VV Litter Diary

VV Litter Diary
Whelped 10/26/21:  3 females and 1 male
All black sables
One female is available to a working home. 
I’m pretty sure she’s a long coat.

See 31 day old photos
See 24 – 29 day old photos
See 18 & 19 day old photos
See fourteen-day-old photos
The male is going to a friend who has his sister from the OO litter.  He, too, will compete in all kinds of venues.  One female is going for Search and Rescue.  

I am keeping one of the females for breeding and competition.  If it fits the pup I keep, her call name is going to be “Varoom!!”  When the pups finally hit the ground and were healthy, I mentioned in an email that I had been afraid to jinx things by working on possible names.  Several friends sent some great names, including Pat, who sent “Varoom!!”  I am now considering what my pup’s registered name will be.  At the moment I am leaning towards
“Celhaus Victory Against All Odds.”

39 Days (12/4)  Cold weather coming, with possible rain today and snow tonight.  Oh, well, I knew the balmy weather wouldn’t last a long time.  And it’s probably good, as the arborists were warning they had seen trees starting to bud around Sheridan.  I HATE losing trees.

The pups poured out of the gate when I opened it, ready to play.  They tried to get Hesed to let them nurse but weren’t too concerned when she kept moving.  They have obviously learned the new morning routine. I hardly had to redirect anyone through gates or around corners as we did the poop route. 

Mr. Blue again attached to my pant legs, but today he bit down HARD on my ankle.  Twice I gently removed him and tried redirecting him to the shovel or something close by, but he was insistent.  When he crunched the third time, he got the first serious “No bite!” command and a good correction. After that he either followed along, playing or pestering Miss Green as she attacked the shovel, or else tugged on my pant leg.  That I can handle.  Miss Purple had fun tugging on my pant leg this morning, though she was gentler than her brother.  At least she didn’t pull hard – with her added to Mr. Blue and Miss Green, I might not have made much forward progress.

Today all the pups followed me as I did the far area of the back yard – Miss Green still on the shovel, Miss Pink occasionally adding her weight and teeth, the other two playing chase and wrestling.  All that activity wore them out enough that I was able to do poop detail in their yard in peace, although Miss Green followed me around and occasionally jumped on the shovel.

The others were distracted, too, by the “mountain” that I created for them before starting the poop search.  As I was breaking down boxes yesterday to haul to recycling, I found some of the great Chewy boxes that they shipped my Royal Canin dry food in.  (I use it for around-the-house treats, when I put the dogs in their crates, etc., because they love it, the kibble is a good size for handling, and it’s better than non-nutritionally-balanced commercial treats). 

Yesterday I set aside five of the boxes and this morning I put them in the puppy yard.  I started off with these all together on the ground.  As the puppies begin to climb on them, I will add a box or two on top and create a “mountain” they can play on.  Miss Pink immediately began figuring out how to get on one and waited on top for me to praise her, which of course I did.  The thought occurred to me that this will be a great preparation for tonight’s “treats-on-the-target-table-how-do-I-get-to-them?” exercise.

I then left Hesed in the puppy yard with them while I grabbed a quick breakfast.  They had finished nursing and were stretched out to rest when I came out to get her to crate her while I did the rest of the morning ball sessions.

Our routine of feeding them just before I do the last two ball sessions is working well.  They end up having a good 45 minutes to eat before ball sessions are finished, the big dogs have their lunch and I put Heed out with them.  I have begun leaving her in for shorter times in between more frequent crate times as we start weaning.  It’s time to start leaving her away during the day but if we get a lot of snow tonight, I will leave her with them longer to be sure they stay warm.

I didn’t set up the Puppy Adventure Box tonight.  I again set up the target table and, for the first time, a pool.  Miss Pink’s immediate decision to climb onto the Chewy boxes when they had plenty of room around them led to my decision to put more cans of black-eyed peas in a second shoe box to make the “step” easier for them to notice and decide to use.  Maybe just one is visually uninviting, harder to figure out how to put one’s feet on. 

Good thing I had my cans of black-eyed peas.  I don’t know what other people use them for, but I’m from the deep South and we always make a good-luck dish on New Year’s Day, called “Hoppin John” (black-eyed peas cooked with bacon and onion and then spread over rice).  Last year, just before Christmas, I passed a lady in the aisle, talking on the phone and heard her say, “They don’t have any black-eyed peas either.  I’ve been everywhere in town.  What are we going to do??”  (Buy them in the early fall, like I do.)

Tonight, besides putting treats on the target table, I put some in a small collapsible pool.  I let the pups figure out on their own that the treats are in there – and how to get in and out.  It makes for some pretty “graceful” attempts, another way they learn how to handle their bodies (and gives me occasional hilarious photos). Once they have searching in the collapsible pool down pat, I substitute a kiddie wading.  The final touch is gradually putting in more and more NuVet (plastic) bottles to make the pups work to find the treats.

I put down some new toys before going out to get the pups. They have this evening playtime routine down, too.  They bounced out the gate to greet me, then moved off to potty.  They almost led me to the ramp.  I was excited when all four started up ahead of me. We made it onto the landing and I was helping pups through the doggie door when I missed a pup. Darn!  Miss Purple had turned around and gone down the ramp.  My initial irritation ended, though, when I saw her beginning to poop.  Good girl, Miss Purple!!!

When she finished, we headed up the ramp.  Thankfully, only Miss Green had come back out the doggie door and she just waited for us on the landing.  I helped them through the doggie door and went inside the house – and here came Miss Pink & Mr. Blue racing from the living room.  They had remembered treats and toys were in the living room and had gone there.  All of us headed there and they gleefully pounced on the toys.  They had several tug battles and I even caught a couple of decent photos.  I was also pleased to get a good photo of one (Mr. Blue) with one of my favorite toys, which is getting old and about to “die,” a big orange pacifier.  Pups love that toy but all too often someone walks between me and the “perfect” shot just as I try for it.  Sure wish I could find another one.

I also got a couple of good shots of Miss Purple pulling on Mr. Blue’s tail, and the battle that followed.  SO funnyMiss Pink was the first to notice the pool and climb into it.  Miss Green was next.  The other two soon noticed them and figured out how to get into the pool – especially after I added more treats.

They kept going over to the target table and working hard to get to the treats.  Several got up onto the shoeboxes where they could reach more treats, but no one tried to climb up to get to the ones in the middle.  Miss Green even tried going under the table in her attempt to get to the treats (don’t miss that phot!)

Since they now know the way into the living room and back outside, I began housetraining.  I left them inside for a lot longer tonight, and halfway through called all of them to go outside with me.  They raced down the hall to the doggie door and I only had to boost a couple so they could get out.  We trooped down the ramp and they began pottying.  Once I though all were finished, I called them and headed up the ramp, this time with everyone following smoothly.  A little help getting through the doggie door, and they raced to the living room to play some more.  Before I sat down and picked up the camera, I lifted all four onto the table so they could clean up the treats.  Done, they none-too-gracefully got off the table – Mr. Blue with a spectacular exit that I managed to catch in photos – and started playing again (and checking the pool for more treats).  Mr. Blue’s nosedive didn’t bother him at all – he was soon trying to climb back up and eventually managed it. 

When they began to tire, I picked up the toys and let Hesed out of her crate  She headed towards the exit and they followed enthusiastically, Mr. Blue being the only one needing a boost out the doggie door.  Thirsty, they headed to the puppy yard gate, so I opened it and let them and Hesed enter.  Then I went into the puppy house to clean.  They had left some of their supper, so I had to dodge Hesed as she cleaned the bowls and they nursed.  She then headed outside, they followed and I was able to finish cleaning and leave them for the night.

38 Days (12/3)  Another balmy morning, though probably our last..

Since Hesed is saying she wants to spend more time away from her pups, I didn’t put her in with them during the time after their breakfast and before I started ball sessions.  I let her stay in her crate, where she stretched out and snoozed.  When it was time to start ball sessions, she and I went out the back door and I opened the puppy yard gate.  I had to laugh because she was intent on her ball time – well at least our keep-away game since I’m not yet throwing the ball for her (her foot is much better!), that she about fell over the pups as they came flooding out the gate.  The pups most enthusiastically kept up with us as we walked around the outside of the house, grabbed the poop bucket and shovel, and continued to the front yard.  Miss Green attacked the shovel as I drug it, while Mr. Blue attached to one of my pant legs and tugged like crazy.  It was really hard to walk!  When Miss Green would leave the shovel, Miss Pink took over.  It seemed like they were having a contest as to who could get the most weight on the shovel.  Miss Purple spent most of her time, trying to grab a teat and make Hesed stop to let her nurse.  She didn’t have much luck.

To spare my legs, I should get out the puppy drag, but with Hesed not able to chase her ball, our time is all devoted to poop detail and I don’t want to drag the pups that far – and around those corners!  The puppy drag is a piece of rope I can fasten around my waist.  Gunny sacks are attached to the rope and move enticingly as I walk, so (usually) the pups focus on biting and tugging on them rather than my feet and legs.  The only downside is that when pups are attached to the drag, it gets pretty heavy and makes it hard for me to move.  But, if they do grab my legs, it’s easy to divert them by vigorously waving a gunny sack.

That said, I’ll still wait until we can head out to the ball area at the beginning before I attach it around my waist.  Hopefully they will be tired enough by poop detail time not to make me drag them.

All of the pups did super well at negotiating gates and turns today.  They learned fast!

I set out different toys tonight.  When all was ready, I let the pups out of the yard.  Tonight, after their chance to potty, I led them to the ramp and with very little trouble got all four onto it.  They followed me up, I lifted them into the house through the doggie door, and they waited for me to get inside before leading the way to the living room, where they checked out the toys before beginning to search for the treats. 

They alternated searching with playing.  They will give a little chortle, grab a toy and race down the hallway.  Or else two will play tug with a toy until one manages to get it – and runs away with it.  This is sure a bunch of happy pups, very fun to watch play and, of course, to cuddle with. 

I noticed that Mr. Blue was missing his collar, which he lost sometime between when I took out their supper and when I brought them in to play.  One of his sisters probably was tugging on it and it slipped over his head.  I’ll look tomorrow morning and, with luck, find it.  Occasionally I lose one and it never shows up.

Their searches were much more methodical tonight.  Mis Green still seems to be the most persistent searcher.

I usually introduce searching for treats in a little collapsible kid’s pool, but I decided to stick with the target table until they figure out how to go up onto it.  Tonight I set it up and again sprinkled salmon treats on top.  I had recently found a couple of old, sturdy shoeboxes and have been using them as items for Justice to search as I train him in nosework.  I grabbed the shortest one to use with the litter.  I put some canned veggies inside to make it stable, where it won’t slide when they try to climb onto it.  Then I put it at one end of the target table to see if they would use it to climb up onto the target table. 

All of the pups eventually remembered where more treats had been the previous night and headed over to investigate the target table, trying to get the treats, with Miss Green & Miss Pink being the most intense.  They got a few I put on the edges, at least, to reward their efforts and hopefully stimulate more attempts.   Eventually, Miss Pink & Mr. Blue noticed the shoe box and got a foot up, but no one tried to get on it.  If the other shoebox is about the same height, tomorrow I’ll also fix it up and combine the two to create a bigger area that might help them climb onto the table. 

If they hadn’t figured it out, I planned to lift them up onto the table at the end of tonight’s playtime so their search interest could be rewarded and they could clean up the treats, but just when I thought it was time, the girls tore off down the hallway and disappeared.  Mr. Blue whined, so I went down the hall with him to see where they were.  They had gone out the doggie door and were already on the ground – and two were pottying!  He and I descended the ramp and I praised the girls like crazy.  Then all of them headed to the puppy yard gate and tried to get in, so I lifted them into the puppy house where they could finish their supper if they wished, before I put Hesed out with them.  Back inside, I picked up the crumbled treats and will use them tomorrow night.

They had cleaned up their supper by the time I went out to clean the puppy room and put Hesed in with them for the night.  They were tired enough they didn’t even try to “help” me change papers.

37 Days (12/2)  Miss Pink’s ears are about half up – and Miss Green has started the process of getting hers up, too.

Shirtsleeve weather continues:  60 degrees at 5:30 am. When I took the pups their breakfast; 66 when I went out to start ball sessions.  The wind blew like crazy most of the night, but it was a warm wind.  It pretty much died down so the weather was SUPER pleasant for the pups to have another adventure.  I left Justice complaining in his crate because I didn’t get him out to be part of Hesed’s ball session as usual.  Instead, the pups got to come out of their yard.  Hesed is still pretty ouchy on her foot so no ball throwing.  What I did was go get the poop bucket and shovel before letting her out of the puppy yard.  They pups were right at the gate and seemed quite happy to be let out, too.  I closed it after them so no one would go back in; often they will decide they don’t want an adventure and try to go back to familiar haunts. 

We headed to the ball area first, as that’s what we’ll do once Hesed can play again. All the pups had a great time attacking the shovel as I drug it behind me on my round of the area, searching for poop.  Then we headed to do the front yard, Mr. Blue & Miss Pink the most intent on following the shovel, while the other two raced around.  They had several lessons in paying attention to where Hesed and I were going, negotiating their way through gate openings, and making 90-degree turns that took any leaders out of sight of the laggers.  At this age they tend to yell rather than use their eyes to keep track of us, ears to follow my “Puppy! Puppy! Puppy!” call or noses to follow our tracks.  I do things like this to teach them not to quit and complain, but to actively use their brains to figure out how to get where or what they want.

They negotiated the turns and gates better on the way back around the north side of the house and then into the back yard.  Miss Purple hung up at the puppy yard gate as we passed their yard and went into the back yard.  The back yard is divided into two yards where I can leave big dogs when I have to be gone for a long time, plus the big puppy yard and a “baby puppy” yard that I usually use first when I move litters outside. 

The other three pups negotiated the gate into the main back yard, then Mr. Blue & Miss Pink peeled off to explore while only Miss Green followed Hesed and me.  And did she follow!  Happily, head up and tail wagging, she alternately pounced on the shovel or pranced beside us as we wandered to the back part of that section of the yard, along the southern puppy yard fence.  When we made that circle and came back into the main part of the yard, I called the pups and the three came and joined us, though they soon left and only Miss Green continued to accompany me.  We went through another gate into the far, southern, section of the back yard and searched for poop in it and in the baby puppy yard, the gate to which is open so anyone can go in.  Miss Pink and Mr. Blue had found some fascinating branches and pine cones to investigate, while Miss Purple went back to the puppy yard fence and was walking u and down it, yelling that she wanted in.

Poop detail done, we wandered back to the puppy yard and I opened the gate. Mr. Blue & Miss Pink noticed the opening and went in, but soon came back out to visit with me, while the other two yelled at the fence, not even noticing that if they turned they would get to the open gate.  I gave them time to decide to shut off the mouths and turn on the brains, but they wouldn’t so I eventually called them, and when each responded, gently guided her closer to the gate until she woke up and noticed she was where they enter and leave.  Both girls eventually figured it out and raced in to their water bowl – all that yelling makes a girl thirsty, you know.  Miss Pink & Mr. Blue ambled in when in insisted that they should.  All four collapsed by the gate.  All that exercise and thinking wears a pup out. 

As I went back and forth with the other dogs, doing ball sessions, I had to chuckle.  There was NO activity in the puppy yard.  For a while, the most I’d see was one eye opening for a few seconds to note us passing.  Eventually they began playing some and by lunchtime were their usual selves.

I have decreased the amount of raw meat diet they receive in each meal to 3/8#; in a couple of days I will decrease it to ½#.  I am now soaking ¾ cup of kibble for each meal and adding ¾ cup dry kibble before mixing in the raw meat diet.  I have also reduced Hesed’s meals to three a day and begun gradually reducing the amount per meal as she begins to wean them.  She is telling me she wants away for them more, so I let her away from them an extra time today and tonight didn’t put her in with them until they were done with their indoor playtime and we were ready to clean the puppy house and put them to bed.

They definitely told me today that they want to come inside often, every time I went past gathering at the gate and soliciting attention.  Tonight, before I brought in them into the living room, I set up the Puppy Adventure Box.  The Puppy Adventure Box consists of a pvc pipe frame from which a variety of articles are hung.  Pieces of garden hose, paint brushes, metal paint cans, a set of keys, flowerpots, cups pieces of pvc pipe, paint brushes and other items move and make a variety of noises, inviting puppies to chase, grab, bite, push through and generally have fun with them. The idea is to stimulate the puppies, get their brains working, and desensitize them to moving things – especially things touching and bumping them, having to push things out of the way, and various noises. 

I put new toys out, and scattered tiny pieces of my salmon treats on the floor, mainly inside the Puppy Adventure Box and in the pile of toys.  These treats are quite smelly so are a great way to introduce training treats to the puppies and get them to begin searching and using their noses in an organized manner.

Then I went outside to bring them in.  They poured out through the gate with enthusiasm and could hardly wait for our potty session before heading inside.  I started showing them how to go up the ramp onto the landing, which is a hard entrance for puppies to understand.  I got them started, then grabbed two and walked up it myself, putting them through the doggie door and returning quickly to ground level to get the other two.  They followed me to the living room and immediately began investigating the toys and Puppy Adventure Box.  Then Miss Green’s head went down like someone had jerked it – she had found a salmon treat!  The others soon did the same and began actively searching, though she had the most intense and prolonged searching behavior tonight.

I hadn’t planned on taking photos tonight since I need to edit the Alzheimer’s Unit photos as soon as I can and get a CD of the photos to them, but I couldn’t resist.  I love to watch dogs use their noses with enthusiasm – and the natural desire to use their nose is a big priority in my breeding program.  I will compete in nosework with the pup I keep, Mr. Blue will compete in tracking as well as other venues, one other female will go for Search & Rescue, and perhaps Miss Purple will end up in competition using her nose.  Her long coat knocked her out of a placing with a SAR handler who had been interested, but she still should go to a working home.

I had to laugh at Mr. Blue – he must have had a LONG day because his left ear was half down tonight.  It will probably be back up in the morning.  I love this stage of puppy development because those ears often change by the hour. 

As they tired, I put down my target table, which I had in the living room in order to work Justice.  The target table, one of Dave Kroyer’s tools, is a 2′ x 4′ x 6″ table covered with indoor/outdoor carpet that we use with our beginning nosework and obedience training.  For nosework, it is used to teach the pups to work away from us and to come back for reward.  That translates later to searching independently and also coming away from the hides to be rewarded (rather than us reward at the hide and possibly contaminate it with dropped treats).  For obedience, we use it to train the dogs to go out and also to obey obedience commands (sit, down, stand, come) at a distance. 

Miss Pink was the only one to discover the treats I scattered on the table, but it was too high for her to figure out how to get onto it.  So I lifted her, then the others.  they had fun competing for the treats, though ever pup ended up falling off the table because they weren’t paying attention to their feet.  That’s another thing they have to learn – to know where their feet are.  That will come.  And hopefully, before they leave here, they will be big enough to get up onto the table to search for more treats.  That becomes a favorite game, which I keep “changing” on them to challenge them.

When only crumbs were left, I let Hesed out to clean up the last bits, then we headed outside, the pups racing down the hallway.  They can’t quite handle the house doggie door, which is not flush with the floor, so I lifted them out and then went outside myself, just in time to show them how to go down the ramp, which they did with very little hesitation.  Then I put the whole family in the puppy yard, cleaned the puppy house and all of us went to bed.

36 Days (12/1)  Big adventure for the pups today:  a visit to the Alzheimer’s Unit at Big Horn Rehab & Care (formerly Sheridan Manor).  A helper has been recruited; camera battery is charged; camera settings set for the nursing home; toy bag is packed, including paper towel for any potty accidents; bigger collars ready to put on the pups as we leave (if I do it ahead of time invariably someone gets theirs dirty by swimming in the water bowl or something).

I got up early so I could rotate all the dogs and be ready to start ball sessions earlier than usual – as soon as it was light – and thus finish early, in time to clean up and be ready for Michelle to arrive at 1:30.  By the time I get home from the visit, I felt like I’d already put in a full day’s work. 

While I was throwing the ball for Lively, Miss Pink and Miss Purple came all the way out to where my chair was and visited through the fence.  Miss Purple soon headed back to the puppy house, but Miss Pink stayed quite a while, chewing on my gloved hand as I stuck it through the fence.

A breeze came up and she became mesmerized by a grass frond and spent quite a while watching it and trying to leap up and grab it.  When she finally gave up, she visited with me for a while before heading back to the others.

That breeze quickened and became quite warm, so by 10:30 a.m. the temperature was 75 degrees.  75?  In December?  That’s a first.  I turned off the heater in the puppy house.  Then I turned off the furnace in my house.  The morning had been quite brisk so I began with a heavy coat, then switched to a light coat.  Then discarded that coat.  When the temperature got to 75, even the sweatshirt over my tennis shirt was too warm.  I kept the sweatshirt on my chair in case the temperature dropped, but incredibly it didn’t.  This has to be a record for capricious Wyoming weather!  At one point the thermometer said 78. 

I thought maybe we could do the puppy visit to the Alzheimer’s Unit, which is at 2 p.m., in their enclosed courtyard where the pups would have so much more room to play.  The wind got pretty strong, though, and the temperature dropped to 70.  Too much chill factor for the residents to be outside.

