85: Nurse on Call

85: Nurse on Call

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Nurse on Call

Dogs are miracles with paws.

~Attributed to Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy

“That puppy won’t make it through the night,” the vet told us flatly over the phone. That wasn’t what my husband, Roy, and I wanted to hear. The little puppy had been born lifeless, still in the amniotic sac, with only a tiny muzzle visible. I ripped open the sac, and there it was—cold, not moving or breathing. Roy started puppy CPR, a technique we had only read about. Just when we had almost given her up for dead, she took a deep, lung-filling breath. She was still deathly cold, so Roy warmed her in his cupped hands while I called the vet.

“If you want to try to save her, see if you can get her to nurse, and fix a separate box with a heating pad for her tonight,” the vet continued. “Don’t keep her in the whelping box with the mother and other puppies—they could lie on top of her and kill her.” So, before Roy left to work his night shift at the Sheriff’s Department, we did what the vet recommended. The tiny puppy was so weak, she could not lift her head to nurse on her own, but she did great if I gently lifted her little head near one of her mom Lacey’s nipples. Though we had grave doubts about the little pup, we would do what we could to save her.

As night fell, Lacey fed her normal three pups and I held up the tiny pup to Lacey’s teats before I put her in her own little box for the night. She seemed stronger—but I tried not to get my hopes up. Before I put the runt in her box, Lacey licked her clean. I petted Lacey and all the new pups, said a little prayer for the littlest one, and went to bed.

About midnight, Lacey woke me from a sound sleep, scratching at the foot of the bed—her signal she needed to go out. Half awake, I half stumbled to the back door and let Lacey out. Since I was up, I thought I’d check on the pups. The three puppies in the whelping box were mewing sleepily—looked like Lacey had given them the midnight feeding. Then I looked in the runt’s box. She was missing! Now I was fully awake. Where could that puppy be? I frantically searched in and around both puppy boxes, and behind all the furniture in the room. The puppy just was not there!

My mind raced with stories I had read about mother animals killing their young when they were not “normal.” I hurried to the back door and flung it open. Sure enough, there was Lacey holding the small, limp pup in her mouth. I was so panicked; I screamed “No” at Lacey and brought her back into the house. Lacey calmly walked over to me and dropped the tiny pup on my bare foot. I was beside myself with fear until I realized she was breathing. Lacey nuzzled the pup, then my foot, then the pup again, and then my foot again. Then, she lay on her side offering to nurse the pup. Then I got it! Lacey had not wanted to go out; she wanted to feed her pup. She knew her littlest pup needed help to suckle. It was this baby’s time to nurse without competition from its siblings, and Lacey was enlisting my help. I gently moved the pup to Lacey’s teats and the little runt suckled. Amazing!

For three or four more days, until the little runt could lift her own head to nurse, Lacey would feed the other pups then, like clockwork, carry the runt into the bedroom and wake me to help her with the midnight meal. The little runt lived to a ripe old age of thirteen—all because Mama Lacey did something I never would have believed if I hadn’t had the privilege of being part of her family.

~Janice R. Edwards

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