As I expected, the weakest of the puppies died yesterday. It was sort of a blessing; she was so sick and was just crying non-stop. Even her mother couldn't soothe her. I got her meds in and even got her to eat breakfast, but things went downhill quickly from there. [Stop reading here if you have a sensitive stomach.]
The puppy who died had worms so badly that she was throwing up live worms when she was pulled from the shelter. I know animal shelters have a constant influx of unwanted animals, and often have to make difficult decisions with limited resources, but the way these dogs were treated is absolutely unconscionable. The mother came in ill and pregnant. Instead of euthanizing her immediately (which would have been the most humane thing to do if they weren't going to try to save her or the puppies), the shelter staff put her in a cage and left her alone, unfed, to whelp her puppies. After the puppies were born, they still did not feed her or the puppies. For two weeks! I suppose they didn't want to "waste" food on dogs they were planning to kill anyway. But what sort of person starves a nursing mother day after day? How can this place be called a "shelter"? She'd have been better off on the streets, able to look for food for herself.
This poor dog is a fairly large shepherd mix. She should probably weigh about 55 pounds. Instead, she weighs maybe 30 pounds. Her spine sticks straight out and every rib is visible. Her hips are just bones. She has severe diarhhea. And she's still doing her best to feed her eight surviving puppies. By all rights, she should be hostile and uncooperative, but she's so good-natured that she wags her tail at me and doesn't even protest when I pry her mouth open to give her nasty-tasting meds. I'm feeding her generous meals every few hours and dosing her with Kaopectate and de-wormer. She's drinking tons of water. She seems to have milk, and I'm hopeful that she will start producing more as she gains some weight. In the meantime, I'm remembering what it was like to nurse a baby every two hours--times eight!
(For those who may be concerned, my dogs and kids are isolated from the mama and pups and are not allowed in the yard where they are kept. The puppies cannot be vaccinated until they are older and I don't know whether mama has ever been vaccinated. I will clean and sanitize everything--including the grass, if I can figure out how--before I let any of the healthy creatures out there. I wear latex gloves and cover my lap with a large towel when caring for the pups, and leave my shoes at the door. The last thing we need is worms. Bleah.)