Harpo vibrated beside me, nosing the tiny bodies that lay gasping on my lap. The puppy who had lain on the bottom of the baggie died on the drive home. The seven others Bern placed into a cardboard box while I called the vet to find out what to do.
“Esbilac,” the vet said. “Buy it at the feed store. And bottles. And nipples. Feed them every two hours.”
Bern and Harpo stayed with the puppies, warming under a light bulb, while I went to the feed store.
“You have to stimulate their genitals,” Alex, who owned the store, told me.
“The way their mother licks them to make them go to the bathroom. You’ll have to do that for them. Use a soft cloth and warm water each time after they eat.”
Back home, I mixed the milk replacer, warmed the tiny bottle, grabbed the nearest pup, a brown girl with a white ruff, and offered her the nipple. She didn’t know how to nurse and choked on the milk. I stroked under her chin until she figured it out. None of the others knew, either.
It took two hours to feed them, to wipe their bottoms, to clean them up, to clean the box, then to mix the Esbilac and start all over again.
After twenty-four sleepless hours Bern and I were exhausted.
I called the animal shelter. “You can bring them in, but they probably won’t survive here. We’ll probably euthanize them.”
After a few more hours I couldn’t do it any more. I dropped my head onto my knees. Harpo sighed deep and loud, and settled beside the puppies’ box. He licked their butts. I fell asleep. When it was time for them to eat, he woke me. When I’d fed them, he cleaned them. When they slept, he slept with them.