|Image via Healthy Pet Food Guide|
She was supposed to be a German Shepherd. I mean, just look at that gorgeous dog. I have long told myself that my next dog, and she would be MY dog, was going to be a German Shepherd. Female. I already have her wonderful name picked out, for goodness sakes!
After my beloved Senor Poquito passed away last fall, I was surprised by how much I missed that cranky little guy. I don't mean for a couple of weeks but well past the new year. Truth be told, I still miss him. But the German Shepherd lurked in my dreams and even though I'm not sure I would pay big dollar for a registered dog, I always thought a German Shepherd-black lab mix would be nice. Then one day last week, there it was in the newspaper: German Shepherd mix puppies-free. When I called I was told they were Germans Shepherd-black lab mix. Eureka! And free!
Call me a softie, but all of my dogs have been runts. They make the best pets. Even as my husband headed out the door to check out the Rat Terrier puppies for our daughter a couple of years ago, I called out, "Get the runt." So when the woman on the phone last week said there was a female runt in this litter, I got pretty excited. She emailed a photo.
No, my heart was set on a German Shepherd and if it was a mix, it was going to be a very German looking mix. I was determined. This gal looked too heavy on the black lab genes. No.
Because life has been inexplicably and insanely busy the past few weeks, it was two days before I could get out to look at the puppies. By then there were only three of the original six puppies left. And yes, there was a very German looking female puppy running around, the one I would have most likely taken. Until the woman said, as she roughly ripped the top off of the igloo dog house, "Here's that little female."
It was all over with. I desperately wanted and was determined to take the German Shepherd looking female- I was committed to it- but there she was, this itty-bitty runt. Pitiful. I even called my husband to see how he felt about getting two puppies, even though we already have one dog. Bless his big teddy bear heart, he never said no. Funny thing, my daughter and I fought over turns holding the runt and I never even picked up the German-y looking female. We went home with one puppy. The runt.
Like I say, I have a fair amount of experience with runts but this gal was the most pitiful one I've brought home. She looked markedly worse than the picture we had gotten two days earlier and I was afraid I was going to lose my first runt-puppy. From what I can find out, a German Shepherd weighs on average seven pounds at 1 month and a black lab pup hits about five pounds. This is highly variable, of course, but our girl just barely touched two pounds. Once we got her home and really checked her over, I don't think she would have lived another week. I would have given her five days, tops.
The living conditions were horrible: muddy and heavily soiled with feces, as the mom and another dog were chained to a tree with only three feet of chain each. The puppies were roaming around loose in all of this mess, next to a very busy road. I was assured that all the pups were eating dry food but our little girl had no idea what to do with dry food. I've never had a runt I couldn't get to eat. She could barely stand. Like most puppies, she had worms but this little gal was FULL of worms. Her eyes had a good bit of goop and we were concerned about distemper or parvo. And when we bathed her--- I have never, never, NEVER seen so much dirt come off one dog much less a puppy. But then again, she had been living in a literal poop pile, in the rain and mud, for five weeks. And we, like so much of the country, have had some terrible storms this spring and more rain than our ground can handle.
She washed up nicely that first night and she was sparkly-pretty for her trip to the vet. Weak, but sweet. Fluids, vitamins, de-wormer galore, and advice. We love our vet, dear Dr. S. I once made an emergency trip after work to a local vet with a runt kitten and he guy took one look at the kitten and said, "That cat's gonna die tonight. I'm surprised she's alive now." Outraged, I picked her up, left without paying, and made the thirty mile trip to Dr S. He gave us advice, vitamins, free food and supplements, and encouragement- and now that kitten is the Alpha Dog at our house. I know, she's a cat, but at our house she's Smudgie, the Alpha Dog. Fourteen years old.
Anyway, six days after bringing our sweet puppy-girl home, she is not only eating and drinking, she is also following Remy the Rat Terrier around, exploring, snuggling, and beginning to play and frisk. She's still pretty weak but she has gained a pound.
The story about her lineage and that of her mother evolved as I talked with the woman who had the puppies (well, the woman didn't give birth to the puppies but you know what I mean). I'm sure our little girl has German Shep in her, but how much......?
Oh, who cares. We have our girl, our Miss Gracie. She no longer runs in panic-striken circles every waking minute (a total of two hours that first day), whining desperately. In fact, she's a very quiet little girl. We're on the hunt for jingle bells as she really is cat-quiet.
I can't even describe how horrified I was by the living conditions of these puppies, as well as the mother and whoever that other dog chained to the tree was. The woman who had these puppies didn't even know about our Gracie for the first week and then didn't know how small she was until just over a week ago. I still struggle with going back for the others just to save them, whether we keep them or not. The only dog that lived a clean, well-feed, attended-to life was the male German Shepherd on the premises. And all I heard about was how this woman wanted to get a female registered German Shep so she could breed and sell the puppies. Isn't that a mini-puppy mill? Honestly, I really am trying not to be harsh about how these dogs were being cared for but the facts are the facts.
Listen people, I'm just gonna say this straight out and not with nearly the gentleness that I should: we are responsible for those little lives. If you do not have a dog that you plan to breed in a responsible manner, get it spayed or neutered. And yes, I understand that sometimes "things" happen, but if they do, you are still responsible for those little lives. Take care of them- or don't get one. Yes, yes, I'm ranting (and venting) but you know I'm a dog lover. We are responsible to take care of them with gentleness and grace.
Just ask Miss Gracie. Oh, and Remy? He's coming around to his little sister.
Here are some links related to spay and neuter programs and other issues related to saving our little runts. Maybe I should start a national campaign--- Save The Runts!