I fed the pups their lunch early, at 11:45 a.m., so they could nap and potty, and nurse on Hesed, before time for us to leave.  I finished the last ball session just before 12:30.  After Cantor and Justice cooled off for 20 minutes, I fed all the big dogs and then put Hesed out with the pups.

Michelle came at 1:30 to help me walk them around to the car, load them, and then to keep them corralled during the visit.  When the pups used to go to the senior daycare, I took an ex-pen to block off an area, and several volunteers to “close” the other gaps.  But with dementia patients you can’t do any confining.  The pups tend to want to follow everyone down the hall – and it seems like a million staff members just have to come “check with the nurse” while we’re there.  I usually have two helpers but with covid protocols I can only bring one, so Michelle will be pretty busy.

The pups had about an hour with Hesed before time to go to the Alzheimer’s Unit.  Michelle came just as I was loading the toy bag and camera into the car.  We let the pups out of the puppy yard and took a few minutes to exchange collars.  That, and walking to the car, allowed everyone to potty.  I was pleased with them: no one peed during the visit!

I let Hesed “help” us walk them to the car so she knew where they went, then left her in that front yard so she could watch for us and see us come home.  The first visit is tough on the moms, but they soon relax. 

The pups were a great hit at the Alzheimer’s Unit.  Staff members brought in several residents from the general population to also enjoy the pups, so the room was full.  We let the pups play and wear off some excitement before Michelle and staff members began putting them in resident’s laps so they could pet them.  The pups did great, accepting all the handling and having to hold still.  They lasted for a good 45 minutes before starting to get whiny and, when put down, looking for a good place to snooze.  Then we loaded them and I took them home. 

Sure enough, Hesed was at the gate when we pulled in.  The pups were glad to see her; she was glad to see them.  I put them in the front yard with her while I quickly crated the dogs who had had the run of the house and back area while I was gone.  Then we walked the pups around to the puppy yard and the family went inside.

Since they ate lunch early, I fed them supper a little early.  Of course, they have the bowl of dry kibble in the puppy house, but with this warm weather they aren’t going into it much except when I feed them.  Today the temperature got up to 78 for a short while, before more clouds rolled in and the wind stiffened. 

As usual, I took Hesed out when I fed the pups.  I left her in her crate until bedtime.  It was still 65 when I put her in with them for the night and changed fleece pads and a couple of newspapers.

I got a text tonight from Joy, who is the chief nurturer for the unit, saying, “Thank you so much again for all you do.  The residents again loved the visit and still are talking about how great the puppies were.”

35 Days (11/30)  Mr. Blue’s left ear is up this morning!!!!

As I rotated dogs out for breakfast and potty/playtime after being crated during the night, I cleaned the whelping room, scrubbed the whelping bed and swept and mopped the floor.  Then, during the cooling off periods between ball sessions, I packed the fleece pads and felt strips into storage tubs and carried them and the toy tubs into the whelping room.  Amazing how much larger the living room looks without all that puppy stuff!

We managed to get through Hesed’s ball time and the poop details (yards plus puppy yard) without Hesed bouncing around and twisting her foot some more.  She wasn’t real pleased when I refused to throw her ball during her morning ball time and barely kicked it as we played our usual “keep away” game while I searched for poop, but she didn’t twist and aggravate her foot.  Yes!!

I was pleased to see the squirrels busy on the peanut feeders while Hesed was crated during everyone else’s ball sessions.  I didn’t see them when I put her back out with the pups after lunch.

The pups were frequently at the gate as I came and went with the other dogs during their ball sessions.  As soon as Hesed’s foot is okay, I will let them out during her ball times so they can explore a larger area.  Justice will not be pleased to miss his first fun time of the day.  He would love to be out with the pups but he’s too rough.

The pups are becoming more active, though I still don’t see them carrying the toys I have in the puppy yard for them. The toys will be in different places each morning when I do poop detail in the puppy yard, but I’m yet not seeing wild games.  They did, during Cantor’s ball session, come all the way to where my chair was set!  I visited with them – and gave lots of praise for their bravery – during Cantor’s breath-catching breaks.  Justice had a hard time remembering his part of the play session – grabbing Cantor’s one ball as he dropped it and raced the other direction for the second ball I threw.  That’s a game Justice invented and loves, but today he kept going to the fence to visit puppies instead of bringing the ball to me before Cantor raced towards me, expecting me to be ready to throw the ball the other direction.  I had to keep intercepting Justice at the fence and taking the ball he was showing the pups.

The puppies got their evening playtime – without the “tunnel.”  I still had to move Justice’s crate to get Miss Green when it was time for them to go outside, but that was sure easier than moving the couch and stacked tubs!  She just likes her cozy nap niches, I guess.

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s diary that her new game when I take their meals out to them is to try to beat me into the puppy house, rather than hide and dart in as I leave.  Sometimes she has to work to beat the others inside, but she seems to enjoy the challenge. 

I’m still soaking ½ cup of kibble for each meal, but today I began adding ½ cup dry kibble along with the ½# raw meat diet and then stirring everything together.   They’re either cleaning up the lot or just leaving a few pieces of kibble for Hesed.

While they were inside tonight, I trimmed toenails.  That was an adventure.  Last weekend I had intended to have either Cassandra or Claudia to hold them while I trimmed nails, but I forgot.

I also weighed and wormed the pups.  Miss Green continues to be the largest, at 11.3#, but just barely:  Mr. Blue weighed in at 11.2#.  Next was Miss Pink at 9.7#, then Miss Purple at 9.1#.  Miss Purple, with all that fuzz, sure looks like the largest pup, but looks are deceiving.

The pups enjoyed playing in the living room and, alternately, cuddling with me, for about 45 minutes.  Once they tired, I carried them out to the puppy house.  I gave them about 45 minutes to rest before I took out their supper. 

Last thing tonight, I cleaned the puppy house.  Thankfully, they were too intent on following Hesed for a nursing session to interfere with the paper changing.  As I began the gradual weaning process, I kept Hesed away from the more during the day today and will gradually increase the time I crate her in the house in the daytime.  Next week she’ll only be in with them at night, thought she will frequently visit to nurse and nurture them for short periods.  The following week she will no longer be with them all night.

After they did so well not pottying in the puppy house yesterday, twice today a poop greeted me when I took out a meal.  Oh, well, we’ll keep working on potty training.  At least both time I was able to grab the paper with the poop before pups came barreling in to eat.

Hesed’s foot is much better tonight.  What a relief!!!

34 Days (11/29)  Mr. Blue’s right ear is totally up and his left ears is well on its way up this morning! 

He must have been feeling pretty full of himself because, when I went into the puppy yard to do poop detail, he was so underfoot that I could barely walk – and he kept trying to climb into the poop bucket when I put it down as I tried to pick up a puppy poop.  Miss Green did the same thing for a short time but soon noticed Hesed lying down nursing the other two and zoomed over there.  I had left Hesed in her crate the entire time I was rotating all the others out of their crates for breakfast, because I go to Tongue River Elementary this morning for Reading Dog and we won’t do ball sessions.  I had hoped putting her in the yard at the same time I entered would give me peace for poop detail, but it wasn’t until I headed to the area they hadn’t yet explored that Mr. Blue finally peeled off and went to nurse.

Since the weather is nice, all the other dogs will be outside while I’m gone and get to enjoy some marrow bones (the butcher calls them “pipes”).  Lively will be in the house and tiny yard between the deck and the puppy yard, while Hopeful and Justice will be in the rest of the back yard.  Since Hesed would feel left out, watching them enjoy their bones, I put three into the puppy yard.  Three?  Well, the pups will be intrigued by the bones so with three, Hesed can chew in peace while the pups compete for the others.  The pups won’t do much actual eating because the bones are frozen – that way the big dogs spend more time getting the marrow out so it occupies them all day – but the pups will have a ball with the new experience.

They are eating so well that today I began adding some dry kibble to the soaked kibble.  And I began mixing the meat in rather than put it on top of the kibble.  The pups had no problem at all with the change.  Now, each day, I will have proportionally more kibble to meat as I gradually prepare them to go to their homes and be content with no raw meat diet (so few people will feed it, unfortunately.) 

As the day proceeded, Hesed seemed to get more and more lame and sore.  I managed to get her in to see the vet this afternoon – sometimes difficult on a Monday.  Palpation showed nothing, the swelling was minor and an x-ray showed nothing broken.  What a relief.  We decided it would be safe to give her some Vetprofen for 2 – 3 days.  I hate to give them anything while they are lactating, but she was so uncomfortable (how much was real pain and how much was Hesed being Hesed, my drama queen, is hard to tell).  Dr. Karen had done some research about the safety of pain relivers while a bitch is lactating (since some meds go into the milk and to the pups), and decided it was safe for her to have Vetprofen a couple of days.  And, of course, I’m to keep her quiet, hard to do when she’s outside with the pups.  I’m just hoping the squirrels concentrate on the far-away peanut feeder instead of close one that she guards.

As soon as we finished at the vet’s, I raced to pick up my raw meat diet shipment that had been supposed to arrive Wednesday but had been “lost” in transit.  Usually FedEx is dependable but not this time, so Jocie from Muddy Pawprints and I worried all weekend, and I rationed what meat I had so that at least the pups and Hesed got some before more came.  It finally arrived this afternoon and Jocie said it seemed okay, just slightly thawed.  But that meant I had to get it and get it in my freezer before my 5 p.m. meeting. 

I managed that with 10 minutes to spare before heading to my meeting, for which I could not be late as I had the keys to the meeting place.  By the time I got home, I was too bushed to bring the puppies in and deal with their tunnel games and having to move heaven and earth to get them when it was time to go outside.  Tomorrow I will clean the puppy room and move all the puppy toy and bedding storage tubs from the living room into the whelping room.  Then the pups can play under the couch all they want because I can get to them!

I was very pleased tonight, when I went into the puppy house to clean it, that no one had peed on the fleece mat, and there was only one yellow spot on the papers. Fantastic!  They are starting to go away from “den” to potty.  They hadn’t quite cleaned up their supper so Hesed finished it while I changed papers.  I found it interesting that none of the puppies came in to visit.  They came to the gate, though as I left so I visited a bit and checked to make sure they were dry and warm, since a light rain was falling and the temperature was barely above freezing – a change from the last several very warm days.  All were good.  I was able to go to bed with an easy mind.

33 Days (11/28)  All was quiet during the night, no noise from Hesed that I might need to investigate in case a pup was in trouble. 

Hesed greeted me at the gate, then the pups came sleepily out, too.  I was surprised, when I took the puppies’ breakfast out first thing this morning, to find the bowl of dry kibble totally empty.  I let Hesed out and then took the bowls into the puppy house, again calling the puppies.  Miss Pink raced inside, but the others were yelling at the gate, probably because Hesed, instead of wandering off or heading into the house to look for her breakfast, stayed right there.  She was holding up a foot like she had twisted it as she dodged pups to jump over the bottom gate.  I had to go open the gate and lift puppies out and then put the three of them into the puppy house, where they fell upon the bowls with gusto. 

I was pleased to see that they had eaten the dry kibble rather than spread it all over the floor.  When I returned to turn off the light, I took the big bowl with 4 cups of dry kibble, placed it in the corner, and put the rock in it. 

I crated Hesed for about an hour to make her rest her foot, then put her back in with the pups until time for ball sessions.  She seemed okay when she came out of the gate for her ball session (I opened the whole thing, not asking her to jump over the low part – and managed to get it shut before Mr. Blue accompanies us.)  Rather than throwing it, we just did the “I kick and she tries to block” game and started poop detail right away – that’s when she plays that game.  Unfortunately, the ball rolled into a corner and she tried to paw it loose, and yelped.    No more games at all then.  Naturally, it’s Sunday so I’ll have to wait until in the morning to call the vet and see if I can give her any Vetprofen or something.  It’s so complicated when they’re pregnant or lactating.  She was content to stretch out in her crate and rest while I did the other ball sessions, but when I let her out, she was limping.  I can’t control her activity when she’s with the puppies, so I sure hope the squirrels have already gotten all the peanuts they want for today.

Miss Green seems to have invented a teasing game.  Every time I take a meal out for the pups, she refuses to come into the puppy house with the others when I call.  At lunch I got worried enough to go into the puppy yard and start looking for her in the lounge area and yard because she wasn’t even in the transition area.  About the time I was ready to have a heart attack, I decided to check the puppy house in case she was in there.  Sure enough, she was eating away.  She must have been hiding in the lounge area and scooted in and through the transition area while I was climbing over the bottom gate.  The little stinker.  When I took supper out, I quit calling after the other three got to the bowls and left. If she doesn’t come, she’ll miss her meal.  Her choice.  Out of the corner of my eye, as I shut the door, I saw her enter the puppy house.  

I finally finished getting all the photos from the six days of Enrichment Exercises on the website.  Hurrah! 

I got that done just in time to change clothes and head for Mass.  I had planned to bring the puppies in for some playtime, but by the time I got home from Mass, I was bushed.  It won’t hurt them to have a day off.           

I am feeling incredibly blessed by the weather during the puppies’ transition to the outdoors. The pups are sure enjoying it!  This morning it was 45 degrees when I woke up at 5 a.m.  The temperature got up, again, into the 60’s during the day.  Tonight at 9, when I left them after cleaning the puppy house (and having a little love-in), the temperature was still 60.  Incredible Wyoming weather for late November!!!

32 Days (11/27)  Mr. Blue’s left ear is starting to come up this morning!  Miss Pink’s ears are also starting to come up.

I gave them 1/2# of the raw meat diet this morning and they again licked the bowls clean.  Since they’ll be outside with plenty of room to poop without making a mess of the whelping room, I soaked ½ cup of puppy kibble to add to their lunch.

As soon as it was light outside, I put Hesed and the pups out.  The pups had about an hour with Hesed before I finished rotating the rest of the big dogs out of their crates for potty and breakfast.  After I did Hesed’s ball session, I put her in the crate while I did the rest of the dog’s morning playtimes.

I noticed this morning, when I went to fill the whole-peanut feeder, that the squirrels and blue jays had not been emptying it the last couple of days as usual.  Hesed is a devoted squirrel hunter, so I have a feeling she has been entertaining herself during the day when she is outside with the puppies.  I have a second whole-peanut feeder, so this morning I filled it and put it out as far as possible from the puppy yard, where I have seen the squirrels going through the trees.

When I finished Hopeful & Justice’s play session, he immediately headed to the puppy yard to see if his buddies were out.  They came out of the transition area when they saw him and slowly came to the gate to touch noses.  I went over and talked to them, putting my gloved fingers through the fence to pet them.  Miss Green was hesitant at first but soon joined the others, so I made a big deal out of petting her before I headed into the house.

My friend Claudia, came this morning to play with the pups.  I am so disgusted with myself:  I took off the external flash attachment as some of last night’s photos seem too light in color, and, while I changed the ISO setting and speed, I forgot to change the white balance setting from flash to fluorescent light.  It took me a while to realize why the photos weren’t of a good color.  I may have to photoshop a bunch of them, and some may not be usable.  Grrr…                 

The puppies had a great time playing with Claudia.  Then all but Mr. Blue played “tunnel” under the couch – and eventually fell asleep.  He lounged between Claudia and me for all the world looking like he was enjoying hanging out with humans instead of his siblings.  He is quite the social guy!

Calling the pups accomplished getting Miss Purple to come out, so I carried her and Mr. Blue out to the puppy house.  Then I again had to move everything to get to the puppies to put them outside.  I even tried getting Hesed out of her crate and urging her to squeeze as much as she could behind the couch and the chair so that perhaps they would smell her, wake up and come out.  That worked with Miss Pink, but for Miss Green I had to move even more stuff than last night to get to her.  I sure hope, by the time we have our next visitor, that they are living permanently outside so that I can move all the storage tubs into the whelping room and eliminate the inaccessible areas they seem to really like.

For lunch, I first put the soaked kibble in the bowls, then placed the raw meat diet on top.  When I returned with Hesed after about 30 minutes, they had left only a few pieces of kibble.  They had about 15 minutes to nurse before it was time for the big adventure of the day, a car ride to Denise’s house and play time there with her and Marlene.  They had had plenty of time to potty, so I didn’t try to walk them around the house to the car but instead carried two at a time and put them in two crates in the car, then put Hesed in another crate.  They were quiet until I got into the car after closing the puppy yard gate and letting some big dogs out to play while we were gone; then they yelled the whole way to Denise’s.  I can never sneak up on anyone on those first car rides!

I usually take my litters to Denise’s to meet dogs of other breeds – Denise has a Sheltie and a Cockapoo and Marlene has a lab mix, but the pups are too young.  In fact, I usually do not begin car rides and visits until the pups are five weeks old.  Since they’re are only 4.5 weeks, I took Hesed to make sure their first ride and experience off my place was a positive one.  And it was!  They were a little unsure at first, but Denise lay on the ground and invited them to climb on her, and they accepted rapturously.  Marlene came a little later, and then they began having double the fun and spoiling.  Mr. Blue was his usual social self, while Miss Pink did a little exploring on her own.  Marlene and Denise fell in love with Miss Purple, who I am now convinced is a long coat.  She is SO cute.  We especially enjoyed watching her go away from us, with her cute fuzzy butt wiggling and tail wagging.  All the pups followed Hesed quite a ways away from us as she investigated things or barked at people going by (lots more activity in town than at our place).  And she even found a squirrel to chase! Marlene and Denise gave her lots of praise for raising such a beautiful family.  She soaked up all the adulation and was quite happy.  She loves praise.

All of us had a ball. The pups lasted about 40 minutes before they began crashing one by one, Miss Pink the last to give up.  We three humans sat and watched them – it’s so peaceful to watch sleeping puppies – until the puppies began to pile against each other, indicating they were getting chilled.  We loaded them in the car and I headed home, accompanied by little, muted vocal protests.

I unloaded them and walked them around the side of the house to the puppy pen, their first experience of the route we will take every time they go somewhere.  I had to keep calling Hesed back so that they would see her and learn that they are to follow when I walk and call, “Puppy!  Puppy!  Puppy!”, which up to now they have only heard when I bring their food.  Hopefully this will help get them to the car without Hesed so we make it to the Alzheimer’s Unit on time Tuesday.  My friend Michelle is coming to help load them and help with the visit, and that will help, too, but sometimes trying to get litters somewhere is like herding cats.

The three girls followed pretty well, but Mr. Blue would not come at all.  I finally gave up and concentrated on getting the girls to the puppy house and put them inside; then Hesed and I returned to look for Mr. Blue.  We found him by the gate, crying.  He was quite glad to see us and, this time, eager to follow.  In fact, he followed so closely underfoot that I had an awful time walking.  We finally made it to the puppy house and I put him, and Hesed, inside.  Then I went inside and untied the doggie door flap so that once the day cools off, the house will stay warm. The flap will remain slightly curled from being tied up for a couple of days, leaving a little crack around the edges so it’s easy for the puppies to push through.  Soon they will hit it as they barrel in or out, but now it’s one more thing to learn.

Tonight, when I took out their supper, they came out of the transition area to the gate.  I let Hesed out, stepped into the puppy house, put down the bowls and tried calling them to come in on their own.  I was amazed when they all came barreling in, led by Miss Pink.  WOW!  Smart puppies.  It usually takes a day or two for them to figure out to turn away from the gate and come to me through the doggie doors into the transition area and then into the puppy house.  They seemed to have no problem being outside in the dark, still another adventure today.

I left the light on in the puppy house while I gave them about 20 minutes to eat.  When I put Hesed in with them, Miss Purple and Miss Green were inside, lounging on the fleece pad. 

The pups cleaned up their supper, including all of the soaked kibble, so I put a bowl of dry kibble down, mainly because I wouldn’t feed Hesed her late super anymore, but also in case the pups need more on this, their first night outdoors – one more attraction to get them to go into the puppy house.  Miss Purple and Miss Green immediately headed to it and began munching, soon joined by Mr. Blue who came in through the doggie door.  Miss Pink came inside just as I put Hesed in and left, turning off the light.

 I usually use a big bowl and put a rock in it to keep them from playing with the bowl, tipping it over and wasting food, but I thought, “These pups are too small; they won’t bother it.”  But Miss Purple and Miss Green lay down close to it and pulled it away from the corner so they had more room to comfortably munch, so in the morning I will change to the big-bowl-and-rock arrangement.

31 Days (11/26)  The room wasn’t quite so trashed when I went in this morning.  They must have been too tired last night to get into much trouble.  They have been awful about dragging the fleece pads off the ramp area, even with my tucking one end under the edge of the ramp to anchor it.  This morning I decided to try something different.  Instead of putting the big fleece pad, doubled, in the back of the whelping box, I put it flat out on the incline of the ramp and then as far into the whelping bed as it would go.  Putting the big fleece pad to cover the ramp and extend partway into the whelping bed worked a treat, so I will continue doing that. 

