On Friday it was still raining but the pups were five days old and it was time to have their tails docked.
Why do we humans inflict this kind of cruelty on helpless animals? Today, I have a Rottweiler (our fifth) with a long tail, and she looks perfectly normal, but in those days, no-one would buy a Rottweiler that didn’t have ‘The Look’.
Anyway, those puppies buzzed like angry bees all night, so no-one need try to tell me that they hardly felt it. Poppycock! It hurt!
On Saturday we woke to glorious sunshine after a week of non-stop rain. Glory, Hallelujah and Praise the Lord!
We decide to celebrate the sunshine with a walk around the dam.
Lulu looks at us so imploringly over the lower half of the backdoor that we allow her to accompany us. But she walks very listlessly. Halfway round the dam the road becomes impassable and we have to turn back. We decide to go round the dam the other way and then turn back again at the point where the road is impassable, thereby having, in actual fact, gone round the dam twice. Excellent exercise for all of us after being cooped up for a week!
But Lulu is looking exhausted so we take her home first. We just manage to get her home and she flops down on the kitchen floor. I get her water but she refuses it. Those puppies are really taking it out of her!
Barry leaves for golf and Tasha and I continue our walk.
On our return we find Lulu in exactly the same place. Her nose is hot and dry. She is practically comatose!
I phone the vet. He says bring her through at once as it is possibly milk fever. We half drag, half carry her to the car. I race through to Piet Retief, trying to keep my mind blank and off my precious dog, who could be dying and leaving me to raise twelve tiny puppies on my own!
The vet finds that her temperature is sky high. But it is not milk fever. Nor is it biliary. (Thank goodness, because then she would lose her milk.) It must be a uterine infection. (That dirty blanket!) She gets injections and we buy more milk formula. The vet also shows me how to inject the antibiotics so that I don’t have to come into town every day.
On the way home she is clearly in distress. The moment I get home, I drag her out of the car, tie her up once again to the washing line and then turn the hose onto her. After a few minutes of drenching with cold water she begins to revive. When she protests I turn off the tap, dry her with a towel and put her back with the pups.
By this time they are starving and immediately begin to suckle. Lulu couldn’t care less.
Two hours later I take her out and repeat the drenching process. Then I give her a cold sponge bath every half hour. The antibiotics kick in and gradually the temperature comes down. By Sunday morning she starts caring for the puppies again.
But now a new horror arises. The puppies all have diarrhoea! And Lulu’s milk supply has definitely been affected.
On Monday I return to Piet Retief and buy the vet’s entire supply of milk formula.
On Tuesday I wake with a fright. It is morning and I have missed the 2:00 am feed! I rush through to the kitchen but all is quiet and the puppies are sleeping contentedly. I decide that the puppies must have rotated themselves during the night. Lulu is also on a supplement and her milk production is improving. Perhaps we won’t need all those tins of formula after all! (Hope springs eternal in the human breast.)
We notice that Little Man’s eyes are starting to open. At nine days this is surprising. What is also quite remarkable is that while the other pups are interested in nothing but sleeping and suckling, he has already been responding to our voices. When he hears us he cranes his little neck towards us. He seems to be unusually human-oriented. It would appear that he is going to be a very special dog.
He is far and away Tasha’s favourite and I can see she is hoping he will be the one we keep. I am torn. I don’t think it will be a good idea to have two male dogs, and especially not two male Rottweilers.
By nightfall all the puppies are constipated.
Dear Lord, what next!
At 2:00 am on Wednesday morning I get up to carry out the puppy check. All is quiet. I gratefully return to my bed.
At 6:00 am I go back to the kitchen and immediately notice that Little Man is lying very stiffly with his legs outstretched, shivering violently and with his tongue protruding slightly. My heart drops into my stomach. It is the look of death.
I pick him up and he groans. I prepare a hot water bottle and place him on it in my bedroom. Gradually he quietens. Devastated, Tasha takes over his care so that I can attend to Lulu and the other puppies. By 10:00 am he is groaning constantly. We wonder if it isn’t constipation. Tasha rubs his tummy and eventually he has an enormous and very hard bowel movement. Hope flickers momentarily. But the groaning starts again.
Then Tasha calls me in a panic. He is foaming at the mouth and the foam is bloody.
I phone the vet. He believes that Lulu must have lain on or stepped on him. Unfortunately both vets are out on the farms in the district and will only be back at the clinic at 2:30 pm.
We wait at home for the time to pass. We are both crying as Little Man fights for every breath, groaning horribly and slowly drowning in his own blood. We both sob with helplessness.
He dies at 2:00 pm.
At 4:00 pm I fetch him from Tasha’s bedroom and take him to the veggie garden where I have dug a hole.
He lies buried a few metres from where he was born just ten days ago.
I am shattered and come to the conclusion that I am utterly emotionally unfit to be a dog breeder.
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