This post was supposed to be a wrap up and farewell post for our Spring 2021 Golden Irish puppies. However, the farewell is much more bitter than sweet this time.
It is with a heavy heart that I am sharing about the very unexpected passing of Jade, our dear Golden Retriever and mother of the litter that just left for their new homes. She developed a uterine infection nine weeks after delivering puppies. By the time I realized what was wrong, the infection had already spread to her bloodstream, and we were not able to save her.
She passed last week on April 20, and I can still hardly believe she’s gone. Here’s a brief summary of her last days.
On February 17, Jade delivered a healthy litter of seven puppies. It was a very smooth and easy labor, and both she and her puppies thrived in the days after delivery. In the weeks that followed, she was a textbook perfection mother. Her puppies were all similar in size, and they gained weight quickly. She took excellent care of them, and I thought that she had recovered wonderfully.
In the first couple of weeks after having puppies, I keep a close eye on momma, because infection is always a possibility. In my experience, the risk of uterine infection is highest in the first week after delivery. By week two, it’s still a possibility, but my concern begins to ease. Then after two or three weeks, I always assumed the risk of uterine infection was over.
After the first two weeks are past, I mainly watch outward signs from momma to make sure her body is coping well and is not stressed from the work of raising puppies. Jade was eating and drinking well. She was acting normal. There was no throwing up or diarrhea. I also watch momma’s weight and coat. Being overworked by nursing puppies often manifests in weight loss and hair loss. Jade maintained her weight while producing plenty of milk, and her fur remained thick and beautiful. I took all of this to mean that her body was healthy.
The puppies were weaned after 7 weeks old, and her milk supply dried up nicely. At 8 weeks old, the puppies began leaving for their new homes. Jade was her usual, calm self, and she gently greeted each family and tried to soak up attention. There were absolutely no signs at this point that anything was amiss.
Then, on the morning of April 20th, Jade didn’t want to eat breakfast, and I could tell she wasn’t feeling well. By lunchtime, she was lethargic. I took her temperature, and she was running a fever. I called my vet, and scheduled an appointment for that afternoon as soon as my kids were up from their naps. At this point, I still had no idea how serious it was.
However, once at the vet’s office, they confirmed by ultrasound that her uterus was badly infected and that she was already septic. I was totally blindsided as I spoke to the doctor. I went from having a normal dog to discussing emergency surgery to remove her uterus or euthanasia in less than 24 hours. Jade was anemic and septic, and the odds of surviving emergency surgery were not in her favor. I struggled to take this all in. How could she be so sick? How was she already this far gone, and I hadn’t noticed anything up until that morning?
I asked my vet, “How could have I missed this?” His answer was the I probably didn’t miss it. These infections hit hard and fast.
We had two options at this point. One was an emergency spay. This would mean a transfer to another facility for overnight care. Because of her anemic and septic condition, she would need to undergo treatment to stabilize her before even attempting surgery- blood transfusion and antibiotics. If she could be stabilized well enough, they could do emergency surgery and remove the infected uterus. Then, she would have been hospitalized for several days to try to treat the blood infection. There was no guarantee that she could be stabilized for surgery. There was no guarantee she would survive surgery even with a prior blood transfusion. And there was no guarantee the sepsis could be treated afterwards. As much as I wanted to believe in any possibility of saving her, the odds were not promising for her survival.
Jade was always a very dependent dog. She hated being away from home and away from her “pack,” even for short periods of time. The thought of her being hospitalized for so long, away from her people and her pack and very possibly dying without anyone around her that she knew was very difficult to consider.
The other option was to euthanize her that evening at my vet’s office, a place she was familiar with and where I could be with her.
I was still in shock to be having to make this decision. To make matters worse, my husband had been away for a few days and was driving home and only due to arrive back around midnight. I called him and we discussed the options, and we both agreed that euthanasia was the wisest and kindest choice.
In the backyard of my vet’s office, Jade and I spent a few minutes sitting together in the grass. When she was given the drugs, she passed very quickly and peacefully, lying beside a friend and listening to a familiar voice.
I’m still processing everything; and at times, I’m still struggling with guilt, even though there’s likely nothing I could have done that would have changed the outcome. I’ve looked back over everything, wondering if there was a sign that I missed in the days prior to her death. Did I miss something because I was living under the false assumption that after 9 weeks, the risk of uterine infection is long passed?
However, even in retrospect, I can’t see anything that indicated she was sick. She happily greeted me at the door whenever I came out. She greedily ate her food at mealtimes. She napped in her favorite places.
It’s likely that in the day or two before I noticed she was ill, she was running a fever. There were probably no other symptoms, and dogs mask illness and injury. It’s part of their natural will to survive. In the wild, if an animal appears weak, sick, or injured, it quickly becomes a target for other predators. I once read that if you would rate a dog’s pain level on a scale of 1 to 10, it would be 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Meaning, they don’t show minor pain and discomfort. Once a dog is showing obvious signs of illness or injury, their discomfort level is already a 6. Because uterine infections come on so quickly and ferociously, Jade masked the mildly ill feeling and then got rapidly worse and by the time she felt sick enough to stop eating and lie on her bed, it was simply too far gone.
It’s been hard, and I miss her. But I am grateful for the five years we had with her, and I’m grateful that Jade’s memory will be alive and well for many years through the lives of her beautiful puppies. If you are one of the lucky families with one of Jade’s puppies, please know that you hold something very special and dear to my heart.
If I’ve learned anything through this it’s that life can change quickly. We never know what the future holds. But God does. God knows. He cares, and He provides. The most any of us can do is be faithful wherever we are today and spend time loving on those God has placed in our lives. You’ll never regret the extra snuggles with you kids, the late night chat with your spouse, or the extra game of fetch with your dog.
Goodbye, Jade. Your sweet, gentle nature was such a blessing, and we all miss you.