Archive for May, 2009

Closing Moments

All week I wondered what I would find for solace when it came time to write one of the final blogs about puppyville here in Farmington. Like a small windstorm that you sometimes come upon on a walk, happy thoughts, sad moments, puppy hugs, golden smiles, medical worries, new friends, closing credits .. they all banged around in my skull like the leaves, sand, and twigs that are caught up in the swirling vortex of this windstorm. Which emotion would surface most strongly and which would be pushed under by these invisible currents. But then on Friday, the sun came out, the weekend continued on a summer’s path, and we lived in the moment.. And it was all good.

Rocky continued his war on my plants and pots. And he even taught his older sister Lucy how to join in.

We and the puppies were able to enjoy the warmer weather on the outside patio.

Riley has made a complete recovery, although she bears some scars where the dressing cover rubbed against her side flanks. She has absolutely no interest in the pups.. a severe case of postpartum pyschosis I guess. But she has survived those horrible days and nights of her infection, and we are grateful.

Saturday morning, the activity in the whelping box was frenetic. The puppies’ energy level has grown exponetially with each passing day.

We gave everyone their baths Saturday morning early, because we had a final vet appointment for their shots and physicals.

Mr. Black has continued to gain weight and strength. His unique left ear is showcased here with his bath.

The visit to see Dr. Feldman then got off to a crowded start.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the visit, except for that moment when the “boys” had their testicles checked.

Everyone then came home and snuggled together in one big pile as usual.

Mr Black continued to impress us with his improved motor skills and awareness. Still deaf though.

We let everyone out of the pen later in the day, and it was then that I was struck by how ready our pups were to join the outside world.

Of course with any going away party, we had to take some “formal photographs”.

Today dawned sunny again, and after a flurry of cleanup, puppy pampering, and baths, three of our special families came by to start their own golden adventures.

The final two puppies will leave tomorrow. Mr. Black will not be placed for another month or so, and Rocky looks to extend his visit here by about four weeks as well. So of course, how can you get lonely when you still have seven goldens underfoot in the house!!

So while Barb and I realize that a final chapter may have just been written this weekend, an epilogue will follow.

Thank you for your interest in our world here..

Golden Hugs to you all!

Sharing The Magic That a Puppy Brings

I just returned home this morning after being on call for the weekend, so this week’s puppyville update is delayed a bit. This last week, (week 7), started out with a lot of smiles and puppy hugs. In what has become a tradition of sorts, I bring two puppies from every litter that we have, to my offices, the Delivery and Operating Rooms. The wonder of a puppy is magical. Just look at the open, happy smiles that they generate from people of all ages.

If we could bottle the effect that they have on us, we would no longer need our high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, or anxiety meds.

How neat to be a wizard of the future, and write a wellness prescription for two ounces of puppy essence mixed with the glow of a bride, and a teaspoon of energy of a child. Without a doubt, the only way to start every day..

By the time I got through two of my three offices, Mr. Black and his sister were getting pooped. It was the first real truck ride for both of them outside the quick trip to the vet, so they were a little carsick. When I took them out of the cat carrier in the Delivery Room, I was a little embarrassed that one of them had gotten sick on both of them. So much for that wonderful new puppy smell.. However, Dr. Slater and Dr. Brushwood, came to the rescue, and gave them both baths in the utility sink. Thank you again Lauren and Rebecca!

We were then able to carry on our mission of spreading smiles to all the healers on duty!

By the time I got to Dr. Wolf’s office, the pups had fallen asleep from all the excitement.

So back home we came to rejoin the rest of our golden family.

This week we had more visitors, of course. Some repeat visits from excited clients and now new friends who are less than seven days away from taking home their special dog. And other neighbors and friends that we thought to share our blessings with, who we knew would enjoy the magic that holding a golden puppy brings. Hard to improve with words, these photos capturing that Golden magic at work..

