In October last year, exactly a year to the day after she had her first litter, Jade (aka Just Hold Me Jade) gave birth to her second litter.
The father was NZ CH Eldivino Rio Grande, a beautiful boy belonging to Tracy Gannaway from the Eldivino Kennels. Tracy is our mentor and the breeder of our beloved Nikita and Mexico and we hoped to be able to continue that line by producing some Rio babies, something his advanced age made rather doubtful.
We were delighted when we confirmed the pregnancy at 3 weeks and counted 4 puppies on board, far more than we had hoped for, given Rio's aging sperm. The pregnancy progressed normally, Jade loved all the extra attention and we had no reason to suspect anything was amiss.
At Day 56, Tracey x-rayed Jade and found only three heartbeats. This was disappointing but not entirely unexpected. Bitches can often resorb a puppy in the early stages of pregnancy, So we settled in to wait a few days until the pups were properly cooked and decided to make their way into the world on schedule.
The next day, however, Jade started nesting and fidgeting and displaying all the symptoms of going into labour, something we did not want to happen on Day 57. Back to the clinic for another ultrasound. The pups seemed fine and their heartbeats were strong, so we decided not to intervene. This changed later that evening, when it became obvious she was about to deliver her babies far too early. It was a dash into the clinic and a call to the standby nurses, and by late that evening, her C-section was under way.
The canine uterus is made up of two horns. In one horn were two healthy, but obviously premmie pups, who were delivered without much fuss. On the other side, however, there was a single enormous pup, easily twice the size of his brothers. Not only was he enormous, but he was also very premmie, bloated and not a pretty colour and had obviously died in utero, which is likely what triggered Jade's early labour.
Tracey removed the dead puppy and we consoled ourselves that at least we had two nice pups, who although smallish and rather bald, were doing OK.
So then began the process of closing up Jade. Because Tracey is a very thorough and conscientious surgeon, she did was she always does before closing a C-section. she checks each horn from top to bottom, to ensure there are no more pups.
The left horn, where the first two pups had been, was clear. But as she checked the horn where the monster pup had been taking up all the space, tucked right up under the ribs was a lump in the horn than turned out to be the fourth puppy!
The pup was absurdly small. Tracey got him out and handed him to Nurse Brittany, saying, "I doubt we'll be able to save this one" and then continued to close up. The pup weighed barely 63 grams. We have never had a pup this small before.
Brittany, as it turns out, was having none of this defeatist attitude. We'd already lost one pup tonight and we were not going to lose two if she had anything to say about it!
That nurse simply would not let the puppy die. She willed him to live! Much to our astonishment, the first pup to start squawking as we revived them, was our little guy. (When you anaesthetise the mother during a C-section you anaesthetise the pups too. There is quite an effort that goes into waking the pups up so they can suckle once mum is ready for them.) He was the first pup to latch, the first to suckle and the loudest.
We named him BJ (Brittany's initials) in honor of the amazing nurse who did such a sterling effort to bring him to life.
Hairless, fragile and so small he could fit in the palm of a hand, BJ, it turned out, had a tenacious grip on life. We supplemented him for about a week, because he was so small he would get tired and fall asleep on the boob. But he was strong and would boof his big brothers aside to get to the milkbar when he was hungry and doubled his birthweight in a week. He doubled that again in another week.
By the time he was a month old, he appeared, other than being half the size of his brothers, a perfectly healthy pup.
But looks can be deceiving and runts are notoriously prone to ongoing health issues. For this reason, we decided not to sell him at 12 weeks like we do with our other pups, because we wanted to be absolutely certain all was well. We delayed his vaccinations for the same reason and even had him assessed by the animal physio to make certain his bones were forming correctly.
They were, but to be sure we were giving him the very best start in life, his pen became a little mini gym, with wobble board, rollers and inflatable stands to exercise his tiny muscles in order to ensure he developed the way he should. All the other pups got the benefit of the same equipment and we've decided to add it to their pen as they grow for all our pups in the future, it's been so beneficial.
It's been painstaking and a lot of work, but by 5 months old, BJ finally made it to 1kg with no signs of any lingering problems from the brother who sucked up all the resources in the womb.
We then made the hard decision to find him a pet home, made doubly difficult by the fact that by now we were really attached to this tiny dog with the big personality (he's Ben's brother, so that's not really surprising). We could have shown him, except like his mother, BJ had absolutely no interest in a show lead. He was Just Hold Me Jade's son, through and through.
We had no shortage of offers for BJ and had already refused about 10 people who wanted him in the months prior, because we genuinely didn't know if we could ever let him go. They are tiny and cute but runts can come with all manner of health issues and we wanted to be as certain as we could be, that he was fine, before even considering the possibility. To do anything else would be utterly irresponsible. There was no question of breeding from a dog so small, either. That too, would be irresponsible.
It has all worked out well, though. BJ has his new home now with an elderly couple who have owned Chihuahuas all their lives, and appreciate how special he is. He gets to do exactly what he believes he was born to do, which is sit on a lap all day and have cuddles with no big brothers (in utero or out) to get in the way of him having everything he wants.