I arrived at work at around 1:15pm on Saturday, and while I was signing in, I heard the vet giving instructions to the PetNurses, who were standing around solemnly. The part I walked in on sounded something like this:
“…okay, I’m going to be throwing puppies – I can’t hand them to you, because I can’t touch anything else while I’m operating. You wipe them off, and then go like this.”
At that point, I’d clocked in and was staring around the corner at the vet, who was pantomiming a motion that reminded me of those workouts where people fling handled barbells between their legs in an effort to strengthen their lower back.
I must have looked horrified, because Ally, one of the part-time nurses who only works on Saturdays, waved her hand at me and said, “Not you…you don’t have to worry about this.” I nodded and went out front to see if I could find out what was going on from the other CSCs.
Apparently, Ally’s boyfriend’s sister (you got that?) has two Boston terriers who were both, um, “accidentally bred” by what was apparently a very horny beagle. One terrier had given birth to 6 puppies on Wednesday (two were stillborn), and, due to complications, was at an animal hospital, leaving the still-pregnant sister to nurse the new puppies. Because she was nursing AND pregnant, the chances of her being able to give birth without dying were very low, so she was in the hospital for a C-section.
These people are lazy and retarded. Just as an aside. This is important to know, should you feel like doing the same thing with any of your animals would be a good idea: Pregnant animals should never nurse, in case you’re not clear on what I mean. Seriously. Don’t do it. EVER. Bottle-feeding might be a pain in the ass, but if you’re serious about wanting the animals to live, you’ll do it. If you don’t, perhaps you should think very hard about whether you should be an animal-owner in the first place.
After finding out this information, I went into the back to do what amounted to necessary work on my part, but that I was only doing right at that moment so that I could eavesdrop.
“Clean ‘em and fling ‘em,” the vet (Dr. B) continued, still trying to give the less-sure nurses a pep-talk. “We need to get the fluid out of their lungs. If they’re not breathing within 30 seconds, we have to stimulate them by poking them in the upper lip with a needle. After they’re breathing, rub them, pinch them, do whatever you need to do to keep them that way.”
Several minutes later, the patient was led out. Holy shit, her belly was huge. We guessed there were 9 puppies in there…waaaaaay more than she should have been carrying. Hence the C-section.
She was anesthetized and prepped for surgery. To get out of the way, I went into the X-ray room, which is also the storage room, and began organizing things.
I heard the vet yell, “PUPPY!”, heard a few murmurs, then giggles as the PetNurse who grabbed the puppy began to “fling” it. After the second, then third, puppy-grabs, the giggling stopped, and panic began.
“Kayla!” the vet yelled through the OR window at one of the CSCs who was watching the operation, “grab a towel and get in here, please!”
Apparently, the number of puppies had rapidly outgrown the number of nurses. I washed my hands and waited.
“PUPPY!” Dr. B shouted, holding up a small white-and-brindle package by one leg. I ran in, grabbed a hand towel, and held it out. Dr. B dropped the puppy into my hands, and I wiped it off and began to fling it.
Several minutes later, and a few of us were holding/flinging two puppies each. Then the surgery was over, and we all moved out to the main office area to have more room to care for the puppies while the momma was being sewn up and revived.
A total of 11 puppies were retrieved. ELEVEN. “Holy shit” is an understatement.
At that point, all of the puppies had taken a few gasping breaths, but only two of them were breathing consistently on their own. One of them had been worked on by Ally, and she promptly Christened it as her namesake.
While the momma dog recovered (loudly – she sounded like some sort of demon), we began to have to see other patients…one by one, the PetNurses left to take care of appointments. In the end, I was left to attempt to keep 10 of the puppies warm with a hot water bottle and a hair dryer, while Ally carried her namesake around the office, shaking her and reveling in the squeaking cries that ensued.
“Ally” the puppy was the only one that made any noise.
An hour after the C-section, all of the other puppies had ceased breathing, and their heartbeats were either gone or were so weak as to not matter.
I’ll save you the description of what happened when the momma’s owners came to pick her up. They made me more than a little ill. If I could afford to take care of a dog, I would take one of the puppies off of their hands just to keep it from having to live with them any longer than absolutely necessary.
Throughout the day, Ally fought to keep “her” puppy alive and breathing. An effort was made to feed her, but she wasn’t even reflexively swallowing, and her breaths were more like gasps.
After the third feeding attempt, when “Ally” had stopped breathing until the formula was suctioned out of her nose and throat, and after much frustrated crying on Ally’s part, the decision was made to euthanize the puppy. If, at that point, five hours later, the puppy wasn’t doing anything but gasping, wasn’t wiggling around, and wasn’t even making suckling motions with her mouth, she wasn’t going to make it.
Ally said her goodbyes, gathered up the box that I’d fixed for her which contained the other puppies (she was going to bury them, since the owners of the mother basically said they didn’t care), and left.
I stayed with “Ally” while the other vet, Dr. K, did a cardiac euthanasia with tears in her eyes. It’s difficult to see something struggle for life, only to have to make the decision to end it. Dr. K took the puppy home with her that night to bury it in her yard.
I remarked that it was days like that one in which I was very glad to be on anti-depressants. Dr. K agreed.
Dr. B was upset because she’s done several C-sections in her career, and has never lost even one puppy until today.
THAT is why you don’t let a pregnant dog nurse other puppies. Nutrients are robbed from the puppies who are in-utero, and the mother becomes too weak to give birth.
If any of those puppies had survived, they wouldn’t have been healthy, and the mother was out of colostrum, which is essential for newborn animals in order to give their immune systems something to work with until they (the immune systems) are strong enough to start defending the bodies alone. Basically, the cards were stacked against the puppies, and while I don’t entirely blame the owners, I still think they’re fucktards for not spaying their dogs, for not keeping the dogs inside while they were in heat, and for dealing with the situation in the way that they did.
I posted a photo of the puppies on Twitpic while they were still alive – some people guessed that there were 9 puppies in the basket, but there are actually 11 puppies in the photo. Here they are:
Click to make the photo bigger.
Puppy #9 is “Ally”. If you look closely, you’ll see that she’s got a lot more color in her than the others…her skin looks red compared to that of her siblings. That’s because she was actually getting a lot of oxygen into her system at that point.
#3 and #5 are the puppies that I cared for. If either one of them had survived, I would have taken them home with me, but I had to work to not get attached. I knew the risks.
It was a physically and emotionally draining experience. Two days after getting into a car accident, the last thing I needed to be doing was flinging puppies between my knees, but seeing them gasp, even once, made me feel like a rock star. I did everything I was “supposed” to do, and so did everyone else. The puppies just weren’t made for this world.
It’s things like that which make me more certain that I love my job, as strange as that sounds. It makes me more certain of other things, as well (namely, that there are some folks who just don’t need to have pets), but despite the poor outcome, I’ve never been prouder to be in the office than I was on Saturday.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.