52 degrees at 6 a.m. this morning!  WOW!  But, by the time I started ball sessions at 9 a.m., heavy clouds had moved I and the temperature dropped to 45.  While I did Hesed’s ball session, I decided to put the pups out immediately.  Thank goodness I fixed up her crate this morning – if she barks while the other dogs have their ball sessions, I can crate her. Cantor had begged to have her crate when she moved into the whelping room.  It’s his “old” crate and became Berakah’s crate when she kept having strokes and got progressively weaker.  Hers had been on top and she just began having trouble going up the steps onto my bed and then into it, so I switched the two.  She hated the bottom crate, missing being able to see me when I sat on the bed (or slept).  For weeks I had to use special treats to get her to go into it.  Funny how they will like/dislike different things.  When she died, I left Cantor in the top crate and moved Hesed from the living room into the bottom crate.  That bottom one is more like a den, so evidently Cantor prefers it.  Hesed, since her cruciate surgery, has been reluctant to get on the bed to cuddle so I knew asking her to move into the top crate would be stressful, something you don’t want with a nursing mother, so I moved Spirit into that one and hadn’t yet cleaned out her one in the living room. Hesed destroys dog beds, so I needed to remove Spirit’s nice dog bed (I had given her a different one in her new crate) and put in one of my indestructible raised beds.  As I cleaned this morning, I happened to get all that done.  Fantastic timing!

Mr. Blue and Miss Pink happened to be closest to the gate so I picked them up first and carried them to the puppy house.  I hurried back for the other two, but even so, the first two were already outside.  They learned the route outside yesterday, obviously.  In case Miss Green and Miss purple didn’t learn how to get out, I sprinkled some treats on the puppy house floor as I let Hesed in.  When I closed the door, she was munching away, so Miss Green and Miss Purple could easily follow her out when she left.

I waited about ten minutes – started writing up today’s diary entry – to give the pups a chance to enjoy Hesed’s company and leadership, before I headed out with Hopeful and Justice for their fifteen-minute play session.  Hesed spent their playtime walking back and forth between where I was sitting in my chair, placed against the puppy yard fence, and her pups.  On one trip, she was followed by Mr. Blue.  He got about halfway to me before decided that was too far from safety, but instead of going all the way back to the other pups, he wandered around investigating the Igloo dog houses and the north-facing lounge area.  Hesed spent her time going back to him when he got lonely and cried, and then back to where the action was.            

When the play session was up, I meandered back to the house, making sure that Mr. Blue followed Hesed back to the familiar part – the transition area and front gate.  He actually made it to the front of the puppy yard before I got there!  I left Hesed with her pups during the seven-minute cooling off period for Hopeful and Justice, crated them and then brought her in to her crate as I was sure she’d make more noise when the others played.  Hopeful and Justice are her buddies and she always hung out with them before this litter, so I figured she wouldn’t get too upset watching them, but I’m sure we’d get some momma-dog-is-dominant-and should-be-playing-instead-of-you fence-running if she was out for other play periods.

I checked on the pups when I went out with the next dog, Spirit, and all were in the transition area, except for Miss Green who was just outside it under the ramp that lets the mother dogs get on top of the lounge area roof to get away from babies.  Before the pups leave, they figure out how to climb the ramp onto the roof, and the moms give me VERY mournful looks.

Very interesting November weather:  the clouds were moved away by a warm breeze and the sun came out weakly, the was replaced by high cloud cover so the day never got bright.  Temperatures went up into the low 60’s.  Fantastic day for puppies!

Hesed seemed very pleased to be back to normal – in her crate during ball exercises.  She enjoyed the time away from her babies.

I took the puppies’ lunch out to them and found it interesting that two were in the puppy house, lounging on the fleece pad, and two were at the gate looking for me (or, more probably, Hesed).  I was rushing as I was running late and had to be at Westview for a therapy dog visit very shortly, so I didn’t take time to note who was where.  I had finished the second sack of beef diet cubes when I set their lunch to thaw and I know there were a few more than I usually give them, but they cleaned up the lot.   Was glad it worked out that way because early this morning I hadn’t planned on them being outside without Hesed for three hours.  

After giving them 15 minutes to eat, I put Hesed into the puppy house (where three pups enthusiastically greeted her).  She disgustedly noted that the bowl there was empty and rushed out to check the second one, giving me a dirty look.  Note to self:  give her a little extra food at her early supper.

I am EXTREMELY pleased that they have already figured out how to go into the puppy house from outside.  With dogs, it is never a given that, once the figure something out – such as going out the puppy house to the outdoors, that they will necessarily understand how to go back into the puppy house from outside.  Those are totally separate actions, and at this time of year I must be sure they can go inside to warm up if they get chilled before I can let them stay outside all night or when I’m gone for any length of time. 

My friend, Cassandra, came this afternoon to play with the pups.  We went outside to get them and I was very pleased that all four came bounding out the gate when I opened it – no hesitation like yesterday.  We visited for a few minutes to give nay who needed to pee a chance to do that, then we carried them into the house and on to the living room, where they have never been.  I put out a few small toys and one big one, then I moved as far away as possible so I could take photos.  Some litters are a little tentative in this new experience, but these pups immediately started exploring and playing – and visiting with Cassandra.  They thought she was pretty cool.  “Grandma” doesn’t have time to sit down and just give them attention for an hour, and they loved Cassandra’s doing that.  They also enjoyed greeting Justice and Hopeful in their crates.  Justice, at 5 months, is having his first experience of babies and he is fascinated.  He has been spending a lot of time visiting with them through the fence.  Now the tables were turned and he was the confined one and they were coming to touch noses with him. 

I think I got photos of every single pup packing a toy around.  Nice, deep bites on the toys, too.  Good kids!

Mr. Blue’s right ear is starting to come up!  I love it when the ears start changing; it seems like the pups have a different “look” every hour or so.  I think he was the one tried to go over the table rung and got high-centered.  After some vocalizing – he was insulted that it “grabbed” him, he managed to get his rear over and went running to Hesed for praise.  I’m disappointed I didn’t get a photo, but too many dogs were in the way. 

Miss Purple made up a game I have never seen pups play.  At the beginning, she was fascinated by the space under the couch and crawled under to stretch out.  Soon she began to explore and discovered that there was a way to go all the way under the couch and then around to the bac of Justice’s crate.  She had a great time popping out, saying hi, then going back into her “tunnel.” 

When the pups began to crash, Cassandra and I sat and visited for a while.  The girls crawled under the couch, while Mr. Blue settled between Cassandra and me as if he liked company during his rest.  I finally left them and snuck down the hallway to the whelping room.  What a joy to change floor papers without bodies in the way!  Then we carried them back to the whelping room and left them to nap, which they did for quite a while.  We had to move the couch and the tubs of puppy toys and bedding so that I could get to Miss Pink.

Later, when I took supper in, they tried to convince me they needed another cuddle session like with Cassandra.  I regretfully told them I needed to feed the other dogs.  I gave the 3/8# of the raw meat diet bars.  I thought I had been feeding that amount of the cubes, but they cleaned the bowls so thoroughly that Hesed didn’t bother to even lick them.  Of course, I may have actually given them their usual amount, but today was quite the day of adventures and they may have been hungrier.  I will try giving them more for breakfast. 

When I went in last thing to totally change the room, we had a nice cuddle session.  I finally got the room cleaned, pups happy with enough loving for the day, and left them for the night.

30 Days (11/25)  The pups are so funny now.  They start yelling for breakfast as soon as they hear me coming.  Even though I already have their breakfast ready, they let me know I take too long to I let Hesed out of the room, turn on the light and bring it. When I go into the room, they race all over like crazy, often in circles, so excited that their meal is coming.  Then, as I put the bowls down and talk to them, they can’t decide whether to eat or visit with me.  Finally they head to the bowls and I leave quietly.

Thank goodness, they were a little more mellow when I returned fifteen minutes later to clean their room.  It still took forever.  They are packing papers around and lately, shredding pieces off, as well as moving the flannel strip and repositioning the papers under it.  What a mess!  I can hardly wait for them to move outside.

Today the temperature was 60 degrees when I finished ball sessions and put them outside about 12:30 p.m.  This time I put their lunch in the puppy house. When I took the bowls out, I tied up the doggie door flap (closed when they went back into the house yesterday to keep the heat in) and even turned the thermostat down on the milk house heater because the day was so nice.  We didn’t even have any bright sunshine to deter them from exploring.  I then carried them out two at a time and put them in the house. 

This was their first time outside without Hesed, and even though it was only 15 minutes, they let me know they were displeased.  None remembered how to go through the doggie door, into the transition area and outside, so when I took Hesed out they were still in the puppy house.  They had cleaned up all their lunch so she didn’t have a reason to hesitate to eat (so that they noticed her and could follow) but headed outside – and they were still yelling at me and missed the going-out lesson.  I let her out the gate and back into the puppy house, and she whipped back through the doggie door, transition area and into the outside so fast that they yelling puppies missed it – again.  I decided I was the distraction, so worked at sending Hesed back into the puppy house while I stayed outside the fence.  She got the idea and went on her own through the transition area, doggie door and into the puppy house.  That did the trick!  The pups focused on her and then followed her to the outside.

I left them outside until about 3:30, just before I left for Thanksgiving dinner at some friends’ house.  Interestingly, they were in the transition area.  Yesterday, when it was much cooler and sunny, they were out in the open; today, when it was much nicer and overcast, they were in the transition area.  Instead of stepping over the bottom gate (all my dog gates are in two pieces so that I can still open them if we have snow and ice, and also so I can keep puppies in or out and yet the mother dog and/or I can maneuver as needed) and picking them up to bring them inside, as I did yesterday, I opened the gate and called them.  All were tentative, and it occurred to me that this was instinctive den behavior – the den is a safe place and wild coyote or wolf pups have to learn to make sure it’s safe before they venture out.  With a little coaxing, Miss Purple obviously summoned up her courage and came to me. Boy, was she proud of herself!  Soon afterwards, Miss Pink came.  Both got LOTS of praise and they ate it up, tails wagging madly.  I eventually picked them up and carried them into the house.  When I came back out, miss Green and Mr. Blue were solidly in the transition area and only poked their noses out under that flap, which I had tied up only about halfway to try to keep the transition area warmer than the outdoors.  Mr. Blue came out, went back in, then couldn’t stand it and responded to my coaxing “puppy, puppy, puppy” call and came out a step or two, while Miss Green turned back into the area.  All this time Hesed was hovering close by.  I finally crouched down, called Hesed to me and talked to her while continuing to call the pups.  It took a couple of minutes, but it’s very important for working dogs not to rescue them, but to let them think their way through things that worry them.  When both came to me, we had another praise party before I picked them up.  I continued praising them as I carried them into the house and put them into the whelping room. I only stopped when I put Hesed in with them and then turned to leave. 

As I left, Miss Purple tried to climb out the gate that keeps them from getting to the doorway of the room, obviously wanting to go back out to the large area.  Miss Pink had done that last night when I brought them in, but I thought it was because she didn’t want me to leave.  Tonight she soon joined Miss Purple at the gate and both were yelling as I, finally, left.  Good thing I had budgeted plenty of time; I even made it to my friend’s house a few minutes early.

They left more than usual of their supper – must have been full of fresh air and adventures.  And they weren’t quite as wild last thing tonight when I cleaned their room – nor was it the mess I found this morning. 

I finished editing the 29-day-old photos, so I will try to get them on the website tomorrow and finish the “Enrichment Experiences” page.

29 Days (11/24)  Wouldn’t you know – it was snowing this morning, with wild snow squalls predicted.  I was afraid there went my plans to have the pups spend some time in the puppy house/yard today.  I finished setting everything up anyway, and if the weather is miserable just planed on tomorrow being their first day outside.  It’s supposed to be nicer. 

Since they weren’t guaranteed an outside adventure today, I looked around for new things to put in their room to investigate:  a metal coffee can and a jelly roll pan, both of which roll when touched, and a muffin tin which will be interesting to walk through.  They definitely liked the “rollers.”  I also brought in some “outdoor” things for them to sniff and wonder about – a couple of little plastic flower pots and a plywood board which I set on some 2” x 12” wood blocks.  They were still awake so I actually got photos of all of them checking out the new items.


See all the photos from today’s Enrichment Exercise

The weather was miserable enough when it was time to start ball sessions that I cancelled them. 

I finished setting up the puppy house, put the 5-gallon (for Hesed) and 1-gallon (for pups) heated water bowls out plus a water bowl inside the puppy house and tied up the doggie door flap to encourage the pups to move out of the house and through the enclosed transition area to begin exploring. 

In the puppy house, besides a big fleece pad that helps the new place seem familiar, I have an old fiberglass crate that I put a blanket in to provide a cozy nest.  There is room for Hesed to stretch out and nurse the pups, though most of the mothers prefer to take them to the lounge area.

The transition area from the big puppy house to the yard has two doggie doors; the pups can choose, once they come out of the puppy house, to turn left into the lounge area or right to a small outdoor area where there is a gate looking towards the deck.  The lounge area is a three-sided, south-facing roofed area that offers a place in the summer to stretch out in the shade or when it’s raining without going into the puppy house; in winter, a protected, sunny spot away from the snow.  I also have two Igloo dog houses just east of the lounge area where the pups start exploring and sometimes need to rest a bit, plus the roof over the lounge area also juts an equal distance to the north, creating another sheltered place, but which does not have straw.  It’s more a play area (and they also like to poop there in bad weather).

See the big puppy yard

That done, I headed to the computer.  I finished editing yesterday’s photos, downsized all the best photos from each day, and created the “Enrichment Experiences” pages for the website.  I got two days’ worth of photos on each webpage. All I’ll have to do is finish editing today’s photos and get them up and the last page will be finished.  Now that the pups will be going outside and having visitors – someone is coming Friday and another person is coming Saturday, plus they go to the Alzheimer’s Unit on December 1st and Tongue River Elementary on December 6th – they will naturally be having all kinds of new experiences.  All the computer work took me until about 8 p.m. last night – and I declared the rest of the evening a holiday from photos!  Tomorrow I’ll, hopefully, get that done even though it’s Thanksgiving. 

The weather finally improved enough, with no more snow and even some watery sunshine, so once the puppies had lunch, I put them in the puppy house.  As soon as the puppies finished their lunch, I carried them out to the puppy house and let Hesed in with them.  By that time, it was 1:30 p.m. and 36 degrees.  I checked frequently to be sure all was well.  Soon all were outside with Hesed so it was easy to check through a window and not disturb them.  No one seemed to mind the chill, but then they were nursing frequently so I didn’t worry about them getting too cold.

Once they were outside, I cleaned the whelping room so it was ready for their return.  I left the family out until 3:30 p.m.  When I went out to retrieve pups, all greeted me at the gate (with Hesed).  I carried them inside, placed them in the whelping room and left them to relax and think about their afternoon’s experience

They weren’t quite as wild tonight when I cleaned the room.  They ran around a bit but spent more time cuddling than playing.  That usually happens; they are very happy to be outdoors where they can really run, though I didn’t see any of that today.  Today was the mind-blowing finding-out-how-big-and-fascinating-the- world-is day.  In a day or two, once they’re acclimated, they’ll be all over the yard, playing and exploring.  Soon they won’t want to go back into the small whelping room at all.  Each day I will leave them outside longer during the day, and one night I just won’t bring them inside.  After that they’ll come indoors every day for a playtime, but they will live outside.

28 Days (11/23)  The pups were WILD this morning!  It took me forever to get the room changed and clean so I could put down their enrichment objects and take photos.  Today they had serious frustration exercises.  I took sections of an ex-pen to form barriers.  Two sections closed off about ¾ of the opening to the bed.  Two others blocked most of the way between the two halves of the room.  These are great experiences because the pups have to figure out that standing, yelling, looking at the place they want to go does not do any good.  It teaches them to turn on their brains, turn away from the desired destination (VERY hard for pups to learn) and walk along the barrier to the edge.           

So that the day wasn’t totally frustrating, I put down some new toys.  Amazingly, the pups hadn’t worn themselves out totally so they started to play with the toys AND also went back and forth through the barriers – though not without some yelling – while I was taking photos!  I was very pleased to get a couple of series of photos of them figuring out how to turn aside to get where they wanted.  YES!

One series shows Miss Purple in the puppy bed trying to figure out the barrier when Hesed walks by – and the doubletake she does before smoothly negotiating the barrier and following Hesed.  As Hesed and she passed where Miss Green was hung up behind a barrier, Miss Green was able to figure it out.  So fascinating.

I even got photos of Miss Purple absconding with a newspaper!

Someone mentioned that I seem to mention Miss Pink more than the others and asked if I was going to keep her.  I admit that, right now, she is the most active, exploratory and adventuresome, but that can change as all of them get older.  I have often had a “sleeper,” that I thought was just going to be a pet, suddenly become quite active and do amazing catch-ups in development the last couple of weeks and then ace the temperament tests to be the pick working prospect.  I have no way of knowing if the ones who don’t do much in these photo sessions have been playing wildly shortly before I come in to photograph them and thus need a nap, or if they are just lower-key at this age.  Time will tell.  The only think I can say for certain is that if one of these early-bloomers consistently continues to show a lot of drive and exploratory behavior all through the seven or eight weeks it is here, it will probably be a really good working prospect.  So don’t dismiss the pups whom I don’t mention much in the diary at this age; they just turned 4 weeks old today and are still quite the babies.

Hesed, for some reason, didn’t eat much today.  She usually eats her breakfast while she hangs out with me during the fifteen minutes I give the pups to eat breakfast.  But not today.  She even acted nauseated.  I put her food bowl in the room when I finished cleaning, never thinking about any problem.  The pups found it and started eating her raw meat diet, which was fine with me.  But then, after I left, they munched on her kibble and dollop of yogurt.  BIG mistake!  Because the moms won’t clean up poop when they eat kibble, so later I entered the room to find poops that had to be cleaned up – and places where the pups had walked through a pop and spread it. Ugh!  Darn, my mistake.  Now, whether she likes it or not, her bowl will be placed in the little rest area between the room opening and the puppy area.

After Hesed’s ball session, I cleaned out the puppy house and turned on the heater.  I had been debating whether to put the pups in the “baby puppy” house and yard or the “big puppy” house and yard.  The baby puppy setup is just outside my bedroom window so I can hear if anyone gets lost or stressed and go out to get them back where they should be.  I usually move the pups to the “big puppy” setup when the mothers begin spending time away from the pups, because it is more secure from any coons coming it searching for food (the neighbors across that fence have a big pond and in drought years, when food is scarce, I have had coons come through my fences).  I decided this time to put the pups directly into the big puppy pen mainly because Hesed had to be shaved while we were monitoring her pregnancy, and the baby puppy house doesn’t have much room for her and pups, so I worried she might chill.

The pups were quite silly tonight; I think because when I went in to clean the room, I took out the barriers and they could RUN.  It’s really hard to change newspapers and put down flannel and felt pieces when you’re contending with a thundering herd.  Eventually they got all that out of their system and we had a nice cuddle session before all of us crashed for the night.


See all the photos from today’s Enrichment Exercise

27 Days (11/22)  They were WILD this morning, so wild that they wore themselves out before I finished changing the room.  Amazingly, Miss Pink did an about-face from her usual behavior and wanted to sit in my lap, cuddling and giving kisses without teeth.  Very nice change.  It was Mr. Blue who was the monster, grabbing hold of my pant leg and tugging as I sat visiting with the pups.

Eventually I got to start changing papers and cloths.  I noticed quite the puddle by the puppies’ water bowl.  No one was wet, so none had fallen in or tried to swim, but they sure made a mess, probably by bumping into it as they played.  Time to change to a higher water bowl. It shouldn’t faze them since I caught Miss Purple drinking from Hesed’s (high) bowl.  They can reach the water in it unless Hesed drinks a lot of it. 

One thing the Puppy Culture materials urge breeders to do is to help the pups learn to handle frustration from an early age.  A big suggestion is to have small barriers that the pups have to go over or around in order to get to their meals.  The last time I ordered the new fleece pad, which is 5’ wide, I asked them to cut the extra foot off (my whelping bed is 4’ x 4’) before they shipped it.  That 4’ x 1’ strip, rolled up and taped, made a nice barrier to try today.  It almost (but not quite) separated the initial area from the newer area.  There was a slight gap on one edge.  Miss Pink immediately investigated, climbed over it and then back.   Once I get home from Reading Dog at Tongue River Elementary, I will position it at the entrance to the puppy box so all of them go over it a lot.   

I also put a few small, soft toys in for them to mouth. It’s hard finding toys that the moms will ignore, but I have a few.  Miss Pink was the only one still awake when I finished, and immediately began playing with a small one, though she quickly switched to a big teddy bear.  Before she switched, though, she carried the little toy over and then back over the roll.  When I left, Miss Pink was still playing with it; in fact, she kept changing positions so she could better bite and dominate it.  She had super-deep bites and really used her body – fantastic at this age!  I called the other three.  Miss Purple had just enough energy to drag herself close to the toys before going back to sleep.  The other two didn’t even open an eye.

Since, when I took their lunch in, they were all lying on the ramp pad, I put the bowls down in the far part of the room on the other side of the fleece roll.  I called them and the pups raced excitedly towards the bowls.  They figured out how to get over the roll pretty easily. 

After they ate, I moved the roll to fit across the opening to the whelping bed and left it there until evening.  They left quite a few cubes at lunch so I grabbed some and added them to the ones thawing for supper.  With me gone all morning, Hesed probably hung out with them and they had a chance to nurse more than when there’s activity and she keeps going outside to check as I do ball sessions.  Tonight they cleaned up all but 2 cubes.