On Friday, Donna, our good friend and breeding partner, came by to do the temperament testing on the puppies. Everyone passed with high marks except for our special boy, Mr. Black, who we now know is deaf for sure. All the puppies were very uniform in their personalities, which meant that all our client choices were approved.

Of course, what would the blog be without a couple of “Rocky” moments. It appears that he will be sharing our home for another month at least, while our son in Italy appears to have found a home for his family and will be moving in in June. Rocky still is “all boy”, and is constantly trying to undermine my efforts to get our flowers planted.

There are at least three huge holes in our backyard, that I just have not had the time to fill in.

And finally, we had a little scare with Mr. Black today. While he seemed to enjoy the company and activity this morning, his behavior was very erratic this afternoon. He would walk in circles just crashing into things, roll over, and then go in another direction. He began drooling a bit for no apparent reason. Barb and I just talked it out about his symptoms, what he wasn’t demonstrating.. fever, diarrhea, and vomiting, and decided not to bring him to the ER. So we put him in the big crate in the family room and kept vigil. He finally fell asleep.

When he awoke an hour later, lo and behold he was back to his “normal” self. Alert, playing with a bone, and he had a healthy appetite for supper. We just think now that he doesn’t have any stamina, and we will have to limit his play time until he gets stronger. He won’t be going anywhere soon, but it is going to be a bit stressful not knowing exactly what his issues are.

But like our special “Abby” taught us many years ago, we will live in the moment and enjoy the best that every day has to offer us all.

Puppyville Week Six

We had a busy finish to our week here with multiple visitors, friends, and neighbors over to get their puppy hugs today. While the weather wasn’t the best, we did manage to get everyone outside for their first look at the outside world on Friday and Saturday for a time.

The big dogs also got their first closeup looks at the puppies. After a few initial rumbles, everyone settled down. The mother of our last three litters, Emma, felt she should be involved, but the real mother, Riley, has lost total interest in her babies. I guess a life threatening event could give her postpartum blues, even though she is a dog.

Happily, Riley continues to improve. She has gotten so used to her twice a day dressing changes that we laugh when we call her now. She just plops down, rolls over, and waits for her personalized nursing care to begin.

Her wound looks so much better than the initial starting point photos that Barb took off the blog. She said it wouldn’t do to have people getting sick reading about dogville.

Rocky continues to amaze me with new ways to find mischief from week to week. The latest was when I was out planting flowers, and there he was: on the wrong side of my fences sitting on our tulips looking relaxed and comfortable.

Mr. Black continues to grow and slowly develop.

We brought him to the vet last week, but nothing could be determined about his hearing at this point. He is starting to follow visually, so that is a big improvement. We hope that he will find his way to the same point at his littermates, but at a slower pace. We are looking for a special name for him. We will be keeping him for awhile until we can determine his capabilities. So if you have a special name that might fit his status or his one Cocker Spaniel styled ear, please send it along to us.

Here is the red carpet photo journal of our visitors this week:

The favorite part of my day is the early morning, when the pups have eaten, and we are giving them all a bath. They now enjoy the warm water, and like even better getting toweled off and fluffed up. It is a quiet time with just us and the little ones. Nothing like getting covered in their magic puppy dust to start my day with a warm and fuzzy glow.

The work is increasing now with the puppies getting more active. They want more attention, and it takes more of an effort to keep them clean. However, Barb and I know that there are only two more weeks to share these special moments, so we do our dog duties with bittersweet thoughts about that final day that is soon approaching…. when they will leave us forever.

A Mother’s Sacrifice

This Sunday morning finds us in Dogville up early as usual and watching the coming dawn with hope for some needed sunshine and warmth. It is Mother’s Day, and I am typing this and trying to keep the big dogs quiet so that Barbara can enjoy some much needed extra rest. The whelping  box is still quiet downstairs so I will not disturb the puppies until some loud squeaks and barks notify me of their impatience for company and breakfast. Yesterday was a full and fun day here. We had our first full day of visitors from family and friends and clients. Smiles and puppy hugs were enjoyed from morning until night, and sitting around the whelping box once again was an experience of joy and wonder at nature’s miracles.

