Puppy rescue helps Frisco family find silver linings in a tough year
10-year-old Ethan saves 3 newborn puppies using CPR
Michele Knight only had two hours to prepare for the delivery.
As they drove from Golden with a pregnant foster dog in the back of the car, her 12-year-old son, Jacob, was researching on the internet how to know if a dog is in labor. Meanwhile, a friend helped build a whelping box out of cardboard to get ready. They arrived home in Frisco at 4 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, and at 6 p.m., the puppies were born.
“If she had the babies on the transport, maybe a couple would have made it, but definitely not all of them,” Michele said. “She would have been in a little cage with nowhere to clean up. It would have been awful. We literally got her just in time.”
But something was wrong. The mother kept licking four of her pups, and Michele could tell she was getting distressed. Michele’s 10-year-old-son, Ethan, also noticed things weren’t right.
“When babies are born, they have color in their tongue, but a few of them only had gray tongues, so I knew something was wrong,” Ethan said.
Michele called her friend Jim Warlick, an emergency room nurse, and he suggested CPR. Ethan began rubbing the sides of the puppies, but it wasn’t enough. He then gave the dogs mouth-to-mouth and resuscitated three of the four nonresponsive puppies in the 13-dog litter. It was successful by most accounts, as Michele said litters usually are only four to six puppies and about 25% don’t survive.
Fostering the animals is a big boost of morale for the Knight family. The practice started in 2016 after Ethan had his first of two brain surgeries for his chiari malformation, a condition where brain tissue extends into his spinal canal. This means Ethan has issues with balance, sleep, breathing and swallowing, along with neck and back pain and joint hypermobility.
“But he’s a phenomenal kid that’s overcome more in his 10 years than any of us could,” Michele said.
The puppies are like a security blanket and give Ethan something else to think about when they pile on top of him, something he calls “puppydise.” Sometimes he’s bothered by the smell or the noise, but he said he’d still rather foster than not.
Michele — a member of The Rotary Club of Summit County and a tax preparer who volunteers with organizations such as the National Alliance for Mental Illness — also sees fostering dogs as a charitable way to give back. She works with rescues like Low Riders of the West to foster animals to save shelters money and resources.
“For every puppy I can successfully raise and keep alive and put into a family’s home, that generates $200 extra dollars that shelters can use to help older dogs,” Michele said.
Ethan also ran a fundraiser at school in third grade. He and a friend raised $400 to donate along with toys for cats and dogs. He isn’t planning on becoming a veterinarian, but his love for animals has translated to a passion for marine biology. The family has gone on vacations at SeaWorld and in Hawaii.
“There’s a bunch of stuff in the ocean we haven’t discovered, and I really want to discover a lot of the ocean and find a new species,” Ethan said. “I really want to help the ocean animals overcome extinction.”
With Ethan’s history of kissing plenty of fish, giving CPR to a puppy didn’t bother him, he said.
Providing a home
Michele said the fostering process could be as short as three days or as long as three months. They still visit most of the 33 adult dogs they’ve fostered for over the years. Additionally, they have a 10-year-old Lab named Phoebe who helps care for the mom and puppies, a 3-year-old Brittany spaniel named Ella, and a 1-year-old Chihuahua named Littles who is roughly the same size as some of the newborn pups.
Michele said she isn’t sure what breed the puppies are, but she guesses the mom is a vizsla-Weimaraner mix. And the folds on the puppies’ faces lead her to believe the father was a mastiff, which means the puppies could get quite large. Sampson, a puppy named by Ethan who was the second smallest, is already larger than Littles.
“These puppies are ahead of schedule,” Michele said. “They’re walking, their eyes are open, they’re barking — things most 3-week-old puppies don’t do.”
The abundance of furry friends helps not just Ethan, but the rest of the family as they collectively deal with depression, anxiety and stress. Michele, a single mother, said she has practically raised her two sons by herself, but she also credits a network of friends who volunteer to lend a hand with the kids and dogs. For example, A&A Pet Supply reached out to help feed the hungry puppies.
The pandemic has also changed the flow of life, as Michele is now a home-school teacher. Yet the self-proclaimed family of introverts is making the best of their time together and bonding more.
“It slows down life a little. You change your focus on things, and you end up having a lot of quality family time,” Michele said. “I probably never played a board game with my children until this year. … When your social calendar clears off, you finally get to spend time with your kids.”
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