CHAPTER SIX: CLEOPATRA (CLEO)
It was an easy and quiet Sunday evening and I was camped out in front of the television. All the dogs were fed and resting. The telephone rang and it was a friend of mine, “Max”, who works as a guard for a Federal Prison Camp in Bakersfield, CA (about an hour and a half from Los Angeles). “Max” explained to me there was a dog who had ended up on the prison grounds and for a little while the warden did not mind, but now that had changed. The warden had visitors who were coming to evaluate the prison and she wanted the dog removed. When one of the guards tried to capture her, she snapped at him and growled. “Max” was afraid she would be killed, because no one made any other attempts to capture her assuming she was dangerous. If they called the local animal control, we both knew once she was in “the system” she had little to no chance of surviving. They would have tagged her as “dangerous and aggressive.” I had until Tuesday morning to come get her. I arrived early Tuesday and had no problem at all getting her to come with me. She was a pretty dog. Very kind, warm eyes. I named her Cleopatra (Cleo for short) because of her eyes. They reminded me of Egyptian royalty, I suppose. Definitely a German Short-Haired Pointer and obviously underweight and a bit lethargic. The ride back to Los Angeles was a piece of cake. She slept the entire trip.
I drove straight to my vet and we were not there more than 5 minutes until he told me the shocking news….Cleo was pregnant. Oh boy, now I had to nurse her back to health fast to make sure the unborn puppies had a chance. She was 2 years old (a guess) and, well, not spayed. I got her vaccines updated and everything else checked out all right. No sign of fleas or ticks or any other parasites. Her coat was short, but a bath was in order.
After her bath, I put her in the now vacant “visitor” room where she slept for nearly 2 days; getting up for an occasional drink of water. this dog was obviously exhausted from being on her own in the desert for who knows how long. After a while, she got an appetite and did she get an appetite. She wanted to eat everything. She got along with my other dogs, but pretty much kept to herself.
I could not wait to call “Max” and let him know why Cleo showed aggression..she was pregnant. He was almost as shocked as I was and asked me what was I going to do with her. I told him my plan was to make sure she was healthy and happy throughout her pregnancy and I would find her and her babies a safe and loving home 8 weeks after delivery.
Cleo was getting bigger and bigger in the stomach area and I was so excited waiting for her to give birth. I bought so many books, researched so many websites on the internet and spoke with several different people, including my vet, on what to expect and do when the big moment finally arrived. That big moment came at exactly 3:00AM February 18, 2008…just 4 days after St. Valentine’s Day. Cleo had been in labor that previous evening and I had everything set up and ready for her and her puppies. She birthed 8 beautiful and healthy puppies. I sat up with her the rest of the night until I had to get ready and leave for work by 8:00AM. I only worked a half a day and came home to an even more shocking surprise. I expected to find 8 puppies, but now I counted 14! I could not believe it! 14…..really? Four were stillborn, though, so that left 10 surviving, healthy pups! So, it only took 2 weeks to pass by before Cleo decided she was tired of nursing. I guess I could not blame her in a way. Now I had to be the “mother” and bottle feed all of these puppies. What an adventure that was! Just think of trying to feed 2 puppies at a time because I only have 2 hands yet all 10 puppies are awake and hungry at the same time. They had to eat every 2 hours around the clock, so to say I was beyond exhausted after just a day is an understatement. Whew! I kept them on puppy formula for a few weeks until I was in dire need of sleep and rest, so I decided to mix “baby cereal” in with their formula and made a mixture for the puppies to eat and hopefully keep their little bellies full for at least 4 hours at a time. It worked and I was thrilled! By the eighth week, they were all weened from puppy formula and now eating puppy chow in a bowl. My “surrogate mother” duties were done.
E.L. / June 2011