Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dog Lovers Beware

Isn't she adorable!
I thought I'd share my broken heart with you. But if you love dogs and have a tender heart, you might want to steer clear of this little story (which means Hannah and Yaar E should have no problem with it).

As a college graduation gift for my sister in-law (SIL), Heather and I have been planning to get her a puppy. This has been no secret. A min-pin (mini pincher) was the dog of choice, and it was decided that Christmas was the appropriate time that my SIL was ready for a dog.

A month ago I contacted a NC breeder of Minpins outside of Raleigh and reserved a puppy in a litter that, at the time, had not even been born. After the birth, the breeder sent me this picture of the little angel. I passed it along to my SIL, and the picture was shown around to friends and family both here and in Raleigh as many soon-to-be parents show off sonograms. In dog loving families, a new dog is almost as significant as a new baby.

Anyway, on to the sadness...

About two weeks ago, I got a phone call from the breeder, late one night, who said she had some "bad news." My defenses went up. Had she sold it to someone else? Had the puppy gotten sick? I waited for her to continue. And then, I recognized a "tone" of voice that I've grown all too familiar with as a chaplain talking with grieving people. Her voice choked a little, became a bit scratchy and her pace of speech slowed. Like a doctor delivering bad news to a family, the words came out like heavy stones thrown from her heart.

She has a nursery structure on her property in which most of her dogs (mommies, puppies, studs) live. The previous night, the heater for this facility went on the fritz. The thermostat malfunctioned and the heater pumped out as much heat as it could for hours on end until the next morning. The breeder awoke the next morning and walked as usual to her nursery to find it heated to 120 degrees, and 24 dogs laying lifeless in their beds. This 24 included the little girl in the above picture.

The stronger dogs that survived were drenched with sweat, and she said one of them was even coughing like a person who inhaled smoke into the lungs. She was devastated. I was shocked. Her two young children didn't understand and had cried most the day until their tears ducts were depleted. What had for years been her little oasis of dog and puppy tail-wagging life each day had been transformed over night into a mass K-9 grave.

I went into chaplain mode, and spoke with her for more than half and hour, doing my best to listen and console as she bore her heart to me, a stranger whose face she's never seen. She'd spent most of the day, burying dogs and nursing the survivors back to health. The rest of the time she spent making phone calls to customers like me to deliver the bad news. As the last piece on her pile of grief, she'd lost thousands of dollars in her business.

Yet, instead of throwing in the towel, refunding deposits and giving up all together, she expressed her strong desire to do right by me. She had a friend and fellow breeder of Minpins whom she'd contacted. The friend agreed to sell her a female puppy so she could honor her agreement with us. I was grateful, but mostly saddened on her behalf.

We still have a new puppy soon entering the family; however, this sad story is now attached to the joy that the dog will bring. My hope is that the traumatic event (and this post's telling of it) will not sully my SIL's joy of a new dog.

Our hearts go out to this breeder. So if you have a little extra, send some light and lover her way. If you're a praying person, whisper and utterance of compassion on her behalf.

Sorry for the sad story. My brother is probably crying by now reading this. I once heard someone say something like this, "Suffering bared alone is multiplied, but suffering shared is divided." (Lance hopefully, these are emotions working for the good.) I find there's healing in sharing our sadness and bearing our hearts to one another.

Until next time, shalom.


Audrey said...

Very very sad. I'm crying even if Adam isn't...

Vicki Hesse said...

omg. so sad. strength to shift to chapppy mode after that experience.... peace