My son has to do a book report – on a biography. As we browsed that section at the library, my eye caught all kinds of animal lovers’ books. I thought Gary Paulsen’s account of life with sled dogs would be fun for Gordon to read. But he chose Zebulon Pike. Who the heck???? I read about how a man’s relationship with his dog changed from one of work to one of companionship; Gordon learned about some dude ‘discovering’ and mapping and blahhhhh.
Of course, I knew from the very first page that the man would outlive the dog. I knew that not all of the dog’s puppies would live. I knew that there would be some terrible event in which the dog saved the man’s life. I knew that the dog would have human qualities and a connection to this man like no other. I knew all of these things would make me cry. But I read it anyway. Maybe that’s WHY I read it.
And then one of our puppies died and I had to cry all over again. Only this time, I was actively involved, instead of just reading about what had happened to someone else.
The male puppy, Brown Necklace Boy, started to dwindle. I woke up in the middle of the night because something just wasn’t right. He was crying, wailing, like he was hungry and in pain. He wouldn’t nurse. Milly tried to stimulate him, but he wouldn’t. He quieted when I held him in the crook of my arm. Or when he could wedge himself between his sisters. When I took him (and the rest of them) to the vet, they couldn’t really find anything wrong. He wasn’t the runt, he wasn’t dehydrated, they were really encouraged when he pooped all over my hand. So I left with instructions to feed him milk replacer, alternating with diluted Karo syrup. That seemed to work. I thought if I could get him to eat something, he might want to nurse again. When I filled his mouth, he’d get his tongue working. I was hopeful.
I went to bed early that night to try to catch up on sleep, but woke at 1:30 to find my little pup in some distress. He wouldn’t swallow anything; he just wailed with his mouth open. Milly and I tried everything. Toward the end, she pulled him out of my arms and nestled him between her paws. She put her head on his back, to protect him? to tell me it was over? I’m not sure. Finally, his little mouth opened and no sound came out. Milly and I waited for the light, hoping and hoping.
I made some chicken for her and some coffee for me. While she ate, I took all the pups out of the box, changed the bedding and only returned 3 of them. She searched for a bit, but I think she knew.
I wrapped Little Necklace Boy in a towel and cried some more.
Puppy Fading Syndrome? I know that every living creature has its path in this world. And I know that I can’t interfere with it.
From Gary Paulsen’s “Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers: Reflections on being raised by a pack of sled dogs”: …and I hoped wherever dogs go she would find a lot of good meat and fat and now and then a run.