WINDHAM, Maine — When Amy Sherwood was diagnosed with a condition that put her in a wheelchair, she knew she wanted a service dog, but they're expensive. With a little coaching, she trained her own black lab named Dolly Pawton.
Amy has taught Dolly to recognize when her blood pressure is dropping, and Amy is close to passing out; she also helps guide Amy's wheelchair. We first met the pair this fall in Naples while training for a National Dock Diving competition.
"I was thinking if I was able to do this with Dolly imagine what an organization could do with dogs with her temperament," says Amy. "I talked with Dr. Kern and I told him my concerns that if something happened financially I didn’t know what I could do. Would he be willing to help with payment plans or what not? And he stepped right in."
That was if something went wrong, and it did three days after Dolly gave birth to six healthy puppies. "She laid down and she was nursing the babies and then on Thursday she started acting weird," says Amy. On Friday morning, Dolly was in labor again. One more pup came out, but he wasn't breathing, so Amy gave him mouth to mouth.
Houdini, as Amy now calls him, was in the clear. Just to be sure, she packed up the pups and Dolly, and drove them to Animal Surgery and Advocacy Services in Windham.
"I was more worried about the puppy because I had to pull him out by his legs so I was worried I broke his legs," says Amy. "Dr. Kern said that would be nearly impossible to do because they’re so flexible at that age."
"Rule of thumb by any specialist, if they are in active labor is not to go beyond two to three hours in between puppies," says Dr. Douglas A. Kern of Animal Surgery and Advocacy Services. "So this goes way beyond the bounds of normalcy."
This was three days later, and Dolly wasn't done. There was one more puppy inside of her.
"When he did the X-ray he looked at me and said, 'I’m sorry but this baby is not going to be alive.' So he set me up in a room and gave her medication and we laid there on the floor together," says Amy. Until, the final baby came out. Amy grabbed it by the scruff of the neck to help guide him out, and the puppy yelped. "I started screaming, 'He’s alive!' and everyone came running."
Seven of the eight puppies will be potential working, service, or therapy dogs; that includes the two miracle pups: Houdini and Doc.
Since the birth, Amy Sherwood has had an outpouring of support. Dolly wouldn't stop bleeding, so she underwent an emergency surgery to get spayed. The cost of that has been completely covered by a Portland organization called Champ's Fund and a friend in Florida.
Other businesses have also pitched in with care packages.