Dusty and I love our Moosey Girl dearly. She really is our first “baby” since we got her together as a puppy. After Dusty’s old dog, Coby, passed away this spring we were really longing for another puppy around the farm. We had the thought that some day we may want to breed Moosey since before she was born and now seemed like the right time, if there ever was going to be one. We were so excited at the prospect of little labs running around for the weeks we would care for them before sending them home to new loving families and we would get to pick our very favorite to keep as our new fur baby. Moosey was a nice age, size and we had a connection from high school that had a great male lab to match her with. Everything about breeding her and her pregnancy went really well.
With just over one week till the expected arrival of the pups we were so ready! We had taken her in for a scan to let us know how many pups to expect and were thrilled to hear she was going to be a mom to at least eight but possible even a few more. We had the whelping box built, heated pads with towels to get everyone warm and cozy, clamps and surgical scissors set aside with the other supplies all purchased for labor and delivery.. Now all that was left was to wait. Moosey seemed very content with waiting. Twelve days or so out from the scheduled puppy day we noticed a change from wanting to be active and play to just sleeping the days away in her bed. We were glad to see she was resting very often, knowing firsthand the challenge a newborn of any type can bring.
|Preggie Moose in the whelping box Dusty built|
We knew that it was typical for dogs to start looking for a spot to have their pups in shortly before they arrive. We had been watching for this so we could steer her in the direction of the whelping box which would then be safely enclosed by a large chain link pen, in our heated shop. We had it all set to be ready with a new cozy Sherpa pad and blankets for digging to just the right shape nest. Moose had given us little indication that she wanted to be anywhere other than her pet kennel lined with a dog bed in the yard next to our house. So we decide not to upset the apple cart and keep her there until she started showing other signs. With seven days to go, Moosey must have changed her mind about lying around in bed. While being free to roam the farm just like normal and follow Dusty around during his work in the shop she did something she has done so few times it is a rare memory in our minds, let alone a habit to fear. Moosey decided that particular Friday looked like a good day to cross the road and how wrong she was!
We don’t know why she was in the road or on the other side. We don’t know what caused her to be anywhere other than on the farm, in the shop or our yard where she is normally so content to explore or sleep. We can speculate that perhaps she was looking for a place to nest, or chasing the cat, maybe looking to visit a neighbor. We just don’t know. All we do know is that Moose and her belly full of puppies were hit by a car.
I don't know exactly who hit her. But it is safe to say that Tom, the neighbor who lives across the road was the first to try and save her. He was coming home down the hill and saw the situation just after it happened. When he came up to the scene a lady was out of her car "screaming and doing jumping jacks" in the road. They moved Moosey to the ditch and Moose bit at the lady. Tom said she didn't really speak English well and was freaking out. The lady left to get attention on her hand, which likely needed stitches. Then Tom came and to our house told us what he knew and we rushed to get Moose in the car to go to the vet.
Quickly we knew she didn’t have broken bones that the vets could see from X-ray but they definitely wanted to keep her overnight (at least) to observe a hematoma on the inside of her hip. The rapid swelling indicated it possibly could be a hernia. At this point we were really optimistic because it just looked like a bad road rash and a swollen leg. We figured Moose would be just fine, we were hoping for still live puppies and no internal bleeding but assured us they would know more the next day when they planned to do an ultrasound.
When we left her they wanted to just get her comfortable and stable over night. Moosey was alert and calm but not trying to move at all throughout the time we transported her to the vet and while they were checking her out. She did wag her tail when her favorite vet was talking to her. We were holding it together. Then Saturday sometime probably before noon they would do an ultrasound to check for heartbeats. Waiting for the vets update call, time felt like it was moving slowly. But it was actually good that they were not calling yet, we knew if they called overnight that was really bad. They said if there were any bad changes they would let us know.
The Saturday morning call was not as hopeful as when we had left the office. From the ultrasound they could tell that several of the puppies did not have heartbeats. This meant if there were any live pups left they would rapidly be compromised by the problems of sharing a uterus with dead decomposing pups, in addition to adding more risk to moose due to sepsis issues. Plus from the ultrasound they couldn’t tell exactly what the internal damage was, although it was clear there was a problem because the swelling on the inside of her hip was obvious. But they wouldn’t know more until they did exploratory surgery to take out the deceased pups and repair any damage they found once they were in there. Even if we agreed to go forward with the surgery it was made known to us that at this point we were likely on a rescue mission for Moose’s health and the litter of pups would probably be lost completely.
That was a really hard pill to swallow. You are probably thinking the puppies should be able to be saved; after all, we were just a six days from when they were to be born. But in a dog that is a lot longer than a human. In a dog the gestation is just about 9 weeks, so every week is like a full month in a person. We were disappointed and shocked at how fast things could change. Emotionally I just felt drained, and like I was waiting to wake up from a bad dream.
