Chester Vaucluse

Born: Tuesday, July12, 2011

Died: Thursday, July 14, 2011

Before Chester Iva delivered, Scott said, “You know we’ll lose at least one puppy, right?” I said that I did, but I thought to myself, “We don’t *know* that.” I knew it was likely. I remember our family dog having pups when I was a child. The runt of the litter died the first night, I think. And it never nursed. We tried to feed it with a syringe, and I tried to keep it extra warm in my baby carriage, complete with blankets and a heating pad.

But Chester Iva’s pups were all thriving on Wednesday. Even the runt, little Chester Patrick, eats with gusto. By Wednesday evening, though, the chubbiest girl of the litter, Chester Vaucluse (there aren’t many “V” S. Carolina names from which to choose, by the way) had started crying. Very loudly. And incessantly.

Chester I. and I did everything we could think of to soothe her. I shuffled puppies around, so that Vaucluse would have a nice nursing spot. She wasn’t interested. Then, I thought, chubby girl that she was, that she had overeaten and had a tummy ache. So, I stacked her in the middle of a pile of pups, hoping the warmth would help. Finally, Scott suggested that she was just having a 6:00 meltdown, like Jack does nearly every night. At one point, both baby boy and dog were wailing together.

Scott and I would walk by Chester I., who looked at times stricken, and at other times exasperated. She’d roll Chester V. over and examine her, try to get her to nurse, cuddle with her. Nothing helped. “We sympathize, Iva,” we’d say, pointing at Jack. “See. We have one too.”

Imagine both of our shock to be awakened by Iva at 2:00 in the morning, to find a cold and lifeless Chester V. Scott wouldn’t quite believe it. He thought she had gotten separated from the warmth of the pack, that he could rub heat and life back into her,Roger Radcliffe style in 101 Dalmations. If it worked, he said, we’d rename Chester V. “Lucky.”

Alas, it didn’t.

While Chester Iva took a bathroom break, I wrapped Chester V. in a towel and removed her from the litter for good. I tried to decide which would be worse: letting Chester I. sniff her before I removed her, so she’d know why I did it. Or, spiriting her away.

The latter concerned me, because I remember my mother telling me about a similar incident with her chihuahua, Penny. Penny had three pups, one stillborn. She knew that something was “wrong” with the third pup. She had separated it from the other two healthy pups. But when my mother removed it, Penny was distraught. She ran to my grandmother, complaining loudly, as if telling her that my mother had stolen her pup!

I thought, though, that with thirteen other pups, Chester I. may not notice. So, I took the “spiriting away” option. And either she didn’t notice, or she did but knew that it was a necessary action.

What could have happened? Scott and I wondered if Chester I. had smothered Vaucluse accidentally. But she has been so careful with the pups, and we’ve been super-vigilant, moving pups from behind her to the front of her. We wondered if she got separated from the pack, getting too cold. But we’ve been careful to monitor the temperature since the puppies were born. I covered the vent in their small room and have been setting the air conditioner on 80-85 at night, much to Scott’s chagrin.

Then, I read about “fading puppy syndrome.” Dr. John Kohnke writes, “Many of these puppies [that die from fading puppy syndrome] are vigorous and healthy at birth, but within 2-10 days lose their interest in nursing. They often ‘cry’ in a monotonous way as though they are in pain and discomfort. They lose body weight, crawl into corners away from the rest of the litter and die, despite careful nursing.”

That sounds like what we experienced with Chester V. At least, we’re going to pretend it was “fading puppy syndrome.” Somehow, the idea of her fading away is more palatable than the idea of her being cold or smothered.

Scott buried her this morning, in the flower garden. Rest in peace, sweet Chester V.

So, now we have 13 puppies, and they all seem to be thriving [knocking on wood and crossing fingers now]. We keep a careful watch over Chester P., who is nearly a full half size smaller than the other pups. See Chester P. below, with his sister Chester Ruby.

We decided to call him Patrick, after the Newark pit bull, Patrick, that survived shocking abuse. Chester P. hasn’t had as much to overcome, thankfully. — although managing to get a belly full with a dozen much larger siblings is impressive, just the same.

And, to end on a thoroughly positive note, I offer the following photos of puppies, cuddling on a warm bed of puppies.


2 Responses to “Chester Vaucluse”

  1. Samantha Says:

    Hi, Nicole:
    I have really been enjoying reading your blog, and I think what you and your family are doing is wonderful, in so many ways, the primary one being that all these dogs have warm, safe, happy places to be and get to go find families of their own, too.

    I also want to tell you I’m sorry to hear about little Chester Vaucluse, and that I can sympathize. Do you remember that picture of our little puppy, Phineas, that I showed you one time at the Writing Center? We got him from a very nice lady with lots of mini. schnauzer puppies. Before we met Phineas, we met his brother. We went to visit and fell in love with this nutty little puppy with three black legs and one white leg, who licked our fingers incessantly, and climbed all over Samuel. We decided to call him Sprocket, and we were all set for taking him home as soon as he was big enough and ready. A few weeks later, the lady who had the puppies called us all of a sudden, however, and told us that Sprocket wasn’t doing very well. He stopped eating and cried all the time. She told us things might not go well and tried to help prepare us for the possibility that we might want to think about taking home one of Sprocket’s brothers or sisters instead, but I just couldn’t give up on him. Little Sprocket didn’t make it; we were both very surprised and very sad; he started out not being the runt, and then he stopped thriving. We tried to understand why, but in the end all anyone could tell us was that sometimes little puppies just don’t survive. We gave everyone some time, to remember Sprocket and to grieve and think, and then we went again to go see the other puppies. That was when we got to know and name Phineas, and we took him home.

    We love Phineas dearly; he is such a friend and a comfort and a joy! I’m sure that I existed before Phineas, but to tell the truth memory of life before Phineas somehow seems a little blurry! 🙂 He has the funniest, spunkiest little personality I’ve ever seen! You wouldn’t believe how he “yodels” and makes the craziest noises when he plays with us, and how he hops around! He also has enormous ears! We often, teasingly, call him our bunny-in-a-puppy-suit.

    But we still think about Sprocket with sadness. I had never heard the term “fading puppy syndrome,” before, but it does sound exactly like what happened to Sprocket.

    Thanks for sharing all your stories, Nicole, and thanks for sharing your story about Chester V, sad though it is. Somehow, and I don’t know why, it’s a comfort to hear a name for what happened. I guess in its own way having a name for it helps to make sense out of something that seems senseless. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for fostering all the Chesters! If we could have more than one doggie, and if I could somehow make myself promise not to bring home every single one of them (which I’m not sure I can, because I just love dogs!), then I would come by and adopt one of them!

    Take care!

  2. fisknp Says:

    So sorry to read about Sprocket, Samantha. Your Sprocket and our Chester V. sound similar indeed.

    And, yes, I know what you mean about having a name for the yucky things that happen sometime.

    Thanks so much for sharing. I loved reading about Phineas’s sweet personality. Enjoy him!

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