They weren’t quite so wild tonight, thank goodness, since I donated blood this afternoon – a double – and that always wipes me out.  We cuddled, they played as I changed the room, then all of us went to bed.


See all the photos from today’s Enrichment Exercise

26 Days (11/21)  They yelled for their breakfast again this morning, letting me know in no uncertain terms that they were NOT pleased that I was late.  It did no good to tell them that today was Sunday, a day of rest and I slept in a little because it took so long to clean their room last night that I was an hour late getting to bed.  “Not for you!” they said.  There were additionally displeased that I didn’t put down their food bowls as I let Hesed out of the room; instead, I let her out, went outside to gather up some of their “new experience” items and bring them inside to warm up before I put them in the room, then dished up their food and took it to them.  Poor starving puppies!

They were such monsters as I tried to clean the room that it took me forever.  I was quite relieved to finally finish and leave!  They are now running around and bucking.  It’s time to clean the heated puppy house and get the heater going for a couple of days to thoroughly warm it.  Wednesday I don’t have to go anywhere, so I’ll aim to have it all fixed up for them to spend at least a couple of hours outdoors then.

Today is plastic day.  I had some bubble warp, including one l-o-n-g strip, that I thought they might like to grab and carry – and will also provide a first experience of walking on unstable surfaces – and hearing weird “pops.”  And a plastic envelope, a bowl and two plastic containers for them to investigate – with lids so perhaps they’ll drag them around instead of newspaper sheets.  I also put down a Styrofoam piece that we use in beginning clicker-training classes when we’re teaching them to freely offer behaviors.  That will give them an experience of walking on top of something.

They are so fuzzy now that I can’t easily tell who does what.  I had an awful time editing yesterday’s photos as I kept having to look through a series of photos to figure out who was who so I could name the photos.  This morning I gave them larger collars.  That should help.

I turned the radio on low, tuned to the classic country station, and left it to play during the day.  Maybe a dose of the Sunday preachers will encourage them to treat me more nicely tonight when I clean the room again.

By the time I got the room clean, the little monsters had worn themselves out playing with the newspapers and tugging on the edges of the flannel strip, so I didn’t get many photos of them investigating the new items.  Miss Pink, however, still had energy and was fascinated by the bubble wrap.  She picked up an edge several times and thought of pulling it around but didn’t have the energy to really do much.

Miss Purple enjoyed investigating the plastic bowl, from a down position.  No use wasting any energy, I guess.  She did finally get up and mouth the plastic wrap some – and I actually caught a photo of her running towards it!  Mr. Blue and Miss Green then moseyed over and chewed some on the plastic wrap, too, then Miss Green checked out the bowl.

I never saw anyone playing with the plastic containers, but every time I entered the room something was in a different place, including the small plastic container, so I think they did a little dragging by the handle.  And they climbed over the training Styrofoam quite a bit. 

One of the nice things about having more newspaper-covered floor (as opposed to all of it being covered by flannel for traction), is that I can change soiled papers every time I go into the room, keeping the room much cleaner.  It’s very important for later housetraining if the pups are raised in a clean environment.  They are already going away from their sleeping area to eliminate – the only problem is that they sleep all over the room, wherever they collapse, so they pee and poop everywhere.  Until they move outside, I will be very busy cleaning, washing – and will need lots of newspapers. 

When I cleaned the room tonight, it didn’t help much to start with a sit-down-love-in. Nor did it help that Hesed offered nursing opportunities in the cleaned whelping bed.  They were ready to rock!  It took an hour to get everything clean and tidy.

I’m wondering if Miss Purple is going to be a long coat.  She sure is fuzzy.  Both parents have the long coat gene, though we had none in the OO litter.  Lovely has had one in each of her two litters sired by Cantor (Kaiser from the RR litter and Jax from the TT litter), though when they’re grown up their coats aren’t very long.  They just have extra hair on their ears and ruffs.   

Amazing what happens when the neurological system is finally all hooked up.  Now I should begin to see what they’ll really be like as far as personality.  Drives will start coming in a little later.  Right now they’re seriously beginning to explore their world, which is exciting to see, because they seem to change by the hour as they interact with things they didn’t notice before. When people come to visit, we’ll carry them into the living room so they have more room and begin offering toys as well as put out the puppy adventure box. 


See all the photos from today’s Enrichment Exercise

25 Days (11/20)  The puppies greeted me with enthusiasm this morning when I let Hesed out, heading to the entrance to visit with me.  Even though I immediately returned with their breakfast, I could hear them calling to me: “Hurry!  Hurry!”.   I am now spending some time greeting them before bringing in each meal.  Once they’ve had enough loving, they head for their bowls to eat.  They left some of meat this morning, so for lunch I only thawed 34 cubes.  At least I know they are getting enough food.

They left some at lunch, so I decided 32 cubes is probably a good amount.  They will leave a little, which thrills Hesed, but not so much that she gets any fatter.  I have reduced the amount of raw meat diet she gets in her meals since she’s cleaning up the puppy’s leftovers.

When I cleaned their room, I doubled the fleece pad in the whelping bed so that it’s higher off the floor and hopefully will encourage the pups to see it as a sleeping place rather than potty area.  That left the front half of the whelping box with just newspapers, then a flannel strip on the ramp and Hesed’s little fleece pad where she jumps in and out of their area.  The rest of the floor is just newspapers. 

 For their new experience this morning, I took two cardboard boxes and, to be sure they didn’t somehow upend one and someone got trapped inside, cut two openings in the ends.  I left the cut-out pieces attached at the bottom to make flaps that might attract some puppy teeth.  One had a lid so I put it out, too.  The big box still contained a piece of brown packing paper, which I left.  Maybe they will try to pull it out one of the holes.  Miss Purple grabbed the edge of a newspaper this morning as I was cleaning, so they’ll soon be pulling things all over.  Rather the enrichment stuff than the newspapers on the floor. 

I also put down a small piece of firewood so they could investigate the texture of the bark.  I put down a small plastic bottle that will roll nicely, a plastic egg carton and a scrunched-up piece of aluminum foil. The room was quite full of new things!  I put them, as much as possible, in the area closest to the bed so the newspapers would be where they’d potty, hopefully anyway.

By the time I put down the new things, the pups had pretty much worn themselves out “helping” me clean the room and were ready to crash.  Before they totally zonked, I grabbed Miss Pink and placed her in one of the boxes.  She was totally unworried, sat at looked at me for a while, then eventually climbed out over the top out one of the openings.  Darn it, she never even considered going out one of the holes.  I have the holes as tall as the side, but they are almost too tall for these boxes.  They have to stoop to go out, which is another good desensitizing experience.  I may have to come up with something “new” for them to walk through, because they need to learn to look down in a new situation.

The firewood was the most popular item.  During the day I saw all of them checking it out.  I didn’t see them working on anything else, but most times when I entered the room, something was in a different place. 

All day, each time I entered the room, I moved objects to different places, to stimulate them to notice something if they hadn’t already.

Each time I went into the puppy room, I replaced soiled papers.  The more they eat, the more they drink – and the more they eliminate, the little monsters.  I picked all the objects up tonight when I changed the entire room.  As usual, it took a while since everyone wanted to play – except Miss Green who was determined to lie on back of my calves no matter how much I moved as I picked up papers and then put clean ones down.  Miss Pink grabbed my pant leg but fortunately didn’t bite down.  Eventually they mellowed out and I was able to finish – including replacing some “clean” papers that they peed on as I worked.  At least they fell asleep in a pristine room, and I snuck out before anyone else made a mess.


See all the photos from today’s Enrichment Exercise

24 Days (11/19)  This morning they were quite playful, running around the room and interfering with my efforts to clean it.  Miss Pink grabbed an edge of the damp newspaper I had just picked up and tried to make off with it.  If she had grabbed a clean one, I wouldn’t have minded, but that one I rescued from her.  I had both Miss Purple and Mr. Blue draped over the backs of m calves this morning, making it extremely difficult to move.  Miss Green took an experimental bite of my arm.  Uh oh, they’re discovering their teeth.

I began their enrichment experiences this morning.  A couple of years ago I found a great puppy-raising resource:  the Puppy Culture Workbook.  The workbook goes with the “Puppy Culture DVD” set by Jane Killion.  This four-DVD series is mainly for breeders, with suggestions of things to do with puppies from birth until the end of the critical socializing period at 12 weeks.  Watching the DVD section concerning a particular age of the litter might help you better understand what I’m writing in the litter diary.  (You can get it from her website, www.pigsflydogs.com).

During this third week of the pups’ lives, they advise one new experience per day for the litter.  I had always waited until the ears opened before I began seriously introducing new things, but for the last few litters I decided to start earlier like the Puppy Culture people do, and it was fun.  For today’s new experience I hung a small blanket cut into relatively standard strips over the entrance to the puppy bed.  It stimulated them to use their eyes in a different way by having something vertical that looked totally new and also moved. 

I also put on the floor an old cooking pan with a handle, a big lid, a cake pan lid, a big metal spoon and a small wooden rolling pin.  I thought the reflection off the metal pan and lids would be interesting for them, both the metal and wood would be new things to taste, plus the rolling pin would (naturally) roll.  They headed right to the new objects and investigated. 

Miss Green wasn’t too interested and soon headed to the bed to sleep.  It doesn’t mean that the sleepers have less ambition or potential drives if they don’t immediately investigate new objects at this age. She probably wore herself out playing while I cleaned the room, before I brought in the objects.  Puppies have very short active times and still spend most of their time sleeping – and it’s while sleeping that they grow.  Tomorrow I may catch today’s “sleeper” busily engaging with the new objects, while today’s performers snooze away.  The important thing is that sometime during the day they will be awake, wandering and investigating, engaging their brains.  Puppies at this age have all the ability to learn and process information as an adult dog; they just have very short attention spans between naps – and of course, no experience yet.  This enrichment week starts those experiences and stimulates them to be life-long learners.


See all the photos from today’s Enrichment Exercise

I took photos today, and will every day this coming week.  As soon as I have a chance, I will create an “Enrichment Exercises” page on the website. 

I forgot to put out some of the meat cubes to thaw for breakfast, so I crumbled 3/8# of a bar as usual.  I am going to have to thaw enough meat cubes for each meal, so I need an easy way to do it rather than have to weigh out cubes each time.  For their lunch, I tried putting cubes into a quart measuring cup until I had 3/8#.  They filled about 3.5 cups.  I then counted them out into the bowl I’ll use to thaw them and there were 52.  They aren’t of totally uniform size, so I’ll note how much the pups leave at lunch, and for their supper adjust the number of cubes I put out to thaw.  I hate to have to weigh them out each time.

They left quite a lot of meat at lunch, so for super I thawed 46 cubes.  They left a lot of that meal, too, so for tomorrow’s breakfast I thawed 36 cubes.

This afternoon two teenaged boys came to rake leaves.  I just can’t do it any more with my back and feet hurting like they do, and I need about 90 sacks of leaves to put around and over my tea roses to protect them for the winter.  Brice came last Saturday and raked, and learned that I had puppies.  He wanted to see them, but I told him the puppies’ neurological systems were not complete and they were fragile, so I wouldn’t let anyone see them before all is hooked up after 21 days.  I promised him that, if he came back and raked leaves this weekend, he could see them.

His friend, Dokken, came today as well.  Once they finished raking, while they waited for their parents to arrive, I let them into the whelping room – but not before Hesed came out with us for a good 15 minutes and the boys threw the ball for her as they worked.  That made them friends, so she had no problem with them seeing, and holding, her pups, though she watched very closely, helicopter mom that she is.  Miss Green and Mr. Blue were closest to the door, so I picked them up and gave one to each boy.  Mr. Blue settled down and snuggled contentedly, but after just a few minutes Miss Green wanted down.  I exchanged her for Miss Purple, who promptly stretched out in Brice’s arms and cuddled.  Mis Pink was too busy nursing on Hesed to be bothered visiting.

I forgot to mention in last night’s entry that Miss Pink managed to successfully nurse on Hesed while Hesed was standing.  The pups have been trying that, and crashing because their legs weren’t strong enough to support them as they s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d up to nurse, but last night she was successful though I could tell it was an effort.  Tonight I caught both her and Miss Green doing pretty well at it.  Amazing the difference one day’s growth will make.

The days when the pups wore out after about 5 minutes of visiting (and left me in peace to clean) are now gone.  They were busy the whole 40 minutes it took me to change the room.  Tonight Miss Pink was in quite the mood.  She wanted me to give her attention RIGHT NOW – and most of the time I was cleaning the room.  I swear I picked her up and moved her out of the way a good 20 times.  She would come back before I could get the next piece of newspaper picked up.  At one point, as I knelt to change papers, she crunched down on my ankle.  Yep, she now knows she has teeth.  Later, while I was spreading the big clean fleece pad in the puppy box, she grabbed hold of my wrist and bore down.

As soon as I finished cleaning, I lay down so they could all reach my face and hands.  Miss Purple and Miss Green immediately came to cuddle.  Miss Green soon headed back to nurse on Hesed, but Mr. Blue came and snuggled. But, now that I was ready to give some loving, Miss Pink turned away and lay on the small fleece pad by the entrance.  I called her and patted the floor beside me.  She tilted her head one way and then another, but refused to come.  Oh, well, I tried.

Eventually I got up, filled both water bowls with fresh water, gave Hesed her late supper, and left them.  The pups were just then starting to stretch out to sleep.  I was sure ready for my own bed.

23 Days (11/18)   Great, prolonged eye contact from Miss Purple today. She is also the top cuddler and lap occupier at the moment.  Miss Pink found the edge of the flannel as I was spreading it out over the papers and had a great time tugging on it.  She also grabbed my pant leg and tugged on it.  I thought, since they played so hard as I was changing the room, they would be easy to trim nails on.  The girls weren’t too bad, but Mr. Blue squirmed and protested and tried to climb up my hands to get away.  He made such a fuss that Hesed got up to come check on him.

I had a shock today when Jocie from Muddy Pawprints texted me that my raw meat diet order for this week had been back ordered and the next shipment would arrive next Wednesday.  No meat?  I only have 1.5 cases left, and I’m using almost 6 of the 25 one-pound bars/case a day right now, between the litter, Hesed and the other dogs!  She did have some sacks of the cubes, so I headed to the store and picked up 2 bags.  I will use them for the puppies.  Two bags should get me through the weekend.

I had lots of help as I changed their room tonight, and it seemed to take forever.  The pups are walking well enough now that I quit putting the flannel on the “new” area, which is flat.  I’ll just keep it over the ramp to hold the newspapers from sliding as Hesed enters and exits the puppy box and so the pups don’t slide down the ramp or have trouble getting up it to go into the whelping bed. 

I also weighed and wormed them.  I did the weight in pounds as well as ounces (easier to figure worming dose).  That said, top gainers and largest pups were Mr. Blue (6.9#, 109.5 oz) and Miss Green (6.6#, 106.0 oz), who put on 34.5 ounces in 7 days.  Next was Miss Pink (6.5#, 104.0 oz), who gained 34.0 ounces. Miss Purple (5.5#, 88.5 oz) gained 30.5 ounces. 

I worm the pups every 10 – 14 days from the time they’re three weeks old until they leave.  All puppies are born with roundworms; it’s the nature of the parasite.  Encysted worms are activated by the pregnancy hormones and migrate through the placenta into the developing puppies. When a dog finishes the rapid growth stage, around nine months of age, the worms encyst and become dormant.  Until that time, puppies are vulnerable.  It’s impossible to keep the yard where the baby puppies are totally clean of poop, and they aren’t developed or experienced enough to notice a poop and avoid it, plus puppies explore their world by mouth, so they are very prone to ingest roundworm eggs in the soil or other parts of the environment and are impossible to keep worm-free.  Living quarters of individual puppies are much more easily kept clean, plus they’re rapidly learning to poop when taken outside and the owners can pick up the poop immediately, so they need not be wormed as frequently.   Regular wormings throughout young puppyhood (I recommend monthly until they’re about nine months old) keep the worm population minimal and unable to harm the pup, but it’s impossible to totally eliminate the roundworms.  Of course, if you live in an area where heartworm is a danger, the monthly heartworm preventative dose also kills worms.  You start the pup on heartworm preventative just as it turns four months old.  Heartgard kills roundworms, but I prefer to use Iverhart because it also kills tapeworms and hookworms.  Hookworms aren’t normally much of a problem in our area but tapeworm shows up occasionally.  If your pup is ever exposed to fleas, tapeworm is a danger since fleas are its carrier.

22 Days (11/17)  Today I started doing a cuddle session first, and then changing the room.  They sure mobbed me when I entered the room and knelt down!  And did they talk!  Tail wagging is now general and enthusiastic.  They are at their cutest!

Miss Pink and Miss Green are now trying to run a little, and it’s funny to watch.  They don’t have much motor control, and of course their eyes (as long as they stay blue) don’t work too well, so they either fall on their faces or run into something or someone (such as me).

Tonight it was Mr. Blue who draped himself over my calf, and Miss Purple who followed me around everywhere and seemed to be inspecting what I was doing.  The pups were still busy when I finally finished the room.

They are eating nearly all of each of their three daily meals, still 3/8# of raw meat diet at each meal.  Tonight Hesed finally relaxed and ate most of her supper in the kitchen, then contentedly hung out with me during the 15 minutes I give the pups to eat.  When the timer went off, though, she leapt up and ran to the puppy room door.  – so funny!

21 Days (11/16)   They woke up as I stepped into the room and began talking TO me, which is a lot different from the previous seemingly aimless vocalizations.  They were looking right at me.  Then they began walking towards me, so naturally I had to kneel down so we could all have a cuddle session.  It is so heartwarming to have tiny furry bodies pressing themselves against you in their effort to interact.  I noticed some nice eye contact, too.  I visited for quite a while with them, and I finally extricated myself as they began to fall asleep, all draped over me, but it was very hard.

Checking ears this morning, I still didn’t see that they’re open yet, but all the outer ear parts are sharply defined.

Tonight ears were open. And the pups were much more serious about visiting and lasted longer before crashing.  It took twice as long to clean the room as it had before.

It’s really difficult to pick up the fleece pad with puppies already on it and others getting on it.  As soon as I get the clean one down in the whelping bed, Hesed helps by lying on it and nursing the pups. Unfortunately, they’re becoming more efficient nursers and are soon wandering out to “help” me pick up the flannel strips and newspapers.  That was bad enough, but things got even more complicated as I tried to put down clean papers and flannel.  I swear the puppies choose to pee or poop so that they mess up a part of four different newspapers where they join, and the always head for the area I have just cleaned rather than the part I haven’t yet changed papers on.  Miss Purple kept climbing onto the back of my legs as I knelt, while the others kept sucking on my fingers.  Miss Green gave me some sweet kisses when I picked her up to move her once more out of the way. 

20 Days (11/15)  They didn’t eat a lot at either meal today.   Think tomorrow I will change their schedule a little and offer 3 meals instead of two, starting with one as soon as I get up and let Hesed out for her first breakfast.  They may be hungry after sleeping all night, rather than nursing all day since she still won’t leave them willingly.  I will offer lunch when we finish ball sessions and all the big dogs get their lunch.  I’ll keep their supper at the same time the big dogs get their supper.

They won’t be able to regulate their temperature until all neurological systems are hooked up, signaled by the ears opening, usually about day 21 (tomorrow).  I’ve been checking ears daily, so I know when that happens.  The little knobs inside the ears are becoming more prominent and defined, but they still haven’t moved apart to create the openings of the ears.  The pups are getting much fuzzier, which right now helps them stay warm enough.

Tonight they were so active – climbing all over me, trying to run and do roll backs, and making tons of noise – that I checked to see if their ears were open.  Not yet, but soon.  Litters often become extremely noisy just before their ears open.

The whole bunch tried to help tonight when I changed bedding.  Even though Hesed was lying in the clean whelping bed, offering to nurse them, they preferred to “help” me. 

19 Days (11/14)  This morning I exchanged the Velcro collars for real collars. Hurrah, no more Velcro to fight.

I had planned to change the room, but the pups got into quite the play mood so I took photos instead.  I decided I might as well wait to change the room until after they ate.

I put Hesed’s first breakfast – kibble and raw meat diet – in the room and left.  I could hear her growling at the pups; evidently they were getting too close to her bowl.  I will have to again try to find a place out of the puppy area where she can eat in peace.

When I took Hesed out for her morning ball session, I again offered meat, placing pups in proximity to the bowls – which I put in the “new” area – so they had a chance to eat if they wished.  Miss Pink & Miss Green immediately moved to a bowl and started eating.  I had to wake Mr. Blue and Miss Purple, lifting them close to the other bowl. 

I’m glad I had decided, at this meal, to take photos of them eating.  I got some great ones of Mr. Blue protesting loudly at being awakened.  Unlike Miss Purple, who quietly moved to the bowl and started munching, he griped and griped and griped.  At one point he bulldozed Miss Green, who gave me some great shots of her straddling the bowl to eat.  He was so vocal, I just left to do the ball session.  He could quit complaining and eat, or his sisters could have more food.  When I put Hesed back in with them, only a tiny bit of meat was left in one bowl.  I have no idea if he ate or not.  Silly boy!

