It had all started 2 days earlier when Kansas, one of my Chocolate Labs, had gone into labor a few days ahead of schedule. She had given birth to 8 Chocolate and black babies and we were waiting for number nine to make an appearance. Since Kansas was in no distress we continued to wait but nothing was happening. Finally we packed her into the car and headed for the Vetís office. After several shots to induce labor proved ineffective it was decided that a Cesarean Section was in order. The C section produced 1 very small chocolate girl which we named Mirage. My normal pups weigh in at around 16 ounces and this little one barely tipped the scales at 8. Her hair was sparse, her eyes were still on the sides of her head and her ears stuck out like little airplane wings. No wonder she did not want to come out, she was almost 1 week premature.
When the first 8 pups were examined by Dr. Dan it was discovered that 5 of them had cleft palates (which could have been caused when Kansas was exposed to pesticides during the critical point of her pregnancy), 4 of them were severe and we werenít able to save them. The fifth, a little black girl we had named Phantom Jet was not as bad and there was a chance that she could be saved. When the new little one was born she was checked over, despite her fierce wiggling, given a green light and sent home. Two days later she had 2 major convulsions and lapsed into a coma and we were back at the Vets. Now that she wasnít struggling during the examination, it was discovered that she also had a cleft palate. Although not as severe as the first 4, it had kept her from nursing. Since she had not had anything to eat since she was born the hypoglycemia was an obvious result. We infused a glucose and vitamin solution under the skin and she soon responded. She had everything going against her, she was premature, she was a C-section, she had 2 major convulsions that could have stopped her heart at anytime, she was now in a coma and she was only 2 days old. I didnít want to loose another pup, especially one which had such a fighting spirit and had already beaten the odds. We opted to continue with the glucose solution and to take on the task of tube feeding her for a few days. This would buy us time until the head of the practice, Dr. Ted, could examine her and give us our options.
We took Mirage home and continued to inject the glucose mixture under her skin for the next 72 hours. In addition, she was now placed on a feeding schedule and was tube fed every three hours around the clock. Once the glucose and food started their magic, Mirage was back to being as normal a little puppy as she could be. She was placed in an incubator box and watched carefully. She was only placed in with her mom for short periods of time so that Kansas could cuddle with her. This was one little girl that needed very special handling and we were going to make sure that she got it.
The following week we took her back to see Dr. Ted who evaluated her chances. The cleft appeared to be primarily soft palate damage, so after a long discussion we decided to go for it. This meant that she would have to be tube feed every 3 hours until she was 5 weeks old and then Dr. Ted would do the surgery. Since we were up anyway, we supplemented Jetta to make sure that she stayed strong and healthy. Life took on a surrealistic quality. We never got enough sleep as we were always warming the formula, feeding the pups, or soothing Mirage through her bouts of colic. This was all in addition to taking care of Kansas and the other pups as well as trying to handle the day-to-day activities of an everyday life. We didnít go anywhere or do anything, these pups, especially that little bundle of chocolate became our life. Sometimes we would get so discouraged that we would wonder if it was worth it and back to the vets weíd go. Bless those wonderful people. They would listen to us and feel our exhaustion and pain but then would send us back home after encouraging us to continue the struggle. It all came down to the fact that these little girls deserved a chance at life and Mirageís will to live was so strong that we would do just about anything to make sure she had the best chance possible.
Mirage was weighed daily and slowly and steadily gained weight. So when she wanted to be with her mom and the other pups we put her in for a few hours each day but this lead to our next small crisis. Kansas stepped on her and broke one of her front legs. Because she was so small and her bones were so soft there wasnít much we could do for it and we had to let it heal itself over time. Soon she demanded to be with her brothers and sisters full time so she got to move into the big box with them.
Time went on and the other pups opened their eyes and started walking but not our little girl. She opened her eyes about 7 days after the others and she was a full two weeks behind them when it came to walking. She was unable to get her back legs under her and would drag herself around by her front legs playing and fighting just like everyone else. Since she didnít know that she was different from the others we werenít about to tell her. I doubt if she would have listened to us anyway, we were already learning that her "strength of character" was much stronger than ours.
Finally, the 5 weeks were up and we took both Mirage and Jetta in for the final evaluation. It still looked good so surgery was scheduled. When Dr. Ted got in there, he discovered that there was more hard palate damage than originally thought. Using a microscope and the instruments used for birdís eyes, he cut and pasted and put our little girls back together. We picked them up that evening and brought them home. They still wouldnít be allowed to eat or drink for a few days as we had to wait for the incisions to start healing. For 5 weeks Mirage had never fought us when we inserted the tube and filled her little tummy with formula, but that was now going to change. The day after we brought her home, we had to fight her in order to get the tube in and get her fed. She was ready to eat like a real dog and nothing including a mouth full of stitches was going to stand in her way, so we gave in and started her on gruel. This was the first time that she had ever been able to eat by herself and boy did she love it. The next day she tried her first drink of water, that was pretty great too.
