47: Our Miracle Puppies

47: Our Miracle Puppies

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Our Miracle Puppies

Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand: life itself is the miracle of miracles.

~George Bernard Shaw

We raised Miniature Fox Terriers and loved every one of them. We gave away our puppies to good friends and never put a monetary value on them. “It would be like selling your own flesh and blood,” Eddie said. We jokingly called them our kids, and when one of them left us to go to another home, it felt much the same. A member of our family was missing.

When Little Bit became pregnant with her second litter, we were excited. Her first delivery had been uneventful, with four healthy pups, So when her delivery date neared, we took Little Bit from her outdoor kennel and put her in the 10’ x 12’ building we called the nursery. There we had prepared a nice straw bed for her complete with plenty of food, fresh water, and a doggie door for when she needed fresh air and sunshine. That way, we could keep an eye on the mother-to-be, who was due three days after Christmas.

Little Bit loved her new home and had spent the last few days hollowing out a nest in preparation for the puppies’ birth, just like she did with her first litter. The mild December nights, much warmer than normal for Kentucky, had created a perfect environment.

Christmas Eve morning was damp and cool. Temperatures had fallen more than expected overnight, hovering just above freezing. Eddie had gone out to feed the chickens and dogs like he did every morning, but he noticed right away that Little Bit didn’t come out to greet him as usual. Something was wrong.

He lifted the door to her private quarters and found Little Bit had given birth to five puppies during the night. Two strong males, thriving and strong, nursed at her side. One little fellow was stillborn and under-developed. It never had a chance, as sometimes occurs in nature. But, two perfectly formed females lay over in the corner, wet, cold, and, worse than that, not breathing. During the night, they had gotten separated from the warmth and comfort of Mom.

I watched out the window as Eddie walked toward the house carrying a small bucket in his hand. I could see it on his face when I opened the door. “Look, Linda,” he said sadly. “She had five puppies and three are dead. These two should have made it.”

I looked down at the tiny black-and-white bodies with guilt and regret. If only we had brought the mama inside the house before the puppies came. “Are you sure they’re dead?” I asked.

“I’m sure. Why didn’t I put her in a crate last night and bring her in?” Eddie asked, shaking his head.

I knew how he felt. With a little intervention on our part, the puppies’ deaths might have been prevented.

He picked one up and handed it to me, his eyes full of sorrow. He took the other pup and we held them close. They felt like small chunks of ice. I held mine to my ear. There was nothing — no heartbeat, no breathing, no movement. The lump in my throat grew larger. We should have brought her in, I thought. It would have been so easy.

As I walked the floor with the soft puppy, I thought back on the scene in 101 Dalmatians, when Roger revived one of Pongo and Perdita’s newborn pups. Only in the movies. Something that amazing could never happen in real life. But, when I mentioned it to Eddie, his eyes lit up.

“It’s worth a try,” he said. His positive attitude never faltered.

Working together like scientists on a mission, I warmed a bath towel in the clothes dryer and Eddie grabbed the blow dryer. We gently bathed the puppies’ backs and tummies in warmth, praying it would work. Minutes seemed like hours before I heard a faint squeal. “I heard something!” I yelled. Although the sound was weak, it was a definite sign of life.

For thirty minutes, we continued our vigil, rubbing and massaging their tiny chests until I felt unmistakable energy pulsing in my hands. My little girl was coming to life. Suddenly, her mouth opened and she breathed her first breath.

“She’s alive!” I shouted as tears streamed down my cheeks.

With renewed hope, Eddie worked even harder to save the remaining pup. “You can do it, little girl,” he said as he thumped her lungs and rubbed her body vigorously. It seemed like forever, but within a few minutes of her sister’s first breath, she gasped for air too and wriggled in his hands.

He nuzzled the pup next to his face. “Nothing smells sweeter than puppy breath,” he said. I had heard him make that comment many times before, but now it had a much deeper meaning. He handed me the puppy, grabbed a basket, and hurried out to get the others. We had done all we could. Now, it was time for the power of mother’s milk to work its magic.

Back together in front of a heater, Little Bit licked the two girls, nudging them to her breast for nourishment alongside their brothers. We stood in awe watching the cozy contented family, each searching for the best position. Before long, they were lined up nursing like nothing had ever happened.

But, something had happened to us, something we had trouble putting into words. And, when I tried to tell my family later that day, the words lodged in my throat. Finally, I knew there was only one way to explain it. “Come and see Popsicle and Icicle for yourself,” I said. Their names fit them to a tee.

When the day came to go to their new homes, the owners not only got a puppy of a lifetime, they got the incredible survival story along with it. We hear from them often. The puppies are all grown up, happy and healthy, cherished by their new families. We stay in touch, making sure they are okay and well cared for.

Today, our Christmas holidays continue to be filled with lots of love. Our family and friends bring wonderful heartfelt presents and we love them all. Still, when I think back to that one incredible Christmas Eve morning, I can’t quite believe it. My husband and I had seen something we would never forget — life where there had been none. No amount of money or all the gold in the world could buy such a gift. And, to make it even better — it came just in time for Christmas!

~Linda C. Defew

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