I put Hesed back in the room and took her her second breakfast – kibble and Mother’s Pudding.  I tried leaving it in the lounge area next to the entrance, but she repeatedly jumped the little gate into the puppy area.  I tried putting it in the area near the doggie door; she did the same thing.  I put the bowl back in the area next to the room entrance and left it. 

When I finished ball sessions and let her out to potty, she still hadn’t touched her second breakfast.  No meat lunch then, mom.  You need to finish your pudding/kibble first.  I sighed and put it in the puppy area, and she went right to it and began eating.  I could hear her growling at the pups but decided to leave them to work it out on their own.       

I was pleased to see, when I put the pup’s supper down, that Mr. Blue was first to the bowl. But then he had already been awake.  I was surprised, when after 20 minutes I let Hesed back in, to see that they hadn’t eaten as much as usual.  It sure made Hesed’s day, though.   

After giving her time to clean up the leftovers, I went back in, changed the papers, flannels and fleece, and took one more batch of photos of the pups in their large area.  I had to laugh at the three-girl huddle quite a distance away from Mr. Blue.  I’m sure they were glad he was conked out around the water bowl, though just before I quit photographing Miss Purple acted like she wanted a drink.  She headed towards it, but stopped when she noticed her brother still there.  I had to laugh at Hesed, who was lying in the puppy box keeping an eye on her kids and probably enjoying the peace and quiet.

See 18 & 19 day old photos

18 Days (11/13)  Today they all were sucking on my fingers.  They haven’t realized yet what their teeth are for so they are gentle as they suck on my fingers, but the Age of Innocence is nearly over. 

They cleaned up nearly all of both their meals today, so for now that 3/8” per meal is the right amount.  Hesed is miffed that she doesn’t find much when she rushed FINALLY back into their room after they eat.

Tonight I opened up the whole room.  Hopefully they will begin exploring.  They’re a little too easy- going for my likes – but then they are SO fat and Hesed is such a doting mom that they don’t have to push for anything.

They were sleeping soundly in the whelping bed, so it was easy to move the big, long board that set a limit to their explorations and replace it with a shorter one that keeps them from getting to the doggie door, put newspapers on all the floor and then flannel for traction.  I only had to move Miss Pink out of the way once.  The others looked, then returned to Hesed, who was offering refreshments.

As they begin to walk better, I will leave areas of just paper in hope to start potty training, but for right now they need that traction before they’ll even think of using the new area.  I then changed the fleece pad and papers in the puppy bed.  Then I moved the pups there (Hesed moved with them), and changed the floor area they had been using.  All this took a while, so by the time I finished the pups – and Hesed – were sprawled flat out, deeply asleep.  I took a couple of photos to show their enlarged area (only Miss Pink was in sight), then left them for the night.

I finally finished the 14-day-old photos.  I added a few to the diary entry for that day (scroll down) and tomorrow hope to get a page up with more of them.

17 Days (11/12)   They now sense movement as I step into the room, wake up and move towards me to visit, though most of the time they get distracted into face wrestling with a sibling or two.  They are noticing each other as more than a body to push aside in order to get a better place at the milk bar.  After barking/trilling a time or two, they were ready to visit, so we had a little love in.

Hesed will nurse them either in the whelping bed or on her fleece pad by the gate.  She is now sitting to nurse them, which gives the fat little ones more room.

When I introduce them to eating, I start them on the raw meat diet because the moms will still clean up their poop when they eat meat – very important while they’re still in the whelping room. 

Before I took Hesed out for her ball session, I divided 3/8 pound of the raw meat diet into each of two puppy bowls, which are low-sided bowls with a raised center so the pups can investigate food without totally crawling into it.  I let her out of the room and put the bowls close to the pups.  I hadn’t had enough hands to carry in a bowl for water, so I left for probably 30 seconds to get it and the water jug.  When I came back, Miss Pink & Miss Green were already eating!  The other two were still asleep, so I picked them up and put them close to the second bowl, made sure they were awake, and left.  The pups had a good 30 minutes to investigate, eat if they wished or at least get used to the tantalizing new odor before I put Hesed back in with them. 

When we returned, I was surprised to find all but maybe a teaspoon of the meat gone.  They must have really liked the meat!  Puppies don’t yet know how to take bites; they usually lick and suck at the meat and inevitably squash some into the sides of the bowl, but these pups hardly did that at all.  Hesed hardly had any leftovers to clean up.  

Years ago, I read a book by a guy who trains Navy Seal dogs and also breeds working dogs.  He talked about always making the puppies search for their food rather than setting it right in front of them each time.  With my next litter, the HH litter, I tried doing that instead of putting some of the raw meat into each pup’s mouth as I used to do when introducing meat.  On the temperament test at 7 weeks, all those pups showed intense desire to use their noses, so I decided to continue the practice.  The pups sometimes start eating on their own a few days later with this method, so the moms don’t get relief as soon as before, but I think it encourages the pups from the very beginning to make an effort and be proactive, rather than passively accepting being fed. 

When I introduce the meat, I also put down a water bowl from which they can drink.  It has sides low enough they can find the water but high enough they won’t fall in as they learn to drink.  They need water now since they’ve begun eating and Hesed will be away from them for a while after they eat.  It’s always funny to watch them explore the water bowl and eventually figure out that it’s for drinking.

Even though they can’t yet hear, I always give a high-pitched “Puppy, Puppy, Puppy” call as I enter the room with the meat.  That way, they learn from the beginning that coming brings rewards, because it’s one of the first things they hear when their ears open (at about 21 days). 

It’s a great introduction to what later becomes the “come” command because they never forget that call.  I had one pup, years ago, whose owner moved to Houston.  She would call every so often and, after we talked, would put the phone by his ears and tell me to call him.  He’d go ballistic, getting all excited and looking around for me.  She did Schutzhund (the competitive sport that involves obedience, tracking and protection work) with him and through the protection training he became aloof and wasn’t interested in visiting with other people, but he never forgot me.  My parents lived in Beaumont, which is about 90 miles from Houston, and occasionally I would go through Houston on my trips home and stop to visit her.  He would come to the door in the usual GSD “Who are you and what do you want?” mode, but as soon as I said “Puppy, puppy, puppy,” he was all over me.  She said he never responded like that to anyone else he knew.  He never forgot.

Tonight I took Hesed out of the puppy room for 15 minutes (to her great displeasure; she still is too busy with her family to want to cuddle, and she knew I had put food in the puppy room), again divided 3/8 pound of raw meat diet into the two bowls and took them into the puppy room.  The pups woke when I entered so I didn’t have to wake anyone to be sure they didn’t miss the meal.  They ate most of the meat, except for a tiny bit which they squashed against the bowl.  That’s pretty typical of beginning eaters who still, of course, wobble a lot.

Why 3/8 pound?  The bars are scored in ¼# segments, so it’s easy to monitor how much I feed.  I want enough that there are tiny bites all along the edges of the circular bowls, so that wherever a pup approaches (or falls into) the bowl, it will encounter a food reward.  With larger litters, I will start with ½ pound, but with only four pups I knew there would be too many leftovers – and Hesed is so fat she doesn’t need a lot of leftovers to clean up!

We had quite the puppy cuddle session tonight before they let me clean the room.  I loosened collars again.  All the pups were tasting my fingers – and I could feel teeth through the gums!

16 Days (11/11)  This morning when I first checked them, the pups were spread out on the floor.  This time they noticed my movement, woke up and sat up.  Several started walking towards me so I knelt down to visit and was greeted by wagging tails and a general movement towards me. they aren’t cuddling yet but they did definitely acknowledge me, so now the fun begins.  I love this stage when they’re still sweet and soft, with no teeth or desire to use them on my body parts.  This is the stage where I “waste” a lot of time in the whelping room. 

The pups seem to be trying to figure out their world.  Of course, they can only see vague shapes and the contrast between light and dark at the moment, but their world has vastly enlarged.  As soon as their eyes opened, I closed the curtain on the window since they are very sensitive to bright light.  As long as their eyes are blue, they are bothered by light; they won’t be comfortable in bright areas until their eyes turn brown, usually at 5 weeks or so, and will search for darker places.  So I keep glare out of the room and let them gradually get used to light.

The pups were so soundly asleep when I went in tonight to clean and do the exercises that they were limp in my hands as I picked them up.  They woke up fast, though, and started yelling.  And then playing.  Tail wags are now general, and they come to greet me when I enter the room.  Tonight, when I sat down after all the work was done, Miss Green and Mr. Blue waddled over to visit.  With a little help, Miss Green found a comfortable spot in my lap and enjoyed some petting while Mr. Blue sucked and chewed on my thumb.  Miss Purple, as usual, was complaining, so after a bit I put Miss Green down and picked her up.  She wasn’t too sure she liked my lap at first but soon thought it was okay.  Miss Pink tried to climb up but needed some help.  After a bit, Miss Purple decided she’d had enough, but Miss Green asked again for some lap time.  Mr. Blue finally decided he’d explored my thumb enough and aske to come up, too.  Eventually I had to tear myself away so all of us could go to bed.

Tonight was the last night for the neurological exercises.  All were content to relax and look at my face as I did the supine exercise, with just a few grunted comments. 

They look so huge that I weighed them as I finished each one’s neurological exercises.  Yep, they’re really gaining:  they gained from 16.5 to 19.5 ounces in 5 days!  Top gainer today was Miss Green (71.5) at 19.5 ounces, followed by Mr. Blue (75.0) at 18.5 ounces.  Miss Pink (70.0) gained 18.0 ounces, while and Miss Purple (58.0) gained 16.5 ounces. 

While I was changing papers and cloths, I twice noticed Miss Pink going over to her mother’s empty food bowl and climbing in to sniff and lick at the traces of mother’s pudding that were left on the sides.  Time to introduce them to food.  Tomorrow I’ll get out the puppy bowls and crumble some raw meat diet into them, leaving it by the puppies when I take Hesed out for her ball session.

15 Days (11/10)  When I checked everyone first thing this morning, Miss Pink was sprawled on the floor, totally sacked out, while the other three were nursing on Hesed on the little fleece pad. They obviously like their new digs.  Every time I checked on them, they looked the picture of contentment.

Their faces are growing.  I love their little Roman noses, which are really noticeable from a side view.  Their coats are now getting thicker.  By the time they can regulate their body temperature, on day 21, they’ll be even fuzzier.

Their ears are growing in preparation for opening on the 21st day.  They’re losing the “teacup handle look” and beginning to fold over.  They won’t begin standing up like real German Shepherd ears until they’re at least 5 weeks old. 

Tonight they were all on the little fleece pad, so I first changed the fleece and papers in the whelping bed.  When I put the first pup in the whelping bed, Hesed moved there to nurse them, so the pups stayed there when I lifted them in, leaving me in peace to change papers, flannel and small fleece pad in the floor area. 

It’s so fun to see the pups watching my face as I do the supine exercise (neurological exercise), holding them on their backs.  Now that their eyes are open, they are watch me during that one, and I swear they look like they’re listening to me count “1001-1002-1003-1004-1005” as I time the exercise.  Of course they’re not, since their ears aren’t open, but perhaps they’re picking up vibrations, or maybe they’re just watching my lips move.  They sure look intelligent, whatever they’re doing (or not doing).

I’m still editing the photos I took yesterday.

14 Days (11/9)  First thing this morning, I opened up part of the whelping room.  I first put up another 8″ board on the side where Hesed has been entering and leaving, to make sure the puppies use the area prepared for them rather than climb over into Hesed’s section, which has no papers or blankets on the floor.  A 12″ board works nicely to define the puppies’ new floor space – Hesed can easily step over it to get to her water, food and the doggie door to go outside.  The window curtain is closed so light from outdoors won’t bother their eyes, which are very sensitive at this point.

7 a.m.

I opened the side of the puppy box.  I put down newspapers and, over them, some for traction, and a small fleece pad where Hesed will land as she jumps over the 2’ gate keeping them away from the doorway.  I took a few photos and left the pups to slumber, all still in the bed.  The pups can begin exploring as they wish.  I’m home all day, so I can frequently check to be sure no one is lost and stressed.

The first time I checked, when I let Hesed out for her ball session, all were in the new area, and obviously had been nursing there.  Every time after, at least three were out in the new area.  I was glad to see them moving back and forth.  I took photos several times during the day.  At 2 p.m., I caught Mr. Blue pestering Miss Green.

2 p.m.

8 p.m.

Hesed was thrilled that I threw the ball for her this morning.  That two weeks of no-ball after surgery is really hard on my girls.  But today she can resume normal activity, though with all the milk she has, she doesn’t want to run much. But a few times made her happy.  This is a dog who insists on routine and resists any change that SHE doesn’t initiate, so I was glad that the mournful looks form sad brown eyes will at least cease outside.

Tonight, in order to clean the room, I put all of the pups on the little fleece pad.  I had a terrible time working because it was too much fun to watch the pups.  They were mouth wrestling and trying to climb on top of each other and walking around – and Mr. Blue & Miss Pink came to visit with me.  In the process, I heard little barks and trills – such fun!  I also caught a couple of them sitting up.  I photographed Miss Pink and Mr. Blue in a wrestling match and, later, Mr. Blue & Miss Green wrestling.  Miss Purple also got into that bout for a minute or two.

Eventually Hesed reentered the room and obligingly lay down to nurse them on the little fleece pad and I finally changed papers and the big fleece pad in the whelping bed.  Then I did the neurological exercises, putting each pup in the whelping bed when I finished them. 

11 p.m.

Hesed can be quite interesting.  She definitely plays mind games.  Today, after I changed the room, she made me try different places to put her food bowl.  She had still been insisting on eating in the box with the pups, but I am trying to get her to eat in “her” area away from them because very soon they will start investigating her bowl and they aren’t able to handle dry kibble yet.  First breakfast, she ate the raw meat diet in the kitchen as I washed dishes.  When she was ready to go back in with her pups, I put the bowl of now-meatless-kibble in “her” area next to her water bowl.

I feed her her second breakfast – Mother’s Pudding over kibble – when I put her back in with the pups after her ball session.  This morning I dished the pudding over the kibble that she had still refused to eat, and placed it by her water bowl.  When I let her out to potty before lunch, I was somewhat surprised to notice she hadn’t touched it.  Sighing, I put it in the puppy area.  She went right to it and started eating.  When I checked a little while later, the bowl was totally empty.  Okay, Hesed, you win.  I will feed you in the puppy area.  And have to remember to return after a few minutes and remove the bowl.

13 Days (11/8)  Sure enough, tonight when I went in to change the bed and do neurological exercises, I found Miss Pink regally sprawled out on Hesed’s cushioned bed.  The other three were still in the puppy box.  I pulled them on the soiled fleece pad out into the room and watched out of the corner of my eye to see what Miss Pink would do.  She yawned, stretched, and rolled up on her chest to watch the others. 

And they were worth watching!  I caught the first mouth wrestling, between Mr. Blue and Miss Green.  And I’m sure I saw the first tail wag from Mr. Blue!

Hesed came in from pottying, checked on the three and Miss Pink moved onto the fleece pad.  Hesed then lay down on her bed and quick as lightening, Miss Purple climbed up on the bed (it’s 2-3” high) and started nursing.  I grabbed Miss Pink and began doing her neurological exercises as the other two pups climbed up onto Hesed’s bed and also started to nurse. 

When I cleaned the bed, I found the first damp spots on the newspapers.  Finally!  I was beginning to wonder when the pups would begin pottying on their own.  Of course that means I’ll now be changing their bed more often.

As soon as I finished Miss Pink and put her in the puppy box, Hesed got up, entered the box and lay down.  As I finished each pup, I put in in with Hesed.  Finished, I closed the box up, gave Hesed her late supper, and turned off the light.  The pups should stay put tonight.  In the morning, I will put down the side of the puppy box and open up part of the room so the pups can move around but still be confined for safety.

Life will start getting interesting now.

12 Days (11/7)  Tonight I took out the pig rail after I watched Miss Pink almost get stuck under it.  She was pushing with her shoulders, trying to get her head between the rail and the side of the box.  No way!  They are now large and strong enough that I don’t have to worry about Hesed lying on them and not realizing it. I’m always amazed how much more room that gives them to stretch out, though I bet they’ll be climbing out over the low board in a day or two.  Tonight they were heading off the pulled-out fleece pad as I was kneeling in the puppy box, changing papers and replacing a clean one in it.  Miss Purple almost got back inside before I finished.

They were much quieter during the neurological exercises, just grunting rather than yelling, and three calmly gave me eye contact on the supine exercise.  Only Miss Purple struggled.

11 Days (11/6)  All is peaceful, except if I worry the puppy box is too cool and turn up the heater; then Hesed rolls the fleece pad around.  The puppies aren’t piling on top of each other as if they are cold, so I have turned down the heater lower than I’d like, but they are all content then.

Hesed is spending more time hanging out with me.  She has now started barking to let me know it’s time for her to be out – and definitely lets me know if I am a little late starting her ball time or fixing a meal.

Tonight when I pulled out the puppies on the fleece pad so that I could change papers and put in a new pad, the puppies yelled again.

Whelping bed changed, I began doing the neurological exercises.  Then I weighed them and trimmed toenails.  They protested the toenails a little, squirming some, but not as much as I had expected.  Maybe they got it out of their system during the exercises.  Their eyes are now completely open.

In the three days since I last weighted them, they gained between 8.5 and 12 ounces.  Miss Purple (41.5) had the slightest gain (8.5 ounces), but she looks like she is going to be smaller-boned so I’m content with her growth.  Of the three big ones, Miss Pink (51.0) gained 12 ounces, Mr. Blue (56.5) gained 11.5 ounces and Miss Green (52.0) gained 10.5 ounces. 

10 Days (11/5)  I ordered prints of each pup from the three photo sessions (birth, 2 days & 8 days) to show the kids at Reading Dog, and this afternoon picked them up.  One participant has never spoken to me or read out loud to the therapy dog, but she did ask me a few weeks ago if I was going to bring puppies to play with again, which thrilled her counselor.  I’m making a special effort to tell her about the puppies every Monday when she comes to Reading Dog.  Last Monday the paper prints were a great hit, so this Monday I will go with real photographic, glossy prints, and I will have some printed for the kids every time I take photos.

All was peaceful today, the pups only complaining when they were nursing at the time I let Hesed out.  She is now comfortable staying out during the whole morning poop detail and will come to the kitchen when we get inside rather than push against the puppy room door.  Of course, part of that might be that I fix her second breakfast – kibble with Mother’s Pudding – to put in with her.  She will now eat her daytime meals out of the puppy box, but insists on first breakfast and last-thing meals being put into the box.  I think she eats the raw meat diet first and then nibbles on the kibble now and then.

Boy, did the pups yell when I went in last thing tonight to change their fleece pad and newspapers and then do the neurological exercises!  I suspect that it was because their eyes are now open enough that the sudden bright light startled them.  And they didn’t like it!  They grumbled loudly while I changed their bedding, so much so that Hesed came rushing in to check on them, lying down with them until I put the first pup into the puppy box after its neurological exercises. Then she settled down to welcome them with a comfort nursing.  She even stayed down when I brought in her late supper.  She was lying in the middle of the box so I don’t put the bowl right by her.  She just glanced at it as I placed it in a corner so it would be out of the way all night.  I’m sure she moved to it and ate once the pups dropped off to sleep.

When I did the neurological exercises tonight, I noticed the pups’ eyes are nearly totally open.  All of them squirmed and yelled when I did the exercises, especially during the supine exercise.  Was it because they had been rudely awakened?  Welcome to the world, little ones.  Bright light hurts immature eyes.  Those blue eyes won’t turn brown, and handle light well, until they’re about 5 weeks old. 

I love to see their ears at this age. At birth, they were flat against their skull; now they stick out like handles on a sugar bowl.  

I noticed that I need to trim toenails again, which will not be fun since they are getting quite strong.             

9 Days (11/4)  Since they all survived the critical first week, I sent the litter registration to AKC.  I also ordered microchips.

Today Justice turned 5 months old, so I took photos at all the morning ball sessions in which he participates.  He goes out with Hesed, then with Hopeful, then with Spirit.  He is crated while lively has her ball session since she’s now twelve and is arthritic and doesn’t need bumping and pestering.  He comes out to join Hopeful with GloryToo’s ball session – this one is quite wild, then is crated during Mercy’s since she will not give up her ball when he’s around.  After that, he “helps” Lovely and then Cantor with their ball sessions.  We go out as soon as it’s light, since all these sessions take almost 4 hours.  I won’t get the photos of him and Hesed edited for a while, but I did edit a few of Hesed-the-milk-cow for you to enjoy.

I worked really hard all day, editing the 8-day-old photos, and got them on the website.  Enjoy!

See 8 day old photos

Tonight when I did the neurological exercises, I got the baleful glare as I did the supine exercise.

8 Days (11/3)  All four have survived the critical first week.  Hurrah!! 

Hesed stayed out for a good 5 minutes this morning before heading back to her pups, and even ate most of her breakfast (raw meat diet and kibble).  I was making more of her Mother’s Pudding and she kept looking longingly from the pot on the stove to her bowl and back.  And back.  And back, a not-too-subtle hint that she’s rather have pudding than kibble.  Too bad, mom, it has to cool first. 