This was the beginning and the end. It was the end of our vigil, the end to our sleepless nights and the end to our constant fears that Mirage would never make it. It was the beginning of a life of her own, of her becoming a REAL dog. If she was to have a new beginning, we felt that she should have a new name. We threw around many names but we finally found the name that fit her to a T, "Godivaís Millagro de Vida" which is Spanish for "Miracle of Life". It was indeed a MIRACLE that she had lived through everything; she was premature, she was a C-section, she had gone through major convulsions and a coma, she had a broken leg when she was 10 days old, she had had major surgery, all before she was 5 weeks old. Her zest for LIFE knew no bounds. She embraced it with a love, a joy and a gusto that I have rarely seen in a puppy so young.
Jetta went to a new home when she was 9 weeks old. She is loved and adored by two young ladies and when I saw her last she was very happy and very spoiled. Vida is now grown and very healthy and has stayed with us. She does not fit into our show or breeding plans but she fits into our hearts just perfectly. She is smaller than my other girls, and her ears still sort of stick out. She has a MAJOR thing about food (even for a Lab), she can never get enough. The zest for life, that wonderful will to live that kept her going through the worst of times, is now a stubborn streak a mile wide. If she gets it in her head that she wants to do or not do something, good luck changing her mind.
When Vida was about six months old she started to develop a growth on the top of her head, near one ear. We all kept an eye on it and decided that we would have it removed when we had her spayed. When the growth was removed it was discovered that it was full of hair and some bone. It could have been one of a couple of things. One possibility was a dermoid cyst and the other one was that she was to have had a twin and at some point in her pre-birth life she had absorbed it. This second possibility would explain a lot including her very small size at birth and her rougher than normal start in life. We only half jokingly claim that it is the reason for her high intelligence and her MUCH stronger than normal desire for food and strength of will, figuring that she is eating for both twins, has the brains of both twins and most definitely has the stubbornness and strong personality of both twins.
She is a very bright little lady and has taught herself to take off our shoes and socks. She will slip off our shoes and
then ever so gently grab the toes of the socks and pull them off our feet. Once she has the socks, she runs around with them
in her mouth, smiling, very proud of herself. She never chews the shoes or socks, just carries them around for awhile.
(This actually came in handy when I had knee surgery, I could always rely on Vida to help me take off my socks at the end of the day.)
She loves to carry leashes around the house. She will drop the leash to the floor and carefully fold it up into a little bundle.
This way she can carry it around without tripping over the loose ends. We did not teach her to do any of these things, she learned
them all on her own. Vida also has one VERY strange quirk:
Vidaís life is indeed a miracle. It is a miracle that she was ever born alive, a miracle that she lived through her hypoglycemic convulsions and coma, a miracle that she lived for the first 5 weeks of her life , and a miracle that the skill needed to perform her surgery under such knowledgeable hands was available when we needed it. Vida has touched the hearts and lives of many people bringing hope, laughter and love everywhere she goes. Her story has inspired others to face adversity and keep on going. We are the lucky ones to be able to share our hearts and beds with our little Godivaís Millagro de Vida.
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TO KANSAS ON HER 11TH BIRTHDAY
June 15, 1997
My Dear Kansas,
I looked at you this morning and could not believe that I have shared your life for eleven years. I can still remember the first time I saw you when you were only 3 weeks old. You were so small yet to full of promises waiting to be realized.
Do you remember the day that you came to live with me? On the way home we stopped by the "Top Dog" competition at Brookside Park. Is that when you made up your mind that you were going to be an obedience dog? From the very beginning you were always a winner in the ring. The first time we showed together you walked out with the blue ribbon. And two weeks ago you were still at it. You walked into that ring with the gait of a dog in her prime and once again walked out with the blue ribbon, putting all the younger dogs in their places. Your love of competition made it a joy for me to be at the other end of the lead. When you won the "Dog World Magazine" award for excellence for your CD, I felt as if I had won Westminster. You made me so proud almost every time you entered the obedience ring. I say almost because there were a few times at matches when you did not quite get down to business. I remember the time when you decided that it would be more fun to make the audience laugh at your shenanigans than to retrieve the dumbbell. Watching you toss it into the air so that you could catch it, and then prancing around the ring made me want to crawl into the nearest gopher hole, but you sure had a good time that day!
