With her dog, Kelly, soon to deliver puppies, Martha Boss had done her due date diligence, and then some.
She’d been to her vet, who thought the 8-pound Havanese would have a normal delivery.
She’d checked the hours and locations of emergency veterinary clinics, just in case.
And when the time came on April 30, Kelly delivered her first two puppies without any problems.
But with the third, labor stalled, the puppy’s head stuck. The little dog was struggling, and Boss feared she was going into shock. By then it was around 2 a.m., after closing time for the nearest veterinary urgent care. She didn’t think Kelly would last the drive from the family home near 200th Street and West Center Road to a 24-hour veterinary emergency center.
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The closest place she could think of to get help was Lakeside Hospital. One of her sons drove, and they ran into the emergency room with the exhausted Kelly.
Boss said a receptionist picked up the phone to call the on-duty medical staff and said, “ ‘Get here, stat.’ She didn’t even hesitate a second.”
Brian Williams, a registered nurse and a nursing supervisor in the Lakeside ER, remembers getting the call. All he could hear was something about a head stuck and trouble delivering.
“I assumed it would probably be a human,” he said.
What he found was something different. “It was a four-legged friend instead of a two-legged friend,” he said.
What the Lakeside ER staff didn’t know is that Kelly isn’t just any dog. Another of Boss’ sons had been seriously injured in a car crash in 2017. The family had gotten Kelly as a tiny puppy to help the young man recover. Kelly watched over him. Kelly also helped Boss’ husband, Randy, while he was battling cancer. When Randy Boss died six months after the crash, Boss got Thor, also a Havanese and the father of Kelly’s unplanned puppies.
“They’re very special dogs,” Boss said.
Williams said he made sure that Boss knew he wasn’t a vet but assured her they’d do their best. He’s a dog lover and has three Pomeranians that he calls his “fur babies,” so he understood Boss’ concern. “If it was one of mine, I would have been in the same situation,” he said.
And he’s not entirely without experience. He delivered a lot of calves growing up on a farm in Missouri, and he’s delivered three human babies over the course of his 25-year career — one in an ambulance, another in a hospital driveway and a third in an emergency room.
With Boss holding Kelly, Williams was able to deliver the puppy. Williams and Boss tried to resuscitate him, rubbing him and making sure his airway was open. Williams did chest compressions — he’d never performed them on a creature so small. The puppy, however, didn’t survive.
“I can’t tell you how wonderful everyone was,” Boss said. “They were so sad about the puppy and so helpful to us.”
Boss and her son then took Kelly, no longer in immediate crisis, on to a veterinary emergency center. Boss said staff there told them they were lucky to get her to Lakeside. If she’d continued to try to deliver the puppy, she’d have been in much worse condition.
And Kelly still was carrying a fourth puppy. The veterinary staff gave her medication to stimulate labor, to no avail. They performed a cesarean section. Kelly survived, but the puppy did not.
The first two puppies — who just went for their six-week checkup — are doing great. Her son named them Peace and Hope. Boss said they plan to keep the pups in the family — there are six children — and probably together, at least initially. While Havanese bond to their people, they do better with a companion dog. Peace and Hope are particularly attached, since Kelly initially had a rough recovery. But she’s come through like a champ. “She’s a fantastic mommy,” Boss said.
The important thing for Boss was that the Lakeside team didn’t turn them away, as they could have done. After all she and her family have been through, she’s particularly grateful for that.
“The fact that they accepted us with open arms and tried to help our little dog ... . If you have people with that kind of compassion, think how much they help people,” Boss said. “I’m in awe that they helped us.”