Grissom was born at 2 am Sunday morning September 25th, 2011. He was the smallest Labrador puppy I have ever seen - weighing in at a mere eight ounces while his brother Legacy (who arrived a half hour earlier) weighed in at a nice 15 ounces.
With no suck reflex Grissom had trouble staying latched on to his Mommy while Legacy, on the other hand, was holding steadfast to the biggest boob he could find.
I had never encountered a cleft palate puppy in my 31 years of raising Labradors and I did not want to believe that I had one now… It seemed the destiny of a cleft palate puppy was not good – not good at all. So I chose not to look in his mouth and just help the determined little guy get some milk.
I tried to milk Missouri for some colostrom but it wasn’t working so I bottled him right away with a formula off the internet - at 2:30 in the morning there are no stores open to get replacement for him.
( 2-14 days ): The Playtex Nurser: Now this bottle has got to be the best bottle there is for puppies – slow and/or fast flow nipples make it easy for the puppy to get the milk. I used the slow flow nipple feeding him small amounts every hour.
½ cup Evaporated Milk,
½ cup water (boiled and cooled),
1 egg yolk and
1 tsp white corn syrup
On Tuesday I added GOAT’s MILK to the formula for the extra nutrients of calcium, fat and protein (puppies/kitties cannot digest cow’s milk). I even started to relax some, feeling that I was actually making some progress with this little guy. He was so strong physically and staying latched on to the Playtex nipple was not a problem. Grissom was now able to stay fuller, longer and was much, much more content.
By the 8th day Grissom had gained 8 ounces and now weighed 1 pound. From here to week 2, Grissom stayed at 1 pound without any gain …. But he never lost an ounce either. By day 14 at the next weigh-in Grissom was 1.5 pounds at 2 weeks of age.
3 weeks – 2 pounds As soon as the boys turned 3 weeks old I started them both on puppy mush (moistened puppy food, canned meat, yogourt and mixed in some formula for Grissom), very runny and easy to lap up. I feed Legacy from a bowl and Grissom ate from a spoon.
Dr Slemp (my veterinarian) made a house-call to see how the babies were doing. I still had not looked in Grissom’s mouth and Dr Slemp confirmed what I had been denying. He was also very surprised to see how strong Grissom was and how well he motored along with his bigger brother… just a lot smaller. Dr Slemp listened to his heart (good), listened to his lungs (clear), no temp (that’s good, too), and his eyes were bright and responsive (good). No pneumonia, No sinus infection – No antibiotics!!! I always weigh on the day babies are born but for the fun of it I got the scale out to weigh Grissom – he weighed 2 pounds and I still had three full days before his 4th week weigh in! I also switched Grissom to a Lamb’s Nipple… this nipple fills his mouth completely and is so soft and pliable that it molded right into the cleft… he now consumes ALL his formula and no sneezing anything out the nose.
4 weeks – 2.5 pounds Grissom weighed 2.5 pounds at 4 weeks. A half a pound a week seemed to be his limit and I was happy with any gain at all.
week 5 – 3.5 pounds Week Five was a big turn around week for Grissom - he gained one whole pound … now 3.5! Other than his very mini size, Grissom continued to develop at the same rate as his big brother – the only difference (other than the size) is Grissom does not bark. He makes a soft whining sound to let me know he hears or sees me, wants to be picked up or wants his bottle. His brother lets you know by sending out that high pitched puppy bark.
week 6 – 4.5 pounds Another one pound gain this week and Grissom is even starting to grow in size… he looks to be about a 4 week old puppy. His bone structure is fine, not heavy like his brother, and his coat is plush. I’m going to guess that Grissom will weigh in at about 6 pounds by next Sunday
week 7 – 7.3 pounds What a surprise to see that he was 7.3 pounds!! With no pneumonia and no sinus infections from the time he was born til now, I felt he is big enough and definitely strong enough to get his first set of shots. I am only going to give him Parvo and Distemper for now…. At his size I am just not comfortable giving him the 5 or 6 way. Maybe later when he’s older I will re-evaluate it then. Oh yes, he also learned to bark this week.. he was playing with a large stuffed Labrador.
On Thursday November 17th Grissom went to see Dr Slemp at the clinic for first vaccinations, worming and a micro-chip. I normally tattoo my guys but Grissom’s ears were too small and he is such a softy . Before worming him, Grissom was weighed and I just told D Slemp that he was 7.3 pounds on Sunday … today (Thursday) he was 8.25 pounds!!!
