The Tough Stuff ….


One of my reasons for starting this blog was to show how easy and rewarding it was to foster animals thereby encouraging more people to open their homes to animals in need. The last few days have been a contradiction of that thought – it does get hard at times.

Snowie, a sweet chihuahua terrier mix was rescued from the local pound on December 7th, 2011. She was thought to be at least two weeks away from having her pups at the time. She gave birth to four pups on Friday December 16th, just a hair over one week later.

Snowie did not do well after birth.  She was depressed and would take water but no food.  The smallest, the only male, did not do well from the start and passed within a day.  On December 18th we picked her up to foster her and her pups.  She still had not eaten and we were arranging an appointment the next morning to take her to the rescue’s vet.

When I met Snowie her eyes were filled with sorrow.  She was indeed a very depressed dog.  I feared though, that it was more than depression.  She was cold to the touch and had little strength to move.  She did manage to pull herself out of her carrier and nestle in my lap.  I stroked her head while soft fluffy comforters were placed in a box and I lowered her into them.  She closed her eyes and quickly relaxed into their warmth.

I had to leave for an appointment that would last two hours.  My husband and son watched her while I was away.  I texted to ask how she was and they sent me a picture of her – she was cuddling one of her babies.  Or was it cuddling her?

It would prove to be a very precious picture.  Snowie closed her eyes to sleep and passed less than ten minutes after the last cuddle.  I was on my way home when my husband called to say she had passed.  I was devastated.  I headed straight to the rescue office where we picked up bottles, formula, and blankets and went home to try to save her three tiny angels who were only between three and four ounces each.

Snowie had not been well and had not been able to make much milk.  They had nursed for three days but one was dangerously thin, one was a bit plumper, and the other was plump.  I focused on the thinnest and she ate well.  I was optimistic.

I stayed up all night feeding them at least every two hours, keeping them warm against my skin and trying to console them.  Unfortunately the thinnest one stopped eating and fell asleep about 2:30 am.  She never woke up.  I was devasated once again.

I never slept but instead kept vigil over the two remaining pups.  I was determined not to lose them.  We were at the vets door when it opened at 8:00 am.  He gave the two remaining puppies a good chance as they still had healthy appetites.  He told me the thin one most likely went from a blood sugar crash and told me to put a drop of karo syrup in the formula to prevent the other two from crashing as well.  Apparently small breeds are susceptible to blood sugar swings.

That was this morning.  I spent today dozing a bit between feedings.  I transferred them to a makeshift nursery complete with heated blankets and a tent cover.  They have not left my side.  They look plumper this morning and are doing well.  I will continue to hand feed them until they are ready for solid food.

I am reminded of something I read on the internet – that the power of the human heart is the strongest and most valuable resource any animal rescue group can be lucky enough to have.  I think that is the key to making any rescue operation a success.  Some rescues don’t have buildings, just a network of families that take in animals and foster them in their homes. As the Stanley page said:

“Because we do not have a shelter, foster homes are the backbone of our organization. They provide loving, safe environments for our rescued Bullies to live in while they are waiting for their forever homes.

This is great news for the dogs because shelter life can be stressful. It’s great for the adoptive families, too, because then they can get a first hand account of how their dog copes and interacts in a home like setting, exposed to everyday situations such as house guests, kids, car rides, other dogs and cats.  The more foster homes we have, the more bullies we can rescue.”

These organizations depend solely on the heart of the foster community as the backbone of their organizations.  This is why foster families are so precious and necessary.  They are all some organizations have!

When faced with a tough situation like I find myself in you reflect on why you started to foster to begin with.  To give these animals a chance.  A chance, not a guarantee.  Some are not going to make it.  Snowie is in heaven taking care of two of her pups, I am down here taking care of the other two.  I am proud to be on team Snowie!

Now I am probably the most tender-hearted person you are ever going to meet.  These losses hit me hard.  In fact, I have been crying the entire time I have been writing this post.  But I made myself a promise when I started fostering I would do what was needed, not just what was easy.  I can focus on the fact that three dogs are gone, or I can focus on the fact that two are still alive.  Two sweet pups that would never have survived being born in the pound.

You never know what you are capable of until you are faced with the situation you most feared.  Yes I am sad.  Yes I have almost dehydrated myself from crying.  But I have still made a difference, we all have.  Snowie spent her last days with people who loved her dearly.  The person who tossed her into the pound because she was pregnant didn’t love her.  He did the easy thing without any regard for Snowie.  The group that rescued her gave her a chance, which is more than anyone else gave her.

I will continue to take the responsibility for these pups until they are ready to be adopted.  That’s the right thing – not the easy thing – but that’s what it’s all about.  A group of people who are willing to DO something about a problem, not just point at it and say “someone should do something about that!”  We are the only chance any of these animals has!

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