When the forecast calls for rain in our parched Northern California – I am always a believer. This weekend – it did not disappoint. You can almost hear the trees and plants breathing in the good soak.
However, when it comes to rescue, I have learned to adopt a healthy bit of skepticism – if only to prepare my heart.
Recently, one of our volunteers connected with a woman looking to “rehome” Golden Retriever puppies on Craigslist. In fact, she of course meant to sell them claiming they were an “oops” litter. Our volunteer was surprised to hear back from the woman several weeks later, asking to surrender the pups…ten in total. It was suspicious that they had gone unsold, but, of course, we said ‘yes.’
I was not there the day they were delivered. The photo seemed to reflect that they were bright and alert. Then someone mentioned that one was worrisomely lethargic. My mind immediately went to Parvo. I’ve been through it before.
We isolated them as we do all puppies. My fear was confirmed the next morning when one puppy was rushed to the vet. The heartbreaking decision was made to let her go. In the final stages, Parvo is very painful and it was the kindest thing. The next day – two more were lost.
Parvo is deadly to puppies. Protection requires four rounds of vaccinations which is why we always caution that puppies cannot go to public places – even sidewalks – until fully vaccinated. The mortality rate for puppies is a devastating 80%.
Strict isolation protocols were put in place with a tiny team to watch over the others. We were determined to save the remaining seven. Under guidance from our dedicated vet, we established two isolation areas – one for those showing symptoms (lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea among them) – and a separate space for those without. Our president personally took all shifts for the three in greatest danger – administering their care and watchfully waiting. The other four progressed well, learning what regular access to food meant and quickly gaining weight.
When it was safe, we sent the four to foster and celebrated the day when the three could be released from their separate isolation. They are now on the rebound.
This is where my skepticism creeps in. We try to give people the benefit of the doubt and to be genuinely grateful for the chance to help, but I suspect that the surrenderer knew what she delivered to us. Honesty might have helped us save more.
We offered to spay and neuter her dogs – something she said she wanted to do but could not afford. We sent her education about Parvo and why future litters were likely to suffer the same fate. We never heard back. After a Parvo litter, homes and yards cannot be used for up to a year after complete disinfecting or removal of surfaces. I grieve for her next litter – those that will suffer the same fate and those that go to unsuspecting families destined for heartbreak.
I have no issue with responsible breeders who truly care for their dogs, puppies, and the families that purchase them. But please help spread the word about how to identify them versus backyard or puppy mill breeders who create tragedies like this. This is a resource you can share.