We waited for the call that surgery was over. We waited a long time. The outcome of surgery was bleak at best. Moose’s uterus had been completely shredded. Of the three vets scrubbed in for the surgery, one with over 30 years of experience, none had ever seen such a mess. In the days following we learned that during the surgery they actually stopped for a moment and discussed calling us to say that there was too much damage to continue because they really felt she would not recover. However, they continued, wanting to at least give her the chance. The team of vets and staff had our Moosey on the table for over three hours, and they wanted to make sure she would come out of the anesthesia before they called us to say how things went.
I could hear how tough the surgery had been in the voice of our vet. She told us the internal injuries were vast. Moosey’s uterus had plainly exploded from the impact of being hit meaning that the pups were just floating about freely in her abdomen along with a lot of contamination. On top of that there was indeed a massive hernia where the inside of the hip meets the belly that was really difficult to repair. When they first started taking the pups out there were two that had actually drifted way out in the swollen fluid filled hernia outside the abdominal wall. They had to spay Moosey to get the bleeding to stop. Despite injuries that would kill most dogs, she was still fighting to live. This was no surprise because we know Moose is as tough as they come. What did catch us off guard was how difficult it was to hear about the puppies. They found all the pups to be unviable, due to being too early to live on their own, combined with the injuries. There were TWELVE! As glad as we were to hear Moose had made it successfully through the surgery, it was devastating knowing we lost all those pups. I have no doubt we cried twelve lost puppies worth of tears that afternoon.
There were a lot of pent up emotions that came pouring out after that phone call. We had been looking forward to all those cute little puppies, we had been anticipating helping Moosey care for her little ones, we had lived with the tension of wondering if the puppies would be okay, we had clung to the hope that maybe one puppy would be okay, we spent hours wondering if Moosey would even okay; to have all of that resolved in a moment unleashed an emotional landslide. I don’t think we realized just how much we had been looking forward to the puppies. It had not been an encouraging year on the farm; low yields meant that we were going to be on a tight budget again for the year. Losing Coby early in the summer was still on our minds. Earlier in the week we had also learned that our latest efforts to find a loan to build/buy a house had fallen apart completely out of our hands. A busy fall had left us feeling behind on out farm and personal to do list which added stress. Amid all the down news, the puppies coming were a bright spot in the future which seemed to have been suddenly ripped from us.
After surgery we were all hoping Moose would pull through the night but given everything she had undergone and the extent of the damage none of the vets were confident this would go well. Sunday we got a good report, considering. Moose was up and wagging her tail when they checked on her in the morning. She had peed the night before which is another good sign! They were worried about her bladder being compromised. The next big hurdle was watching to make sure she doesn't get infection or rupture the hernia. We went to see Moose and were so relieved to just sit and pet her as she just barely wagged her tail. We could tell that even lifting her head to look at us was a lot of work then combine that with the medication to keep her semi-sedated and as pain free. When she was laying with her "good side" up she looked perfectly healthy. Then she would flip to the other side and you could start to see the story in her wounds. Sometimes she would even roll on her back, belly up in full submission pose with the saddest face we have ever seen as if to say " look at me....what happen?" She had stitches and seams everywhere plus drain lines to remove extra fluid. We left to go home praying that more rest would keep her healing as best she could.
|Lots of road rash and stitches|
|Best picture ever, sent to us by our wonderful vet!|
Monday, my birthday, after what seemed like much longer than just a day went to visit Moose again and she was doing really good when we first got there regardless of fact some of her blood tests were showing signs of an infection She was much more aware of when we were talking to her and responsive to our voices instead of just being awake we actually saw her interacting with us although still wanted to lay down and was uncomfortable because she was about to have more meds. The meds made her do kind of a funny twitchy thing not at all like a full seizure but more than just a onetime itch. They said it could've been from the IV drip set into fast or kind of a funny reaction on an empty stomach. So they stopped one of the IV antibiotics and went back to sub queue injections just in case. This made us more than a little nervous seeing as her white counts were still high but ultimately we trusted our vets and their calls.
This was our life for the next few days, scheduling everything around our next visit to the veterinarians’ office. Every slight high met, eating her food one day, met with an equal low the next day, like not seeing quick improvements to the blood tests trends and not eating as much anymore. It was excruciating to not see which way things were going to go, and even though we didn’t want to think about it we knew that every day of continued care and tests was just adding to our growing bill. This was one of the hardest parts to deal with for us. We knew our vets would be fair with us (and they were more generous than we could have hoped) but we knew they couldn’t give away all their time, supplies and resources for free. I could never put a dollar amount on our dog; anymore than I could a child, nevertheless we didn’t want to go into debt and possibly still lose Moose on top of that! Considering we were planning to sell all but one (or maybe two) puppies it certainly wasn’t the way we expected our “pet’s fund” to go this fall. Dusty said, “I would never spend this much on a dog, but she is our dog, and that changes everything.”
