Another Ellwood

D. E. Larsen, DVM

The sun was just setting when we pulled into the driveway after taking the kids to a matinee in Albany. Derek was sound asleep in his car seat, and the girls had been sleeping but were slowly getting out of the car and into the house. I followed, carrying Derek, still sound asleep.

I had just laid Derek down in his crib when the phone rang.

“No rest for the wicked,” I said, looking at Sandy as she picked up the phone.

“Yes, he is right here,” Sandy said. “We have just got home, but I think he can talk with you.”

Sandy held the phone out to me. “It’s Sandi, about some sick puppies.”

“Hi, Sandi. What is going on?” I asked. “I didn’t think you had any puppies due.”

“I have some friends outside of Portland with a litter of pups that are having problems,” Sandi said. “These puppies are three days old and having a lot of problems.”

“Sandi, they should take them to a veterinarian,” I said. “We can’t be much help for them over the phone.”

“They are at the vet clinic now,” Sandi said. “There are three of the pups that the vet thinks will die. He tells them it is an infection from their navels. He has given them some fluids under their skin and an injection of antibiotics.”

“Puppies that young and that sick need IV fluids and IV antibiotics,” I said. “You and I have been over that several times.”

“I know, and I told them that,” Sandi said. “They say the vet says that the veins on puppies are too small for IV treatment.”

“They have to use the jugular vein,” I said. 

“Doc, they want to bring them down for you to treat,” Sandi said. “I told them I would ask.”

“Sandi, it’s Saturday night,” I said. “I have enough trouble taking care of Sweet Home, and I can’t take care of Portland too. Besides, it will be nine o’clock when they get here.”

“They only want to bring three of the pups,” Sandi said. “And one of those might be dead by the time they get here.”

“Okay, tell them to get on their horse,” I said. “And Sandi, this is as a favor to you. And I keep track of those things.”

“Yes, I know, Doc,” Sandi said. “I will try to make it up to you, and I will tell them to ride that horse hard and fast.”

It was almost nine o’clock when Sandi came through the door with her friends and a box with three puppies. 

The one puppy was close to death. He was dehydrated, cold, and unresponsive. The other two were slightly better but very sick also.

After an exam, I talked to the owners.

“We might lose all three of these pups,” I said. “This little male has only a slim chance of survival. These pups need some IV fluids and IV antibiotics. I will place an IV catheter in the jugular vein of each pup. I will be using an antibiotic that could be toxic to their inner ears and kidneys. That will have to be a risk we have to take if we have any chance of saving them.”

“The vet in Portland said they were too small to get a catheter into a vein,” Roy said.

“Roy, you’re not in Portland anymore,” I said. “You’re here because you, or Sandi, didn’t like how things were going in Portland. I am no specialist, but I know what I know, and I know what I can do. Any veterinarian should be able to hit a puppy’s jugular vein. So, there will be no more discussion of the Portland vet.”

“Fair enough,” Roy said. “Sandi has a lot of trust in you. That’s good enough for us, do what you have to do.”

“Okay, we will treat these guys tonight, and then I will send them home with you for the night,” I said. “Assuming you stay here overnight, I will need to see them first thing in the morning. They will do better at home than here, where nobody can watch them. We will have a good chance of saving any of them who are alive in the morning.”

“What are we going have to do with them?” Sharon asked.

“Just keep them warm and feed them clear fluids if they get hungry,” I said. “I don’t want them to have milk tonight.”

With Sandi holding the pups, I clipped their necks and prepped them for the catheter.

Working on the sickest pup, I held off the jugular vein and slipped a catheter into the vein.

“Even I can see that that vein is large enough for a catheter,” Roy said as he watched over Sandi’s shoulder.

“This puppy is cold, his circulation is dismal, and he won’t absorb anything given under his skin fast enough to save him,” I said. “His only chance is with IV fluids and IV antibiotics. And to be honest with you, I think his chances are slim to none at this point.”

“But, if he survives the night, you think we have a chance,” Sharon said.

“We will just have to see what the morning will give us,” I said.

I gave each puppy a calculated dose of IV fluids via a syringe. Then I gave each of them a dose of IV ampicillin and gentamicin.

“That’s all the magic I have for the night,” I said. “Keep them warm, and if they get hungry, give them some oral fluids out of this bag. And I will see any survivors at eight in the morning.”

“They will sleep on my chest,” Sharon said. “We left their mom and the other puppies at home.”


To my surprise, all three puppies came through the night with flying colors. They were active and looking for breakfast when I examined them. 

“What do we do now?” Roy asked.

“I will repeat the treatment we did last night,” I said. “Then, with this response, almost this miracle, we will send you home with some oral antibiotics. And I would expect things to heal up and be fine.”

“Can they have some milk now?” Sharon asked.

“Yes, I think they are up to some milk,” I said. “And when you get home, they can go back on their mom.”

We worked through the treatments much faster since the catheters were in place. After treatment, I removed the catheters.

Roy was at the front counter with his checkbook, waiting for the bill.

“We were talking this morning,” Roy said. “We think we will name the little male after you since he would have been dead without your treatment.”

“David is a poor name for a pup,” I said.

“We were thinking of using Ellwood,” Sharon said. “Isn’t it usually spelled with one ‘l’?

“It is a family name,” I said. “At least for the last few generations, I don’t know where it started. The others are all spelled with one ‘l.’ My mother said she just didn’t know how to spell it when she filled out the papers in the hospital.”

“Well, now there will be another Ellwood,” Roy said.

“That’s great, but there are a couple of those running around now,” I said.

The pups went home and grew into adult dogs without complications from the infection or treatment. Roy and Sharon remained friends and occasional clients. And over the years, Sandi more than made up for the imposition on my time.

Photo by Sergio Souza on Pexels.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

4 thoughts on “Another Ellwood

  1. Bless you for saying yes over the years to what is likely many asks for help beyond your normal scope. I can imagine, reading much of your stories, you missed out on a lot of your own events and deserved rest answering these “please” moments. I would like to think what was gained by saving so many, was immeasurable over the lives these fur families got to have due to your (and your staff’s) efforts. You made a difference.


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