no·​va | \ ˈnō-və

Borrowed from New Latin, “newly visible star or nebula” (probably originally as ellipsis of nebula nova, later taken as ellipsis of stella nova “new star”), from feminine of Latin novus “new”

Nova is a force of nature. Although all whippets pretty much match that description at a young age I suspect dogs from racing lines are somewhat more off the charts than pet or show bred whippets. I always have a chuckle at people’s reactions when they see our dogs running, it really is quite something. We were at Sandyhills Beach, Dalbeattie on Sunday and Nova took off on a mad zoomie across the sand and I heard a young boy shout “DAD, it’s the fastest dog in the WORLD!”.

Not quite. She is quick though.

Nova Running

Anyway, rewind back to 2020. I decided to breed a litter from Miah as I didn’t want her to grow old alone. Yes, we could’ve got a rescue dog but there are a couple of reasons why we didn’t want to. Firstly, I inherited my mum’s two whippets. They were 12 when she died, and they’ve known me their whole lives. I could not and would not let them go into rescue. Also, bringing a strange dog into the house wouldn’t be a good idea. Gypsy is reactive, and it would be too much for both her and her litter sister. Secondly, Miah would probably not welcome another dog into her space if she was still an ‘only child’. We discussed it and decided to go for it. We were confident of finding homes for at least 3 pups with people we knew and Miah was unlikely to have a large litter with her fairly small frame.

After one unsuccessful attempt in January 2020, we decided that we would only try once more. The second mating, to a proven dog with multiple litters took place in August, after the first lockdown was over. I’d raised the idea of this sire with my mum when she was still alive as I was really struck by his lovely temperament, and I hoped to bring this into the pups. Initially I had not intended to use a racing dog as sire, but he is such a lovely dog and mum was quite excited about the idea. It’s so sad that she never got to meet Nova.

Miah had a fairly uneventful pregnancy, although from about 5 weeks onwards I had a terrible time getting her to eat. We had the ultrasound done at 35 days. She had 4 visible puppies, all alive and no sign of any problems. The trouble started about 4 days before her estimated due date.

Miah was not showing any typical signs of imminent delivery, no nesting behaviour. She did however seem to be in the first stage of labour. She was clearly uncomfortable and had some discharge that I was keeping an eye on with a view to getting her to the vets if needed. She decided she wasn’t going to move off the sofa, fair enough I thought. She can do it where-ever she wants as long as she’s OK. By late evening she seemed to settle down and spent more time resting.

At 1am, I was getting concerned so I called the vet. She had discharged some more fluid that I didn’t like the look of. The vet told me to bring her in first thing. I suspect she thought it better to wait until everyone was available if she needed a C-section. Miah was very subdued and sleeping so I decided to take her down on the dot of their opening hours. Which we did.

Miah sleeping
Miah, a few hours before we went to the vet

On arrival, our usual vet Jack did an x-ray. There were four puppies, all a similar size so they had all developed at more or less a similar rate. However, this told us nothing about their viability or Miah’s condition, so Jack then did an ultrasound. It was clear from this that one was almost definitely dead; another was very weak and two were doing OK. The decision was made to do a C-section. We were asked if we wanted to have her spayed at the same time. My reply: Do whatever you have to do, whatever it takes. Consent form signed, I watched him walk away with her in the little ‘grumpy bed’. She didn’t even have the energy to panic.

The Surgery

Not long after we arrived home I got a call from Jack. Miah was in a very bad way; she had a suspected infection and they were about to start surgery after calling in the practice director to do the c-section. The wait was torture. We’d left the practice at around 8am and I think it was at least 4 hours before they rang me to tell me they had finished. I’d been pacing around tearfully all day.

I was allowed to pick Miah and her pups up around 3pm. She had two surviving pups, a dog and a bitch (Nova). They were proper little wrigglers. I had to go alone as Lewis was working and I was told not to put them in the pen with Miah in case she turned on them, as can happen with c-sections. They ended up coming home in a cat carrier as they kept trying to escape the bed. I didn’t want them falling out into the car on the way home. The fears of Miah’s reaction proved to be groundless though. As soon as she was settled in her whelping pen they latched on and she nursed them immediately. Given the size of her wound I will forever be in awe of her maternal impulses.

Newborn puppies
Nova and Ury coming home from the vets, approx 3hrs old

It was much later that day that I got the whole run down of the surgery from Francesca.

One of Miah’s pups had died in utero and was mummified. Whether this caused the infection I don’t know, and they didn’t say. What we didn’t know, and couldn’t have known, is that Miah had a malformed uterus with a shrivelled horn and a fixed cervix. All the pups were on one horn, which would not necessarily be an issue. The fixed cervix would have prevented the birth of any pups, healthy or otherwise, and could have ended with her death. As it was, she was very close to dying when we took her in.

c-section scar blurred
Miah’s wound after ~ a week. Click to unblur. It’s not nice but it is clean and tidy

Her uterus had ruptured and the infection had spilled into her abdomen, so the surgery was long and complicated. They had to do the c-section, remove the pups, spay her and then flush her through with antibiotics. The wound was distressingly large, even for a c-section. The weak pup couldn’t be resuscitated, I was told they worked on it as long as they could but its skin started to break down and there’s no coming back from that.

I must add at this point that I cannot fault Strathmore Vets. They saved her life. Each pup had its own nurse assigned to resuscitate and care for while they worked on Miah.

Home again

Miah was an exemplary mum. She was attentive, knew instinctively what to do. Washed their umbilical remains off, helped them poop. Let them feed even though she looked like a teddy bear that had been re-stuffed and sewn back up again. She was possibly a bit overprotective and would rage at the girls if they came near the pen so we took our time introducing them. We got there in the end though.

So that’s how Nova and her brother Ury came into the world. Would I do it again?

Christ, no.

We are blessed to have such a lovely dog. As I had hoped, she has a wonderful temperament. If I’m honest she seems to have inherited most of her traits from her father, including her size. She’s nearly an inch taller than her mum, longer back and longer legs. She does have her mum’s markings though, despite me hoping for a brindle.

We love her. We love Miah, she is so very special to us and I’m grateful to our vets for saving her.

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