Last summer I agreed to take on four neonatal fosters for Secondhand Hounds. Lovingly dubbed the Sub Pups, these tiny yellow labrador puppies were released from a breeder because they had cleft palates and would’ve died without help.
The sandwich chain Jersey Mike’s generously donated to our organization, and as a thanks we gave them naming rights. Thus they were dubbed after popular menu options: Jersey Mike (aka Mike), Big Kahuna (Kahuna), Stickball Special (Styx), and Philly Cheesesteak (Phyllis).
You can see some of last summer’s blog posts here. We definitely had a lot of ups and downs with these babies, as we do with most of our neonates. Clefties tend to aspirate their food and liquid, leading to aspiration pneumonia. These guys were no exception. At 5 weeks old, they started declining. My life became a blur of vet visits and medication dosings. The boys struggled, but they overcame eventually. Little Phyllis, sadly, did not. She is the only foster I have lost, and it was so hard. My heart hurt for her, but in the end know we did everything possible to give her a chance. She was loved, and she knew it.
As I said, the boys recovered, and after a few months were able to go home to their forevers. Today, the babies are big boys!
Mike was the first to go, and he was dubbed Winston (look for him on Instagram as Sir Winston Labrador). His parents are veterinarians, and daddy has extensive experience with clefties. Mama and Daddy are overwhelmingly in love with their boy! They worried at first that they would struggle to connect, as they had just lost another lab. But clearly Winston’s winning ways quickly eliminated that concern.
“He has become the Michael Phelps of the dog world and LOVES to swim and chase a ball in the water, so we aren’t sure if his favorite thing really is the ball or the swimming part LOL,” says his mama. Winston is a big snuggler, which doesn’t surprise me (orphan babies get pretty spoiled by human contact, due to how much intense handling and cuddling they receive from early on). When they are babies, cleft pups drink from a “hamster” waterer, as it takes a while to learn how to drink from a bowl without choking. Winston got a little spoiled, evidently, as he still prefers his waterer to a bowl, and will only drink out of the water bowl if it has a little milk in it!
Big Kahuna is now Barney.
This sweetheart has been a godsend for his humans: “Barney is a wonderful member of our family! We can’t imagine being without him, and we are so grateful for him especially when we had to go on lockdown, he got us through that very difficult time.”
Like Winston, Barney slits his time between snuggles and playing. He happily greets his humans, and wants to meet all the neighbors (I mean, isn’t everyone a friend you just haven’t met yet?)
Barney loves going on walks around the lake and through the woods (so many sniffing opportunities!), and he is learning how to play fetch. Of course, he usually just keeps the ball and the game for him is for his people to wrestle the ball away from him! His fave time of day might be mealtime: in typical lab fashion, he inhales his food in seconds. His current task on his to do list is convincing Tinker the cat, to play, but she’s not having it (50 lb dog versus an 8 lb cat!).
When the pups were dealing with pneumonia, Styx suffered the longest. His recovery dragged, so he stayed with me for more than a month longer tan his brothers. To be honest, I didn’t mind. He was such a sweetie! His adopter was also patient, beasue she knew she had a great dog coming hoe soon!
Styx hit the family jackpot: he is one of four dogs at his house!
His three siblings are Skittles, Daisy and Sasha. He loves playing with them during the day and cuddling at night.
Styx (the only f the puppies to keep his name) also loves being around the two-leggeds, and has settled in quickly to his job as an office mascot! It seems all these babies came from some great snuggle stock, as all their humans report the cuddle is strong with these woofers!
As you can imagine, Secondhand Hounds spent a lot of money on these babies. All had at least one cleft surgery, plus emergency care during their bout with pneumonia and countless doctors’ visits. Thanks to generous donors, it’s what we do. We want these amazing animals to have the best life possible (historically breeders euthanize puppies and kittens born with defects like cleft palates; we are giving them another option).
Next month is Give to the Max Day. The fundraising event is always important, but this year it is critical for us and other charities. 2020 has been a YEAR, if ya hadn’t heard! We are unable to do our major in-person fundraising events, so if you are moved to see more success stories like these, please consider donating on November 19th. For more information, please click here.
Recently we got in a new cleft baby, a French bulldog who is working hard to survive.
Secondhand Hounds will do all it can to make sure she has a happy where are they now story this time next year!
So I said goodbye to the last of the Sub pups last week. They lived with me for almost three months — three months of laughter and tears and hopes and fears. They were not my first fosters, nor will they be my last, but I wanted to share them with you all on this very important day.
Today is Give to the Max Day (donate now at https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds). It is the single most important day all year for Secondhand Hounds and thousands of other charities. What we raise today will determine the course of the next year: will we be able to save the broken, the sick, the doomed? It depends, really, on you.
