When I read the July 3, 2009, TIME magazine article about placentophagy, I made a connection. Yes, I was familiar with placentophagy–the act of mammals eating the placenta of their young after childbirth. No, I had not eaten one myself but our Dalmatian, Angel, had eaten her puppy’s placenta, and had gotten so carried away that she had eaten the entire puppy. At least, that’s what the veterinarian told me after Angel vomited an intact puppy on his examining room floor.
Here’s how I came to be watching Angel gag on her offspring. It all began on a Christmas Day when five-year-old Andrew received his very own Dalmatian puppy. Andrew named her Angel. A few weeks later, Mark brought home a male Dalmatian. Another one?” I asked. “Aww . . . I felt sorry for Angel,” Mark answered. “She looked lonely.”
“What about puppies?” I asked. Mark’s breezy reply was something on the order of how Angel would probably have puppies only during the four month periods that he was home from sea. He quickly moved on to name selection. “How about we call this one Luke?” he asked. “It goes with Angel since Luke, the apostle, wrote about angels who announced the birth of Jesus.”
I announced the birth of each litter of puppies to Mark when he telephoned from Japan or Indonesia. Angel proved to be an excellent mother, and the only pregnancy that required intervention was the one in which she swallowed the first puppy of the litter, and was unable to deliver the next one in line.
That morning, when I noticed Angel’s typical I’m-about-to-give-birth-to-nine-or-ten-puppies-behavior, I checked on her frequently. After hours of unproductive labor, I described the situation to our veterinarian. He informed me that he needed to examine Angel right away.
Getting Angel medical attention “right away” was impossible. First, I had to gather snacks and toys for Hannah, and strap her into her car seat. Andrew restrained an unhappy Luke, who always cried pitifully, and loudly when he was separated from his mate.
All the while, I was trying to protect the hep-lock in my left hand—I was being treated for Lyme disease with intravenous antibiotics. As I crawled on my hands and knees into the doghouse to retrieve an obviously suffering Angel, I tried to heed the nurse’s admonitions of “keep the hep-lock clean,” and “don’t bump the hep-lock.” After I had heaved Angel into the back of the Ram Charger, I told Andrew that this would be the first (and only) time in his life not to wear a seat belt, and that his job was to sit with Angel and comfort her.
A short while later, I was an appalled witness to the puppy-vomiting-scenario, and I quickly stowed it out of Andrew and Hannah’s sight. X-rays showed eight puppies in Angel’s womb, and one super-sized guy stuck in the birth canal. After successfully removing the big, dead, pup, the vet said that the delivery of the remainder of the litter could now proceed. And proceed it did. Angel dropped one puppy outside on the sidewalk, and, to Andrew’s delight, delivered another in the truck.
At bedtime, I tentatively crawled into the doghouse. I was unsure whether the exhausted mother would tolerate the flashlight beam as I counted her little ones. However, sweet-natured Angel was hospitable. I counted seven puppies.
The next morning, after again counting only seven pups, I made my report to the vet. He advised me to take her temperature. “How do I do that?” I asked, afraid that I already knew the answer. “Rectally,” he responded matter of factly. “Just like with an infant.”
I crawled back into the doghouse. Warily, I took Angel’s temperature. She maintained a pleasant demeanor while I determined that she did not have a temperature, nor did she seem to be in pain. “Well,” the vet said thoughtfully, after listening to my latest update, “I’m looking at this X-ray, and it definitely shows eight puppies. Bring her back in.”
“Pooh!” I muttered, as Andrew and I coaxed a reluctant Angel into the truck. I wondered why the vet didn’t tell me that he wanted to examine the dog, regardless of her temperature, before I had used my children’s thermometer. I was already counting the days until I could recount this tale to Mark. The X-ray revealed an empty womb. “What happened to puppy number eight?” I wondered out loud. The vet shrugged. So, it was back to the doghouse to reunite Angel with her hungry babies, while I geared up to sell another batch of puppies.
That is how I came to connect to the interesting TIME story, “Afterbirth: It’s What’s for Dinner.” How I learned to successfully sell dozens of Dalmatian puppies is another story.