Sunday, March 18, 2007
Thoughts of Puppies
About 5 weeks ago I was sitting in my friend Elaine's living room, petting he pregnant dog, and waiting for her to get out of the shower. About 72 days earlier her black German Sheppard, Cloe, had gone into heat and mated with her Sable Sheppard, Bernard. Now she was huge, swollen with puppies, and going into labor. She was panting heavily, and couldn't seem to get comfortable. We got her into the whelping bed: it was a plastic kiddy pool with blankets and towels for padding.
Once Cloe got comfortable in the bed she started panting even harder, although it seemed to be a more controlled panting. Her tail started to lift up, and she stretched out her whole body, to help position the puppies for delivery. You could see her back and haunches start to contract. A milky gray sack emerged form her vagina. In three contractions a little puppy wrapped in the sack came out. Elaine first let Cloe break the embryonic sack around the puppy, and then picked him up, it's a boy, and suctioned out his mouth so he could start breathing. When Elaine put the puppy back in the bed, Cloe started cleaning him immediately. Despite the fact that he couldn't see or hear, and the fact that mom was licking him all over, he squirmed his way to her nipple and started feeding like crazy.
It was a long process; it took four hours for the first three pups to come out, then another two and a half hours for another two. Cloe seemed finished with labor, happy and feeding her new babies, so I went home. A few hours later I got a call from Elaine, about a half an hour after I left Cloe had another puppy that Elaine couldn't get breathing, even with mouth to mouth. She took Cloe to the vet, and she had another stillborn on the way. But the vet said that everything was fine, this was normal. With some animals, having stillborns is normal, that's way they produce so many young in one gestational period. That night I just laid in bed, not able to sleep. The event that I witnessed that day just kept playing over and over in my head. You may think I'm crazy, after all it's just puppies, but in seeing the puppies being born it brought a lot of thoughts to my mind.
To actually witness a live birth is an amazing reality check. Before all of this I was depressed due to money, stress, and other issues. When I watched the first puppy come out it reminded me of just how lucky I am to be alive and healthy. In this day in age material wealth is emphasized as such an important thing, that we lose track of just how lucky we are just to be able to breath. Life itself is one of the biggest miracles in the world. Every being on this earth started out as a single cell. From that one cell we grow into organisms that contain over 100 trillion cells. We create separate organs and organ systems to carry out the various functions of our bodies. We even grow our own brains, which are capable of things we don't even know about at this time. No matter what kind of animal it is, when you are in the presence of life it is awe inspiring.
In these times we are very technologically advanced. We have done things that were never thought possible. I believe some of these things are wonderful, and have helped millions of people keep their lives. But, with all of this new technology, we tend to forget how amazing and important certain things are. Not so long ago delivering a baby was a life or death situation. With how large a baby's head is, it was not uncommon for the child to get stuck, and both the baby and the mother died during delivery. Now with medical advances, the chances of the mother or the child dying have dropped dramatically. We can now monitor the child and mother, and if called for, induce labor and perform caesarian sections.
In applying all of these advances, we are producing more life, and we are sustaining life longer. Just a few decades ago the average life expectancy was only in the late 40's to early 50's. Now we have people living to be 114 years old. We are able to cut cancer out of our bodies, and give people new hearts. We have added an extra fifty years on to our lives, so now it seems as if that is expected. When Elaine told me that the death of the last two puppies was normal, it made me think of how we, as humans, would react. Because of all of our advances we expect life to be a given, it's not "normal" for a human to lose a baby in delivery anymore. I can't help but have conflict on whether this is good or bad. I mean it is great that not as many babies and mothers are dying, but are we losing the significance of the whole thing in doing so. Now that so many babies are able to survive, and the fact that people, in general, live longer, our world is becoming overpopulated. We don't even have the food to feed everyone on the planet anymore. More people on the planet means that more land is being developed, and less land can be used to grow and raise the food that all of us need to live. We are creating an imbalance in the world that sustains us, but it seems that the majority of people don't think about it in this way. We just keep going without thinking of what this means to the life of all things, including mankind. Do we have the respect of life that we should? I don't know if all of us do anymore.
I feel grateful to have been able to watch this miracle, not just in what I saw, but for what it awoke in me. I had lost something, and in watching those puppies emerge into the world, I got it back. We all can lose sight of the big picture, depending on the stresses we are having at the time, and that is why we get reminders. For me, new life can be joyous, and death can be heartbreaking, but I need them both to remind me of just how precious life is.