|Starting to respond to us when we were there for visits|
Wednesday afternoon we saw a change in Moose. It started with a banana. She had not been eating much so we thought one of her favorite foods, bananas, might cheer her up. So we took a couple to her to see if we could get her to eat them. She didn’t eat the first one but the second finally took! That night the vets switched her to a dry food and she would eat it when she was hand fed! Moosey’s blood work was also looking better. We started talking about taking her home! And Thursday midday, we got to do just that! Utter delight met yet again with the warning that we were not entirely out of the woods.
|SO happy to be going home!|
|But worn out quickly|
Thursday, we just stared at her, like when Jayney was a newborn. Fearful we might break her if she moved wrong and just in awe of the fact she was there. We were walking her on a leash to go to the bathroom, dreading the fact that she might try and trot and rupture the hernia. Dusty got to be a professional at checking temps, the pinkness of gums and giving what could only be described as a handful of pills at least twice daily. Jayney did her best to be gentile, kept moose company and read stories to her. My job… I mostly just cried. With all my extra pregnancy hormones, every time I actually stopped to think I was a jumble of feelings and most often those feelings all chose to leak right out my eyes. All the while Moose acted like there was nearly nothing wrong. If you knew her, you might have noticed that she was a bit calmer than normal, less begging to play fetch but she was still alert and ready for attention at any given time. She was on a lot of pain meds at first but even right when she was due for another dose she never indicated she was in any pain. Honestly she seemed to be basking in the glow of all the pampering, new fluffy bed, shredded chicken with broth over rice for dinner and all the hugs she could handle!
|When we first brought her home Moosey would only eat by being hand fed. JJ loved this job!|
|Coloring and watching tv with Moose|
|Just the evening dose|
Friday night we gave her some IV fluids they sent us home with. It was simple and we already had it. Her temps were staying within range so I don't know for sure if she needed but our vet said if we are questioning just to go for it and after all we won't "drown her!" Just better to give it as a precaution to make sure she is getting enough fluid. I never thought those random hooks on our ceiling would be for a lactated ringer but it works! She got her bed moved to a pen made using baby gates in our living room. It worked great because when we are hanging out in there she is right with us but I think she actually liked the pen best because she is safe from most of Jayney's overly abundant affections.
|It is hard to see but there is the iv bag hanging from our ceiling!|
|Doing a little reading together|
Days turned to a week and soon enough Moose was getting out the drains. Her temps had slight rise and falls but over all she was still not feverish. Our toughest problem as the first full week at home came to an end was that Moosey wanted to play! She wanted to run and fetch and do all her favorite dog things. She had no idea that her internal stitches were far from healed but the belly full of surgical staples was not slowing her down. So it was back to potty breaks on the leash and that left me figuratively biting my nails hoping that Moose wouldn’t see every time a bird flew by or a deer looked like it should be chased. Moose got the routine down and may have seemed a bit bored but overall healthy and content with her new lifestyle. Before long the stitches got to come out too followed by a bit of supervised unleashed time in the yard and most important the end of all her medications!
|Everyone loving the cuddles|
Each day after coming off the meds with continued normal temps gave us a little more piece of mind that Moose was going to make it. We got to a month out of surgery and things still looked good. Moosey loved the freedom our piece of mind was buying her, allowing her to follow Dusty around the shop and short visits with people here getting hay. It has been hard having people we mentioned the pups to, back when Moose was pregnant, stop by thinking they might be able to see them or perhaps even pick one out to buy. Really we wish we could be sharing these sweet dogs with the world but we are most appreciative to still have our Moosey. We know that we would be without any dog at all if it weren’t for the amazing care at Deer Park Veterinary Clinic, especially Dr. Dean for his knowledge in surgery and most of all Dr Amy for the thorough care, loving Moose like she was her own and keeping us updated all along the way. It isn’t very many vets that will send you picture texts from their own personal cell phone, just to let you see how your doggy is doing. We could not have been more impressed with the skills of all our vets or the personal care Dr. Amy showed Moosey and us!
Now we are at two months and things maintain their upswing! Through everything Moose has been the best patient we could have asked for, taking every pill and exam with the sweetest submissive attitude. Yet she still fought, harder than we all thought a dog could, to get better each day. We have made slight changes to the way we play with Moose, like not playing fetch any more than as far as JJ could throw the ball and just less time outside, so that we don’t push her too much and reinjure the hernia site. We have been told that this will always be a weak point and could cause problems in the future if we are not careful, but it is hard to say if that will ever be an issue at all, it could be in the coming months or conceivably several years down the road. So we are doing our best to make sure that doesn’t happen and thankful that God gave us more time to have a GREAT dog, even if she is the only one.
|Kissing Moosey's "no more owies"!|