She also did the entire poop detail route, and is back to her game of keep-away with her ball thrown at my feet.  Sometimes I can reach it to kick it; often she grabs it as I reach towards it.  She was ready, though, to check on her family when we got back into the house.  She didn’t even wait for me to dish up some kibble and Mother’s Pudding, but when I took it to her in the puppy box, she scarfed it down.

She has more and more free time now, since the pups are such efficient nursers that they fill very quickly and then fall asleep, at which time she leaves the warm whelping bed and lies on the bed beside it or hangs out with me.  I also have a raised bed in Hesed’s little yard, which is nearly totally protected by a roof, but I haven’t yet seen her stay that far away from her babies.

I took photos this afternoon and had to laugh at the bleary glares the pups gave to the camera flash.  Miss Purple did her best to sleep through her photo session, but the other three tried to move around a little, and Miss Pink was actually up on her legs a bit trying to walk.  After the individual photos sessions – still short so as not to stress the pups – I put all of them out and let Hesed get in the pictures, too.

I got a few of the photos edited tonight, enough to get a decent one of each pup to put in this diary, in response to a request by a friend.  I didn’t have time to edit the group photos and get one of those, but I don’t have anything on my schedule the next two days (other than ball sessions and I really need to try to rake the leaves and take my overwhelming load of cardboard boxes to the recycling center), so hopefully I can get all the photos edited and the best ones reduced and put on the website soon.

I weighed the pups after the neurological exercises.  Miss Pink has now doubled her birth weight!  That makes all four. Usually they are 9 to 10 days old before all have doubled their birth weight, so these pups are doing really well.  Today they gained between 2.5 and 4 ounces.  Mr. Blue (45.0) gained 4 ounces. Miss Pink (39.0) gained 3.5 ounces.  Miss Purple (33.0) gained 3 ounces.  Miss Green (41.5) gained 2.5 ounces.  Now that all have doubled their weights, I will no longer weigh them daily.  Hesed is eating really well and has so much milk that she looks like a milk cow, so I don’t have to worry that they have enough food.

7 Days (11/2)  This morning Hesed thought I took too long to get ready for her ball session and was talking to me at the door of her room.  She stayed the entire poop detail and played keep-away with her ball dropped at my feet the entire route.

I had no chance to visit with the principal at Tongue River Elementary yesterday and she didn’t rely to my email about the pups being born and when they could come visit. Usually everyone visits with us when we arrive, but it looked like they had a frantic, time-sensitive project going on. So I emailed her again this morning.  Yes, she said, have the pups come visit the first Monday after they are old enough, which will be December 6th.
           
Hesed is now waiting at the door every time I go to check on the pups or let her out.  She even spent a few minutes with me before heading back to her family.  This is a great sign that all is well.

She also ate a little kibble with each meal, with no problem when it was with her Mother’s Pudding meals, though reluctantly if it was with her meat meals.

When I did the neurological stimulation exercises, I noticed eyes beginning to open just a tiny slit.  Guess I’ll have to try to get some photos tomorrow.

I weighed the pups after the neurological exercises.  Miss Purple has now doubled her birth weight!  That just leaves Miss Pink. Usually they are 9 to 10 days old before all have doubled their birth weight, so these pups are doing really well.  Miss Pink was the largest at birth so she has more to gain to double her weight.    Today they gained between 1.5 and 4 ounces.  Miss Green (39.0) is really on a roll, again gaining 4 ounces.  Mr. Blue (41.0) and Miss Pink (35.5) gained 2.5 ounces. Miss Purple (30.0) gained 1.5 ounces.

6 Days (11/1)  The pups are positively rotund!  I had to loosen their collars.  I had Reading Dog at Tongue River Elementary in Ranchester all morning, so no ball sessions.  Hesed seemed to miss her time out with me, because she began coming to say hello to me each tie she came inside after going out to potty, rather than fighting to get into the puppy room.  She obviously thinks they’re doing great, too.
She’s eating well now.  I had to make another batch of Mother’s Pudding.  Tomorrow I will begin putting a little kibble in with her meat meals and pudding meals.

I knew the kids at TRE would be asking about the pups, so I got the school to print out a photo of each pup and one of Hesed with all of them, just on regular paper.  They printed them so that each photo filled most of an 8×10” piece of typing paper, and the kids love them.  In honor of the new litter, we re-read GloryToo’s first book, which is about her being born.  Sure wish Epiphany Printing would finally get book 2 done.  It covers their eyes opening and them starting to play.  It was supposed to be done before school started but covid keeps complicating everyone’s lives.  The economic situation is iffy enough that the print shop hesitates to hire more staff, so the creative ones, like the one who is doing my books, are buried with time-sensitive jobs and my book gets pushed aside again and again.

As usual, tonight I weighed the pups after I changed bedding and did the neurological stimulation exercises.  Today they gained between 1.5 and 4 ounces.  And TWO have already doubled their weight:  Mr.  Blue and Miss Green!!!  Miss Green (35.0) gained 4 ounces. Mr. Blue (38.5) gained 3.5 ounces. Miss Pink (33.0) gained 2.5 ounces.  Miss Purple (28.5) gained 1.5 ounces.   

5 Days (10/31)  When I checked the family first thing this morning, Hesed was at the door ready to come out and all the pups were sprawled out, sound asleep.  They are obviously warm enough and getting enough of everything they need; their bellies are pretty round now. 

Hesed finished the batch of Mother’s Pudding late last night so as soon as I put her and her raw meat diet breakfast back into the puppy room, I made another batch of pudding.

This morning Hesed was waiting at the door when it was time for her ball session.  Of course, since she’s recovering from her c-section I don’t throw it, but she carries it around as I do poop detail.  Previously, she has barely been content to pee and poop and then is begging me to go back in with the babies, not even caring when Justice stole her ball.  This morning, however, she was much more relaxed, stayed with me the whole time, and even dropped the ball at my feet to play keep-away, her favorite game.  She will tease me with the ball but if I move to kick it or pick it up and throw it, she grabs it and prances around, gleefully saying, “MINE!!”

By the time we finished, the Mother’s Pudding was cool enough to dish up some and add some more raw meat diet for her second breakfast.  I still must put the bowl in the puppy box, but at least she’s eating really well.

Tonight I again changed the bed papers and fleece and then did the neurological stimulation exercises, weighing each pup before I put it back in the whelping bed.  Today they gained between 2.5 and 3 ounces.  They are chubs!!!!  Mr. Blue (35.0) gained 2.5 ounces, while Miss Green (31.0), Miss Pink (30.5) and Miss Purple (27.0) all gained 3.0 ounces.  At the rate he’s going, Mr. Blue may double his birth weight tomorrow – an impressive feat.

4 Days (10/30)   It’s raining today.  Naturally, since I finished sweeping and mopping the second half of the house this morning.  I did the first half early yesterday morning before we started ball sessions.  If I wait until evening, I don’t have the energy.  It had rained a lot on Monday, when I was in the whelping room with Hesed, and the dogs had a great time racing out the doggie door to play and then coming back all wet to see if I was ever going to come out of the whelping room.  I haven’t had time to rake the leaves.  It’s amazing how many leaves stick to wet feet and hair and get brought into the house along with mud.  What a mess.

I cancelled ball sessions to avoid having to mop again tomorrow morning, giving the dogs some bones to amuse them.  I had enough time to finish editing the two-day-old photos and got them, the birth photos and the this diary onto the website.  Hurrah!!!!

All was quiet on the puppy front.  I checked on them frequently during the day, and every time all were content.  Hesed continues to only come out when I insist that she go potty, refusing to go out in her private yard on her own.  Then she jumps up and down at the puppy room door until I let her back in.  She is eating much better now, both the raw meat diet and the Mother’s Pudding.  That’s quite the relief.

As usual in the evening, once I changed bedding and finished the neurological exercises, I weighed the pups.  Today they gained between 2 and 3 ounces.  Miss Green (28.0) gained 3 ounces; Mr. Blue (32.0) gained 2.5 ounces; and Miss Pink (27.5) & Miss Purple (24.0) gained 2 ounces. 

I will now put the newest entry at the top.  Scroll down for earlier entries.

Prep

 I am extremely grateful to Whelpwise (Perinatal Veterinary Specialties, www.whelpwise.com), a canine pregnancy support group.  Without them, I am convinced – and so are my vets – that Hesed would have lost this litter like she did the litter a year ago.  Many of you know that I have tried for 25 years to incorporate the bloodlines from behind the Iron Curtain into my line because the ones who survived those terrible living conditions usually had very strong immune systems, and I am always trying to improve the health in my line.  This was my third, and last attempt. I am beyond grateful to have a chance to keep a female from this litter.

I have learned amazing things about pregnancy and whelping that I didn’t know, even after 44 years of breeding.  I am seriously considering signing up with them for my next litter, which should be quite normal.  I asked them if a lot of people used them for trouble-free litters and they said quite a few, that people appreciated knowing what exactly was going on with the litter and having the expertise available to intervene to save a pup or whole litter that was in trouble.  Many people, after their first experience, call on them for every litter afterwards.  I can believe that, as I have been highly impressed with their expertise and availability at all hours day and night.  AND their sense of humor when I was stressed out of my mind.  For normal litters, they send the monitors and Doppler for the last week of the pregnancy.  I can handle that. A month of between 3 to 5 hours devoted to the litter EVERY day was hard, but look what I got!

Hesed came in heat on August 10th.  Unlike most times, she didn’t breed at 10-14 days.  We didn’t get the first breeding until her 17th day in heat, August 22nd.  She was also bred August 23, 25 & 26.  All seemed like normal good breedings.  Interestingly, Cantor was absolutely frantic to get to her on Day 26.  After he bred her that day, he never looked at her again. It turns out that that was the day she conceived, rather than one of the earlier ones.

9/10 We did Hesed’s first ultrasound but didn’t see anything.  It was day 19 from the first breeding; day 14 from the last breeding, so if she took from the last breeding it was too early; they were too small yet.  Scheduled another on the 17th.  She says she’s pregnant with a million pups and is STARVING.  But she did that last time and there was no one home.  So another week of mystery…

Usually the mother-to-be will have twice what we see on the ultrasound.  We’ll have to wait for the x-ray during the last week of pregnancy to know how many she actually has.  We have to wait that long because the pups’ skeletons don’t calcify until the very end of pregnancy.  X-rays can penetrate the entire width of the dog’s body and give an accurate count, while ultrasounds are more limited in penetration and in big-bodied dogs pups can hide out of sight.

9/16:  Pat, a good friend of mine credited Whelpwise with saving the smallest pups in her new litter.   This is a very highly regarded canine pregnancy support team.  I was really glad to hear that, because Dr. Cindy said it would be wise to use them if Hesed conceived.  She said nearly all the repro specialists she knows highly recommend them.  One of them sad fatly, “If you want live pups, get Whelpwise involved.”  Pat gave me all their contact info.  (Veterinary Perinatal Specialties, www.whelpwise.com)

9/17:  This morning my vet thought she saw one pup on the ultrasound.  It’s 21 days today from the last breeding, which is when we think she conceived (25 days from first breeding), and they would still be pretty small.  We scheduled another ultrasound for the 24th.  Dr. Cindy drew blood and will send it off to check progesterone.  One cause of losing a litter is low progesterone level, so we’re going to monitor that and, if needed, supplement.   So still no firm answers on puppies, though Hesed continues to SWEAR she is carrying a million.  She had a bloody discharge as we were waiting so I’m concerned, if she is pregnant, that she will lose the litter like she did before.  If next week we confirm pregnancy, I’m calling Whelpwise and signing up for their help.

9/22:  Dr. Cindy called.  Progesterone is 17, which is normal for post-heat cycle, which means she has enough hormones at this time to maintain a pregnancy. 

9/24:  Today Dr. Cindy saw at least 3 pups on Hesed’s ultrasound.  No heartbeats visible yet, which comes at 33 days – today is barely 33 days since the last breeding.  She obviously took to that last breeding. We do another ultrasound next Friday to continue monitoring.  We took another blood sample to check progesterone.  Hesed continues to release spots of blood.  Dr. Cindy said today that it could be that the uterus has problems and that might be why she lost the last litter, because they didn’t get the nourishment they needed.  That time we had live pups on the ultrasound at 4 weeks, but after that she resorbed them.  Dr. Cindy said we might need to do a biopsy of the uterus. 

9/26:  I contacted Whelpwise:

You have been highly recommended by Pat ____.  And my vet mentioned we might want to enlist your services.  Here’s what’s going on:

Hesed is a 6.5 year-old German Shepherd from European working lines.  Three years ago, she had a litter of 4.  Since then, she has either failed to conceive or once had living pups at 4 weeks on an ultrasound, but at about 7 weeks I became suspicious that she wasn’t developing as normal (I have been breeding GSDs for 44 years).  On the x-ray at 9 weeks, no pups.  I  never saw any evidence of a miscarriage but might have missed it since I have two acres with two shelterbelts and lots of brush.
We confirmed pregnancy Friday afternoon, September 24th, the 33rd day after her first
breeding; 29th day after the final breeding (bred Aug 22, 23, 25 & 26; on the 26th my
male was absolutely frantic to breed her. After that breeding, he paid no attention to her
at all.  All four breedings were normal, with 15-minute ties every time).  We have now
done 3 ultrasounds a week apart.  The first one, on September 10th (19 – 15 days in whelp), my vet saw nothing.  The second one (26-22 days in whelp), she thought she saw 1 pup. Yesterday (33 – 29 days in whelp), she saw at least 3.  She checked intently for any heartbeats but couldn’t see any, solidifying our opinion that she conceived from the last breeding.
What worries us is a slight, occasional, bloody discharge from her vulva, first noticed
October 17th in the vet clinic waiting room. Since then, I have been watching her closely.  Very rarely do I catch a tiny discharge or a blood spot on the floor or on the sheet over my bedspread when she has been sleeping on the bed, but I am seeing some.
Do you have any suggestions for anything we can do to maintain this pregnancy to
term?  If so, how do I sign up for your support?

9/27:  I’m already learning a lot from Whelpwise.  They had me change her kibble because it contains peas and chickpeas, which are phytoestrogen producers.  Even a small amount of unwanted hormones can affect a pregnancy.  They sent me a list of acceptable foods for pregnant bitches.  Thankfully, the local pet store carries one so I got a sack and began changing her over.  At least they approved my raw meat diet formula (Northwest Naturals), saying it was one of the better ones.

9/29:  Finally got the progesterone results from 9/24. Hesed’s was 11.6, still fine.

10/1:  Ultrasound this afternoon showed 3 puppies, and all with good heartbeats.  We sent off another blood sample for progesterone level.  

I am no longer seeing any bleeding.  Is it the change in food?  Or something else?  Whatever the reason, I’m very glad.

The pregnancy monitor and other support aids from Whelpwise arrived this afternoon. I read the manual for the monitor as lunch cooked (yep, it’s nearly 8 p.m. and I’m just now done with the day so I can eat).  Hope to try for a session in the morning.

Whelpwise then called to say they want me to do a monitoring session tonight.  You have the mother dog lie flat on her side and put a little sensor under her.  I tried to get a reading for them and that went well, Hesed cooperating by lying on her side while the sensor collected data.  But then I tried to send it over the phone line to the support people, and it wouldn’t go.  At 11 p.m. we finally gave up.  My landline evidently is no longer a true landline since I signed it with Verizon as well as my cell phone (doesn’t plug into a jack but into their black box).  I was SO tired – and then I couldn’t get to sleep for a couple of hours because my mind was in “problem-solving” mode. 

10/2:  I’m sure dragging this morning.  First thing, I began trying to call Verizon.  Naturally it’s a Saturday and I could find no way to talk to a real person.   Whelpwise says to see if they can set me up to send medical data over the phone.  I only have 12 hours to get the info sent to them after a session before it’s automatically deleted.  

Whelpwise says it only takes about 5 minutes to send the data, but I could find no one who still has a landline and to see if I could find a friend with a true landline, whose phone I could use to send the data.  I racked my brain trying to think of someone.  Everyone I contacted said no, they didn’t have a landline any more. 

Whelpwise also said to find someone who can shave Hesed’s abdomen so that the sensor will work better – it doesn’t work well through hair.  Jocie, the owner of our local pet store, Muddy Pawprints, said she would shave her but that I would have to wait until she closed the store at 5 since she was the only one there.

This afternoon, giving up on calling, I drove to the Verizon store.  The woman there was a big dog lover – and her husband wants a German shepherd.  She worked hard to help me, even staying after store closing time to finish.  I came home with a new “black box” (except that it’s white) that has the capability to send medical data.  The clerk told me that in a couple of months I would have received an invitation from Verizon to upgrade to it at no cost.  Just my typical luck: I needed it before it was free, so there went over $100.

I got home with the new box and got it plugged in to charge while I headed to Muddy Pawprints to shave Hesed, which took an hour.  Got her home and settled – boy does she look strange with her sides and abdomen shaved and only a patch of hair over her backbone! 

Just before bedtime I did the hour-long session with Hesed – and sent it successfully!  Hurrah!  And then another hurrah when Whelpwise called to say they had reviewed the data and everything looked normal with the puppies.  Then I went to bed and slept like a rock.  I told Hesed she’d sure better bring some nice puppies into the world. 

10/3:  This morning, rested, I started problem solving.  I hate for all the other dogs to be crated during those two one-hour monitoring sessions.  I decided to clean out the whelping room early, creating room for Hesed and I to do the monitoring in there, while other dogs can be loose, playing in the house and yard.  Early this morning, then, I moved out enough storage tubs to make room for a dog bed for her lie on and a cushion for me to sit upon.  I have big plastic tubs in which I store all the toys that I use when the puppies visit the nursing homes and schools (I take different toys on every visit).  I also store in big tubs all the fleece pads and blankets I use for the baby puppies.  When I don’t have a litter, they are stacked out of the way in the whelping room.  When I do have a litter, I move them to the living room, since I have nowhere else for them.  So this morning I moved all the toy tubs into the living room.  I had to move Justice’s crate to stack the tubs out of the way – he found the whole process fascinating.

Then I had to figure out when in the morning schedule to take an hour for the monitoring session.  I finally decided to do the first ball session with Hesed (and Justice “helping”), eat my quick breakfast, then do the monitoring session while Spirit, Hopeful and Justice played so they didn’t terribly mind waiting for their ball sessions.  Then I’ll put Hesed in her crate (with the 2nd breakfast she’s demanding, “I’m feeding a million pups, you know.”) and do the next ball session, which is with Hopeful and Justice.  Next is Spirit’s ball time, then on down the line.

That worked pretty well this morning.  I got Hesed’s monitoring done and got a “normal” report from Whelpwise, then headed outside to do Hopeful’s play session. 

However, when we finished ball sessions, I realized how late it was.  Sometimes I have to try to send the data several times before it actually goes; then if Whelpwise is busy with another breeder they may not call me back for up to 30 minutes.  That idea wasn’t going to work.  I asked Whelpwise if it mattered if I paused half-way through so I could rotate dogs out of their crates and they said it didn’t.  Tomorrow I will try that early in the morning and see if we can get outside at our usual time.

On normal days, I can do the evening session without a break.  But if I have had class or a meeting, it will be nice to feed the dogs and then have one spend its pre-bedtime thirty minutes while I do Hesed’s session, interrupt to put that dog in her crate and get the next one out, then return to Hesed’s session.  To be fair, I will alternate which two miss their evening cuddle session, and which ones don’t get attention from me in the mornings when I do Hesed’s session.

10/4:  I tried the new split monitoring schedule and it worked well.  We were only about 15 minutes late starting ball sessions.

10/5:  Hesed has been doing well, but Whelpwise called after this morning’s monitoring session and were worried about something in the data.  I had to do a 30-minute session at about 11:30 and send it to them.  The midday reading showed the same worrisome thing:  uterine irritability in a regular pattern.  I asked a nurse friend what irritability was and she said this, “Uterine irritability is how we describe a uterus that isn’t having regular labor contractions but is showing some contracting activity.  We see it with people prone to preterm labor, multiples, anything causing the uterus to show more contracting activity than we’d like to for their situation.”  Whelpwise said if it’s just an occasional thing, no big deal, but if it seems to be occurring in a pattern, they get worried.  They tried to get hold of Dr. Cindy to start her on some anti-contraction meds, but she was in Montana today on a remote ranch, pregnancy testing cows.  I managed to get to the clinic just before they closed and to talk to one of the other vets.  I called Whelpwise to see if Hesed HAD to start the meds that day and they said absolutely.  We ended up in a group call to Whelpwise to learn just exactly what anti-contraction meds they wanted to use (Terbutaline).  The clinic started calling around to local pharmacies and one, which is usually the cheapest, said they’d have to order a whole bottle of the pills, which was something like $300.  After a heart attack, I called Whelpwise again to see if anything else would work, and they mentioned that it is often prescribed for cats with asthma.  I relayed that to the head tech, who does the ordering, and she said “Aha!” and raced to the cupboard for the one vial they had, and tuberculin syringes since Hesed only gets .25 cc at a time.  Amazingly, I was able to start Hesed on the Terbutaline tonight.

I was so stressed, that if I had been a drinking person, I would sure have had a few stiff ones last night.  As it was, I searched everywhere for some chocolate.  I finally found some chocolate chips and had a handful of them, which helped me calm down.  Guess I’d better stock up on some chocolate…

I put that statement into a report I was emailing to friends who were praying for Hesed.  One, bless her, emailed me back to say to watch for a “care package” for me that would be coming Friday.  Thanks, Debbie!  What great friends I have.

