Practicality tells a breeder to never get too attached to a newborn puppy, since there are so many things that can go wrong. Reality is another matter altogether.
Staying up nights and bottle feeding a puppy creates a bond you can’t ignore. The first time he eagerly crawls over and starts sucking on your finger as soon as you touch him is the day you commit to allowing your heart to be broken. The first time you hold his tiny head up, smaller than an egg and just as fragile, so that you can help him try to breath instead of gasping for air, is the day you start to grieve. Starting to realize that things might not turn out alright does nothing, absolutely nothing, to help you prepare for the reality.
I will not go into what it was like to lose him, both because I don’t have the words, or the heart. I will say that he fought, and I fought with him, but we couldn’t win that battle.
In 17 years of French Bulldog breeding, I have lost a few puppies. A few were still born at birth, and I lost one litter to a negligent vet. I have lost one other puppy, before our boy. I remember them both, and I remember every other puppy as well. I miss them all, and mourn that I couldn’t help them.
I know it’s not right to get this attached to a puppy that logic tells you you might lose. My vet said to me that she tells breeders with puppies like this that they should put them down as soon as possible, to spare themselves the grief. I asked her, as a breeder, if that’s what she does. Her reply was “No, I fight to keep them alive, just like you did. I don’t know how to do anything else”.
Our boy is buried beneath our cedar trees, with a cairn of stones over top. I dug the hole, and it wasn’t easy, because we sit on good, solid Grey County bedrock. I dug it in the rain, and I did it because he deserved it. Sean wrapped him in my t-shirt, and put a very small teddy bear under his arm. He said “He’s never been alone since he was born, and I don’t want him to be now”.
He is missed.
“Sorrow makes us all children again – destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson