Twas the night before today, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse….but wait, there comes a blood-curdling scream, piercing the night like the scream of a child awakened by a nightmare, upon discovering himself truly locked in a tiny cage. My first thought as my eyes focus on the clock across the room is “Well, it’s almost morning!”
It’s 5:50 am, the sky is dimly lit; the sun has started its morning rise, but it hasn’t yet seized the sky. Ginger and Mya, the 6-week-old golden retriever puppies that we are fostering on behalf of Gateway Golden Retriever Rescue are awake and pleading to go outdoors to potty. Nearly a week ago, Ginger, a 6.5lbs golden retriever puppy, with her big sister, Mya at 9lbs, arrived into our home. But like most puppies, they grow fast. In the week since they arrived from Springfield, MO, both are noticeably heavier, much brighter, less subdued, and into absolutely everything.
The 24 hours in our home was downright brutal. All afternoon, and all night they had to go outside and potty every 30 to 90 minutes. They had to be carried out to prevent them from discovering alternate locations for their business. The first day and night they had diarrhea. The last thing that puppies should ever learn is that they can do it in their crate. It is far more difficult to potty train a dog that will pee or poop where it sleeps. Working with rescue, we have fostered more than one golden retriever puppy that had no qualms about pottying in their crate and then sleeping in it. So, all day and all night, every time they’d cry, somebody had to carry them out. My wife handled most of the trips during the day, and I got the night shift. With each passing day, they could go longer and longer between potty breaks. They could stay out of their crates longer and play more. But still, they had to be carried out. Friday night they managed to make it from 10:30 pm to nearly 4 am. So, last night we put them out a little later with the hopes they’d sleep a little later. Success! They made it to nearly 6 am.
As their little screams pierced the darkness and became more insistent with each passing second, I quickly got up and prepared to take them out. Unlike the night with Jasper a few weeks ago, the outdoor temperature is in the low 20s and a flimsy bathrobe just won’t suffice. There are certain truths about puppies. 1) They have the attention span of a flea jump. 2) They are easily distracted. 3) They will potty anywhere that is not their bed. Unless I want a carpet puddle or something nastier on the floor between the crate and the door, Ginger and Mya still need to be carried from the crate down a flight of stairs, through the foyer, through the kitchen, into the garage, and finally out into the cold night air.
I picked them up, one at a time, but carried them together. Ginger was on the outside facing to my right, and Mya was squeezed tightly between Ginger and my chest facing the same direction. But, recently having learned to walk up and down our stairs, and run into their crate on their own, these girls didn’t want to go for a ride. They wanted down; they wanted to go out on their own. All the way down to the back door, they pushed off me, tried to stand up, and squirmed and struggled against my hold. At the back door, I had to reposition them. Both arms and hands are tied up trying to control these little girls, but now I’m faced with an alarm to disable and two doors to unlock and open. I moved little Ginger a bit lower, lifted Mya up but still tightly pressed against my coat. This was their chance. They waited for it. Squirm harder.
I got the alarm turned off. I unlocked the first door and went into the garage. I unlocked the second door and into the cold night air, we went. 1 foot, 2 feet, 3 feet out, okay, time to put them down in the grass. Mya seized that opportunity to push off my chest with every bit of strength that she had. She vaulted herself up and out of my grasp. SHE WAS FREE! Of course, she was also 5 feet off the ground; a reality that I was sure she wasn’t prepared for.
Still holding onto little Ginger, little Mya caught her foot on Ginger’s head as she sailed past her little sister into the blackness. My own Golden Retrievers like to jump off the 5-foot high railroad tie retaining wall in the back and they almost never get hurt. But Jasper & Amos are nearly 5 feet tall when standing on their back legs. These little pups are each smaller than my each of my feet.
Mya did a graceful somersault in the air and landed upside down on her back with her head resting quite uncomfortably on a raised concrete stepping stone. My own unsuccessful attempts at grabbing her as she fell the 5 feet to the ground were not nearly so graceful.