10/6:  Much better report after this morning’s monitoring session.  No irritability (little contractions). Whelpwise was very pleased.  I’m very relieved.  To be sure she doesn’t adversely react to the meds, we will take Hesed’s heart rate before each monitoring session.  When I talk to Whelpwise after they monitor the data from the session, and compare her heartrate with previous ones, they will tell me whether to continue the same dose of the anti-contraction med or change it.

10/8:  This morning Whelpwise said there was a little irritability in the first half of Hesed’s monitoring session, but it smoothed out and was very calm in the second half. Thankfully, the Terbutaline is working. 

My care package arrived:  an assortment of Lady Godiva chocolates.  WOW!  I’ve never had more than, rarely, a piece or two, so I’m thrilled to sample all these.  They will definitely reduce my stress!  Debbie reminded me:  “You do know they are full of antioxidants.   We need those for our good health.”

10/12:  It poured all day yesterday and this morning we woke up to at least 10″ of very heavy, wet snow and about that much more predicted.  I’m snowed in.  I spent 45 minutes trying to clear the drive with the snowblower and barely got a path to the mailbox cleared, so now I’m trying to find someone to plow me out.  We were NOT ready for this.

Hesed is maintaining.  Doing this morning’s monitoring session was exciting as the electricity went off about 1/3 of the way through the session.  Naturally I didn’t have a flashlight in the whelping room (having needed for something else and not bothered to replace it since I didn’t have puppies).  All the light I had was from my cellphone, a new one. I couldn’t find a flashlight on it; instead, it has all kinds of dumb games I do not want.  Maybe I can get them to delete those and give me a flashlight option.  The electricity was off for a long time (snow-laden branches falling on the lines because most of the trees still have their leaves), so I had to wait to send the data.  When I finally had electricity and was able to send the data, Whelpwise said everything looked good.  Every so often they saw some irritability but then it smoothed out, so the meds are continue to work.  Whelpwise is great!  Very professional.  I’m sure they’re the only reason we still have a litter.  Hesed is due the 28th; it’s going to be a LONG time till them.

The electricity went off 8 times today.  The last time it went off was just as I finished the evening session and was hooking up to the phone to send the data.  That last electricity loss took out my landline.  No way to send date and no way to get out to go send it anywhere.  After we finally got electricity, I tried for hours to send the data from Hesed’s evening session, with no luck. 

10/12:  This morning I waited for 7:30 a.m. when my vet opened, so I could go there to use their phone line to send last night’s data.  I couldn’t do Hesed’s morning session until I sent last night’s.  Unfortunately, by the time I sent it, the data had passed the 12 hour storage time and had ben erased.  At least I did my best.

I called the Verizon store (I now have their direct number from the receipt for the new “box”, which sure helped). They told me how to clear the box but it didn’t work, so I had to take it to them once the snow melted enough that I could get out. 

The new white box worked at the Verizon store, so I sent the morning data from there.  Whelpwise said that all was well, so I relaxed a bit.  However, when I got home and plugged the phone back in, I had no dial tone, just beep, beep, beep.  Thankfully I found a friend, about 2 miles away, so down there I went tonight to send the data.

Got home, still just beep, beep, beep on my landline – but then I received a phone call.  Very weird.  Confusing.  Frustrating.  The Lady Godiva Chocolates have sure been taking a hit today.

10/13:  This morning I decided to try calling out from the land line despite the beep beep beep – and it went through!  Did Hesed’s monitoring session, called Whelpwise to say I was going to try to send from here – and when I picked up the phone, I had a dial tone.  Sent the data successfully.  And she called me on the landline.  I am totally confused over all the beeping but just very glad I had a connection.  So far, so good; anti-contraction meds are working.  Hesed is beginning to get clingy, wants me right with her all the time, or at least in sight or hearing. 

Whelpwise wants me to start doing the search for fetal heartbeats with the Doppler.  They want me to do that midway between the morning and evening monitoring sessions/meds in case anything upsets her.  Tomorrow, finally, I don’t have to be anywhere, so can relax, watch the video again, and do it.

10/14:  I did the fetal heartbeat search this afternoon.  Fascinating!  It’s interesting how they have me do that.  I glop gel on Hesed’s side and then move the Doppler slowly around.  The heartbeat, when you find one, is obvious.  The Doppler registers a rate, which I record.  I then stick a piece of paper towel over that pup and continue searching.  Done with one side, I get her to turn over and repeat the process on the other.  I spent an hour going over every part of her that was shaved. I had wondered how I could do that by myself, since the instructional video showed someone holding the bitch’s head – and she was pretty restless and needed restraint.  Hesed, however, was a gem.   She sleeps through her monitoring sessions and did the same on this one; she just raised her head once when I glopped the gel on her shaved side; it must feel really cool.  She was irritated that I had to wake her and make her get up and turn over onto her other side.  As soon as she settled, she started snoring away again.  She thinks all this time with must me and her is great. 

Whelpwise has a picture form where you mark which location of each pup and the heart rate.  The gel for the Doppler is quite messy, so before I did Hesed’s second side, I would put a town on the bed to try to keep the bed clean.  The first couple of times they had me take photos of Hesed, too, showing where I stuck the bits of paper.  Then I email the photos and call Whelpwise with the heartbeats.  I thought I found 4 and sent the photos to Whelpwise, but they said one was right by a nipple and thus was picking up Hesed’s heartbeat rather than a puppy, so I just found 3.  They did comment she sure looked big for just 3 puppies.  I had to confess that I fell for her “I’m feeding millions and I’m starving” ploy so badly that she had gained 25 pounds, about twice what she should have.  They laughed.

10/16:  Whelpwise told me this morning that I have to do the fetal heartbeat sessions every day from now until Hesed whelps.  Ugh!  We’re now up to about 5 hours every day just on this litter.  My schedule was already full; now it’s impossible.

I scheduled her x-ray for the 20th.  That will tell us how many pups she has, invaluable to know when whelping. Sometimes the bitches get tired and say they’re done, but still have pups lurking way back in the uterus.  Those pups will die if they get stalled in the birth canal because as soon as they start moving towards birth their oxygen supply from the placenta ends.  They need to get their little noses out into the air and begin using their lungs.  If I know we still have some to get on the ground, I can intervene with calcium to keep the uterus working, hormone shots to stimulate contractions, or phone calls to the vet if Heed is just too tired to get the pups out quickly.        

Since I’m taking photos of the fetal heartbeat locations, the camera battery is charged, settings are adjusted for whelping room and new batteries in the external flash attachment.

Now I made sure everything else I’ll possibly need is ready.  Hemostats (for clamping umbilical cords if they bleed) and scissors (for cutting extra cord if Hesed doesn’t chew the cord close to the pup’s abdomen) are sterilized and in the room.  The bitch’s jaws normally compress the cord as she chews through it and consumes the afterbirth, which stops any bleeding.  Sometimes, though, it will either be chewed off too close to the abdomen so it isn’t compressed shut; then I need to step in with a hemostat, to press the cord together and stop the bleeding.  That can get exciting at times, with the mother wanting to clean the pup and flipping it around as I grimly hold the hemostat against its underside to prevent tearing.  A few seconds is usually enough.  I will take the hemostat off and check, re-clamping if necessary, or else let mom finish cleaning the pup in peace.  All the flipping around is designed to get the pup breathing well and knock out any fluid it might have swallowed during birth.  It usually does, because the pup gets mad and starts yelling.  I am always glad to hear them yell!  And very glad when I can step out of the picture.

From now on, whenever she’s outside the whelping area, I watch her, because mommas-to-be can quickly find a hole and disappear, nature’s instinct to find a safe place to whelp.  Often they’ll go from dog house to dog house, slip in, rearrange the straw, then come out and head to the next one.  Hesed hasn’t started nesting yet but I’m still keeping her in sight, even though as an experienced mom she knows all is ready in the whelping room.

10/20:  Hesed’s getting crabby. She is very large and I’m sure the pups are kicking and moving, though I haven’t seen any moving bulges.  Sometimes you can rest our hand on a “bump” and feel the pup, but not this time.   Some days on the fetal heartbeat exam, I get 3, other days I think 4. 

As of tonight, we are now on puppy watch, with me taking her temperature twice daily.  Usually their temperature begins to drop as they get close to delivery.  The week before they whelp, they’ll range back and forth between just over 100 degrees to tantalizingly close to 99.  When the temperature drops below 99 and stays there, they’ll generally whelp within 12 – 24 hours. 

Normal temperature is 101.5; tonight she was at 101.3.  I take it when she’s been resting quietly.  Usually I do it each morning as soon as we awake, before she stirs around any, and in the evening just before bedtime.  With Hesed, I do it at the end of the monitoring sessions when she’s been sleeping for an hour. 

Whenever I have to be gone (this week only for quick, necessary errands), I leave her in the whelping room where I have the whelping box under an old table to create a “den” for the new puppies.  She can “nest” to her heart’s content in the shredded newspapers.  The “pig rails” are up around the sides.  For the first couple of weeks they give the fragile, blind pups a place to squeeze into in case mom lies upon them without realizing it.  I have a doggie door going to a small private yard where she can potty if she needs to. 

The x-rays this afternoon weren’t very good.  Dr. Cindy is out of town, and the one who took them (Dr. Karen) says it’s because we took them a little early and the puppies have just begun to calicify, which they do the very last week of pregnancy.  Since Hesed was bred over a period of 5 days, we can’t assume anything, so we wanted to do the x-ray a little early just in case we were wrong and she conceived from the first breeding.  The x-rays reinforce our feeling that Hesed took to the last of the 4 breedings and that her due date is truly the 28th.  Several vets looked at the x-rays and are sure they see 4 pups, possibly a 5th.  We will do another x-ray Monday, if she isn’t whelping. 

We did the fetal heartbeat search at the clinic and still only could find 3. Sure hope the 4th is alive and it’s just up under the ribs to where the Doppler can’t find it.  (Or because of my inexperience, though we did yesterday’s heartbeat search at the vet with the vet who took the x-rays there in case she felt I wasn’t looking in the right places.)

10/21:  Hesed is miserable.  The puppies have dropped so she sways while she walks.  And she moans a lot and asks for comfort – my typical dramatic dog playing this for all it’s worth.  The pups are now quite active, kicking away.  Poor girl.  I keep telling her it will soon be over.  Both of us will be VERY glad when she has the puppies. 

Today I will put the shredded newspapers in the whelping box so that she can “nest” when she feels the urge, and start cutting more with the paper cutter.  I cut the newspaper strips, about ½ – 3/4″ wide.  The strips absorb fluids as each pup is born and are easy to grab in handfuls to remove before placing more dry papers in the box.  When I had a bunch, I put them in the whelping bed.  I will continue to cut strips until I have enough.  It’s a time-consuming process since, to have them separate easily so they fill the bed and absorb liquids from whelping, I have to separate every newspaper section and cut each page separately.  It is a slow process and pretty much my shoulder starts aching from working the paper cutter, so I will do several short sessions on each of the next two or three days.

I have some great friends who save the livers and hearts for me whenever they buy a beef.  Today I thawed out a beef heart, cut it into chunks and gave several with her raw meat diet at breakfast.  Supposedly the raw heart (and liver) help bring in their milk so it’s ready when the first pup is born. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that it does encourage them to keep eating during the last days of pregnancy.

When I did the fetal heartbeat search, I nearly had a heart attack – I didn’t find any heartbeats for quite a while.  I finally found 4, two on each side, after a lot of searching.  They dropped yesterday morning and by this afternoon had moved quite a bit.   Whelpwise told me last night that they do hide and move around – and that they get easier to find as they get bigger.  And she didn’t laugh when I said I nearly had a heart attack when I couldn’t find anyone home.  She was very sympathetic.

Hesed’s temperature this morning was 100.3; tonight it was 101.1.

Finished the survival kit.  Had to depend on Reese’s Cups today.   Not nearly as good as Lady Godiva.

10/22:  I again found four 4 heartbeats today.  Hurrah!  When the woman at Whelpwise reviewed Hesed’s evening monitoring session, she commented that the pups were VERY busy – it almost looked like they were dancing and partying.  She said it sure seemed like there were than just 4 making all the disturbance.  Poor Hesed. 

Hesed’s temperature this morning was 100.8; tonight it was 101.5.

10/23:  After this morning’s monitoring session, Whelpwise said that the puppies were quiet, except that they were really kicking.  Again, poor Hesed.

This will show you how very tired I am:  I did the fetal heartbeat search and those little buggers were hiding.  Took 30 minutes per side.  I didn’t realize until I downloaded the photos and went to name one for each side that I had done the left side twice, took photos of the left side twice and never noticed.  So I had to put Hesed back in the whelping rom and search the right side, another 30 minutes taken up. 

Hesed’s temperature this morning was 100.7; tonight it was 101.2.

10/24:  This morning her temp dropped below 100, to 99.9.  Tonight it was 99.3.  She isn’t wanting to eat, and she has started nesting in the dog houses when we’re outside.  So we’re progressing…

10/25: 

Hesed is very restless, refusing to eat, and utterly miserable this morning.  I canceled going to the school in Ranchester for Reading Dog– just don’t want to be gone for over 3 hours in case Hesed decides to start having the puppies.  Her temperature isn’t yet in the “ready to whelp” zone but I just want to keep an eye on her and she is acting like she really needs me to be right there.  Hopefully she will wait so we can do her x-ray at 4 and know exactly how many pups to expect.
             

10/25  Lots going on!

6 a.m.:  Hesed had quite a restless night and is utterly miserable this morning.  She refused breakfast, looking at it like it was poison.  She hasn’t eaten since breakfast yesterday. She is panting a lot, signs that whelping is approaching.  Her temperature last night was 99.3.  This morning it was 99.7. I’m going to cancel going to the school in Ranchester – just don’t want to be gone for over 3 hours in case Hesed decides to start having the puppies.  Her temperature isn’t yet in the “ready to whelp” zone, but I just want to keep an eye on her and she is acting like she really needs me to be right there. 

7 a.m.:  Hesed wants me right there with her.  After her morning monitoring session, Whelpwise called and said they said they had seen a contraction along with a lot of activity.  They had me go ahead and give her the morning dose of the anti-contraction meds.  They also said at 11:30 to check fetal heartbeats and do a thirty-minute monitoring session so we can see if things are seriously moving towards birth.  
9 a.m.:  We did our morning poop detail, which is part of Hesed’s playtime.  Ball throwing has been discontinued since she got huge with pups, but she carries her ball around as I pick up poop.  That’s when she likes to poop, so we got her all cleaned out.  She normally, repeatedly blocks me by dropping her ball at my feet to get me to kick it, but this morning she checked out all the dog houses as I went through the yards.  I could hear throwing straw around in each of them.  When we finished poop detail, I put her in the whelping room (with the doggie door to her potty area closed since she’s wanting to nest, which in the whelping yard is throwing dirt all over) while I finished cutting the last of the newspaper strips.   Then I moved into the whelping room with my laptop so I can get something done while I help her stay quiet and rest. 

11:30:  I finished the fetal heartbeat search on her left side before the monitoring was finished.  I don’t know if the gel that you have to glop on her side so the Doppler will work made a difference because her whole side was shiny and the regrowing hair fuzz was matted down, but for the first time I could see pups moving.  In fact, they were kicking like crazy, both of them.  What a riot!  I didn’t notice activity on Hesed’s right side, but then I wasn’t just watching her as I waited to remove the monitor, either, since that was finished.  I just found the two heartbeats, took the photo, and cleaned her up.

2 p.m.:  Whelpwise just called to comment on the midday monitoring session.  The puppies had quit partying but were kicking like crazy.  Hesed had a couple more contractions during that session.  They think she may be trying to break through the anti-contraction meds (which will happen when authentic puppies-are-ready contractions begin).  They are calling my vet to see if she can do an ultrasound as wall as c-ray. On the ultrasound they want her to check for gastric activity.  If the intestinal tract is active, that means the pups are okay to be born.  If we find no gastric activity, we will have to increase the meds to prevent premature labor before the pups are able to survive if born.  Increasing the meds can cause all kinds of complication, including total failure to go into labor, so it’s best to allow labor to begin if the puppies are ready.

4 p.m.:  On the ultrasound, looking for digestive activity was fascinating.  We found all four pups – Dr. Sammy exclaiming about how active they were.  You could see them stretching and kicking like crazy.  She found digestive activity in three; she had just found the 4th pup when the battery-operated ultrasound ran out of juice. 

When I reported that, Whelpwise advised to stop giving the anti-contraction meds so Hesed can go into labor when she’s ready.  What we will do (read “me” there) is monitor Hesed & fetal heartbeats more often.  I am to delay tonight’s monitoring session until 8 or 9, so that if all is well I can sleep all night.  The cord in the photos goes to the data collector for the uterine monitoring that I was doing while I looked for heartbeats.

Then I would do them first thing in the morning, and probably every couple of hours or so.  Tonight when I go to bed I’m to crate all the other dogs, close the doggie door and let Hesed sleep out so she’s comfortable.  If we’re lucky, she’ll sleep quietly on the bed and we’ll both get some rest.

Hesed’s temperature tonight it was 100.8, which is very strange – and worrisome.  Whelpwise said, after viewing tonight’s monitoring session, that the pups were partying again – all kinds of activity. 

Debbie told me tonight that another care package for me is on its way.  Woo Hoo!!  I may survive this after all.

Birth

10/26  I got no sleep to speak of last night. 

Whelpwise had me do the fetal heartbeat search during the monitoring session at 9 p.m.  They saw that Hesed had 3 contractions during the hour.  They were also concerned that Hesed’s temperature was up and the puppy heartbeats were down.  They had me mix 2 tablespoons of peanut butter with 2 tablespoons of syrup (they wanted honey but I had none) and place it on the roof of her mouth, then wait an hour and do the fetal heartbeats again.  I got most of the peanut butter/syrup mix into Hesed, though some went on the counter, the floor and on me as she wasn’t too excited about holding still.  All she wanted was to go to the whelping room so I was having to straddle her to get the mix given.  I put her in her crate and finished rotating the last 3 other dogs out for a cuddle session, then we moved to the whelping room and did the heartbeats.  They were slightly improved – Whelpwise said the peanut butter/syrup was helping, so I again had to give the peanut butter/syrup and then repeat fetal heartbeat check in 2 hours.  She said she was trying to get us through the night without having to page the huge fees for an after-hours c-section, which I appreciated (I think – at the moment I’m just too tired to get excited about anything).

By now it was midnight.  I tried to go to bed but didn’t get much rest as Hesed was restless and panting and protesting.  After an hour I gave up and we went to the whelping room.  Hesed first lay down in the whelping bed, but after I stretched out on the dog beds with my sleeping bag, she joined me and we actually slept.  At 2 a.m. the alarm went off and we did the fetal heartbeat search, with great difficulty as they seem to have moved inwards.  By the time I got them, talked to Whelpwise and gave Hesed more peanut butter/syrup, it was 3 a.m. 

We got up at 5 a.m. and repeated everything, with Whelpwise pleased that the pups were maintaining okay, though all of us were worried that Hesed’s temperature was now 101.7.  She said I could sleep for a couple of hours and then do an hour-long monitoring session, but I told her it was time to start rotating all the other dogs, who had been crated all night so that I could potty Hesed if needed, and of course drag her into the kitchen for her snacks.  I was beginning to get worried about Hesed because she refused to potty after I, with great effort, managed to get her out of the whelping room and outside.  She would go down the steps, whirl around and head back inside.  Finally this last time, she stayed out long enough to pee.  Naturally, by that time it was raining – all night had been clear and warm so it would have been pleasant standing under the stars as she pottied, but no way – she peed for a LONG time in the rain.

I have a feeling we’ll be heading to the vet’s for a c-section once they are open.  Hesed is making no attempt to go into labor.  And, worryingly, her temperature is back up. After our 6 a.m. monitoring session, they had me check her temperature again.  It was 102.1, totally abnormal.  They wondered if she had some kind of infection in her uterus.  More to worry about – and it’s a dark, dreary, rainy day on top of everything else.

I called my vet as soon as she got to the clinic at 8 a.m., and she said she’d let everyone know to clear the decks.  We waited for Whelpwise to review the morning monitoring session and call.  Whelpwise called about 8:45 and said Hesed had had 5 contractions during the hour-long monitoring session but showed no real labor, so they advised a c-section ASAP.  They were impressed that I had already called the clinic and they were ready. I headed to the clinic as soon as I got my shoes on.  As soon as I unloaded Hesed, they took her back to surgery.  They had enough help so I didn’t stay, but headed home to fix up the puppy bed – take out the shredded papers, put down a fleece pad and turn on the heater.  First, though, I detoured by Sheridan Doughnut and got 2 dozen doughnuts and took them to the clinic.  Everyone there has bent over backwards to help throughout Hesed’s pregnancy, getting me onto an already-full schedule whenever Whelpwise said to, and searching all over town for the medications they wanted Hesed to have. 

The vet called about 10:00 to say we have 4 healthy, screaming puppies – they can hear them all the way up in the front of the clinic.  She later said they were the strongest c-section pups she had ever seen.  She had to spay Hesed as the uterus was really bleeding.  She also said Hesed’s uterus was in bad shape and it’s a miracle she carried the litter to term.