I have to finally report that all the puppies except Mr. Black are finally spoken for. I was dreading this moment, as I know how disappointing the news will be to many. The last chosen family had filled out their questionnaire last March 2008, so we never got to those who had signed up last summer or fall. If we had a litter of normal size, we would have been able to satisfy most everyone, but this was not to be. If anyone wishes Barb and I to aid their search for that perfect puppy, please email us. I expect that most everyone who is disappointed will not want to speak to us for awhile, but if you can step back from your disappointment, you will realize that we made a herculean effort.  Our efforts started over two years ago with Riley, and there have been a good number of families starting back then who were disappointed that she didn’t even conceive the first two years we tried.

If anyone had told me a year ago that I would rather spend 20 dollars on a bunch of bones instead of a movie ticket somewhere, I would have been a disbeliever. However, that is what we did this past week, when I took out the stored supply of buffalo bones so that we could have some peace to catch up on some quieter matters besides dog business.

Rocky had some more adventures this weekend. First I tried to bring him again to my office to keep me company while I made calls and did paper work. While I was distracted he scoped out each room and every office plant, and before I knew it he had found a baby deer statuette that was in one of the planters.

He was so rambunctious that I just had to bring him home and my work with me..

When we returned home, Barb was trying to repair some wall damage from the barrier gates. Rocky had never seen paint or a brush before, and you can see he was very intrigued by it all.

We have a rather amusing story to tell about Rocky today. We were baffled at how he could go through the invisible fence as if it wasn’t on. There would be no reaction as he crossed that line in the yard. We finally checked the transmitter and found that the tone was ok. Then Brian was brave enough to get a shock himself and found that it was not delivering any electricity. A closer look revealed that the safety caps were still on the prongs and so no message was being given at all when he closed the lines. We thought he was a supercanine there for awhile, but it was simply a human oversight on our part.

Our son Brian and our daughter Kristen were able to come home for the weekend. They were extremely helpful to us with the bigger tasks in the yard, and of course they got their puppy fixes. Kristen’s pug, Pearl,  was also introduced to the pups and seemed right at home.

We would like to say hi to our son Michael Jr, who is now working in Italy, his wife, Emma, and their boys Ethan and Alex, as well as our daughter, Lauren, who is working in China for two weeks. Skyping and phone calls are great, but not the same as having them home.

One reward for all these many hundreds of hours of work, is seeing the smiles and inner glows that puppies automatically bring out in people. As soon as people reach the bottom of the stairs, you can see the excitement and happiness that immediately emanates from every one.

Mr Black has made some progress in his development this week that is encouraging. He is just so much smaller than his sibs it is hard to judge. Is his behavior developmental delay or just a slower growth rate? So we expect to have him here after his siblings leave while we sort out these issues.

He will join Rocky as a boarder with no certain departure date, but a visa that will always be accepted here until all the safeguards are in place for the next phase of their lives.

The rest of the week was spent in feeding and bathing and monitoring the puppies growth.

Several of the pups are now big enough to climb out of their little white box and explore.

This brings me to some more serious thoughts about this weekend. In my opinion, Mother’s Day should be at least a week or maybe even a month and surely not just a day. I would guess that 99 % of the male population on this planet does not know and/or appreciate the sacrifice that mother’s to be make in giving up their bodies for nine months. Followed by the hardest physical labor that they have ever undertaken. Then this being just a prelude to the months of sleepless nights and constant anxiety over the safety and well being of their children through the many years until adulthood. In my role of an obstetrician, I can well appreciate the sudden dangers that can waylay even the healthiest pregnant mom. As you can see from our Riley’s issues, only a difference in hours meant the difference from recovering from a severe infection and death. And that was with her already on an effective antibiotic. I am happy to report that her wound is healing well and she has her energy back. The evidence is obvious in the pictures of her today out for exercise.