Mya was instantly screaming at the top of her lungs, a scream that will haunt me for the rest of my life. She was clearly injured and in a great deal of pain — I was freaking out. Almost immediately after sticking her less than graceful landing, Mya was on her feet, but she was still screaming. I was sure that her screams woke every living thing within a mile — not that I cared at that moment, I just knew I needed to get to her and check her out. I put Ginger down and scooped up Mya. She continued to scream at the top of her lungs as I pulled her close to my chest. She didn’t struggle and she didn’t try to escape. Jasper and Amos were immediately in my face. They poked at Mya with their noses and licked her. They too were clearly distraught. In fact, in their enthusiasm, I was sitting on my heels, they pushed me over. As I tried to protect little Mya and stand up, Jasper and Amos started jumping on me in an effort to get closer to Mya. As I struggled back against their intent and worked my way closer to my feet, Amos hit me full-on in the chest and knocked me off my feet and back hard into the wall of the house, where I fell into a pile on the ground at the base of the wall. At a combined weight of nearly 170lbs, Jasper and Amos can be a powerful force to be countered. While on the ground, both dogs continued their desperate attempts to get to Mya by climbing on top of me.
My cries for them to sit or lie down fell on non-listening ears. My attempts to push them both away while holding onto little Mya were largely unsuccessful. As I fought to protect Mya, who was still screaming at the top of her lungs, and get to my feet, Amos came in again and was immediately met with my knee in his chest to deflect him and push Jasper back at the same time. After successfully getting to my feet, a full 30 to 90 seconds after Mya’s fall I could start to assess her injuries. At the same time, my wife appeared on the scene and Amos disappeared. Her first words, right after, “what happened?” were, “Where’s Ginger?” I had no idea. She was gone. Hopefully, she hadn’t been scooped up by a passing owl that heard the dinner bell cries of a wounded animal or was underneath me when my boys knocked me down. I held Mya close to my heart, inside my coat, and headed for the kitchen where I had enough light to check her out, as my wife headed out into the dark to find Ginger. Jasper didn’t leave my side.
Upon reaching the kitchen, I heard Ginger start screaming, just as sister Mya was doing now. But Ginger only screamed for a few seconds. My wife found her at our other back door, trying to claw her way through the glass. Ginger was apparently terrified and started screaming when my wife tried to pick her up, but she quickly settled down after snuggling into my wife’s hug.
In the light of the kitchen, I turned Mya over and over and over but couldn’t find any injuries. I held her close to my heart and talked to her. She is still crying but the blood-curdling chalk-on-the-blackboard-at-120-decibels is giving way to a calmer, quieter cry. That too ended in a few more minutes. I returned Mya to the backyard because I knew she still needed to potty. To my shock and amazement, she ran full-out to my wife when I put her down beside Ginger. Then the two pups tore into the backyard and took care of business.
We let them run and play for a short time — mostly because we wanted to see if there were any ill-effects from Mya’s fall — Mya appeared unhurt. After about 15 minutes we tried to pick them up to take them back to their crate, but they wanted no part of me. They wouldn’t even let me near them — running away from me and to my wife each time I tried.
I got the message, and my wife took the pups back to bed, while I went to find Amos. I’m sure my knee to his chest hurt his feelings. He just wanted to help; he didn’t know that he was preventing me from checking Mya over; he was just doing what came naturally. I found Amos upstairs on his bed. When I went to pet him, he got up and left the room. I felt really bad. I couldn’t even bribe Amos with one of his favorite dog cookies. He was mad at me. Amos gets mad easily, and will sometimes hold a grudge for a day or two. We’ve found that it’s often best just to leave him alone until he gets over it.
For the next hour, we sat up and played with Mya. Ginger slept peacefully in her crate, and Mya was anxious to join her. But we kept her up and playing. We watched for any signs that she wasn’t okay, reviewed a book on the treatment of dog injuries, and debated calling the emergency vet. She continued to act unhurt, so we put her to bed beside Ginger and she was snuggling with Ginger before we got the crate door closed.
It’s now late Sunday afternoon. Mya has been playing with Ginger all day, getting love from friends who came to see the pups, and generally acting like nothing bad ever happened. Amos is still mad at me.
It’s now much later, Sunday night. Amos isn’t mad at me anymore. I was in the backyard with the pups a few hours ago. Amos came over to me and put his head against my hand. He wanted me to pet him.