Little Bit O'Neil - January 4, 1995 - August 31, 2007 - Click here to read a memorial to Little Bit, and "The Little Bit Memorial Fund."

Little Bit O'Neil
January 4, 1995 - August 31, 2007

I'll Be His Eyes… A Decision Born Of Love

It was January 4, 1995, in the middle of a blizzard, when my dog decided to have her puppies. I had always had male dogs; so to say I was ill prepared for this would be an understatement. A few months prior to this event, I had made arrangements for Pepper to be spayed. However, she had apparently not read the Planned Parenthood brochures, and now "we" were expecting. I read every book I could find on the birth of puppies. I had asked my vet how many to expect. "Oh. She's loaded with them." Unsure of the medical terminology, I assumed that that translated into ten or more. I followed the directions to help prepare for this blessed event by providing two large whelping boxes. I was also fortunate enough to have one of the vet technicians offer me her home phone number in case I had any questions. When I saw Pepper enter the whelping box, I sat back to witness this miracle of life, and as the books said, "Let nature take its course."

The first birth was exciting, and Pepper handled everything beautifully. After securing her first pup, Pepper elected to nap. I believe she thought her job was done, and she entered into a well-deserved deep sleep. When the second puppy arrived, she barely stirred. Being new at this, I began to panic. I couldn't dial the phone fast enough! The vet tech, Pat, was able to talk me through the steps of delivery, and the second pup was fine. Pat was nice enough to stay on the line with me for the birth of the third. I was becoming quite adept at breaking the sack, cutting the cord, towel drying, etc. Pepper would occasionally lift her head as though she were trying to help, but would fall back exhausted. I felt confident by now, so I petted her head and told her to rest. All went well until the birth of the seventh puppy.

When I broke the sack, I realized that this pup was not breathing. I gently tipped him upside down to clear his airway, but nothing happened. I started to rub him with a towel. Still there was no response. I felt I didn't have time to call Pat, and I made a decision to do what I could. I placed my thumb on his chest. I knew if I pressed too hard, I could break his ribs. If I didn't press hard enough, it would do no good. I breathed into his face, knowing that if I breathed too hard, I would collapse his lungs. Yet if I breathed to shallow, I wouldn't inflate them. Time seemed to stand still. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Pepper watching me, pleading with me not to let him die. Suddenly, I felt a slight movement, and he drew his first breath. At that moment, I knew this dog was mine.

Just before midnight, there were a total of thirteen little squealing puppies surrounded by two very tired Moms, one biological, and the other human. My non-breather was just a little bit of a puppy compared to his littermates. I promptly named him Little Bit and knew that he was the most beautiful Lab X I had ever seen. There were nine black and four chocolates. I knew that Dad was a purebred Black Lab, but because I had adopted Pepper from a shelter, I was unsure of her heritage. I knew she was Lab and some type of Terrier. Half of the litter looked like purebreds. The other half had Pepper's appearance. To me, they were all beautiful. The first month was a hectic schedule of changing newspapers, providing supplemental milk, screening adoptive parents, and watching with delight as the thirteen little wigglers grew. My life revolved around these wonderful little bundles of mischief.

Suddenly, things began to go wrong. Little Bit started to have seizures. I rushed him off to the vet, but was not prepared for what I heard. Little Bit had placement problems, minor brain damage, and his left eye was underdeveloped. The seizures may have been a result of lack of oxygen due to his position in the birth canal. I was told that I have a severely handicapped puppy that would become severely large handicapped adult dog. After much discussion, I made an appointment to have him euthanized the following week. It was my son's birthday, and I just couldn't come home without Little Bit. To protect my son from being hurt on his birthday, I told him that Little Bit had some problems and had to go back to the vet the next week. I couldn't face the truth, and could not tell my fourteen-year-old son that our new puppy had to die.

The next day, the Alpha female determined that she would save me the trouble. Realizing his weakness, she attacked him, clenching her teeth around his neck. I lacerated three fingers prying her sharp puppy teeth from his throat. The protectiveness I felt for this poor puppy was unbelievable. I moved Little Bit out of the whelping box and into my bedroom. Each time I looked at his beautiful face, I cried. He hadn't lived. What right did I have to say that he should die? I called my vet and cancelled the appointment. I had breathed life into this animal, and I had no right to take it away. Life is precious, no matter what form it takes. It took months of trying new medications and getting them regulated, but the seizures were finally under control. The placement problems had disappeared, and Little Bit no longer stumbled. He had lost the vision in his left eye, and was developing a cataract in his right. On our last trip to Tufts University, I was told that Little Bit would be completely blind within a month or so, and that the process was irreversible. After hundreds of miles, thousands of dollars, and millions of tears, I had a nine month old puppy condemned to a life of darkness. What had I done? A decision of the heart was made when I chose to take action rather than to let nature run its course when he was born. But how can a decision based on love be wrong? Was I wrong to have wanted this puppy to have a fair chance at life?

My vet had warned me that because of his medical problems, Little Bit might not live as long as the others. I was determined to give him the best life possible. That was almost nine years ago. Today, Little Bit is a happy, healthy 100 lb blind dog. He sleeps with me in a full size bed, has more toys that I care to pick up, food, shelter, and a human Mom who absolutely adores him. Together we have faced and conquered each medical problem from birth to his present allergies, inter-digital cysts, chronic ear infections and the occasional seizure. Blind dogs see with their hearts, I have recently read. If this is true, Little Bit has a vision that is unparalleled. When he looks at me through those sightless eyes, I see nothing but love and devotion. We have been involved in the Pet Therapy Program through the Connecticut Humane Society, and assist a local Animal Control facility with fundraisers. When I see the joy he brings to others, I am confident that I made the right decision.

Raising a handicapped animal isn't easy. Nothing in life worth anything is. Little Bit, through his blindness, has opened my eyes to a whole new world of compassion, caring, and a love for him that is boundless. What he has taught me exists in no book, nor can be measured on any scale. Euthanasia is not the answer when faced with an animal that isn't perfect. If I had followed logic instead of my heart nine years ago, I would have been deprived of the bond we share: a bond so strong that only when he takes his last breath, will it be broken. And even then, I'm not so sure.

Story by Arlene - featured in Storytime Tapestry and Themestream.
Read more on the heart-warming rescue of Little Bit's mother, Pepper



The Whisper Of Love

Arlene R. O'Neil

© August 15, 2006

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