Circle of Life

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!

The Hand of God

I live an unusual profession. Guarding the unborn and their mothers from the random and often senseless strikes of mother nature against the survival of our kind. It is a world that hopeful parents to be and their family members are best ignorant of. But the battle goes on ceaselessly every day I put on my cloth armor of a white coat or scrubs. Our best weapons are the skills that have become second nature when you work 80 hours per week for thirty years doing the same thing every day. And my closest friends are the medical personnel who work side by side with me trying to accomplish as a team what you could never do as an individual.

But even to us seasoned and weary veterans, sometimes an event will occur that defies expectations or reality. After the fact, you sit back and reflect that what happened was beyond belief, and that meant there was a power higher than yours that made the difference.

This is one of these stories, and it has a happy ending that I will share with you first. When you are blessed to be part of a miracle, you need to let others know. Crazy as the world is, maybe there is a purpose for it after all..

This photo was taken in my office a week ago. I have permission from Ursulyn and Andry to share their story. The flowers reflect our happiness that she and her son have made a complete recovery from…

It started with a phone call while I was working in the Delivery Room. One of my partners phoned and told me one of our full term pregnant patients had arrived for her regular OB visit, and was having serious trouble breathing. He had called 911 and he told me she was being sent to the Delivery Room. I alerted the staff and we made preparations for whatever might be wrong. Minutes went by and no patient arrived. Then the ER called and said that she was being kept there for a serious medical condition. I hurried through several attached buildings to the ER and found bedlam.

In a regular examining room there was my patient, unconscious and trying to be ventilated by the ER staff. Staff from the Delivery Room and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit had just arrived and were watching with shock as she coded and CPR was begun. Like a preposterous scenario from the television series “ER” or “House”, I found myself in a situation where literally a minute or two was to make a difference whether that mother and baby lived or died. The fetal heart rate was present but dropping. Her husband was standing there watching in shock as I asked for a scalpel. Without taking time to do anything but put on a pair of gloves, I delivered the baby. The sound of a newborn cry was a very welcome sound to the large multitude of staff gathered outside the patient’s cubicle. Veterans all, but many crying from the reality of what was happening with that mother to be.

Without being overly dramatic, let me say that this was the first time that I had done an operation where there was no bleeding. Her heart had stopped and her blood was black. This was going to be a very bad outcome. As I closed her incision, the resuscitation team kept on with their heroic efforts. Multiple drugs were given at intervals to get her heart started. And then, someone called out that she had a heart rhythm, and then a pulse. The blood turned bright red again. But nine minutes had passed since her heart had stopped. The question was: would she wake up, and what kind of condition would she be in?

She was transferred to the ICU where a battery of specialists determined that she had developed a very unusual heart condition called peripartum cardiomyopathy. Her heart muscle had slowly weakened over the week prior to her arrival in our office, and she was in heart failure. She was literally drowning with fluids building up in her lungs. The treatment is delivery and allowing the heart muscle to try and recover. That had been accomplished in the ER.

For three days her husband kept a vigil outside her room in the unit. The enormity of the potential problems facing that young man with the reality of raising a new baby without his wife humbled me. But on the third day, she started to become alert. She gradually returned to the world of the living and her faculties slowly recovered. We all held our breath when the neurologist did his battery of tests and reported that she was “neurologically intact”.

Another week went by, and my daily routine in the office kept me busy out of the hospital. With my next hospital duty, I inquired of her location and was told she had just been discharged to the Hospital for Special Care for rehab. So after my weekend on call, I decided to pay this very special person a visit. I brought one of the puppies to cheer her up, since I wasn’t sure what sort of mental state she would be in. I got to the hospital and found she had just been discharged the day before. I called her husband and asked if I could see them in their home. He gave me directions. This is what I found.

Thankfully she has no memory of the events of that day, or even being in our office for her prenatal visit. But outside of her memory lapses, her personality, and sense of self is intact. Her hug and smile made me know that I was part of something very special. I told her God must have very special plans for her.

George Strait recently wrote a country song, ” I saw God today”. It goes..

“I’ve been to church, I’ve read the book, I know he’s here, I don’t look as often as I should. His fingerprints are everywhere, I just need to slow down to stop and stare, and open my eyes. I saw God today.”

Reversal of Roles and Other Puppy Moments

It wasn’t so long ago that two of our clients and golden friends were debating whether to add a new puppy for companionship to their beloved ailing older golden. There are no real rules, but the reality is that just as we irresistibly are drawn to that puppy smile and energy, so are our canine brethren. So young “Rosie” from our 12/2006 litter went to be a friend to aging “Holly”. From the photographs you can see it was a winning combination.

Even at the end when Holly was ailing, I am told, Rosie wouldn’t leave her side.


So when our last litter arrived, Ken and Mary Ann were  wondering how “Rosie” would do as the now older mature leader in the household. Would she accept a younger companion in a definite reversal of roles. I will let you all be the judge…

Both Rosie and Autumn have the same mother and father (Emma and Mulder). With only a year and a half or so in difference in age, they should look very similar when Autumn is full grown.

I would like to give Ken kudos for his fabulous photographs. I am self taught, and use a very small digital camera so I can have it with me at all times. When Ken sent me this last photo, I finally knew why the resolution of his photos was so much better than what I have been getting. He has a cannon (not Canon) for a camera!

Thank you Ken for your help with adding so much life and color to our blog! You have captured the spirit and pure essence of our dogs so well.

Two houses down from us another of our puppies is finding companionship with an older buddy. Lion-like “Bo” has had his domain invaded by little “Minnie”. Bo has only three legs now following his battle with cancer. His spirits seem soothed by the presence of this little ball of love.