She called about 11 to say I could bring home the new family.  I rushed to fix a box with a heavy towel and a heating pad and headed to the clinic.  Hesed was still zonked from the surgery.  She was awake but nobody was home.  When I arrived, they had her stretched out in the recovery area with the pups nursing on her and a tech petting her.  I quickly put the box down, plugged in the heating pad to warm it, and got Hesed’s pain meds and a couple of cans of Esbilac in case her milk didn’t come in, which often happens with a c-section. This was my first experience of a c-section when the mother hadn’t already had at least one pup naturally before running into trouble whelping and having to be raced in for surgery to save the remaining pups.  Whelpwise had already suggested some products to encourage milk production, so I picked up one to start giving her. 

Hesed was still zonked out enough from the anesthesia that she refused to try to stand up, so the vet and tech had to carry her to the car on a blanket.  Even nearly asleep she is still a drama queen!  So typical of her. 

When I got the pups home from the vet, I quickly weighed each one, put on a collar and took a couple of quick photos.  Mr. Blue was so intent on sniffing the fleece pad that he refused to let me get any headshots or decent photos.  The girls were more cooperative. 

Then I settled the family in the whelping bed and let them rest after their adventures. 

Mr. Blue weighed 19.0 oz.  Miss Green weighed 17.5 oz.  Miss Pink weighed 19.5 oz.  Miss Purple weighed 15.0 oz.  All are black sables, like their full siblings in the OO litter.

Hesed was still pretty zonked from the surgery.  For 24 hours, if I leave the room for even a few minutes I have to put the pups in a box up high so Hesed wouldn’t roll on them or reject them. 

She had some milk, but not what she would have from a normal delivery.

After letting them settle for a couple of hours, Whelpwise had me put the pups in their heated box for an hour and a half, then bring them out, potty them, weigh them and put them on Hesed.  When they fell asleep, I weighed them to see how much milk they had ingested.  They gained 3-5 grams, so no supplementation is warranted so far.

As the hours passed, I was quite worried about Hesed’s continuing zombie state.  I, of course, was sitting on the floor, either reading or working on my laptop (I’m still editing the last of the TT litter photos).  She was stretched out flat on her side on the fleece pad on the floor, for some reason not wanting to go into the whelping bed, which resides under an old dining room table to create a draft-free, sheltered “den.”  She was totally oblivious to the pups and only raised her head to check on me if I moved.  Her gaze would idly pass over the nursing pups as if she were not connected to them at all, then she’d go back to sleep.  At least she was letting them nurse and showing no signs of rejecting them, but I had visions of having to raise the pups myself.  The licking and rolling pups around to stimulate elimination is very important to the mother-pup relationship so I hated to see her total detachment.

I was supposed to repeat the supervised nursing session at 10 p.m., so about 8:30 I put the puppies in their heated box and left to give the other dogs a little attention.  Every 30 minutes I checked that all was quiet in the whelping room.  At 9:30, when I checked, Hesed was sitting looking up towards where the pups were, the first interest she had shown.  At 9:50 I heard her whining and checked, to find her staring at the pups’ box and whining a little as she heard them begin to announce that they were hungry.  Hurrah!!!!  I got the first pup out and began getting it to potty, when suddenly Hesed was there, nosing my hand to get at the pup, as if to say “Let me show you how to do that.”  I was thrilled.  With great difficulty I managed to weigh the pup and put her down on the blanket.  Hesed immediately lay down and began licking and cleaning her, the first interest she had shown.  When she looked momentarily up at me as I got out the second pup, I saw the intelligence and awareness had returned to her eyes.  Thank goodness.  She impatiently waited as I pottied and weighed each pup.  Once I had all 4 next to her, she curled around them in the normal mother-fashion and began nosing them and making sure they had pottied totally.  It was obvious that her milk had come in, as they were able to nurse even on the front teats, as opposed to fighting over the back ones that were the only ones with a little milk.  I was SO excited.  My only worry was that the room was a little cooler than ideal for the pups; I much preferred them in the whelping box where the space heater was keeping the area nice and toasty.  Pups can’t regulate their temperature until they’re 3 weeks old, so their environment has to be monitored.  If they chill, they won’t nurse and can die.

When the pups finally filled their bellies and fell asleep, I prepared to weigh them again but the scale began flashing all kinds of numbers and wouldn’t clear to zero.  Uh oh, the batteries were dying.  I went to my battery drawer, only to find that I had forgotten to get more when I used the last ones.  I knew I had some in the box that holds the toys we used during the temperament tests, but I was too tired to attempt to find that box, packed away until I needed it.  I called Whelpwise to report my failure and they said all sounded great and we’d just check weights tomorrow after I had a chance to get new batteries.  I was relieved.  They were very pleased that Hesed had only taken 12 hours to come out of the post-surgery zombie state and had immediately started mothering.  Whelpwise said it can take up to 48 hours so I feel luck it only took her 12. 
            I was excited that this hopefully signaled I could actually sleep tonight.  I was even more excited when, after forcing her to go outside and potty, I was able to entice her into the whelping bed.  Hurrah!!! I put down my sleeping bag and pillow, turned off the light (flashlight close to hand in case the pups started crying), and went to sleep.  I woke a couple of times to peace, Hesed curled around the babies, and the pups beginning their little hum that signaled all was well in their world.

1 Day (10/27)  We had a quiet night, thankfully.  When I got up at 5 (groaning – even with cushions it’s hard on my old body to sleep on the floor), I first checked the family.  All was quiet, Hesed being attentive and very contented.  I greeted Spirit and Hopeful, who had been out all night, let out the puppy, Justice, and fed them.  Then I put them in their crates and begged and pleaded Hesed to leave her pups and go out to potty.  Finally, she consented.  She hasn’t eaten since Sunday morning.  I fixed her a bowl with her raw meat diet and some of the raw beef heart that I had been giving her to encourage milk production.  I also put some of her kibble in another bowl.  When she came back inside, I carried her food bowls into the whelping room and put them down close to the puppy box.  She quickly ate the heart pieces, then jumped into the puppy bed and curled up with the pups.  That was a good sign.  She should now begin eating more and more, whenever she (or I) can tear her away from those babies.  I am so relieved, and grateful, that things are approaching normal!

I checked Hesed and the pups frequently.  If she gets too warm, she rolls up the fleece pad.  I don’t want any pups suffocated so I monitor the heat in the puppy room very closely. 

I had an appointment this afternoon, so on the way home I stopped and picked up batteries for the scale.  It still wanted to rapidly roll a bunch of numbers across the screen but finally zeroed out.  I called Whelpwise because I had been worrying about how, with Hesed in her intent-mothering mode, I was going to put the puppies in the heated box away from her long enough for them to get hungry so I could weigh them before and after nursing and see how much milk they were getting.  Thankfully, when I reported how well they were doing, Whelpwise said I didn’t need to do the weigh-before-and-after-nursing routine, just weigh them daily and make sure all were gaining, which I do anyway.  I was greatly relieved, let me tell you!

Tonight Mr. Blue weighed 21.0 oz.  Miss Green weighed 19.0 oz.  Miss Pink weighed 20.5 oz.  Miss Purple weighed 17.0 oz.  They ALL gained between 1 and 2.5 ounces!  This is incredible, as it’s not unusual for pups to drop weight the first day, both from the stress of the anesthesia and Hesed having no milk, and because it took a while for both the pups and mom to get into a good nursing routine.  As long as the loss isn’t large and they’re quiet and close to mom, I don’t worry.  When they’re warm and happy, they’ll coo a bit under their breath.  I love to hear that cooing because it tells me all is well with the world. 

I spent hours going through all the texts and emails to and from people who were praying for a safe delivery, organizing them into a coherent story of the last month.  That will be the first part of this litter diary.

Several years ago, when I began doing the early neurological stimulation exercises on my litters, I was pleased to see that the introduction mentioned my practice of stressing them a little each night as I change their bed:

Man for centuries has tried various methods to improve performance. Some of the         methods have stood the test of time, others have not. Those who first conducted research on this topic believed that the period of early age was a most important time for stimulation because of its rapid growth and development. Today, we know that early life is a time when the physical immaturity of an organism is susceptible and responsive to a restricted but important class of stimuli. Because of its importance many studies have focused their efforts on the first few months of life.

Newborn pups are uniquely different from adults in several respects. When born,           their eyes are closed and their digestive system has a limited capacity requiring periodic stimulation by their dam who routinely licks them in order to promote digestion. At this age they are only able to smell, suck, and crawl. Body temperature is maintained by snuggling close to their mother or by crawling into piles with other littermates. During these first few weeks of immobility, researchers noted that these immature and under-developed canines are sensitive to a restricted class of stimuli which includes thermal and tactile stimulation, motion and locomotion.

Other mammals such as mice and rats are also born with limitations, and they also         have been found to demonstrate a similar sensitivity to the effects of early stimulation.  Studies show that removing them from their nest for three minutes each day during the first five to ten days of life causes body temperatures to fall below normal. This mild form of stress is sufficient to stimulate hormonal, adrenal and pituitary systems. When tested later as adults, these same animals were better able to withstand stress than littermates who were  not exposed to the same early stress exercises. As adults, they responded to stress in “a graded” fashion, while their non-stressed littermates responded in an “all or nothing way.”

Data involving laboratory mice and rats also shows that stress in small amounts             can produce adults who respond maximally.

from “Early Neurological Stimulation, Introduction” by Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia                                      

2 Days (10/28)  I nearly had a heart attack when I went into the puppy room first thing this morning.  Hesed had drug the fleece pad out of the puppy bed and halfway out of the doggie door, the pest!  The room wasn’t that warm, either, so I have no idea what prompted her to do that.  Thank goodness the pups were still in the puppy box and seemed comfortable – and warm enough – just on the newspaper layer that is normally under the fleece pad.  I straightened the papers and put the fleece pad back on top.  I noticed that a couple of collars were again coming off.  I have not been able to get the Velcro collars that I really like, the ones that have Velcro their entire length so that as you wind it around the puppy’s neck it sticks and holds.  The ones available – that include a pink collar – only have a couple of inches of Velcro on one end.  Since I always give the first female born a pink collar, having to use these collars drives me crazy.  They might work okay on big puppies, but no matter how carefully I put the collar on and stick all the Velcro down, the other end is determined to push its way out of the bottom and starts unwinding.  I adjusted collars all day yesterday.  I finally gave up this morning and used a piece of Rickrack for Miss Pink.  I have the other three colors in an old set of the Velcro-on-all-the-collar ones, so I put those on the other three.

Hesed is VERY proud of her family.  I left the new family alone most of the day, letting all of them rest and recover from the stress of being born, just going in frequently to check that no pup was lost or cold.  I have to frequently monitor the little heater in the bed.  It’s very hard to get it adjusted so they’re warm enough but not too warm – and mom isn’t too hot.  The pups have already figured out how to find mom when she changes position so all was quiet each time I checked. 

I keep close watch over them during that first critical week, weighing them each day to be sure that they are nursing properly and getting enough milk to grow.  In the evening, I pull their fleece bedding out on the floor and let them nurse while I change newspapers and put in a new fleece pad.  That way I can check that all are nursing well.  The whelping bed has a hinged side that I let down to form a ramp when I change bedding.  Once the pups begin moving around, I keep it down so they have an easy way out into the room and back to the bed as I begin helping them to learn to potty away from “home”. 

The moms often lie down on the “old” pad and nurse the pups as I work, although generally what happens is that they wander around and wake all the puppies, who squirm and try to move towards her and roll off the pad onto the linoleum floor.  All of this makes them mad.  I eventually return all of them to the pad but I believe that a little stress from early in life makes for a stronger, more resilient adult dog, so I don’t hurry to rescue them. 

Hesed finally began eating.  She still won’t touch any kibble, but she cleaned up 4 raw-meat-diet meals as long as I put the bowl in front of her as she lies in the bed and nurses the pups.  I have to remember to go back later and move the bowl, but that’s a small price to pay for a healthy mom and pups.  My friend, Jody, called to tell me her raw meat diet shipment had come in thawed.  The company is replacing it, but meanwhile she didn’t want the thawed meat to go to waste.  She wouldn’t be able to feed 18# in the couple of days before it went bad, so she asked if I could use two of the six-pound sacks.  She babysat Hesed as a baby when I went to Texas to see my mother, so she has a fondness for her and thought a different raw meat diet – sent with her compliments – might stimulate Hesed’s appetite.  It sure did!  Whether Hesed cared that her beloved Jody sent it or not, she gulped it down.  It’s kind of a gloppy mess instead of the slices it was frozen in, so Hesed left what ended up pressed hard into the side of the bowl, but my other dogs gladly cleaned that up.

Since the pups are now thriving, it won’t hurt them if I start taking more than a photo or two at a time.  Tonight I put the pups one at a time on the clean fleece pad and took a few photos. 

Once I did individuals, I took some of the family.  I hope they turn out, as I was using my elbow to keep Hesed back so she didn’t “rescue” the pup.  Love those good mothering instincts, especially since they were absent the first 12 hours.

After I finished the photos, I changed the bedding in the puppy box and weighed the pups as I put them back in.  Boy, is it obvious that Hesed’s milk has come in okay and these pups are unstressed and thriving!!  Tonight Mr. Blue weighed 26.0 oz.  Miss Green weighed 22.0 oz.  Miss Pink weighed 23.0 oz.  Miss Purple weighed 19.5 oz.  They gained between 2.5 and 5 ounces, excellent!

We try to schedule the pups’ temperament tests for the weekend closest to their turning 8 weeks old, hoping that their owners will be able to come watch.  This litter would be ready for their temperament tests the weekend of December 18th/19th (or possibly the 25th/26th), which may be complicated to schedule.  I emailed the testers and asked them to check their schedules and let me know when they could come.       

Here’s what the stimulations involve: 

Methods of Stimulation

The U.S. Military in their canine program developed a method that still serves as a         guide to what works. In an effort to improve the performance of dogs used for military     purposes, a program called “Bio Sensor” was developed. Later, it became known to the public as the “Super Dog” Program. Based on years of research, the military learned that early neurological stimulation exercises could have important and lasting effects. Their studies confirmed that there are specific time periods early in life when neurological stimulation has optimum results. The first period involves a window of time that begins at the third day of life and lasts until the sixteenth day. It is believed that because this interval of time is a period of rapid neurological growth and development, and therefore is of great importance to the individual.

The “Bio Sensor” program was also concerned with early neurological stimulation         in order to give the dog a superior advantage. Its development utilized six exercises which were designed to stimulate the neurological system. Each workout involved handling puppies once each day. The workouts required handling them one at a time while performing a series of five exercises. Listed in order of preference, the handler starts with one pup and stimulates it using each of the five exercises. The handler completes the series from beginning to end before starting with the next pup. The handling of each pup once per day involves the following exercises:

Tactical stimulation (between toes)  Holding the pup in one hand, the handler gently stimulates (tickles) the pup between the toes on any one foot using a Q-tip. It is not necessary to see that the pup is feeling the tickle. Time of stimulation 3 – 5 seconds.

Head held erect  Using both hands, the pup is held perpendicular to the ground, (straight up), so that its head is directly above its tail. This is an upwards position. Time of stimulation 3 – 5 seconds.

Head pointed down  Holding the pup firmly with both hands the head is reversed and is pointed downward so that it is pointing towards the ground. Time of stimulation 3 – 5 seconds

Supine position  Hold the pup so that its back is resting in the palm of both hands with its muzzle facing the ceiling. The pup while on its back is allowed to sleep. Time of stimulation 3-5 seconds.

Thermal stimulation  Use a damp towel that has been cooled in a refrigerator for at least five minutes. Place the pup on the towel, feet down. Do not restrain it from moving. Time of stimulation 3-5 seconds.

These five exercises will produce neurological stimulations, none of which naturally occur during this early period of life. Experience shows that sometimes pups will resist these exercises, others will appear unconcerned. In either case a caution is offered to those who plan to use them.  These exercises impact the neurological system by kicking it into action earlier than would be normally expected, the result being an increased capacity that later will help to make the difference in its performance. Those who play with their pups and routinely handle them should continue to do so because the neurological exercises are not substitutions for routine handling, play socialization or bonding.

Benefits of Stimulation

Five benefits have been observed in canines that were exposed to the Bio Sensor stimulation exercises. The benefits noted were:

  1. Improved cardio vascular performance (heart rate)
  2. Stronger heart beats,
  3. Stronger adrenal glands,
  4. More tolerance to stress, and
  5. Greater resistance to disease.

In tests of learning, stimulated pups were found to be more active and were more exploratory than their non- stimulated littermates over which they were dominant in competitive situations.

Secondary effects were also noted regarding test performance. In simple problem solving tests using detours in a maze, the non-stimulated pups became extremely aroused, whined a great deal, and made many errors. Their stimulated littermates were less disturbed or upset by test conditions and when comparisons were made, the stimulated littermates were more calm in the test environment, made fewer errors and gave only an occasional distress sound when stressed.

from “Early Neurological Stimulation, Methods of Stimulation” by Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia           

3 Days (10/29)  This morning I finished polishing the diary through last night.  I emailed it to all my Hesed-pregnancy-supporters who worked so hard to support me as I stressed out and worried.  I edited the group photos that I took last night then reduced a few so that I could include them in the email.  I didn’t reduce the ones I found funniest:  a whole series of Miss Pink getting into trouble because she moved too far away from Hesed.  I even got one of Hesed swatting her to try to get her back, and it looked like she was talking back.  So we have one who is already showing independence and getting into trouble.  Those will be on the website in the next day or two.

Today I got ready for the two weeks of neurological stimulations, which start tonight.  I even remembered to dampen a towel and put it in the fridge so it’s ready for the thermal stimulation!  I guess doing these exercises has now become a habit.

I made a batch of the “Mother’s Pudding” that Jane Killion (Puppy Culture) feeds to her lactating bitches to give them energy and increase milk production.  You mix a package of cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix and 4 egg yolks with a quart of goat’s milk, cook to pudding consistency, cool and serve to the moms.  I held my breath to see if Drama Queen would eat it, and was relieved when she did.  She still isn’t eating as much as I would like.

My usual goat’s milk source, a middle-school boy who wants to be a farmer, texted me a couple of weeks ago to say his goat was now milking.  I told him I sure hoped I’d have a litter soon.  I was happy to be able to call him and tell him I needed his milk! 

I first tried the Mother’s Pudding first with the TT litter.  Lovely had 10 puppies, so I was busy keeping her fed enough.  She would eat the raw meat diet just fine but refused kibble until I began offering her one meal of kibble with Mother’s Pudding spooned on top.  It’s supposed to offer them extra nutrients to help with milk production.  I have to say it tastes pretty good!

With the family quiet and content, I was able to spend the afternoon updating the materials in what, in a normal pregnancy, would have been mailings when pregnancy was confirmed and then halfway through the remaining time until birth.  Since I couldn’t guarantee this litter would survive, I did nothing until now.  Since the people getting these pups have lost time when they could have been getting ready, I emailed the materials to them rather than waiting to mail them Monday.

I heard back from both testers and we have the temperament tests scheduled and the training arena reserved.  Now to pray for good weather and good roads.  The Search and Rescue people come from Bozeman, while the police/narcotics tester comes from Buffalo.  We have a mountain range between here and Bozeman that can cause problems, and there’s a set of hills between here and Buffalo that often closes the Interstate.  With luck, on Friday, December 17th, we’ll do the Search and Rescue test.  Then the police/narcotics tester will come Sunday, December 19th, to do her test.  We try to schedule them back-to-back so the buyers don’t have to stay an extra night, but I just feel extremely lucky both testers could come this close to Christmas.  People getting puppies are invited to come watch the tests and talk to the testers afterwards.  After the second test, we’ll decide who gets which pup and they can leave with them the next morning.

After I changed the bedding this evening, I did the first day’s neurological stimulation tests.  During her last litter we called Hesed “Helicopter Mom” because she was always hovering her babies to make sure they were okay, even at 7 weeks.  She’s doing it again.  She kept sticking her face right into the space where I was holding each pup to do the exercises.  I again had to elbow her out of the way to get the exercises done. 

After I did each pup’s exercises, I weighed them before putting them into the whelping bed, Hesed racing to check them in the bed and flying back to me as I picked up the next pup.  Despite her help, I got weights and am really pleased.  Her milk has definitely come in, thank goodness!  They gained between 2.5 and 3.5 ounces today.  Mr. Blue (now 29.5) and Miss Green (now 25.5) gained 3.5 ounces, while Miss Pink (25.5) and Miss Purple (22.0) gained 2.5 ounces.  

Tonight I started editing the individual photos from Tuesday.  I didn’t get very far; for some reason I keep falling asleep.  I did get the first two, Miss Purple and Miss Green, edited.  I will work on the other two tomorrow and then try to get the best photos reduced and on the website.  I get frustrated with the photos because I don’t have enough room to get far enough away from the pups for super-sharp focus – and of course I’m pushing also Hesed away.  I really need a macro lens to take good photos in the whelping room, but they cost something like $2000.  Of course, it doesn’t help, either, that the newborns shake a lot as they try to move.  Oh, well, I keep trying.