<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Friends for Life Animal Rescue - Creole's Story

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Creole's Story

We didn’t know much about Creole’s past when we brought her home. She had been hanging around my office in rural Northern California for several months, was very friendly, and didn’t belong to anyone in the surrounding neighborhood. When she first showed up, her right hind leg was severely injured, likely broken in a run-in with a car. Neither I nor any of my friends at work could take her in, because we rented apartments, or already had at least 2 dogs. Her leg healed, but turned out at an odd angle. By the end of summer we knew she was pregnant. I moved on to a new job, and purchased a house with my boyfriend. About 1 month after moving in, after word from former co-workers that the dog was still homeless, my boyfriend and I discussed the idea of taking her in. The next weekend I went out to my former office and took her home. She was very easy to find, and she was very, very pregnant.

Why would anyone in their right mind bring home a pregnant dog? It was one of those things where our logical minds told us not to do it, but our conscience told us otherwise. Thankfully we listened to our consciences.

The day we got Creole home she was filthy and showing ribs. We gave her a bath on the front lawn, probably the first she had ever had. Once we got her cleaned up we brought her in and put her in our basement. She went into the crate with no hesitation. She accepted her new surroundings completely. Maybe she recognized me from her former “home,” or she was just happy to have a warm, dry place to have her puppies.

Within two days of being with us she gave birth. We had never seen a live birth of anything before, and it was a sight to see. As the puppies came out they looked like little puppy-filled water balloons. It didn’t cross our minds that this stray pit bull mix had no problem with us handling her newborn babies. As we toweled them off she would look at us with concern but that was it. She never growled or bared her teeth at us.

We named each puppy as they were born. Their names reflected their appearance, so it would be easy for us to remember who was who. We named Raccoon for his mask, Holstein for his cow-like markings. By the end of the night there were eight pups. When we checked on them the next morning there were nine, so we named the newest girl Nueve.

Certain puppies were born bigger than others and some seemed to never leave the teat. A few puppies were also born without the same strength as the others. Within the first day and a half, we had seen mom push one puppy away and knew something was wrong. We watched as he had little seizures that made him stiffen like a board. We attempted to bottle feed him, but he wouldn’t take anything we offered. Within a day of the first signs of sickness, he was dead. One of the hardest things about this whole experience was having to bury a newborn puppy.

As the puppies approached their one-week birthday, another puppy started to signs of weakness. We also attempted to bottle feed her, but she just grew weaker. She died the morning after Thanksgiving. My boyfriend had made the mistake of picking her as the one he wanted to keep too early. It was a very difficult loss.

Panda and Baldie, the puppies we lost, were the smallest pups by far. After they passed, our concerns went to the next smallest pup, Chewie. At this point we weren’t going to let anything happen to him so we took him to the vet. The vet looked at him and said that Chewie was just little, and as long as he was food was going in and out he would probably be fine. He explained to me that some pups just don’t make it. That’s just the way it is. Especially since mom was eating out of garbage cans and compost bins during her pregnancy. From that point until they started eating kibble, we gave Chewie a half hour by himself with mom at least once a day, usually twice just to be sure. He grew up to be the second biggest pup of the litter, and the sweetest.

Soon the puppies left the crate, and we confined them to the part of our basement with cement floors. It quickly became apparent that we would need lots of newspaper. The newspapers needed to be changed at least 3 times a day, especially after the puppies started eating kibble at 5 weeks. Feeding 7 hungry puppies wasn’t too bad, as we had already been feeding Creole up to 12 cups of food a day during that month of nursing, just to keep her weight up.

When the puppies were about 4 weeks old we started taking pictures and posting flyers to get people interested in our little pack. The first question people asked when they called was usually “what kind are they?” I understand that breed is an important thing to consider when selecting a dog, but people seemed more concerned about that than the individual puppy. When people asked what mom was I wanted to not mention that she is part pit, but I wasn’t going to lie about them. Some people were so concerned about aggression that they knocked one of the puppies around in the face to see if they were aggressive. I was perplexed at how someone could actually think that was a good measure of temperament. Anything will get aggressive if you knock it around in the face.

