Belfast Telegraph

A dramatic tail with a very happy ending

By Frances Burscough

We had such a drama this week in our household. From excitement to tears to dread to relief to elation, all in 24 hours. But like any good drama, I'll start at the very beginning with some background information.

As you may recall I have two dogs; Walter, a Bichon Frise and Heidi, a Miniature Schnauzer. Neither of them has been neutered, because I had always wanted them to breed. I'd set my heart on rearing a litter, (ultimately keeping one and selling the rest) but there was just one minor technical problem.

Err...how do I put this? Well, basically, Walter couldn't quite reach. Being a rather small dog, he is a couple of inches lower in height than Heidi and the result was... ahem... a lot of frustration. But in March, Heidi was in season and Walter was doing his level best with little success, so I decided to intervene. I'll spare you the details. This is a family newspaper and dog copulation is almost certainly at the top of our taboo list, but suffice to say it was a success. The phrase "hammer and tongs" springs to mind.

So from then on, for the next few weeks, the clock was ticking and all I could do was wait, hope and observe. According to all the books, one of the first symptoms of pregnancy in dogs is sickness (just like morning sickness) and this happened on week two. Next came shivering and a lack of appetite. Check. Then a lot of sleeping. Check. By week four, her appetite had returned and she seemed hungry all the time, while her belly grew and grew. All of which directly and perfectly on schedule. I waited until week five to make an appointment, because this is the stage that any pups can be seen clearly with an ultrasound scan. Happy Days. My heart was racing with excitement as I sat in the waiting room. There were cute puppies everywhere. The place was crawling with them. I just couldn't wait to have my own and become a doggy grandma. I went to look at puppy collars just to keep my mind occupied, when we were called in.

"My goodness, Heidi certainly does look pregnant!" the vet said and I was so happy.

"I know! And I'm so thrilled because we've been trying for a baby for ages!" I replied jocularly. Everyone laughed.

"Let's just take her for a wee scan, so we know for sure..."

So off they went. I was just about to text the boys with the great news when the vet returned, ashen faced and grim looking. Unfortunately.. tragically... it wasn't pregnancy that was causing all her symptoms. It was an infection in her uterus that was inflamed to such an extent that it could rupture at any moment. My joy and expectation turned instantly to sheer horror. It was too far gone to be treated with antibiotics. Her life was in danger and they would have to operate immediately if she was to be saved. I was too shocked to react in any other way than emergency autopilot. I signed a form giving my permission for them to operate, then had to walk away and leave her, possibly for the first and last time ever. It was terrible.

In fact I was so desperate I did something I haven't done in years - I prayed. But this wasn't just a general prayer to God or Jesus. This was like divine direct marketing, going up specifically to St Francis of Assisi, my Patron Saint, who also happens to be patron of animals. I'd followed his example all my life and praised him whenever possible. In fact I'd even made a statue of St Francis and the Animals for my dad (also Francis) and it had pride of place in the front window at home for all to see. I was sure he'd be happy with me, even though I haven't prayed or been to mass in ages.

Now whether it was thanks to St Francis, or simply the very wonderful vets Stephen and Shona at Vets4Pets in Bangor, or possibly a combination of all three, but Heidi survived her terrible ordeal and is now well on the road to recovery. Okay, so I'm not going to be a puppy grandma just yet but my wee girl is safe again, Walter is too and that's far more important.

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