I would like to share a story with everyone here. It’s a long story, it’s not a happy story, so some of you can just flick past and pretend you didn’t see it!
At 2:30am on a Monday morning I was awoken to a terrible puppy scream. I flew in and our little dark red boy had gotten himself into quite a fizz. He’s breathing was like his airways were obstructed and I was really worried he had aspirated something foreign. I was on the internet asking the most ridiculous questions to Google, one handed, cuddling him, in a bit of a state myself. By this time the whole family was awake and Ruby was also worried. By cuddling him into my neck I was able to calm the little fella down, so I figured maybe mum sat on him and he was terribly upset because of that. I stayed up with him all night and as he wasn’t accepting the boob I gave sub cut fluids and tried to keep him calm, once calm his breathing was ok, upon exertion it would again spike. By the time the surgery opened he appeared to be a bit better, not so much so that he wanted to accept a boob but he was quite settled. He was happy being cuddled in an upright position and tried to climb to be in that position in the box on mum. When calling the clinic I explained that I thought he might have a tummy upset, explained his little noises and breathing and was told if he had an upset tummy to maybe give him some pro-biotic (which we had here already) and watch his hydration until getting into see the vet at a later first available appointment, he had elevated respirations but thought if in pain that was probable. We gave him a very small warm water enema as I had not seen any bowel movements, and when he pooped all looked great there, so we could now rule out constipation (which should not be present in a 9 day breast fed pup anyway)
When we went in to see Stu, our vet, he had a good look over him and said he was more concerned about his breathing, so perhaps we run an x-ray to see what was going on and because he was so little his stomach/bowels would also be viewable. WELL this is when we found our problem. Our little man had a diaphragm tear, about half the length of his diaphragm in size, all his intestines, spleen, stomach etc. were up in his diaphragm instead of all neatly where it should be below. This is a congenital fault. The vet stated this type of thing will normally take a puppies life in the first few days, if they even made it that far and many people would possibly put it down to fading puppies or just wake up to find the puppy dead. To have made it 9 days was quite a feat on its own... So no wonder our boy couldn’t breathe and no wonder his tummy was sore. Stu gave me the options. 1. Head on to see a specialist, which we knew would mean his health/hydration/energy would be compromised for the wait/time to drive there. 2. Euthanasia or 3. Stu could open him up and see if he could rectify but chances were possibly slim. Number 3 was our choice; a slim “chance” to us meant we had to at least try. We knew it was a large risk, simply the anaesthetic for a 9 day old baby was risk enough, Stu would have to go in and bring his intestines and other organs back down into the lower cavity and then stitch the tear or unformed area back up. All organs could be developed in the wrong places etc and it would depend on what adjustments he had to make could all effect the final outcome. We figured that he’s other option to be put down wasn’t exactly any better, so proceeded. I was told to stay close to my phone for the next 2 hours.
In this time i drove up to the lookout over town and prayed for our little one. I was honestly thinking I am going to get a call to say he didn’t make it, or something went wrong or it was too much for him, BUT as i looked over the district from above I got a call to say can you come pick him up in half an hour, if I was comfortable to continue his post op care at home. I cried like a big baby, then started questioning why I was such a blubbering mess. I was told we were a long way from out of the woods as this was big for a little man with many new concerns. i.e. lung inflating now to full capacity, bowels working, blood flow etc to name a few only and there was a section of his liver that needed to be cut slightly to be able to fix him up and stitch back up. The liver is the only organ that can rejuvenate, so at least that was a plus if any organ had to have been affected. On the latest x-ray it showed everything where they should be. Fantastic job from our vet Stu, regardless of what ever outcome we were faced with from here!! He was given AB’s and pain relief and sent home with me. At home he was very groggy for a long long time but when he started coming out of his little groggy haze he started lip smacking for mum. This was a long 5hrs later.
Ruby was not accepting of him at all to be truthful, she either knew he was unwell and natural instinct says for them to devote time to the healthy pups not the sick or she thought i was giving her a foreign puppy that smelt and tasted funny. I tried rubbing her milk over him, but she was still avoiding his care, even to the extent of if I put him in her whelp box, she wanted to get out and leave. As the little man had to be kept separate in case she was to think his stitches needed removing I simply continued to plead with her to let me try to feed him between me getting cuddles. At 3am he jumped on the boob with a vengeance, he fed really well with vigour! But then that was it, we were not going to eat again; he went into a sleepy, settled phase, his breathing good, just resting. I woke my hubby at 6:30am and asked him to watch him so I could have just a little sleep. By this stage I had now been surviving on only 2hrs sleep I had before bub woke up the now 2 nights ago. My son stayed home from school to help with cuddles and feeds too, so I was able to sleep until 9am.
We went back to the vets at 11am and Stu did a repeat x-ray, the x-ray showed some great things, I was told not to do cart wheels just yet as we still a long way to go, but many boxes were ticked. His breathing was good, his lungs appeared inflated well, he didn’t have build ups of gas in his bowel, he was hydrated, colour good etc. We came home after another AB happy that he was just resting it up with every finger crossed.