If not for the donations of others, I wouldn’t have met the Sub Pups. They were born July 7th to a breeder mama. There were seven in her yellow lab litter and five had cleft palates. That means they could not eat, not by nursing mama or drinking from a bottle. Historically, breeders often chose to euthanize imperfect puppies. Yes, it seems heartless, but breeding is a business first and foremost, and there is no way a breeder is going to sell a “defective” puppy for full price. Not to mention get back the man-hours and dollars it takes to treat them.
Rescue is about a lot of things, but it is definitely NOT about making money.
So Secondhand Hounds created the Neonatal division, and the coordinator, Teri, has worked hard to let breeders and their veterinarians know that there is another option: surrender the animals to us, and we will do our best to fix them and get them homes. This wonderful breeder agreed to let us help, and we took four of the puppies.
(Actually, Teri climbed out of bed, made some coffee, hopped in her car and drove hours to get them. Then she snuggled them into the incubator plugged into her car and warming in the passenger seat. She also had to pull over and feed them every 2-3 hours. They were just hours old).
And how did she feed them? Well, since conventional methods don’t work for cleft babies, she (and, later, me) had to insert a tube down their throat and into their stomach and syringe-feed them through that tube. And no: you can’t buy puppy formula at the store. Teri had to figure out her own formula through trial and error (it’s a lot of goat’s milk and Greek yogurt!)
The sandwich shop Jersey Mike’s had run a wonderful fundraiser for us, so they had been given naming rights, and the Sub Pups were born: Jersey Mike, Big Kahuna, Stickball Special (aka Styx) and Philly Cheesesteak (aka Phyllis, the lone girl).
In some ways they were the perfect fosters: they never made a sound. They slept through the night. In fact, they slept ALL THE TIME. I guess that was partly because they were puppies, and partly because they weren’t all that healthy. At the time I got them, they were transitioning to solid food. It’s a challenging time with any puppy (or human infant!), but even more so for a cleft baby. Every time they tried to eat, it would go up through the hole in the roof of their mouths and they would sneeze and couch and it would be yucky out their noses. So we had to get them on solid food asap, and away from mushy baby food.
I still supplemented them with tube feedings, and every day I weighed them, panicking when they lost an ounce, celebrating at every milestone: they all came in under two pounds, so that first 2 pounder was huge for me!
So they did the puppy thing. They ate.
(they drank out of what I called a rabbit water bottle so as to not choke on water)
They learned to play!
And they slept.
When they were all diagnosed with pneumonia, we weren’t surprised. It happens. It’s pretty common with cleft palates, as any fluids they consume can easily travel into the lungs. So we started treating them, and we thought they were all getting better.
But not Phyllis.
Little Philly Cheesesteak started craning her neck — like a turtle. I showed it to Teri, and our founder, Rachel, and they decided she needed to go to the emergency vet.
I never saw her again.
Philly Cheesesteak didn’t make it.
The sweet little girlie, the littlest one. She looked like an absolute toy. The vets tried for days, but ultimately she passed in her sleep.
Phyllis was the first foster I have lost. I grieve her all the time, but I know that I did all I could. That SHH did all it could. And I had three little yellow boys who needed me, so it was time to get re-focused.
I was nebulizing them. I was giving them steam showers. I gave meds several times a day. I did chest percussion treatment to loosen the phlegm. And they began to grow.
From day one I followed the Secondhand Hounds protocol, socializing them and exposing them to sounds and surfaces and textures.
Soon it was time to start talking adoption!
Mike was the first to find his people.
His new name is Winston, and he is being spoiled quite nicely, thank you!
Then Big Kahuna moved on and was renamed, Barney.
Both Winston and Barney have cat siblings, and are doing just fine with that!
Styx had to be with me longer, as his lungs just wouldn’t clear up. We sent him to a specialist, who vacuumed his lungs and did a culture and we changed medicines. Two weeks later his x rays were much better, so I started contacting potential adopters. Two weeks after that, he was able to go home.
Now Mr. Styx got to keep his name. It works well with the resident cat’s name, Skittles. But one kitty isn’t his only furry sibling!
Styx is an office dog now, who has his own cubicle and gets plenty of love!
When the pups are 6 months old, they will have surgery to correct their cleft palates. If all goes well, they should live the lives of normal, happy, loved dogs. But Secondhand Hounds has bills to pay. When we are done, we will have spent more than $10,000 on their care. We will not recoup that cost from adoption fees. We rely on your donations.
So consider donating, please. Because there are hundreds of animals we want to save. So far, in 10 years, SHH has saved more than 10,000 cats and dogs. Every day we hear of another one that needs help — a dog found starving and abused, a cat who had a litter by the side of the road, a breeder pup born with hydrocephaly, an animal abandoned because it was old and now needs hospice care. We have a donor who is willing to match all donations on Give to the Max Day dollar for dollar. So please: get that donation in NOW! https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds
In the meantime, here are a few more cute pics to remind you of where your money goes!
That link for donation again is https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds