Sleep-In Sunday. Who Needs It?

sleep Kaine 2

I’ll admit it. I was a tiny bit giddy when I tucked myself into bed last night. It was Saturday night and I had NOTHING to do Sunday morning. Nothing. Nada. Nil.

And so I drifted off to sleep with visions of a lazy morning dancing in my head. I would sleep in. Not the 7:00 am kind of sleep-in. Not even the 7:30 kind of sleep-in. I was going for the gold. I was shooting for 8:00 am sleep-in glory.

That rarely gets to happen.

It still rarely gets to happen.

Several factors conspired against my lazy, stay-in-bed Sunday. If you know me at all, you might think that some of those factors were the members of my four-legged family. You would be right, but in their defense, it was the two-legged inhabitants of the farm who really stirred the pot.

“Stirred the pot” may be an unfortunate phrase choice, because the two-legged creatures I am referring to are our little flock of chickens who decided that a rainy, gray, perfect-for-sleeping morning was, instead, the perfect morning to crow repeatedly (that would be Cluck Norris testing his new-found skills as a young rooster), and run hither and yon across the yard. In front of the windows. The bedroom windows. Where the dogs WERE sleeping with me. Until they were not.

windowBarking, pawing, and whining incessantly at the windows became the new order of the day. I tried desperately to press my eyelids tightly shut and pull the blankets over my head in an effort to block the dogs, who were ping-ponging across the bed as they vaulted to the windows and back to me in a HEY-DID-YOU-KNOW-WE-HAVE-CHICKENS frenzy.

Yeah. I know. Chickens.

And then the lead two-legger came in to crash my slumber party once and for all. He released THE hound. Yep, I believe his words were, “If you’re not going to come see him, he’s going to come see you.”

With that, approximately 115 pounds of soggy Kainan, our resident wolfdog, landed squarely on my abdomen.

Chicks in yardOh, and did I tell you that the aforementioned human two-legger also happened to be the one who let the chickens out of their coop at 6 am? On sleep-in Sunday? On a cloudy, rainy, perfect-for-snoozing day? Yeah, I’m not pointing any fingers, but that’s what happened and his name rhymes with hymn. (That reference is going to make all kinds of sense here in a minute and you’re going to look back and you’ll surely think I’m quite clever…)

But the sound that REALLY got me out of my fog and into the day had nothing to do with rogue chickens or bouncing dogs. It was the pitiful, complaining, wail that echoed from the garage, down the hall, through the living room and straight into my pillow-muffled ear canals.


Oh yes! My eyes suddenly popped wide open. It was my first morning to wake up to our two tiny spotted charges. Our new little foster babies.

In the garage, you say? Yes. I know. It goes against everything that is Nancy and Jim (hey, that rhymes with hymn…). Our dogs and our foster dogs are in the house. Everywhere in the house. They own the place.

But these tiny babies are special. They are two of the survivors from a litter of Dalmatian puppies that came down with the dreaded parvovirus (parvo).

In a nutshell, parvo is a highly contagious virus that attacks a dog’s intestines and destroys the lining that allows them to absorb nutrients and fluids. While there is prevention for parvo – all puppies and dogs should be vaccinated for it – there is no cure for it once a dog or puppy has contracted it. So the only course of treatment is to provide supportive care while the virus runs its course and hope like heck the puppy can rally. It is an aggressive disease and can be deadly.

We learned all too well about the deadly part this week.

Jim and I, along with our good friend Lawanna, run the Dalmatian Assistance League, Inc., a nonprofit group dedicated to the welfare of our beloved Dalmatian dogs. We educate the public about our favorite breed of dog. We rescue homeless Dalmatians. We foster them. We provide care for them. We find them wonderful new homes. And we love them. Each and every one that passes through our lives.

About a week ago, while on a trip to California for my cousin’s wedding (BEAUTIFUL!), I received word about a litter of 10 Dalmatian puppies that had contracted parvo. One puppy had already died, and other puppies in the litter were starting to fall like a line of teetering dominoes. The litter owners, who had not really planned to breed their dogs, but ooops happened, were overwhelmed and out of resources. Treating one case of parvo can be costly and is a 24/7 proposition. Treating an entire litter was devastating.

Long story short…with lots of texts and phone calls, Jim and I started arranging assistance for the puppies, hoping that a little help would go a long way. Sometimes you can nip parvo in the bud. Sometimes you can’t.

This was one of those “you can’t” times.

Pink 2Once back in town, I met the puppies for the first time at a veterinary hospital that was willing to work with our rescue group to try to save some lives. Three puppies had already left for new homes (and were receiving care from their new owners), one, despite supportive care from the litter owner, had already passed away. We were left with a plastic tub full of six puppies, five of which were showing symptoms.

I won’t give all the details, but of the six puppies, five required hospitalization through the course of the week and in the end, we lost three of them. Overall in the litter, five died, five survived.

It was heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. It was a yo-yoing, emotional, glass half full, glass half empty kind of week. At times, especially in the mornings when I awaited my daily update from the veterinarian, it felt like a cracked glass draining fast kind of week as I received news of loss despite their very best efforts.

But then there was the morning when the remaining puppies made it through the night. That was followed by the call when I could actually hear the puppies complaining loudly as they vied for attention in the background. Then there was the news that the two puppies remaining at the vet were drinking water on their own and holding it down. Soon came the news that they were finally hungry…in fact, hAngry. Finally, we had good, glorious, turning-the-corner kind of news.

These kids were ready to be sprung from the vet and Jim and I were ready to welcome them to our home to recover. Oh…wait. We were anything BUT ready.

Even though they were doing better, the puppies would still be shedding the virus and though our adult dogs would not be affected, we could not let our home environment become contaminated. Parvo can live in your yard for years. It is one stubborn little bastard.

So Saturday morning erupted in a flurry of preparation so we would have a comfortable quarantine space for our new adorable charges. Though parvo is spread through contact, it is not airborne, we still needed to have a good plan and set-up for keeping the puppies isolated.

Hymn, um, I mean Jim, cleared a space in our do-you-really-use-all-of-these-tools garage (and he does. I guess he really does) while I ran out to gather/buy supplies. Supplies included a tarp for the floor, rubber gloves and gowns to wear when handling the pups, blankets, a crate, a puppy pen, oh, and a portable air conditioner. Oklahoma is hot, hot, hot. Recovering puppies needed to be comfortable.

We got everything set up in record time. I went to the puppy hospital, met with the wonderful Dr. Sellers, got all of my instructions, and then loaded a little crate into my Jeep, two sweet, curious faces peering out of it.

13568795_1372346229461358_3022580120059058848_oThe pups settled into their new recovery space nicely. They both immediately lapped up a big drink of water (yay…dehydration is one of the big killers with parvo) and then discovered the pile of new toys we had waiting for them. It was a great feeling to see two puppies who had just a day ago been so ill they could barely raise their heads, pounce on squeaky toys and settle in to gnaw on puppy chew bones.

And so these spotted charmers were the determined little alarm clocks that finally broke through my Sunday slumber fog. They were my reason to bolt out of bed and start my day just a wee bit earlier than I had planned. And I didn’t mind. Not one bit.

It was perfect.

13592266_1372345986128049_2484418169794870042_nGowned and gloved, I sat holding each puppy, thankful for a great veterinarian, thankful for a litter owner who did not give up, thankful for that Jim guy who would never turn his back on a puppy in need.

In our set-up, we had added an old radio in the garage to keep the puppies company. On this Sunday morning before the 4th of July, one of the few stations we could find that would actually tune in was featuring the “Big Country Sunday Morning Gospel Show.”

The old-time hymns (see that…hymn, rhymed with Jim…I brought it full circle!) brought a grin to my face as I sang along to my little patients. Patsy Cline and I crooned “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” I harmonized with the Statler Brothers through “Amazing Grace,” followed by a rousing rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” that reverberated through the garage as two happy, returning-to-healthy puppies squirmed in an enthusiastic attempt to lick my nose.

You know what? Sleep-in Sunday can happily be damned. My cracked glass is now full and runneth right over. I have puppies to hug.


There is a fund raiser underway to help cover our mounting expenses for the puppies. If you would like to contribute to the puppies’ care fund, you can find information here: Donations in any amount are greatly appreciated. All funds go directly to the Dalmatian Assistance League, Inc.,  a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Good thoughts, prayers, and words of encouragement are equally valued. We thank you!



It’s December 2 and I Feel Nothing.

ImageToday is December 2. I should feel something. I’m not sure what. But something.

December 2 is just another day to most people, but not to me. It’s a day I will always remember for three good reasons—and one tough one.

The good reasons.

On December 2, 1995, a litter of 12 beautiful Dalmatian puppies was whelped at a good friend’s house. I had the absolute pleasure of being there to help each precious puppy squeal its way into existence. The puppies started coming at 12 midnight and were all here by 6:00 the next morning. The firstborn was a big, strong boy that was immediately nicknamed Bear because he looked just like a little white polar bear. Eight weeks later, Bear would become my special puppy, renamed Teddy.

Myra familyOn December 2, 1997, exactly two years later, a litter of 12 beautiful Dalmatian puppies was whelped, this time in my home. I helped my sweet girl Myra welcome her family starting with the first puppy at 6:00 a.m., and ending with the last puppy born at 12 noon.  The second puppy born would be my sweet Vanny, and the fourth puppy, my boy Carter.

Two litters of 12 puppies, born two years apart on 12/2. One litter born between 12 and six, the other born between six and 12. They almost had to be special puppies…and they were.

In addition to becoming my beloved companions, both Teddy and Carter were champion show dogs. Evander was an exceptional agility dog and also performed as a fire safety education dog teaching children how to stop, drop and roll, how to crawl under smoke, and how to jump out of a window to go to a safe meeting place.

These dogs were with me through many good times and, at various points through the years, each licked salty tears from my cheeks. They were family to me.

I just lost Van on April 12th of this year. Of course he left on the magical 12th day. All three boys lived happy lives well into their teens. In all three cases, it was simply their time to go.  Their respective deaths were peaceful with Jim and I by their sides. I helped bring these boys into this world; I was there to help ease them back out.

So today I should feel gratitude. As in years past, I should feel joy in the happy memories of Teddy, Carter and Vanny. But I don’t.

Ted Dad NanDecember 2 is also the day my father died. It was last year. He had been declining for weeks. There were no miracles left for his tired heart. It was his time. My sister and I were by his side when he left.  In the embrace of our love, he passed peacefully.

I’m not one to dwell on the anniversaries of death. I don’t immerse myself in grief. It’s just not how I choose to cope. It’s not how I want to remember my loved ones.

But I will always remember 12/2. It has been a fixture on my calendar for 18 years. And now it is the first anniversary of Dad’s death.

And I should feel something.

All day long I waited for it. The meltdown. The melancholy. The hollow sense of loss.

Or maybe the annual feelings of celebration would surface. The faint smell of puppy breath.  The warm memory of promise in each precious first breath.

But no. Just nothing.

I couldn’t believe it. What was wrong with me? Am I that hard? That callous?


The truth finally spoke to me.

If I opened that door in my mind, even just a tiny crack, I would be surrounded by fog of loss, of longing. I would have to surrender myself to feelings that just did not have an appointment on today’s busy calendar, or within the walls of my bracing heart.

It’s not that I don’t feel anything today. It’s that I just can’t. I won’t. I won’t allow it.

Maybe later, when my day is done, when I’m not required to be a functioning adult for another eight hours or so, maybe then I’ll open that door and I’ll welcome Dad and three handsome spotted dogs in for a visit.

Maybe then I’ll let myself cry. Maybe? Oh, who am I fooling…I’ll cry a little.

Then I’ll hear my dad’s voice saying something like, “Oh hell, Nan, we’re fine. Suck it up.” Dad could never stand to see one of his girls in tears. I’ll picture the dogs wagging their tails and dancing in circles to cheer me.

I’ll listen to Dad, and I’ll smile at my boys. I’ll let my tears dry as I quietly shut that door again, lingering on the threshold for just a moment to say another goodbye.

See you next year, boys.