Tuesday afternoon I got a text from Stephanie, a passionate and dedicated friend, who volunteers with another rescue group close by. She said someone left a cardboard box on a doorstep this morning in this cold, miserable wet weather. The box contained four, three- to four-week-old puppies. "SOS" messages were sent out to rescues and shelters, hoping someone would step up to take them. No one did. These puppies would need to be bottle-fed, a very time consuming and sometimes unsuccessful endeavor. Many said they would not take them until they were eating food well.
I was on my way home from a trip to Western and Central Kansas for a "grand-kids fix" and a visit with my mother when Stephanie contacted me. She asked if we had any nursing canine mothers that might take the puppies. The two orphan nursing mothers we have in FFAA right now have large litters and are having a time just keeping up with the puppies they already have. I just couldn't ask these sweet mama dogs to take on any more.
I confess, I have been suffering a little "battle fatigue" lately (a common malady for animal rescuers). The very brief get-away to Kansas was a good breather. As I drove, making my way back home, I looked forward to pulling into my garage, enjoying a relaxing evening with my husband, my dogs, a glass of wine, a little TV, and a good night's sleep — but, here were these four little ones who would surely die without intervention (and possibly even with it).
Our puppy nursery was empty and my conscience wouldn't let me refuse to at least try to help them. I called Rich as I drove the 400 Highway, fighting 40-mile-per-hour winds, and explained the situation. My dear husband agreed to support the rescue. As soon as I arrived home, savoring the greetings from Rich, and my furry family, Rich and I made the necessary preparations in the puppy palace and headed back out the door to meet Stephanie at 7 p.m.
I took one look inside the crate and knew these tiny puppies are not nearly old enough to be weaned. They are more like two and one half weeks old, their eyes just opening. They are a long-haired small breed, I think, and absolutely adorable.
I sent out an "SOS" message of my own tonight: "If anyone has successful experience with this bottle feeding business and would like to share it with me, I'd be most appreciative! These little ones are far too tiny and vulnerable to be in the puppy nursery tonight. They are tucked in a warm and cozy corner of the house in our "dog room" with lots of blankets and a little extra heat from a small space heater. I'm setting the alarm for every two hours and hope the puppies and I do better with these bottles.
Page 2 of 2 - As I cradled one of the little female puppies in the palm of my hand while she struggled so hard to take in nourishment, I saw another heart-wrenching example of the mindless cruelty of people who have no respect for life. This beautiful little puppy should have been suckling her mother's perfect, life-giving milk while receiving the care and comfort only her mother, who knows by amazing instinct just how to give to her.
Instead, she trembles, chokes, cries and flounders as we try in our clumsy way to save her life. I feel extremely inadequate and terribly inept as I try to help her hold on to the gift of life. It probably doesn't feel like a "gift" to her right now.
Why do I even try? Why do I stress myself, inflict all kinds of anxiety and heartache on myself over four little castaways. Aren't they "just dogs"! There are plenty more, and don't we have an "over-population" problem?
Aren't they a dime a dozen? The answer is "yes" and "no." Yes, there will be plenty more cast-offs, "unwanted" puppies — but no, there will never be another just like this one. She is a uniquely created puppy and there will never be another like her. If she does not survive, she will die with her unique little song still in her — and the losers are us.
Leanne Williams is president of Faithful Friends Animal Advocates.