Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Amazing Circle of Life

We've been waiting for five days for Magdalene to give birth. There was the possibility that the dates got mixed up. I was on vacation when she was bred (unintentionally), and had to go by my brother's best guess. Last Saturday could have made nine weeks. Then again, tomorrow could have made nine weeks.

I got up this morning with plans for the day: a toast to the memory of Willy Wonka and work on my sermon, preparations for a day long road trip on Friday.

As soon as I heard the front door shut at 9:00 this morning, I pulled out the wine. Just as I was straightening up, Magdalene had an accident on the kitchen floor. This is extremely unusual for Magdalene. On occasion, if someone isn't home or if someone doesn't get to the door in time, she might have an accident, but this time, she didn't even try to get outside. Which was curious, because this morning, when we got up at 6:00, she didn't want to go outside either. Her stool was runny and knowing she hadn't eaten anything out of the ordinary in the past couple of days, I thought, "Maybe this is the sign that today is the day."

I put Maggie outside while I cleaned up the mess. I was on my way to let her back in when she cried out, loudly. "It sounds like she's in pain," my mom said. This, I am guessing, was her first strong contraction. Maggie will sit at the door and whimper. She might scratch, just a little, but she doesn't bark when she wants in, and she certainly doesn't cry. I opened the door and she bolted in, running upstairs to our room.

I poured sparking wine this morning for my mother and myself so we could toast the memory of Willy Wonka: The Three Legged Wonder Dog. Then, I headed upstairs to check on Maggie.

She was sitting in my favorite chair, her water sac had presented. It was 9:26am. I tucked her in her kennel to keep her safe, and because this is where we'd pretty much decided she's have her puppies. She'd been sleeping in it off and on for weeks. She was comfortable, felt safe in it.

Well, Magdalene was having none of this. She was definitely NOT having her puppies in her kennel, thank you very much. She'd much rather have them in my favorite chair. So, I headed downstairs to grab an adult human potty pad to place over the seat cushion.

Well, this the point at which Maggie decided the chair be damned, she was going to give birth to her puppies where ever I happened to be in the house, so she came trotting downstairs behind me. She crawled into her bed in the living room kennel, broke her water sac and ate everything.

Her bed is soft and squishy and furry. It also holds onto wood shavings, no matter how many times it's run through the wash. I didn't think the bed was necessarily safe or sanitary enough for Maggie to give birth in, so I coaxed her out of the downstairs kennel, and took her upstairs to my room again.

I put the potty pad down on the chair. Maggie rooted around on it until it was crumpled up away from her, and she was resting comfortably on the cushion itself. So, I put her back in her birthing kennel. Then, I put the birthing kennel on the chair and pulled up a second chair directly in front of it, so she could see me. This seemed to satisfy her. For awhile.

At 10:02am, Maggie's first puppy presented. Just a black dot in a bubble of placenta. Then, it disappeared. Maggie paced, she turned, she whimpered, she rearranged everything in her kennel. She rested. Then, she'd start all over again. Finally, I took the top off of her kennel so I'd have a better view and more room if she needed any assistance.

Around 10:55am, Maggie jumped from her kennel into my lap. She was preparing to make the jump, so I made a bridge with my legs between the two chairs to assist. She curled up for a bit. Around 11:07am, the puppy reappeared, in my lap. Except it wasn't the whole puppy, and it was no longer in the sac. It was just the tail. Protruding from Magdalene's body.

I got nervous. Could puppies be delivered breech? Was this normal? Did she need immediate vet care? How would I get her there when both vehicles were gone?

I ran downstairs to call the vet, and as I hit the kitchen, I heard her scream. And I mean, she screamed. And my heart just broke for her. I've never heard such a noise in all my life. I raced to the phone, called the vet, and spoke to the very kind Dr. Butterfield who assured me that from all I'd told her, Maggie was doing fine. First litters can be scary and yes, painful, but rump first is totally fine. If Maggie was in active labor for over an hour without giving birth, then I should bring her in. As I was hanging up the phone, my mother (who had joined us with her sparkling wine when I told her Maggie was in labor) called down to let me know that the first puppy had been born at 11:15am.