My Mom always used to tell us that she almost died giving birth to me. I will leave out the medical details except to say that I arrived in this world as a vaginal breech. Feet first to face the world, a predicament that today is an automatic cesarean section. I never really appreciated her statement until I became an obstetrician and found myself delivering breeches that came too quickly to do the standard thing. And getting more gray hairs because mother nature decided once again to not play fair. So today I would like to acknowledge you, Mom, for your stellar efforts on my behalf all those years ago. My sisters and I are very blessed to still have both our parents living. Last night we spent some quality time around the whelping box with my Mom, and I think from the photos you can see she inhaled some of that magical puppy dust that makes you feel younger and happier.

I have to give a mountain of kudos to Barb on this her special day too. She has been amazing. While we have gotten on each others nerves at times these last few weeks, the fact that she didn’t hand me my head on a platter when the dogs brought all that mud through our entire home two weeks ago spoke volumes. She said it was my birthday, and it was, but the fact that she just pitched in to help clean up the mess without saying a word was just unbelievable. So I had to do something special for her morning. I went shopping, made a sign, and waited for her to wander down to check the puppies. This is what she saw..

I think she was very surprised.

Lastly I would like to speak of those unfortunate mothers giving birth in third world countries everyday. As I found out firsthand on my first mission trip three years ago, being healthy and delivering in a hospital does not guarantee a safe outcome. While our mission team congratulated ourselves on delivering a beautiful baby to this first time mom of twenty-six years..

None of us were prepared for the shock and despair at learning that she lost her life overnight to a stroke. A complication that could have easily been prevented with a few dollars worth of an IV medication that was unavailable to the poorly trained staff on call at that country hospital outpost. And we, being ignorant and seeing the world through our advantaged American eyes, had wrongly assumed that the staff in white that we turned the patient over to, was competent to handle obstetrical emergencies. That woman’s death has prompted a spiritual change in me that I hope will continue until my time on this world is done. The appalling statistics are that a women dies in childbirth in a third world country every minute of every hour of every day. They have done nothing wrong, except to be cursed to be born in a place where their efforts at birthing a child puts their very survival at risk. And oftentimes it comes down to the odds of luck rather than medical care being on your side.

Some days I am not sure who I write this blog for anymore. Sometimes it is for our clients, sometimes it is for our family, and sometimes I am just having a conversation with myself. A good way to decompress for the pressures I have to face everyday. I actually have no idea how many folks even read this, as I forgot my password for the program that could tell me that several years ago. But I do know that occasionally I bump  into someone who comments on something that I wrote on here that made them think and appreciate the world in a slightly different manner. So with that hope in mind, I will close with a prayer that everyone who can, make an effort to help our less fortunate mothers, whether here or abroad, whether covered with skin, fur, or feathers, and whether for Mother Earth or for your local community. From recent world events it seems that the old American mantra of God, Family, Country, should now include God, Family, Country, World. If you turn a small part of every day into being a participant at making a difference, rather than cruising as a spectator, you will change your life onto a simpler yet more fulfilling path. I have found this to be so.

I will leave everyone with a song that my son Brian wrote in the Dominican Republic on our last mission trip in November 2008. The audio file is too large to paste here so I will just add his lyrics. You can also click the link below the picture to download it. This is a photo from one of our teams and the “Yellow Bus” that means so much to the patients seeking care, as well as for us, the missionaries who ride on it.

“Las Matas” By Brian Bourque

Click here to download / stream the song

Holy days in the mountains of San jose de las Matas, From Far away, from Hartford to LA, come and join us.

Helping out our brothers around us, Bringing hope with a yellow school bus.

Modern days, yet dirt roads pave the way to Las Matas.

Culture decays as the workers move away to the city.

Help us out the people are hurting, The lights go out, the water ain’t working.

Have we changed a life, saved from an early death? They have changed mine, changed mine..

Patients make their way to the hospital we make in Las Matas.

