Since Mother’s Day is next week, I thought it would only be fitting to tell one of those heartwarming stories about my mother, Cindy Pitts. I’m convinced that my mother is a superhero. How she managed to do all the mother things with me growing up, while keeping the house afloat, getting my dad off to work each day and still managed to be a present figure in all of my school and life events, I will never know. It’s a balance I can’t seem to figure out with The Wizard, though I work at it every day.
My mother is a foster for RUFF Rescue of Walker County. RUFF, for those of you who do not know, is an animal rescue in Walker County that is partnered with the Jasper Vet Clinic and takes care of abandoned and animals, rehabilitates them and cares for them and then helps them find their forever homes – either here in Alabama or through one of the many partners across the U.S. It’s an endeavor that is not for the faint of heart, but these dedicated fosters and volunteers, like my mother, get up each day hoping to make a difference in the lives of the animals they encounter.
Enter the cleft palate pups – a.k.a. Gadget, Zipper, Chip and Dale, as I named them. When it comes to puppies who need to be bottle fed, it’s always my mother and one other foster who get the teeny tiny pups that need extra attention. This time, the puppies that landed in my mother’s warm arms were four days old cleft pallet boxer puppies that were surrendered to the rescue in an attempt to try and save them.
These pups aren’t like normal puppies. Not only were they missing their mother for a supply of milk, but due to the cleft palate formation on their lips, their ability to suck milk was impossible. My mother, in all her fearlessness, knew there was a way to get them to eat. So she, through the teaching of JVC veterinarian Martin Roberts, was taught how to tube feed the puppies. For weeks now, my mother has tube fed these four puppies every two hours a day and night, making sure they had breathing treatments and giving them all the warm snuggles that she could. Her life has been a schedule of constant feeding and checking, caring and waiting, hoping to see them improve and start to live.
Her research mind led her to Facebook groups that specifically discuss cleft palate animals and how to care for them. At five weeks old, Gadget, Zipper, Chip and Dale are now learning to eat kibble on their own – they have had to learn how to chew (which they still can’t very well due to the cleft) and how to swallow. My mother has been there every step of the way, making sure none of them choked. In my mother’s own words, “It’s a miracle they have made it this far.”
When the puppies get a little older they will be moved to a larger animal rescue that accepts special needs dogs. The cleft palate can be repaired with surgery and most dogs in this situation go on to live good, long, healthy lives.
Mom will say it’s the hardest fostering she has ever done. And trust me, she has seen it all in animal rescue – missing limbs, punctured eyes, bitten ears, distemper, blind, preemie, car injuries. That’s rescue life – each day you never know what the journey will bring.
When it comes time to let these four little pups go, my mother’s heart will break. She will cry and hope she did all she could to give them the long, happy life they deserve. And those broken pieces of her heart? Well, the cracks will mend with new fur babies that come along that need her special love an attention – the kind that only a mother can give.