"I Assure You She's Not Pregnant"
Our two-day drive home from Ohio went smoothly enough. That first night, once we settled into an Illinois motel room, I went out and found a 24-hour supermarket, and bought a pair of scissors. We spent an hour clipping the mats from Abbie's fur; once we finished, you could pet her without wanting to exclaim, "You poor thing!"
Back home, Abbie seemed to settle in well. She got on fine with Nelson, our adult male. On evening walks, she took a lively interest in the sights and smells of the neighborhood.
There were a few disturbing notes, however. For one thing, she acted as if she were starving. Most dogs love to eat, of course, and we've known our share of chow hounds, but this was something else. Abbie was flat-out ravenous, nearly all the time. We couldn't take her for a walk without her running into the bushes to eat grass and leaves.
She was coughing a lot, too, and tired easily. Out on our walks, she could barely keep up with Nelson, despite being two years younger.
A checkup with the vet was the first order of business. We still had not received Abbie's medical records from Lisa, so we gave her a call. "Do you know what vaccinations she needs?"
Lisa's answer astonished us. "You'd better get all of them. Sandi and I don't show our dogs, so they never leave the premises, and we don't need to get them vaccinated."
No vaccinations at all? Good God! Why didn't she just tell us this in the first place?
And to think of all those poor dogs, never leaving that place... Lord!
Digesting this news, my wife posed another question. Abbie had begun behaving strangely with her food- even though she usually seemed ravenously hungry, sometimes she'd push her dinner away and ignore it completely. Any idea why she might be doing that?
Lisa laughed. "That means Abbie thinks she's pregnant. But don't worry, she's not."
"I assure you, she's not pregnant," she added for emphasis.
Later that morning, our vet looked Abbie over, and diagnosed her cough as the result of a respiratory infection. He prescribed an antibiotic, then administered a full round of vaccinations. Just before leaving, I thought back to the phone call, and asked him, "There's no way she could be pregnant, is there?"
"Where'd you get her from?"
"A breeder in Ohio."
"An established breeder?"
"Yep." I could tell that he was thinking the same thing I was. There's no way on earth an experienced breeder could fail to notice that one of her bitches was in season. No responsible breeder could be careless enough to leave an ovulating female with a male.
He gave Abbie's belly a quick feel. "It's not always easy to tell, but I don't
see anything for you to worry about."
But Abbie's behavior continued to worry us. After two weeks, it was time to bring her back to the vet for booster shots. Once again, we took the opportunity to ask, "Are you sure she's not pregnant?" and once again, he dismissed our concerns.
After a further week, the nagging question remained. Her fluffy coat made it hard to tell for sure, but it seemed to us that she was getting bigger. Time to try a new veterinarian, we decided.
An x-ray gave the answer: there were puppies, all right.
Eleven of them.
The new vet outlined our options. It was hard to tell just how far along Abbie was in her pregnancy. The puppies would probably be okay, despite the lack of prenatal care until this point. The antibiotics and live-virus vaccinations Abbie had received while pregnant would probably not cause birth defects, though one couldn't say for sure. She could probably terminate the pregnancy without harm to Abbie at this stage, she added, but the window was closing rapidly.
"When is she due?"
It's hard to say, the answer came. It could be a couple more weeks, or it could be tomorrow.
"Here's what let's do," she suggested. "You go home and figure
out how you want to handle things. If you want to terminate the
pregnancy, we'll need to do it right away. I'll book the surgery
for you tomorrow- if you want to do things that way, bring her in.
If you decide not to, just call in the morning."
So many uncertainties, so little experience to base our decision on. That evening, we stayed up late, doing research on-line, making contacts in the Newfoundland community, calling a third vet and every one of our knowledgeable friends.
Among the many phone calls we made that evening was one to Ohio.
Don't worry, Lisa told us. She'd take the puppies off our hands. She'd pay all of Abbie's medical expenses. She'd even come up, collect Abbie, deliver the litter back in Ohio, then return her to us once the puppies were weaned.
What is this woman thinking? I wondered. The dog is ready to give birth any day, and she wants to stick her in the back of a car for an 800-mile road trip?
"Lisa, speaking frankly," we told her, "our confidence level in your promises is pretty low. For one thing, it's been a month and you still haven't gotten around to sending us those registration papers you said you would."
"I have them right here!" she exclaimed. "I'm looking at them right now. I'll send them right away."
We'll get back to you, and let you know what we decide, we told her.
A few days later, Lisa sent us an e-mail. "Sandi has the papers..." It seems she hadn't been "looking at them right now," after all. That was not the first, nor far from the last, time we caught Lisa at variance with the truth.
In the meantime, we came to some firm conclusions. Number one, we weren't comfortable with the idea of terminating the pregnancy at this late date. First thing the next morning, we called the vet and let her know: thanks for making all options available, but we're going to go through with this.
Equally importantly, we realized that Abbie and her puppies were our responsibility now. It was up to us, and no one else, to ensure their welfare. Given her past track record, we'd politely decline Lisa's offers of "help." We were through dealing with her, for good.
Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way.
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