It turns out that Maggie really had no idea what was happening to her. She was in so much pain, her immediate response was to turn toward whatever was hurting her and snap at it. So, my mom help her upright and basically let the puppy drop out. Once Maggie realized what it was,she immediately began to clean the sac off of the puppy and all was right with the world.

Maggie's second puppy presented almost immediately. Again, she screamed. Loudly. Several times. It was born at 11:20am. Again, Maggie, cleaned off the sac and got the puppy breathing. Both puppies began to root around, looking for a teat. We assisted, getting them to Maggie's belly, and belong, both puppies had latched on and were nursing happily.

Maggie rested. She seemed happy and relaxed.

Figuring I had a bit of time, I took a bath.

At 12:58pm, I walked into my room, and checked on Maggie and the puppies. Everybody seemed fine. I sat down to begin drying my hair. Maggie screamed. Half a puppy appeared. She screamed again and the rest of it came out, along with the afterbirth of the first puppy. Maggie began to eat the afterbirth, while her third puppy just lay there, still in the sac. I removed the first puppy from Maggie and brought her attention back to the third puppy, which she immediately began to clean up.

As soon as she had gotten the third puppy clean, I put the first puppy back in with her, and she began to eat the afterbirth. But something wasn't right. The new puppy wasn't moving. The first two puppies had, by this point, opened their mouths. They'd moved their legs. There had been mouthing and flailing limbs while they were still in the sac and Maggie cleaned them off.

This puppy hadn't moved at all since it was delivered. I got a nasal aspirator and mom helped me as we made sure the mouth and nasal passages were clear. Mom massaged the puppies heart. We even used the nasal aspirator to gently blow air into the puppies lungs. Nothing worked. The puppy was cold to the touch and after several minutes, we gave up.

Maggie continued to rest. The first two puppies nursed occasionally. Every once in awhile, Maggie would stand up and turn in circles, the second live and the dead puppy dangling from her. It would have been funny if it hadn't been so sad. I read Harry Potter.

At 2:25pm, Maggie passed and ate the after birth to her second puppy.

At 2:47pm, she passed the afterbirth to her third puppy. I removed the puppy and afterbirth from the kennel, and at 2:48pm, Maggie gave birth to her fourth puppy, without a sound! She cleaned it up. I made sure it was breathing.

Maggie kept looking at me like she didn't understand what I'd done. She kept looking at the towel in which I'd placed the third puppy. Thinking the nutrition in the afterbirth would be beneficial, I placed the puppy back in the kennel around 3:15pm. Maggie at the afterbirth and cleaned the puppy. I tried to remove it from the kennel again, but she gave me such a sad look, that I placed the puppy back in the kennel. She pulled up puppy to her chest, wrapped one leg around it and rested. My super fabulous younger brother went outside to dig a grave.

At 3:52pm, Maggie gave another cry. With that cry, her fifth and final puppy was born. She cleaned it off. It was alive, breathing. It latched onto the first teat it could find and suckled for at least 20 minutes.

When the afterbirth had passed and Maggie had eaten it, I decided it was time to bury the dead puppy. My brother and I took it outside to the backyard, where we've buried our pet rabbits in years past, and placed it in the hole. The hole was no more than 9x9x9 inches. Christopher placed the puppy in the grace, and it looked so tiny I started to cry a little. Until that moment, it just seemed like part of the process. Suddenly, it seemed excruciatingly sad.

We said a short prayer. It was a cold and drizzly afternoon. I filled in the hole. It was difficult, but necessary.

Then, we headed back inside. Maggie is resting comfortably, though she does look occasionally at me with a confused expression, as though she's wondering when I'll bring her other puppy back to her.

For now, the four are doing well. They're nursing. They're squeaking. They're curling up with Maggie.

At some point, they'll need names.

Thus far we have:

#1: Unnamed (Girl)
#2: Unnamed (Girl)
#3: To remain unnamed, as non-viable, (Girl)
#4: John the Beloved Disciple (Boy)
#5: Daisy May (Girl)

So, this evening, I raise a glass. To birth and death and that wonderful in between called life!

(Pictures to come as soon as I can get them uploaded)

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