Finding homes for the puppies was a difficult, tiring task. We had to answer the phone all the time, and rescheduling our plans to accommodate people who wanted to look at pups. On top of people interested in the pups we also had friends who just wanted to come by and look. In the long run it was really good because it got the pups socialized to new people.

On top of posting flyers and retuning phone calls we also had to deal with the day-to-day logistics of having seven puppies in our basement. We paper trained them, and had to change papers constantly. We had bags upon bags of soiled newspapers piling up in the garage. We went to goodwill to get toys for them and I made a little skateboard for them to push around. We had tons of stuff to keep their growing minds stimulated when we weren’t there.

The fun part was watching them play and seeing their little personalities develop. Some were playful, some were mellow, and some ran like they were on batteries. At five weeks we started to put them out in our enclosed backyard to let them run and play. At this point they were being weaned and we would let mom out to play with them.

Mom wasn’t too good about pushing them away from nursing. She would sit there and whine and cry until we called her and got her away from the pups. At some point we had to start separating them during the day because she started to jump over barriers to escape and we were worried about her hurting herself. As her milk dried up she got better about pushing them away and would make a game of running away from them and pinning them. It was evident that she had one too many litters, as her teats started to look more like the excess skin people get after having their stomachs stapled.

Getting all of the puppies fixed through the Friends for Life program was a huge relief for us. The last thing we wanted was for any of the puppies to go off and have puppies of their own. That would negate all of our efforts to save Creole and her puppies, and prevent Creole from having more puppies. At 8 and a half weeks all of the puppies were spayed and neutered, and those that had homes went to their new owners.

At that point, we had three more puppies that needed good homes. We took them to the Friends for Life-organized adoption event at the local fairgrounds. Our respect for foster parents of dogs and cats, who attend the adoption event month after month, has grown exponentially. It was an exhausting day, telling and re-telling the puppies story with the hopes that someone would fall in love with one of them. We found that many of the attendees were at the event to simply visit and play with the animals, not adopt.

At the end of the event, we had one puppy that still needed a good home. We had decided, prior to attending the event, that we would take any remaining puppies to the local no—kill shelter after the event. Our reasoning included increasing his exposure to more adopters, the fact that Creole, who we were keeping, was going in to be spayed the following Monday and would have stitches and need to be kept quiet, and finally, we were simply exhausted. Two months of taking care of a new dog and her 7 puppies had worn us out, and we just couldn’t do it anymore.

Leaving the last puppy at the shelter was the most difficult task. The other rescuers at the event had praised us for what we had done and told us that we had done a great job. But as we left the shelter, we felt like we had failed him.

Thankfully, during his stay at the shelter, while waiting to be medically cleared for adoption, the puppy acquired a list of potential adopters. Shelter staff were able to select the family they thought best for him, and he went home with them within a few weeks.

Overall the experience was a real eye-opener. We met so many incredible people, and knowing that all of them are working every week to help homeless and neglected animals gives us hope. Now that we have access to the network of people who can help, and knowing that people who want to help will appear out of nowhere, in the future I believe we will do this again. We have so many people to thank, from the food and newspaper donations from friends, to the woman who overheard Creoles story at the vet and paid for her spay, to Linda from Friends for Life who helped through everything.

If you choose to take in a stray dog, you will likely have a dog that will be loyal for life. Some dogs will have issues, from abuse or a variety of other negative experiences in their past. We can’t speak for those dogs, but we know what our experience with Creole has been. We believe she knows that we brought her in from the cold and the hunger. We joked about how quickly she took to us because she saw us as everything good in her life.

To sum up, the experience included a lot of laughs, lots of tears, and lots and lots of poop!

Justin, Nicole, Creole and daughter Zoot
A Very Happy Family!

Copyright 2007, Friends for Life Animal Rescue, Inc.