You loved being a mother, no babies ever had a better one. You gave us three wonderful litters and because of you many people have known the love and joy of sharing their lives with a Labrador. I can still remember the surprise I felt when you helped your daughter with her litters, keeping them clean and even producing milk so that you could feed them yourself. The picture that I have of the two of you sleeping together while the little ones ate their fill is one of my favorites. Even now I love watching you play with your great grand daughter and marvel at your strength and energy.
I took a look at you today and knew that time had flown by too quickly. I can now see the clouding of your eyes. I see that it takes you just a little longer to run in from the backyard when it is time for cookies. I see that you have to have just a little more distance and a little more speed in order to jump up to your place on the bed. I can feel the various lumps and bumps of old age. If it wasnít for these few things I could pretend that things are as they have always been, but they arenít and I canít. I know that one day you will leave to join Drea at Rainbow Bridge but hopefully that is some time off. In the meantime we will go on pretty much as we always have. You will still run around with your stuffed bear (have you really had him for 9 years now?) and will sleep on your pillow at the foot of the bed. You will still be the first one in line when it is time for dinner and will be the first one ready to go when it is time for a ride.
I love looking at the family you have given to me; your two daughters, Kui and Vida, your granddaughter, Wanna and your great granddaughter, Giana. It is such a beautiful sight to see all of you stretched out together on the floor, a dark brown velvet sea.
You have given me so much over the years; obedience titles, awards, puppies, grandpuppies and great grandpuppies. These things are all great and wonderful but the best gift that you have given me is the gift of yourself. Your love, joy and companionship are worth more than all of your other gifts combined. My life is richer because you are a part of it. My heart is happier because you have made me smile. My world is brighter because you have brought your sunshine into my soul.
June 15, 1998
It's hard to believe that another year has gone by and you are now 12. I will have to admit that there were many times during the last few weeks when I thought that you would be celebrating your birthday with Drea at The Bridge. You would think that I would have learned by this time that you do things in your own way and let no mere human tell YOU what to do. You have always done things with panache and your flirtations with death were no exception.
I don't think that I have to tell you what having you still here with me means. Our quiet time in the morning when you take over the pillows is the best part of my day. I have to admit that I am even enjoying your new found disobedience. Who would have thought that removal of the vocal folds and the rest of your throat surgery would have any affect on your ability to remember old rules and commands? Sit? Stay? Get your feet off the table? These mean nothing to you now. The only response that I get is a smile and a fast wagging of your tail. You are incorrigible and I am loving it.
You may not know it, but you have touched so many lives all over the world. You have friends everywhere. People love you because you are what you are, a dear, sweet, old lady with a flair for the dramatic who still makes us believe in miracles. You are more special than you can ever know. But it is not just what you have done that makes you so special, it is who you are, you are the beating of my heart and the very breath of my soul, you are my Kansas.
But so much for serious business, this is not a day to look to the past or even to the future. This is a day of joy and celebration. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY my dear Kansas and thank you for letting me a part of it for another special year.
June 15, 1999
Well old girl, here we are celebrating another one of your birthdays, this time lucky number 13. It has been quite a year hasn't it. In August you became a great grandmother once again when Wanna presented us with her three little ones. I never thought that when we decided to keep JMe that you would totally refuse to act your age and turn out to be the problem child. It now seems to be part of the daily routine to put you on a time out so that the pup can get some rest. Instead of having one pup we now have two, you just happen to be 12 Ĺ years older than she is.
It was heartbreaking to lose your daughter, Kui, in January. She went so fast. One minute the two of you were "negotiating" over the best places to sleep and the next minute she was gone. That fast. That unexpected. I know that you miss her. She was your first born and the two of you had always been the best of friends. I am sorry that you had to see her leave us so soon. At least you can take heart that she is no longer in any pain and is waiting at The Bridge along with your beloved Drea, Christy & Saucy.
You are now over 1 year post-op from your LP surgery and are still going strong. There have been a few bad days, but for the most part, you have done wonderfully. Dr. Dan was so surprised when he saw you a couple of months ago, he could not believe that you were the same dog that huffed and puffed into the office in May of 1998. You have defied the odds and shown everyone that getting older is not a bad thing, it is something to be celebrated and cherished as your life is celebrated and cherished today.
Today is a very special day. A day when you technically become a teenager. A day when I thank God that I have had your love to comfort and inspire me for oh, so many years. A day when joy is taken in remembering all of the silly and wonderful things you have done. A day when the current moment is more important than anything that came before or will come after. A day when I can just enjoy having you at my side, reaching down to stroke your only slightly grayed head and soft as velvet ears. A day when I can just stop and be with you.
So Happiest of Birthdays my dear, sweet, wonderful old lady. Enjoy your day, no one deserves it more.
TO PAGE 2 OF "MIRACLES OF THE HEART"
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All material on this page is from WET WINGS & OTHER THINGS
by Doris Engbertson
1997-1998 by Doris Engbertson