A difficult Valentine’s day

You know, I would not have taken you all on this fairly immersive puppy-rearing journey if I’d expected it to be such a downer. I just wouldn’t have mentioned anything about it until or unless I could post pictures of bright-eyed eight-week-old puppies.

Well, I’m sorry. Because on February 13th, Girl was perfectly normal. But she suddenly stopped nursing yesterday before dawn. A few hours later, she started having seizures. By early afternoon, she was having a seizure every fifteen minutes and the interval was getting shorter.

Of course I had her euthanized.

I can’t tell you what this was like.

It wasn’t just the loss of this one puppy. It was the loss of everything. Even if Boy 1 doesn’t suddenly die, too, I don’t dare breed him now, even if he is the most beautiful Cavalier ever whelped. I don’t expect him to be affected, though at this point nothing bad could surprise me. On the other hand, what is he carrying? I don’t know. I can’t know. So how can I breed him?

My plans for working toward a family of Cavaliers free of heart defects? Those plans are dead, too. Because I can’t take this. This is worse than just having my plans set back by two years, which before yesterday was the worst I thought could happen.

I said to someone yesterday that this was my fifth disastrous litter in a row. But actually, once I counted them up, it’s more like my seventh. I thought Whelpwise would solve my problems. And maybe it would, for my next litter, if I planned to breed another litter. Because this neonatal death thing, this is something else. There’s no reason to expect this to happen again.

But it doesn’t matter. Because I’m done. I have been physically sick since Giedre started having premature labor. I feel better when things start going well, but actively nauseated when bad things happen. And bad things keep happening, worse each time. And I can’t take it. This is it.

If I hadn’t already bred Folly, I wouldn’t. As it is, I think I will take her puppies — presuming she has any — via a C-section / spay. I don’t care if she is carrying a nice normal litter of four. I don’t care. I am going to place her out as a pet, though it will take some attention to find the right pet home for her because she is so sensitive and very active, with a lot of prey drive. But good homes do turn up. I will keep an eye out.

I am thinking of placing all of her puppies out as pets, too, and keeping nothing. I wanted a little black-and-tan girl to show. But now I’m thinking of quitting showing, because what’s the point? For me, showing is all about breeding, and I’m done. I may not even bother finishing championships on Kenya and Honey. Though it seems a shame to stop short for those two, when they’re all but there. But showing means yet more expenses and time, and I don’t know.

I can tell you for sure, I will place Giedre out as a pet rather than breeding her again. At least, unlike Folly, she would be perfect for many, many pet homes.

Next year I was going to breed Kenya and use Whelpwise to ensure that I got living puppies. But I think now, no. In three or four years, maybe I will breed Honey because she is just too superb to spay. Or maybe not. Because I am tired of watching every damn backyard breeder who doesn’t even bother with heart checks for her structurally unsound dogs get five-puppy litters, when all of mine die. Of every show breeder who cuts corners with health checks, who gets a six-puppy litter.

I am sick of people asking me what I feed my girls, or if I filter my water, or about my vaccination schedule, as though somehow this is my fault. I’m tired of people telling me I should stick with it, or that I should buy a bitch with a better reproductive history, when they are not the ones having to cover three or five or eight thousand dollars of losses every single year.

I’m tired of it. Of the time, and the expenses that I keep having to eat all but whole, and most of all of the unbelievable stress, worse with every litter that turns into a nightmare. Even if Folly’s litter is perfectly fine, I’m done.

I won’t post about puppies again until Boy 1 is six or eight weeks old. I won’t post about Folly’s litter at all, until and unless her puppies get to that age.

I should probably hit “save draft” instead of “post.” But the hell with that, too. This is not going to be a day for sounding upbeat and cheerful. Check back in Monday and I will be upbeat then.

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15 thoughts on “A difficult Valentine’s day”

  1. I’m so sorry. I wish I could do better than sending Internet hugs, but I am glad you’ve told us: no one should have to grieve alone. I’ll continue to hope that Boy 1 makes it, and that you find comfort in the dogs you have and love.

  2. Oh, my heart aches for you. I know that no words I can offer would possibly give you any comfort, but I’m going to comment here anyway just so that you know that you aren’t alone and there are others who sympathize. I’ve mentioned my champion boy here before, but what I haven’t said is that I never used him at stud because after he was whelped some of his close relatives were diagnosed with seizure disorders. Poof – there went my dream for a line of my own. Shortly after he finished, I showed him in the specials class at our National, where he made the cut. I thought that was a great way to go out and he and I retired from the ring. He is gone now, and I haven’t entered a show for years. I’m focusing instead on my two-legged family and giving a breeder-friend’s Collie a great pet home. I have to say I do wish you wouldn’t give up on finishing Kenya and Honey since they’re so close to their titles (it is something special to have that Championship certificate up on your wall), but you know yourself best.

    I’m going to end on a semi-hopeful note, even if you aren’t in the mood for it right now. Even though I’m no longer involved in the way I expected I would be, over the past several years I’ve discovered that there are ways to contribute to the breed even if you aren’t a breeder. I volunteer with a couple of breed-specific non-profits, and I’ve worked on a variety of Collie publications. I’m not going to lie, it was a process for me to come to peace with the fact that I’m never going to have a line with my kennel name on it. But there are a some books out there I’ve helped bring into the world instead, and I hope at least a couple those will stand the test of time. I hope that you will find some way to be a part of the breed you love.

  3. I’m so sorry, Rachel. That’s such a hard thing to go through, and I wish I had some help or advice to offer. For whatever it’s worth, we’re thinking of you.

  4. Thank you all. I appreciate the internet hug, Mary Beth. Kristina, I’m sorry either of us knows that that feels like. I don’t know. Maybe in a few years I will feel up to trying again with Honey.

  5. This is just heartbreaking–I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m also sorry that people have been asking questions that imply that there’s some magical thing you could have done to make everything turn out all right. Some people are very invested in the idea that we’re completely in control of everything that happens to us, and that can lead to real (though presumably unintentional) cruelty to people who have experienced misfortune.

    Take care of yourself.

  6. Thank you all for your virtual hugs. I do appreciate you all.

    Linda, I guess it’s not all that often that someone says something like that, but it really adds insult to injury.

    Right now I’m watching Honey disembowel a teddy bear toy. She wouldn’t exist if I’d given up breeding two years ago. So there’s that.

  7. I’m so sorry Rachel. My heart goes out to you, for all the pain this has caused you. You so clearly love your Cavaliers, but constantly being punched in the guts isn’t something anyone can take. I can only hope your year gets better from here.

  8. Oh. No.

    Unimaginably awful.

    I have been out of touch, but thinking of you because I took your new paper pup with me this week. I am back if you want to talk.

    Thinking of you and yours.

  9. Rachel, I am so sorry to hear about your puppy loss. I know the heartbreaking feeling as each one of the litter dies before you no matter what you try to do. We lost a litter of 11 puppies in about 5 days. I cannot imagine having to go through that heartbreak seven times. I immediately made my decision to never try breeding again, it was too painful. I totally understand your pain. I hope understanding will help ease your pain. Hope to hear more cheerful comments in the future regarding your dogs. Dogs are such a wonderful companion, I can’t imagine life without them. -Jeanne

  10. Jeanne, losing eleven, that’s so horrible, I can’t even imagine it. It’s very disappointing to lose puppies pre-term, but losing living puppies after they’re on the ground and seem to be thriving is much worse.

    This has been my worst experience and it’s pretty bad, but so far the remaining boy seems okay.

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