He started drinking from mum a little later that day and continued to do so quite well, it was when I gave him a couple of drops of liver water (old remedy for energy and goodies) that his mum went hmm your mouth tastes yummy so she cleaned it. I then seen it as my opening as I coated him in the liver water and mum then spent the next half an hour cleaning him. Then what do you know, she loved her baby again. Thank goodness!! If anything she then became the amazingly doting mum, really watching out for him. I think very hopeful too this was him coming through ok.
On night 2 post surgery I notice a crackle in his chest I could only hear by having my ear really close to his mouth. I was unsure if this would become a problem or not so watched close. He was drinking lots off mum and I was giving him a sup feed every now and then also. He’s little noise seemed to be a little worse after he had his last feed. He had got the hiccups and I feared he had aspirated a little fluid as when his hiccup subsided this little crackle on breathing in and out was more noticeable. so I became really worried. When he went into a quiet mode again and refused the boob I again worried and called the vet. I gave him a sub cut again, just to maintain fluids in the meantime and gave him fluids over the tongue.
When we arrived at the vets the little rat bag had some energy again! After a cuddle with the vet nurse, we went into see Stu, well when we took the blanket away and put him on the counter I had a little lala. The first vocals I have heard since before the surgery. LOL Stu checked his chest as said the cracking was in his throat, not chest, lungs sounded good. PHEW! Now to get one pee’d off puppy home for a feed! Stu gave me some helpful things for helping him feed from syringe etc, great advice on some swap feeds and we were off home.
As Ruby had had the little man chugging away for ages on the boob yet he was still dehydrating needing sub cuts, syringe feeds (which he would fall asleep half way through) and the other pups getting frustrated showed that we had a problem with Ruby’s milk supply. Home I came to give the little man a drink from a not so impressed Aunty Sabre. I think she was thinking omg what if Ruby catches me feeding her baby, but she soon gave him a clean and showed him some love. He then settled in for a big snooze. Yep as expected we had some grumblie Ruby siblings so we then gave all 5 of those a top up bottle feed. Soon had happy bubs with full tummies all round and yep now random bottle feeds for them all, put on the agenda.
We had a great night and next day, with him doing it all right, eating, sleeping, cuddling his family, simply seeming a normal puppy, smaller now than his brothers and sisters, but still very much a part of his family ♥ Aunty Sabre continued to give him a feed, he would join her foster family happily, then head back to snooze with mum and siblings. We wrapped his stiches with a little vet wrap, very loose so we could allow him to stay permanently in the box, without having to watch for constant worry of stitch removal.
Maybe we started to get too positive that he was going to pull through this :( as our little man had a crappy night breathing. He would only settle again in upright position, with me. No sleep again for me. We went into the vets that next morning. He’s weight showed an increase of 50g so he had been doing well. In with Stu for another x-ray which showed fluid on his chest, he was unable to breathe to full capacity with fluid surrounding and restricting his lungs. We were told this could happen, post surgery, among the list of possible complications he could have had and as he was already on antibiotics there were not many choices. 1. Open him up again, drain said fluid. We knew this was a farewell if we took that path. Stitch was not strong enough to handle another anaesthetic let alone the surgery, so we said no, we would not put him through that. 2. Aspirate what we could and then put him on a diuretic to help him clear it. Option 2 it was. Not allot was able to be aspirated, which was a worry, but we crossed our fingers on the diuretic. I had said as I left the clinic, if he had to continually suffer breathing after this we would look to put him down.
The Diuretic did allow him some relief, for those who are unawares to what it should do - it helps dry the infection up in his chest, it actually draws excess fluid from the body to excrete in the urine. We had to really maintain fluids in this time. His breathing did improve, but not to a point that we could feel him getting heaps better, or getting an appetite back, it was still a big problem. He rested more, which now I know was his little body shutting down. His breathing was less forced with help of new airflow again, but the fight had weakened him. We lost our little Stitch that night. He was sleeping peacefully on my knee. Nearly 6days after his fight started and at only 2 weeks 1 day old.
Those of you who truly know my family and I would understand why we made the choices we did, why we thought little Stitch deserved a fighting chance although only 9 days old. I know and have already heard of some that would not have ordered the surgery and their choice is their choice. This was ours. We bring puppies into this world. They are here because of a decision that we made! They deserve for us to fight for them, to love them, to care for them. They have no voice!! We have to. We breed dogs because we love to. Not for the money as everyone knows, I’m a nurse and could earn more money if I worked full time instead of only 2 nights a week (home every day to be with my dogs!! ) We love the fulfilment that they bring our family. We love the love they give us UN questionably!! We are blessed to be able to bring these little life's into the world!
Today is a very sad day. Today I shed tears for my little man who we hoped would live and tell his story at the dog park, to a puppy that was faced with a bad hand that was just too hard to conquer, tears for the fight he put up!! Tears for his beautiful mumma Rubes who I promised I would bring him back to when I took him away for surgery. She would find all this so hard to understand. Then I’m finally shedding BIG tears with my family who went through all of this and had to say a very sad goodbye. WE fought such a hard fight.
RIP Stitch, you beautiful, sweet, little man! May you leave paw prints in the sand at Rainbow Bridge. Paw prints over my heart. xx