And now all of the puppies are gone. I’d like to report that they’d all been adopted. But no. They all died.
It was horrible. It was heart breaking. All of us learned a few things about life and death.
A few days after the first puppy died, the others stopped nursing. So I fed them by hand and Millie cleaned up after them. I brought them to the vet and everyone seemed hopeful. 24 hours later, I had one of them euthanized. It followed the same pattern: crying, wandering around, then listless and not swallowing anything. The other 2 followed quickly after.
In each case, I had so much hope that the remaining puppies would make it. I’d look at how well they were eating, or how much they were moving around and will them to be ok.
Gordon was affected the most. The boys hadn’t been that involved with the puppy care. The puppies weren’t really playing or interacting with people that much, so there wasn’t much for the boys to do. But when I told Gordon that the first puppy died, he hung his head, long hair shielding his eyes, and sobbed for 2 hours. No matter what I said, or did, he cried. So we sat together feeling how unfair life can be sometimes. And with each subsequent death, he cried just as hard.
After it was over and a few days had passed, he was able to talk about how this affected him. He just said that it was so unfair. These puppies didn’t get a chance to experience life. What was the point.
I think that this was Gordon’s introduction to how little control we really have over the universe. He lives a pretty good life. And he’s optimistic. If something doesn’t go the way he planned it, he spins it, so that it appears to be an advantage for him. I like this about him. He makes things happen and he makes the things that happen to him work his way.
But there was no way to spin dead puppies. There was no way to explain why this happened.
Dylan was more philosophical about it. He talked to me about the polar opposites of doing everything possible to keep an animal alive and not even trying. He experienced first-hand what the animal rescue/shelter world has grappled with forever. After processing the possibilities, he said that we have a responsibility to the animals in our care to do everything we can for them until it just doesn’t make sense anymore. I asked how he’d know when the animal had reached the end. He said that if the animal were in pain and we couldn’t help it, or if the animal wasn’t able to eat or drink on its own, those would be the signs.
I’d like to say that I’ll never put us through the possibility of this happening again – there are very few things more terrible than dead puppies. But I know that’s not true. I’ll grab the next litter that comes along and give those puppies a chance. I’ll prove that life can be fair and that we don’t have to make hard choices.
Because I think that what I learned from this is that when faced with really terrible odds, I can still hope.