The Ugly Duckling

(Or the story of little Lucky)

He was whelped on Christmas night at about 8 P.M. He was the third in a litter of six. Three males and three females. Each of the males weighed 7 ounces and each of the females weighed 6 ounces. Nothing distinguished Lucky (unnamed at the time) from the other puppies except the coat color.
 All of the puppies seemed active and eager for their mother’s milk. The next day I weighed the puppies and they had all gained at least one ounce. On the second evening I noticed Lucky seemed lethargic and did not want to feed. I picked him up and his body was cold. I tried feeding him some goat’s milk with Karo syrup but he still did not want anything.
It was six P.M. when I called the vet. She said they would stay open and wait for me to bring Lucky in. I grabbed one of the heating pads, a towel, and shoe box and placed Lucky in the box on top of the heating pad, with the towel placed over him and placed him in the front seat of the car.
With one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand rubbing his body for warmth I drove through the dark misty night exceeding all the speed limits. Somehow I made the 12 mile trip in 11 minutes.
Once we were inside the vet’s office they checked his temperature and it was below 97. They rushed him to the back and immediately gave him an I.V. Within a short time they returned and he was doing better but still had a very low temperature. He had severe hypoglycemia.The vet gave me a small syring to feed him and a needle and an I.V. solution and another syringe twice as large as Lucky and told me I needed to inject him each night at about 3 A.M. to keep enough fluids in his body. I gulped when I saw the size of the needle.
For the next few days I fed him with the small syringe and managed to inject him with the I.V. solution each night. His temperature returned to normal and he began to show normal activity. However when I would place him on his mother’s teat he seemed more interested in crawling between his mother’s legs rather than feeding, so I had to hold him on his mother’s teat to feed  and  he would fall asleep after a few minutes.
After a couple of days he still had not gained any weight. I took him to the vet and she examined him and everything was fine. He just was not getting enough food. I don’t think he had enough strength to really get enough milk in his system.
I decided to feed him with a syringe every three hours including a 3 A.M. feeding each night. By then the other puppies were 2 to 3 times his size and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him with the other puppies each night for fear that he would be injured.
I had bought the last Lecto heating pads from the local PETCO and were using all of them in the puppy “bed”. So I decided to go buy a small heating pad for people and place it in a shoe box at night for Lucky to sleep on.
Much to my surprise after visiting every store in Bastrop I discovered that you could no longer buy a heating pad for people that did not automatically shut off after one or two hours. I could only surmise that somewhere in the United States someone fell asleep without the protective cover or under the influence of something and injured their self. Well I was pretty certain that HUI ( heating under the influence) or HWA ( heating while asleep) were not felony offenses so I guess more rules and laws were passed to protect us from our self.
So during the day I would turn on the “people” heating pad when it shut off and each night I carried him to my bed and slept with Lucky snuggled next to my chest with his head on my arm except during the 3 A.M. feeding. Since I was a side sleeper it was not that hard to do, and I knew he would be warm at night.
Soon I had to return to work and each work day I walked into the office, briefcase in one hand and shoebox in the other hand. In the shoebox was Lucky, a heating pad, syring and other essentials.
Every morning while still in bed before I went to work I would place him on my chest and feed him as he did his best imitation of a chipmunk, placing his tiny little paws on the syringe. The most he would ever consume was 1/8th of an ounce.
Each night at about 8 P.M. I would eagerly weigh him on the digital scale. It was a moral  victory when he gained 3/10ths of an ounce.
When he was about three weeks old after one 3 A.M. feeding I placed him in one corner of the soft sided kennel with the other puppies and thought he would be ok until the morning feeding.
A few days later when I was giving him a bath I noticed he whimpered in pain when I touched his left front leg. After looking at his elbow I was sure he had dislocated his elbow or broken his leg. I could only imagine what it would be like to perform surgery on him at that size. I made an appointment with the vet and took him in fearing for the worse. As it turned out he only had inflammation and they drained the fluid and put a small cast on him. Plucky Lucky recovered quickly. Below is a picture of Lucky taking a nap after his procedure.
The other five puppies all opened both eyes on day 16. A week later Lucky still had both eyes closed. Finally on day 23 he opened his right eye, but his left eye remained closed for several days.
I wondered if I should stop by “Toy’s ‘R Us” and get him a little eye patch to wear. Eventually he opened his other eye.
Soon I mastered the art of syringe feeding, placing just enough pressure on the plunger to get the right amount of formula in his mouth. For four more weeks I continued the feeding process, while switching to a baby bottle, with Lucky consuming at most about 1/8th of an ounce at each feeding. At three weeks of  age he only weighted about 20 ounces.
Finally one day during his morning feeding he gulped down 1/4th of an ounce in about 5 minutes. From then on he continued to consume 1/4th of an ounce at each feeding and started gaining between a half an ounce and more each day.
He continued to gain weight and eat normal amounts of food and soon was outside with the rest of his brothers and sisters when I was at home. However when I would go to check on the puppies, he would always be by him self. Sometimes just soaking up the sun, or under the covered patio, looking so forlorn, as he watched the other puppies play. On the occasions when he would try to join in with the others, they would scamper off to their next game of tag, or “I have the stick and you can’t catch me” and leave him looking like the only kid left on the playground after the baseball teams were chosen. His little legs just could not keep up with his larger brothers and sisters.
Only Lilly his sister would  stay with him to play, but shortly she would leave to join the others in their next adventure. When the pups got old enough to be placed in cages I placed Lilly and Lucky in the same cage and they would cuddle around each other at night. Just like people some dogs have a special bond with other dogs. They never fought over each others food.
I constantly worried about the little guy and how he would fare in this world. When he was about nine weeks old he was at the office. I took him over to the adjoining building and he plodded along behind. All of the female employees picked him up and thought he was the most adorabe thing. On the way back to my office, as we rounded a corner in a hallway we ran into one of the vice presidents and one of her Australian Shepherd dogs. The Sheperd probably outweighted Lucky by 60 pounds. They stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity, without moving, like a picture from the past. Finally plucky Lucky peered up at the giant “Aussie” and barked at him.
Of course his bark sounded like the chirp of a Cricket. It was not a mean bark, or a scared bark. But a friendly confident type of bark that said “Hi, I am Lucky. What is your name?” It was then that I knew Lucky would be ok in this world.
Puppies are so cute. But Sheltie puppies with their fuzzy heads, almond eyes, and sweet expressions are the cutest things in the world. However Lucky was the exception.  With his undersized body, large head, and grey mousy coat, he was the ugliest Sheltie puppy I had ever seen. Sometimes when he would waddle towards me, he looked like a head attached to four little legs without a body. This is a picture of Lucky at about 5 weeks.
However the ugly duckling continued to grow and blossom before our eyes. And soon he had turned into the most beautiful Sheltie you could imagine.
Below is Lucky at five months.
He now lives in Pflugerville with his sister Lilly where they romp and play every day.
Lilly at 6 weeks.
 That special bond they had as puppies still exists today. One night they came over to my house for a “sleep over” and some grooming. I put my other dogs up for the night in their kennel and carried a young puppy in one hand and went into the house, calling Lucky and Lilly to come in. Lucky followed me in, but Lilly stayed outside. So I closed the door and planned to go back out and get Lilly in a few minutes. Lucky was following me like a shadow until he heard Lilly bark from outside. He promptly turned around and went back to the door. He did not want to leave Lilly outside.
When Lilly refuses his master’s command to come in to the house and wants to play “you can’t catch me” Lucky uses his herding instinct and pens Lilly in the corner of the yard until his master can come over to pick her up. If Lilly does not feel like eating, Lucky will not eat either.
When Lucky was about 6 months old a little baby bird fell into Lilly and Lucky’s back yard. Lilly picked up the baby bird in her mouth. When their master approached and tried to take the baby bird, silly Lilly ran from her master. Lucky once again penned Lilly in the corner of the yard so their master could catch Lilly. However when their master repeatedly tried to get the bird out of Lilly’s mouth, silly Lilly refused.
Finally their frustrated master said “Lucky, help me out”. Plucky Lucky promptly chomped down on Lilly’s ear and Lilly dropped the baby bird.
On another occasion their master was lying on the floor playing with Lilly. Lilly is a very affectionate girl that loves to give kisses. Lucky on the other hand is not big on the kissing, believing that his striking good looks should be sufficient for anyone, especially members of the opposite sex. Lilly would run up to her master and give him kisses and scurry away. After some time their master kept asking  Lilly to stop, but silly Lilly continued the game. Finally their master looked at Lucky, who was resting in a corner, watching Lilly and their master, and said “Lucky, make her stop”. Lucky got up and went over to Lilly and nipped her back leg. Only then did silly Lilly stop.
This is not to imply that Lucky understood the exact words his master spoke on those two occasions, but certainly he understood what his master wanted.
There will be people that will read these last two stories and purse their lips, and go mmmm, implausible, unbelievable, purely a coincidence. Certainly they are entitled to their opinion, but those of us that live in the great Sheltie nation know otherwise.
After all he is plucky Lucky.
P.S. -2
Occasionally their master will take Lucky and Lilly to a park like area behind their house. Usually Lilly is the first to return to their master. Their master will say “Lilly, go get Lucky”.  Lilly will go back into the woods and return with Lucky
P.S.-3 Recently their master took Lucky and Lilly to a new dog park. Lilly did not venture far from her master. Lucky however was running along the fence, barking at passing cars. Two Great Danes approached Lucky and Lilly’s master. Lilly, unsure of these giant creatures,  growled slightly and bared her teeth. Lucky saw what was happening, and like a rocket he ran to Lilly and his master.  He stepped  in front of Lilly and his master to protect them from these giant creatures. He would  not let harm come to those he loved and protected.