So, the puppies had arrived and all I could do was worry (yes, I did stop occasionally to look adoringly at the little black bundles) but the worry of what happened last time meant that I took extra care of Bonny.
Above you can see Bonny and puppies shortly after they were settled on their vet fleece on day one. I had the electric heater pumping hot air into the room and the thermometer on the inside of the box indicated 85 degrees, which is right for the first week. The trouble was that Bonny was panting away because she was too hot. Sometimes, (like above) she even lay on the heat pad and I had to be vigilant and switch it off when she did so. I kept offering her water and giving her a sponge down which kept her cooler.
When Bonny took her toilet breaks I noticed the puppies did not (at first) join up in a warm bundle. They didnt seem to be aware of each other.
Another thing new puppies do is twitch! The eat, sleep and twitch in their sleep. My friend who is a vet reassuringly told me, “the time to worry about your puppies is if they DON’T twitch!” They also grow in their sleep and a good (real, not kitchen like me) breeder will have a way of identifying each puppy so they could be weighed. Humm – none of my puppies had identification. There were, initially: Little, little girl; Little big girl; Big Boy: Bigger boy and Other Boy. Not very helpful..
My son noticed that while the puppies were little they were not very much work as Bonny took care of everything and all we needed to do was offer food and water and pop our heads round the corner every so often to check them. The main task (apart from keeping Bonny well) was to load them into my ‘utility box’ , clean out the bed (hence two vet fleeces for the bed – one to wash and one to ‘wear’). Bonny found this daily intervention a little tense, and on a few occasions I thought she was going to jump into the box with the puppies. I tried not to interrupt Bonny and the pups as much as possible and when I did, I showed her what I was doing, did it slowly and talked to her. Bonny really didnt like it but she grew to understand the routine of cleaning and tolerated this activity.
Here they are probably some time in the first week (before gender bands), starting to huddle together, on a nice warm hottie (ideal for puppies, these).
While the puppies were out of their bed I took the opportunity to check them over individually and weigh them, (all with Bonny watching my every move anxiously) and then place them back into their freshly cleaned bed with a relieved Bonny jumping in beside them. They didn’t gain weight at first but by the latter half of the week they held their own and then began piling weight on. All except for one and she became our little ‘management issue’.
Little, Little girl was a healthy 7.5 ounces when she was born and this is a viable weight but her problem was the other boys and girl were all heavier and more powerful. It worried me to see her suckling away only to be pushed off by a big pup who just swam over and took her nipple from her. If all the four big pups were feeding, Little, little girl had to wait or manouvre herself under Bonny (dangerous place to be) for a teet from the other side. We all saw her problem and began to worry.
Another worry I had was Bonny. She was zealous in her care of the puppies and loved them all giving them licks and guiding them into the side of her body- but she needed regular breaks. Hector and she had been used to two good walks a day. I thought she might like to go for a short walk but we only got across the road before she panicked and wanted to go home, back to her brood. I settled for garden play (fetch ball games) and as long as the back door was open (problematic when the back door is in the kitchen and the puppies in the cupboard/pantry room off the kitchen) but I just turned the heater up, made sure all the puppies were on a heat pad and made her take regular breaks outside keeping rear door open. Eventually, over the weeks, she did join Hector and I for a walk making it all the way round the park by about 4 weeks.
Another concern – fear – was what would happen on “day 3” (this was when Bonny got milk fever and turned on her pups so they had to be removed last time). I shipped family members in for day three and volunteer “foster’ carers were primed (including ex-husband’s wife and her daughter!!!!) so management of orphans would be well organised. Day three came and I took Bonny’s temperature. The milk (instead of the initial colustrum) had come in. She had a fever but not as bad as the first time.
I palpated her teats for lumps, milked her a little, stuck a big pup (no problem there, we had three ‘biggies’) on the engorged teats and really, really kept my eye on her. We all were ready for problems, my soon to be son-in-law Chris, was ready to rush us to the VET (if needed) my daughter Rebecca made me endless cups of tea and nobody went to bed. I made up bottles of milk formula (Royal Canin) – it goes lumpy – Welpi doesn’t,we discovered. The steriliser was set up. We were ready.
Could there ever have been a tenser situation. I kept telling myself that she wouldn’t get milk fever this time because I had not given her calcium (her body is designed to metabalise calcium from her bones – give extra calcium and it causes problems) and it worked. Calcium comes from the mum and she does not need extra – puppy food (and LOADS of it) was all she needed.
The next morning (day 4!!!!) all the puppies were alive and Bonny was still administering like a good healthy mum. Each day after that I said a little thank you to heaven and my son John and I worked really hard to make sure our five little angels lived. However, we were not out of the woods yet. A certain little being was not gaining any weight and she even went down to 6.5 ounces. Little, Little Girl just could not compete with her larger siblings for food.
A call to my VET confirmed she was a prime candidate for supplemental bottle feeds and by the fifth night, I decided I should risk giving her bottle. I warmed a hottie, made a fresh feed and gently carried her little blind form to the table laying her on the hottie. She wouldnt take the bottle, she wouldnt take it from a dropper, she wouldn’t even take the drop of milk on the end of my finger. Little, Little Girl only wanted her mother’s milk. I placed her back in with
Bonny who gave her a good licking and watched as this blind little puppy swam between her mother’s front legs, found a teet and start feeding. I sat and watched as she fed (vigourously!) and thought ‘this night, she will not die’. We had no intention of letting her! Independently, we all worked hard finding a teet for little girl and when I weighted her two days later, she was 8.5 ounces. We didn’t have to ‘fight for her life’ (that would have been tube feeding) but we gently manipulated her survival. She blossomed – they all did, but she had something else, she had confidence.
Here they are, probably at 8 days, beginning to bunch, twitching away happily.