Thank you for your photos Barb. I just noticed though the date is off on your camera screen.

Another of our puppies has landed in a family with much younger folks. “Lola” is not quite sure what to make of sharing her space with a larger Niko..

But I am sure she will find plenty of excitement going forward.

Thank you for sharing Shayna. Lola is the first golden yellow jacket I have ever seen.

Then we are back to dog ville here and the last week of “Rocky” before he travels south to be with my son’s family. Our pack is more accepting of him now, but they can be an intimidating bunch. His convalescence with us helped Emma adjust to the loss of her pups. And that is the lemonade from his lemon of a surgical adventure.

New Life


We are very happy to report that Emma gave birth on Monday, to a lovely litter of ten healthy pups. Six females and four males. One additional pup was stillborn.

I was able to help with the birth of the first puppy, but then had to head to work. Mr. Blue was the first to arrive breech!


Barb and our neighbor Theresa handled the rest of the midwifery chores beautifully. The amount of work and energy Emma expended for her herculean effort is captured with this photo showing her weary and dirty after the delivery process.


Amazing though, what a quick cleanup will do for everyone.


In a few days we will send more details of the births, and then address our anxious puppy clients. For today, we are all emotionally and physically spent. We give thanks to our Creator for his/her blessings of new life in our home. Amen.


Recently, Barb and I have received some very moving email letters from clients, readers of our blog, and just plain golden lovers. I thought that their comments were worth sharing with everyone. They deal with love and loss and living in the moment.

From Bob:


“I hope all is well with the Bourque Family. It’s been almost one year since I took Rusty home. Rusty is doing well and we love him dearly. My dad was battling cancer and was very sick most of the year. Frequently, I would take Rusty to my parent’s home to spend the day. My dad always looked forward to Rusty’s arrival. Whenever I would show up at my parents to visit and Rusty wasn’t with me, the first thing my dad would say was ‘Where’s Rusty.’ He loved to play with Rusty and Rusty loved being with my dad. Whenever Rusty went to my parent’s, as soon as he was inside, he would run to find my dad. My dad passed away in October. The time Rusty spent with my dad brought him great joy and helped ease his suffering. For that I am eternally grateful. You bring joy and peace into many people’s lives, more than you know, through your Goldens. God bless you!”

From Ken:


“Your latest blog about Holly touched me in a special way. (See “A Family Grieves“). Mary Ann and I and our kids all appreciate the time you spent assembling such a lovely tribute to Holly. Being the loss of our very first dog, we were all unprepared for how much of an impact it would have on all of us. At the same time I could never have anticipated the outreach we have received from fellow pet owners like yourselves. Just tonight our neighbors brought a bundle of homemade cookies (human ones shaped as dog bones)! and a card. Only now will I be able to truly understand what another person is experiencing when they say goodbye to their pet. Even after a week it is still strange preparing only one bowl of food, or loading only one dog into the car. As much as I know that Goldens thrive on human companionship, Rosie and Holly have shown us how important canine companionship is to them as well. We are going to be very careful to find a good match for Miss Purple! Again, thank you for that wonderful surprise on your blog… and for being such caring friends.”

From Michele,

“Hello, I love your website, it is so nicely done.. but of course it is your Goldens that really caught my eye. They are so beautiful. My husband and I recently lost our golden and I had no idea how quiet and empty the house would seem without her. She was medium sized, about sixty pounds, but her heart filled this whole house, and we miss her. We would like to get another puppy, not right away, but sometime in the future. From your website, I could see that your love for the dogs is the reason you have them.”

From Molly:


“Dear friends, I am writing to let you know that we put our dear, beloved Golden, Maggie to sleep last night. Her cancer returned recently and she became very sick very quickly. She would have been 12 on June 30th. She was a remarkable dog for our family, so full of love an compassion. She was also a miracle dog, surviving two rounds of cancer and living with epilepsy. She just kept rebounding. Her passing was incredibly peaceful. I held her head in my arms and told her how loved she was, and when it was over the bells in the West Congregational Church next door to the vets chimed.”


“I picked up Maggie’s ashes today at Animal General. BOY THAT WAS HARD!! What really hit me like a ton of bricks was the paw print they did of Maggie after she died, set in a circle of plaster. I wasn’t expecting it and seeing it released the flood gates. I’ll treasure it. I’ve therefore spent many moments today remembering even more things about Mags. We wanted to thank you for the beautiful card you sent us after our Maggie died. We miss her so much, but are enjoying knowing we had her for almost 12 years, against so many odds.


From Yalda,

“I am not a former client of yours, but I hope you don’t mind if I still drop you a note to say how much I appreciate the wonderful work you are doing. I recently moved away from home (and consequently, from my precious Golden named Lucy), and I was looking at pictures of golden retrievers online (just having a nostalgic moment) and I ran across your website. I must say it thrills me to see such caring breeders who are devoted to the health and happiness of their dogs. And your close relationships to your clients is truly amazing. I am a young attorney who works unbelievable hours, so I am not a good candidate for having a golden retriever at this point in my life. But when I have children someday, a golden is a must! I cannot wait to watch them grow side by side, as you watch your goldens grow up alongside the neighborhood children.”

“Please, please keep up the great work! You are adding an invaluable amount of love to so many families. I really feel that you don’t know love until you have seen it in the face of a golden retriever smiling up at you. Thank you for the opportunity to send you a message.”

It has been said that we cannot know the time or manner of our death. But we can choose how to live. Golden Retrievers as a breed have somehow incorporated that essence of living into their DNA structure. Would that we as the supposed more advanced civilization had gotten that right. I will leave you with two photos that my friend Cindy recently sent of her Katie and cat. They give living testimony to the blessings and love a Golden brings to your life.


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