrying my tupperware container of puppy poo.
When I arrived at the clinic, the receptionist was (and I’m understating here) remarkably chilly. She took my sample into the back to hand off to the vet, while I arranged to pick up a new bag of ringers and some needle tips from the vet tech. Just as she was ringing me in, I heard the male veterinarian loudly asking “Why I’d bothered bringing the sample to them, if they weren’t good enough to be my regular vet”. The receptionist returned, carrying my poo, and haughtily told me that, “since their clinic obviously wasn’t skilled enough to be my regular clinic, and couldn’t possibly be able to know what to look for in the sample, maybe I should just take it up to my real vet”. While reading the preceding sentence, make sure to imbue it with as much hostile sarcasm as possible, for full effect.
I was stunned and surprised, which coming on top of a full weekend of sleep deprivation, and a full night of caring for sick puppies, was a very bad combination indeed. I asked if she thought my ‘real’ clinic would complain when I took my new pigs to Durham, then answered my own question by saying “Oh, wait, of course they won’t be, because they understand that different vets have different specialities — I don’t take my large animals to my repro vet, and I don’t let my large animal vet do c sections on my French Bulldogs”. I then stomped out of the clinic, an effect that was probably spoiled by the fact that I was so tired I bumped into the door frame.
I just don’t understand what they were trying to prove. Would they rather have none of my money than some of it? Is it inconceivable to them that, for a dog breeder, there’s nothing unusual in having different veterinarians for different needs? I’m a good client. I pay all of my (rather large) bills as they’re presented to me, I’m on time, I listen politely, and I follow directions. Most of all, I have a lot of four legged creatures for them to treat. Their loss, I suppose, although it didn’t feel like it when I was careening up the highway to my ‘real’ veterinarian to have them check the sample.
The stool sample results have thankfully come back negative. The puppies don’t have an illness, or a parasite, meaning that this is one of those cases of ‘mystery poo’ that plague dog breeders from time to time. Possibly it was related to Penelope’s milk, although we cultured that as well, with nothing seen in the results. Mom and pups are on a low dose of antibiotics as a sort of ‘just in case, and it couldn’t hurt’ precaution, and everyone seems to be coming around quite nicely. Even the tiny little terror is back to head bopping her siblings if they get in her way. I’m still watching over them rather obsessively – I even had Sean take a few days off work to help me, so I could get some sleep.
The tiny girl is now seriously tiny in comparison to her siblings. While they’re sitting at about 14 ounces and change, she’s just under 11. I suppose that this officially means that the tiny girl is a ‘runt’, much as I loathe that word. I especially hate it when people contact me and tell me that they’re looking for ‘just a runt’, as if this small little girl, who I’ve watched over constantly, weighed three times per day, and who sleeps in the crook of my arm when she tires of nursing, is some sort of defective goods. She might be small, but she’s a defiant little fighter who latches on to a nipple with the suction force of a Dyson vacuum, her tiny face wrinkled in concentration. Far from being ‘just a runt’, she is instead just about my favorite.
Upstairs, and out of the fray of multiple siblings, Heart continues to grow. We’ve taken to making little Jabba the Hut jokes when we visit with her, parroting her saying things like “Feed me again you shall, HaHaHa”. It’s a Star Wars geek thing.
Here’s an interesting photo — it shows the clear differences in coat color between the tiny girl, who I now think will be a honey pied, and her (literally) big sister, who is going to be a sort of caramel colored cream. The color differences between all four pups are now quite striking, if you look closely enough.
Oh, and email? Yes I know you’re there, all 268 new messages in my inbox. Give me time to sort through them all, please — I’ve been living in one single small room for three days straight, so my mind isn’t quite where it should be just yet.
Here’s the entire photo set, on Flickr. More of Heart some time later this week.