Helping out our sisters around us, Bringing hope with a yellow school bus. ”

God Bless Mothers Everywhere for the sacrifices they make on behalf of all of us!

And It Rained for Forty Days and Forty Nights

We start day 29 of Riley’s one and only litter this morning, but it seems much longer. New challenges appear like sudden thunderstorms, with noise and bluster that threaten to envelope our household, before slowly resolving into the background grays and blacks of our moods here.

Riley had to have a surgical debridement done under anesthesia last week. The first several days after this were nasty. She had putrefying tissue from her necrotizing infection that had to be slowly removed. She did not whimper from her twice daily dressing changes, as I think she knew just how close she had come to losing her life. At night she would cuddle with me on the bedspread while I breathed in the scent of her severe wound infection. In the morning I felt like I smelled of death and decay intermingled with goat milk. Quite a cologne let me tell you.

Riley is now over the worst of this terrible occurrence, and with her bandages on, she looks rather well. I imagine it will be weeks before this open wound closes as it must heal from the outer edges in. Can you imagine being responsible for this critical care if you were not medical people?

We had a scare with one of the puppies who suddenly had a bloody poop and wouldn’t eat. Barb was afraid of being struck by another rare case of bowel blockage, and multiple calls to our local animal ER were necessary one night while I was at work, followed by more vet visits. The puppy thankfully recovered and is doing well now. Barbara emailed me yesterday while I was at the hospital, and told me our big orange fish in our aquarium had died. About the size of a sunfish, I had successfully nursed it back to health with medication and water changes. The white fungus that had suddenly covered its bright orange skin came back with a vengeance as I left for call. Mother nature had made its choice, and was not to be denied with our puny human efforts.

Barb and I have been fretting for weeks now over the status of Mr. Black. He was born with a deformed ear, and is the runt of the litter. Although he is progressing with his weight gain and appetite, he is still two plus pounds under the weight of his litter mates. A check back with our records reveals he is still on track for our prior litters, but the size of his brothers and sisters makes us uneasy. Worse, we haven’t been able to determine yet if he can hear or even see. He moves by smell, and is more wobbly than the others. We have never had a special needs golden puppy, but…

It breaks your heart to think how unforgiving mother nature is sometimes. We watch his progress with a heavy heart. We will face whatever challenge he presents like anything else that threatens our charges.. aware and determined to make the best of this hand of cards we have been given.

Rocky got us up last night after getting sick in his crate. I don’t know how long it will take him to learn that eating soaker hoses and another bar stool aren’t good for his digestion! He has befuddled my double fence efforts and invisible fence collar so far. He somehow has the ability to squeeze through tiny spaces which is natural for a cat, but not typical of a dog. He is sleeping at my feet now, and it is good that he is quiet for the moment. No he is not asleep, he is starting to gnaw on the desk feet. Sheesh.

There are glimmers of better weather to come to the whelping box, with some of the recent antics of our healthy puppies. They have been changed from being bottle fed to milk dishes, and as of yesterday, puppy food. The mess begins, but a welcome smile creases our faces now and again.

Usually we have visitors start to trickle in to visit and converse around the whelping box. I can’t imagine any company beginning until the end of this week. Barbara will be calling the schedule on this. We are both sleep deprived more than usual and tread gingerly around each other knowing any ill chosen words could be hurtful and very non productive.

Still, even the great flood of Noah’s day ended. We just hope our storm will be shorter lived than 40 days and nights. We even managed to capture a smile on Barbara the other morning when bathing a puppy..

And for our notified clients, when the sun returns to dogville, so will our spirits. Your soon to be additions to your families are thriving. We are now starting to contact the folks who have been our list less than a year. There is one unspoken for puppy still. Mr. Black will not be offered as we are unaware of all his issues at this time. So I leave you all with a few photos from the small transfer box. May they bring a smile to your spirit that will linger all day. All living things must struggle in some way through their days, that is our fate. It is the hope that tomorrow will be better, that allows us to face successfully these daunting challenges.

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