by Kelly M.
In late April I was approached about a cute cocker girl in the Rio Grande Valley in need of rescue. I named her Renata, the Latin name for Renee, my elder daughter’s middle name. I arranged for Renata’s pick-up, temporary foster, and eventual transport to San Antonio. I met a fellow volunteer at the vet who had met Renata at transport. When I met Renata, I was immediately in awe of her beauty, but I asked the fellow volunteer why Renata felt so heavy. She did not look to be the weight she had just weighed. I jokingly said, “you don’t think she’s pregnant, do you?” We laughed. I was to foster Renata when I returned from a trip and so she went into boarding.
Fast forward about a week. My family and I were in Katy (outside of Houston) at a horse show competition for my youngest daughter for the weekend. Again, I was approached about taking in a cocker girl in need, I arranged for someone to bring her to me at my hotel as we were leaving to go back to San Antonio. I took one look at this girl and reached out to Lee (Austin-based Board member and canine midwife extraordinaire). “I’ve got a pregnant one for you.” She asked me to get her an x-ray to confirm, which I would do the next day. I named this girl Alma. Alma stayed at my house overnight and she was the perfect houseguest. The next morning, I went to pick up Renata. It had been nine days since I had seen her. “Um… have you noticed what’s going on with her belly?” Her nipples were showing, and her belly was much closer to the floor than when I had previously met her. They had not noticed. I did… So BOTH Alma and Renata visited the vet that day… And OMG they were BOTH pregnant! Alma about 45 days and Renata about 30 days (right around the halfway point).
My husband and I quietly (okay, maybe not quietly) freaked out. We had a busy summer planned and we had never whelped puppies. My husband’s words were “No. We absolutely cannot do this. Send her to Lee.” I told him that we could not send Lee TWO litters due within weeks of each other. Then I had my panic moment. Luckily, friends calmed me down and offered any help they could provide. We could make this work. I admit, I was always curious about whelping puppies. I love cockers more than I can say and the idea of seeing cocker puppies being born was somewhat on my bucket list. But not now!
I’m not sure how we convinced ourselves we could do this, but we did. Lee took Alma and Renata stayed with us. We had a couple of baby showers and the excitement was intoxicating. Alma’s pups came first. Lee gave me detailed information on what to expect. Soon it would be Renata’s turn.
I would have lots of helpers. My elder daughter, a pre-vet major and part-time emergency vet tech, was home on summer break. My younger daughter was on summer break, too, and did much research on how to get ready. She designed the nursery and the birthing suite. Even my cocker, Vallie, had experience to share. Vallie, who was surrendered after many years of breeding, was very attentive to Renata. She tipped us off when the time was near. One afternoon we were out shopping when our younger daughter called asking when would we be home? Renata was staying in her birthing suite. So we dropped everything, grabbed a pizza, and headed home only to find Renata was in good spirits and came out to greet us. “Oh, gosh, false alarm.” So we settled in for family movie night. But soon enough Renata return to her suite. We all when to bed, with our younger daughter camped out on the couch to keep an eye on Renata.
About 30 minutes after falling asleep, there was a knock on our door. “Um, Renata is breathing heavy and starting to push.” My husband and I looked at each other. How does she know what pushing out a puppy looks like? Still, we got up. Thinking this could be messy, we dressed in grubby clothes (ok, we really didn’t know what we were doing) and went to the birthing suite (ok, the downstairs bathroom’s shower fully equipped with towels and a baby gate and anything else you can think of that a midwife might need). We looked at Renata and whadaya know! She WAS pushing. Now, I’d like to say this is where my motherly instincts and psychologist training kicked in, but no. The second I saw something coming out of Renata, I fled the room and left it to my daughter and husband (and no, not the vet tech daughter, but the 12 year old daughter). I took my place pacing and hollering in “what’s happening?” Baby Julieta came first, followed by Bruno, Pepa, and Delores. (Have you figured out my theme? I always have a theme. Hint: I do love Disney movies). The vet said to expect 4 or maybe 5 puppies. After four, Renata seemed to be finished. She was calm and relaxed so we relaxed, too. We all tried to sleep on the couch to be near her. I couldn’t sleep. Too much adrenaline and I wanted to check on mama. I’m glad I did! Something was coming out of her. “AH! Something is happening! Another one! Guys, come quick!” As they attended to mama, I resumed my position in the hallway pacing and peeking in every so often. This felt different. This one wasn’t in a sack. Renata didn’t even know he was there until we started rubbing him. We roused the vet-tech. “Come quick! Something is wrong!” It didn’t take us long to realize it was too late. He was already gone and probably had been for some time in the womb. He was about half the size, hairless, and not fully formed. Renata seemed to not realize he was her baby until we took him away. Then she got nervous so we returned him so she could understand. She spent about 30 minutes with him, licking him and trying to revive him. She didn’t understand and that was one of the saddest moments of our lives. We named him Camillo and we proudly display his tiny paw print as a memorial.
Having puppies born in your bathroom is magical. I’m so glad we rescued Renata and so glad her spay was delayed by our crazy schedule. Things happen for a reason. We loved on these puppies. Renata was such a good mama and trusted us with her babies. We held them a lot. She was so attentive to them until she was done! Even Vallie was more curious than we had ever seen her. Having three resident dogs, a foster mama, and her four foster puppies was a lot of dogs in the house. It was a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of piddles to clean up, but these puppies were the most beautiful animals I’d ever seen and I loved them like a mother would. I wept when Renata was adopted. Pepa was next and I wept again. Followed by Delores. Then, Julieta was adopted. And finally Bruno left. I didn’t handle his departure very well at all. I realized it was not the right home for him. And I realized that saying goodbye to five fosters, one a week, was a lot harder than I expected. I cannot begin to explain the bond. A week later Bruno was returned to me. The adopter realized what I had feared, that he was not a good fit. He would never leave.
Am I glad I had a chance to whelp a litter? Absolutely! Do I want to/am I ready to do it again? No way! By the way, we had no idea who the daddy was for either litter, so both Lee and I did DNA tests on our litters. Wow! Both litters are full bred cockers!