Monday, January 27, 2014

Autopsies, Mastitis and Other Fun Things


You don’t know gratitude till your neighbor comes to help you get a 60 pound goat carcass in your Jeep. I’m taking KitKat, the goat, for an autopsy today. For those who don’t know there’s a lab that provides these for free thanks to our ag department. I can’t say enough about the folks in these offices, nor can I say enough about the priceless gift of compassionate neighbors. I’ve been blessed beyond words with both. When it comes to farming, it truly takes a village.
Meanwhile today’s challenge: mastitis…a problem not being helped by the little sharp claws on those little puppy feet. (The ones used for pushing…to get the milk to flow.) I’ll spare you the more graphic pictures out of respect for my girl, Rosey, but picture purply-red, raw, tissue-thin skin being stabbed repeatedly by the needle-like claws of 7 growing, hungry puppies and you kinda get the gist. I have to wonder why God made it this way… Seems a design flaw to me.
If only there were mittens. (If no one’s invented these, someone should. I saw online where someone had duct taped around a teat in this instance, but that had to have been done by a guy, and a single one at that, cause no woman in her right mind would've let THAT option fly.) 
I called the vet to ask if antibiotics would hurt the babies. Full blown mastitis, left untreated can turn to gangrene. We aren’t to that stage, but there is some darkening and everything I read says timing is critical. This is not uncommon for large dogs, as the weight of their back legs makes certain teats less accessible. I was curious if we could dry up her milk in just those two lest they burst. (Answer: not without drying them all, and then, only if ready to bottle feed, which is not my preference as the other spigots are working fine.)
 I asked about natural, topical ointments. (Answer: Vitamin E or aloe.) I questioned if I should milk the teats manually to make sure nothing’s clogged. A neighbor offered a breast pump, but the vet’s advise was the pups will do it best. (Wouldn't you love to be my vet on a Sunday afternoon?)
Bless her heart, she’s the best mama ever, but pain is pain and when she’s endured all she can, she stands up and the pups plop off her like little corks. They howl for a minute, then flop back in their little puppy pile, nursing on each others ears, feet…whatever they can find to suck on, while Rosey makes her to way to the other side of the garage to splay her raw belly on the cold concrete floor.
In these moments time stands still for me. Like anyone working for themselves, time management is a constant challenge, and Sunday afternoons are normally spent playing catch up or laying out the week ahead. But not today.  It’s hard to think business when something you love this much is in pain.
I went for the oil, which she liked very much. (I know because she snored.) Twenty minutes later she stands, as if to say “Alright. Let’s get this over with.” And returns to the pile of white fluff that has now become her torture chamber.
I decide to try holding pups one at a time, and use them like a breast pump to release milk from the back teats. (My farmer friend would die. He calls this “coddling” and is utterly against it, no pun intended.) But I didn’t run this past him. It was working. I could see it in her eyes. I could hear it in her breathing. The snoring got downright comical, but she was getting relief. Milk was flowing AND her breasts weren’t getting clawed to shreds in the process!
After 5 - 7 minutes, I placed puppy #1 back on the pile and went for a second. Puppy #2 latched on and all was fine UNTIL…puppy #1 started to howl and make his way back, stepping on puppies 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 in the process. Now ALL the puppies were wide awake and coming in for a landing. Rosey rolled on her back, teats to ceiling and the cavalry roared in, clawing, pawing and gnawing their way to any open spigot like adventurers climbing Everest. 
Strategically placing fingers between claws and skin of 3 - 4 puppies at any given time, I felt like a wet nurse in a maternity ward. But if it means sitting sideways through future nursings til we get her back in shape, so be it. Otherwise, I’ll be knitting some mittens or starting that weaning thing a little bit early. 

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