After the exam Dr Slemp took Grissom around to meet the other Doctors and Techs at the clinic... No one had seen a cleft palate puppy before – at least not one that had survived.
week 8 – 9 pounds Grissom and I have finally made it to a point where I feel confident and comfortable in everything I have done for him. I really believe (under a watchful eye and supervision) that he will be just fine. He eats well and drinks from a raised bowl. When he consumes water he laps a little and then he raises his head up to let it trickle down…. He still gets his bottle (bubba) but I have since weaned him off the milk and now it’s water.
9 weeks!!!!! He sits, downs, waits and shakes-a-paw :)
It is my intention to keep Grissom so I can continue to monitor how he develops in height and weight. One thing I really am concerned about (and can’t find any information about) is, ‘can cleft palate dogs swim?’ (update: they shouldn't because of pneumonia)
Other than this journey being a little time consuming, and a few sleepless nights of worrying, I can honestly say YES that I would/will do it again if I am meant to have another cleft palate puppy.
As Grissom continues to grow and develop I will update his story from time to time here in the newsletter.
If anyone is interested and would like to share information and pictures concerning cleft palate puppies and/or adults, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
10 weeks old ...
... and he's just 'snow-adorable'!!
Grisson Goes To School
January 21st, 2012 - Grissom started Obedience Classes today. Today's lessons were sit, down and stand using voice commands and hand signals (seperately). Grissom did very well for his first time in public. Responded well to my voice and hand signals around distractions. Grissom is learning how to respond to spelled words now!!
Height at shoulders - 14 inches
Weight - 22 pounds
January 28th, 2012 - Classes continue to go well for our 'little man!'. His spelling is coming along and now we get a response to the spelled words of s-i-t, d-o-w-n, and w-a-i-t.
February 4th, 2012 - Grissom continues to work very well in classes. While his classmate runs around playing and chasing things, Grissom practices lengthening the time and distance with his sits and downs.
February 15th, 2012 - Grissom has a plugged cleft. It happened once before and he was able to 'sneeze' the lodged food out after drinking some water. This time the plug is not letting loose and the smell is becoming really horrible.
Grissom went to see Dr Tim and was put under so they could flush out his cleft. I asked them to take pictures and I was amazed at what I seen. I am truly grateful that Grissom has done so well and continues to be free from aspiration pneumonia for the past 5 months. (weight: 30 pounds)
February 16th, 2012 - Grissom is really doing well today. He feels so much better now that the plug in his mouth has been removed. His diet has been changed now and we make him all kinds of 'soft' foods with the main ingredients still being his dry kibble (only ground into powder). We will add little extras such as pure beef/chicken broth, carrots and peas, apples, and bananas.
March 17, 2012 - Our little man passed all his Puppy tests outdoors with minor distractions:
- Sit, Down on first verbal command ... Sit, Down with a hand signal
- Responds to the s-i-t and the d-o-w-n commands when spelled out
- Come when called the first time (also with a hand signal)
- Walks on a loose leash
- Settles down nicely with minor distractions
- Waits in a sit or down with a minor distraction until released.
Good Going Grissom!!
April 2, 2012 - 18 inches at the shoulder and 40 pounds, undershot jaw, retained testicles ... things you don't want in a show/breeding dog... but his wonderful personality is everything you would want in a family companion!
July 2012 - Grissom is a beautiful Labby and all growed up (height wise, anyway). He's about 20 inches at the shoulder and light in body. He's happy, energetic (agility, perhaps??)), devoted and a great little retriever. He always has to carry something in his mouth :). He is healthy and has not been sick a day in his young life. Grissom has a wonderful outlook on life and truly believes that it's "all about him!"
He has never been near the water and must not be allowed to go where he could be at danger of falling in (aspiration pneumonia). **UPDATE** July 2013 - Well Grissom has been, not only near the water, he has been in it. He loves to swim and relying on his own survival instincts, Grissom swims with his head held high and his mouth closed. He goes in as far as 'he wants' and for as long as 'he' wants. I do not encourage him to over-do it and I do not entice him by throwing objects in the water. Such a wonderful Labby... he continues to TEACH me more and more all the time about Cleft Palate dogs.
To this day Grissom continues to amaze me and teaches me to 'watch carefully' and to 'trust' in HIS instincts!
March 2015: GRISSOM GETS A HOME!
My best and happiest news - Grissom has been adopted by a super family that I could never say enough great things about them... I truly love this family!
From the bottom of my heart... THANK YOU to Cindy Chauncey (Calgary Lab Rescue) for blending us together.. your instincts made a perfect match and I will always be grateful that you thought of my Grissom!
and Grissom,"I will always love you!"