Darlin, fostering, puppies, Swimmer Puppy Syndrome

Things Happen for a Reason

Finally, finally, maybe, we are out of the woods. Knock on wood. Fingers crossed. Prayers sent.

I still wake up every morning and hold my breath until I see all the pups breathing, and pause at the puppy room door numerous times during the day to be certain I see a steady rise and fall of sleeping puppy bellies. I have a feeling, this paranoia may be hard to shake. I’ll probably be poking and prodding sleeping puppies for years to come.

Bogo is still very congested, breathing like a tiny darth vadar, so I put her in the nebulizer treatment center (aka, the cat carrier covered in a quilt) several times a day. She doesn’t last in there long, whining after a few minutes and then going into full-on howl mode after five. I don’t feel too horrible letting her scream a bit ever since a pharmacist friend told me that when she’s screaming she’s actually taking in more of her treatment.


Doodlebug sleeps much more than a normal puppy her age. When I enter the room, Puddin’ hops to his feet and attempts to tackle my toes and Bogo lifts her head and watches the action. Doodlebug simply snores away unless I wake her. Of course, this was reason for me to case the internet in search of some mysterious puppy condition in which 4-week-old puppies sleep nonstop – Sleeping Beauty Syndrome? I’m hoping this excessive slumber is only due to a tiny body trying to grow. The pups seem to be at least a week or two behind developmentally, so Doodlebug sleeping like a two-week-old pup is hopefully normal.


All three pups are on their feet now. Doodlebug waddles like a toddler with a load in her pants, but Puddin’ is actually running and Bogo is shaky but secure on her feet. If Doodlebug continues to do the splits on all smooth surfaces, I’ll fashion her a pair of hobbles, just like Fruitcake’s and I’m certain we’ll have that sorted out in the course of days.


Which brings me to the thought that has nagged at me, like one of those tiny moths that appear if you leave an open box of cereal in the back of the cupboard too long. I’ve heard it voiced a few times in Facebook comments on the puppy posts, and from several people who’ve observed our efforts.

Maybe I was meant to have these pups.

The weekend of the pups births/deaths, I kept thinking, “Why couldn’t this mama have landed with someone else who has more experience than me? If only I knew more. If only I could do more.” I wrestled not only with grief, but with guilt. Yes, I realize now that there was very little any of us could have done, but my helplessness in the moment tortured me.

On that Wednesday morning when Schnookie Putz died so suddenly, the guilt threatened again, until we sorted out the situation. When the vet told me that the likely cause was congestive heart failure, I immediately knew what to do. I was especially equipped to take on that fight. After all, I’d read extensively about the dangers of congestive heart failure just two months ago when I had a puppy with Swimmer Puppy Syndrome.

I understood that the constant burden of a puppy’s weight on his internal organs could lead to not just congestive heart failure, but a host of other problems. I knew that if my pups didn’t walk soon, but remained flat on their tummies their growing weight would continue to push their malleable rib bones apart putting pressure on their unprotected heart and lungs. I recognized the flattened, pancake shapes they were becoming because they looked just like Fruitcake had looked.

Instead of feeling helpless, this time I knew exactly what to do. I knew that repeated proper positioning of their legs, strengthening those muscles, better footing, narrow chutes, hobbling splayed legs, and plenty of encouragement could get a pup walking in short order because I’d seen it happen. I had a husband who could whip up a chute in fifteen minutes. I had stacks of yoga mats at my disposal. I knew how to fashion tiny puppy hobbles. Thanks to all I learned with Fruitcake, I was the perfect person to deal with immobilized puppies.

Back in January, after Fruitcake was walking and we no longer needed the yoga mats, Nick asked if we should donate them. “It’s not like we’ll need them again.” (We are in the mode of uncluttering our lives so we will be free to fly when these kids find their own wings.) I contemplated donating the mats to a shelter or even taking them to goodwill. He was right, what were the odds that I’d ever have another Swimmer Puppy? It was such a rare condition and the vet had never seen it before. Cue the eery music and the goosebumps.

In my younger years, I worked in a church. I led youth groups and habitat trips and bible studies and even went to seminary part-time. I believed firmly that things happened for a reason and that a larger power had a hand in the minutiae of my life. And then I experienced a personal tragedy that shook the foundation of my faith. I was a new mother at the time, which alone could unmoor a person, but the two experiences combined simply leveled my faith. I quit seminary ostensibly to unload some stress, but mostly because none of it made sense any more. And then I left my job because so much of what I had believed was too hard to believe any more.

Over the years, I found my way back to my faith, but it’s a different kind of faith. I still believe there is a higher power at work here, but how that power works I couldn’t begin to say. I find God in many places– in unnecessary kindnesses, unasked for generosity, and the unspoken beauty of nature. Time and again, I see powerful lessons in faith as I witness the resiliency of rescue dogs – their unquestioning loyalty, their unending capacity for forgiveness, their unconditional love.

So, yes, I think Darlin’ came to me for a reason. The deaths of five of her puppies was a pain that will follow me through every litter we have, but these three pups in my puppy room right now? They needed to come to me. A power I don’t necessarily understand but absolutely believe exists knew that not only was I their last chance, I was their best chance.

But it wasn’t just me. I had piles of help from the OPH family and my local friends. I warned each person who set foot in our door that it was very likely that all our efforts would be in vain, and yet, they came. They washed their hands, took off their shoes and climbed in the box with the puppies, not even flinching when they were peed on or giving up hope when the pups were nearly unresponsive in those early days.

There is no way I could have helped these pups without Team Darlin’, who just like Team Fruitcake, so willingly shared their time and risked their hearts. I’ve enjoyed getting to know many new friends and I’ve felt the steady power of the prayers that lifted up all that we did in my tiny mudroom with these pups.

So, yes, miracles do happen.

And, just maybe, things happen for a reason.

If you’d like to continue to follow the pups’ progress, please join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog, where there are posts about fosters past and present along with updates from adopters. It’s where you can witness the happy endings on a regular basis. You’ll also get to meet my newest foster who arrives this weekend!

If you’d like to know more about my writing, my books, and my other blog, please stop by CaraWrites.com or sign up for my (very occasional) newsletter.

Thanks for reading! I love to hear from readers, so if you have thoughts on this post or want to tell me about your own good dog, please leave a comment or shoot me an email at carasueachterberg@gmail.com .



A few of my favorite pictures from this week:



15 thoughts on “Things Happen for a Reason”

  1. I agree with you- you were meant to have them. I do believe the life force is growing stronger in these puppies! Thanks to you!


  2. I totally can relate to you and yes, I think you were “choosen” if you will to do this in life. Not too many have the emotional strength to do such an amazing thing that you are!! Bless you!!!


  3. I think you’ll be sharing your knowledge with a lot more people that you inspire through this. Also wouldn’t be too far off to think this can be written into one of your stories soon. You’ve already done the research and lived it, all that would be left is to weave it into a story with a happy ending!


  4. Cara I think you could help many others who foster dogs by sharing what you have gone through in a book.
    You could call it:
    ‘My Journey as a Dog Fosterer’ Sharing experiences good and bad for the benefit of future pups


  5. Oh that would be perfect!! Another good dog! You have taught me a lot reading your posts and those sweet dog/pups faces give me happiness when I look at them. You are a mountain climbing woman whose experiences encourages us all!!


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