Puppy Love

Incredibly Ruby’s puppies will be 7 weeks old today. They have been such a blessing in my life and I have adored watching them grow in size and confidence during that 7 weeks. Yesterday I had the best welcome home at lunchtime as I opened the front door and six dogs spilled out, all delighted to see me home after four hours of being away at the office. We are fortunate enough to have a field that we can walk our dogs in, where no other dogs go, so it is safe for the puppies, before they have had their injections. I led them all around the perimeter of the field and the pups followed me and their parents enthusiastically and it was a long way for their short legs. When we got back to the house, I ate my sandwich outside and then lay on the picnic rug and played with the puppies for the remaining ten minutes of my  lunch hour. I could have easily stayed there all afternoon in the sunshine.

It will be tough to part with this litter, as they have brought me such joy at a difficult time in my life, but I know how happy these puppies will make our nieces and I will get to see them grow up as they are staying within the family and we are keeping Betty Boo. These dogs will make their new houses into homes, as I cannot imagine our home without at least one dog in it. We got our first dog, Shandy, when I was two years old and since then I have only been dogless when I was away at university, and even then my future mother in law was keeping Barney at her house, ready for when I graduated.

I like to think that we are giving these puppies a good start in life : Their mum has been an excellent mother to them with her feeding, cleaning and protecting them. We kept Joshua away from them until they were a decent size and speed – only yesterday he trod on one’s tail in his big NHS boots and made it squeal! They were in the safety of the utility room for their early weeks and now they love being outside in the yard to the front and on the lawn to the back of the house, where they have freedom to run and play together. They certainly appear to be happy, healthy puppies and in a weeks’ time they can have their first inoculations and we will get them micro-chipped. That is about the last thing that we can do for them before releasing them out into the world, where I know that they will be spoiled rotten and loved to pieces.

I am not sure that Joshua can tell them apart – my husband struggles – so I doubt he will notice when Hugo leaves at the end of the month and then there will be just two puppies instead of three. Joshua has never not had at least one dog in his family and they have all learned to be gentle with him, despite the way he stretches their necks and flicks their ears. They have also learnt how to jump out of his way as he walks around the house or as he crashes to the floor with a seizure. The puppies have not yet witnessed a tonic clonic seizure, but they will I am sure and it will be interesting to see how they respond.

So happy 7 week birthday puppies, you have brought more love and joy to our home and you are on the brink of a new adventure.

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Puppy Love

I had just left work, on my way to Tesco, when Yorkshire Grandma called me to suggest that I hurry home, as Ruby was ready to have her puppies. I said that I would rush around the store to get my essentials and then I would be home to fulfill my midwife role.   When I got back, Ruby was lying in her ‘nest’ in the utility room so I dropped my shopping bags on the floor and went straight to her. I decided not to say hello to Joshua as then he would want my full attention, and Ruby was my priority last night. I could hear Joshua in the kitchen, but I stayed quietly sitting on the floor of the utility room, reassuring Ruby who was panting heavily. I really wanted a cup of tea and a cushion in  there, but I did not want to blow my cover, so I made a cushion from coats.

Yorkshire Grandma took Joshua upstairs for a bath, after he had eaten his tea and so I was able to slip out of the utility room for a few supplies, including my mobile phone.The first puppy was breach and I spotted his tail sticking out and so I called the vet to ask for advice. The advice was that I needed to become more hands-on than I had expected! Sadly when I got this large puppy out, he did not survive, so I realised that I needed professional help to try to save the rest of the litter. So I called the vet back and arranged to meet her at the surgery, where she examined Ruby, while Yorkshire Grandma was in charge of Joshua and my husband was on his way home. The next puppy was close to being delivered but she discovered that his head was too large for Ruby’s small pelvis and he too presented in the wrong position. Despite trying to resuscitate this second pup, it also had no heart beat, which was heartbreaking.

We knew from her scan that she had a least three puppies, and so the vet made preparations to perform a C-section in order to have the best chance to save any remaining puppies and to avoid any more pain for Ruby. I stayed with the patient while she made surgical preparations, but I shouted to her that more contractions were coming. Before she could prepare, Ruby delivered another black pup and I assumed that it too had not survived,so both Ruby and I jumped when it squealed. Ruby gave it a quick lick, but was very wary of this squealing bundle of fur. I held it closely while the vet set up an X-ray to determine what might be going on and it identified another two puppies , so the Cesarean was back on and I was sent away home, as I was warned that it would take a couple of hours.

When I got home at 10 pm, Joshua was already asleep in bed – so I had not seen him at all since school. I updated my husband and Yorkshire Grandma and enjoyed a very welcome cup of tea and slice of toast, then I paced until the vet called at 11.50 to tell me that the surgery had gone well and that Ruby now had three black puppies, but that she was slow to come around from the anesthetic.  She said that she would call me back in 20 minutes for me to come and bring the new family home. So I made my camp-bed up in the hall and put clean towels in her bed, in readiness. Time passed and she did not call me back, and my imagination kicked in, so after 50 minutes of waiting, I called her. She told me that Ruby was exhausted and did not want to wake up. I suggested that she might perk up when she saw me, so I was allowed to drive down to see the sleepy mum, who had to be carried to the car on a blanket, and three tiny black puppies. I was told that she had milk and that they had fed already but they needed to feed every two hours from her! So they fed noisily at 1 am when we got home and then I set my alarm for 3 am and 5 am.

What an emotional evening, these puppies ,and the two non-survivors, have already made a big impact on our family in their short lives.

Motherhood

We have an exciting new addition to our family next week : Kevin ,the 8 week old jack russell puppy, is joining the chaos at our house! We already have two dogs, one cat and 5 hens, but as our older dog is now 14 years old, we feel the time is right to introduce Kevin, so that they have some overlap. I went to visit him for the fourth time yesterday, to take him a blanket, so that it will smell of his Mum and sisters, so that he will not feel too lonely when he comes here.

The first time we saw Kevin, his eyes were still closed and his Mum, Scruff, was very attentive and protective of her litter of four puppies. Gradually each time we have seen him, she has distanced herself from them, so much so that yesterday, she was missing in action and the pups were now weaned and independent, even going outside. He is adorable and I am confident that he will be a good addition to our madhouse, although I expect some jealousy from Ruby, our 7 year old cocker spaniel, so she will have to be managed like any other jealous sibling.

It struck me how different motherhood is for Scruff than my experience  : she had four babies and was with them constantly while they were dependent upon her and she defended them with her life – apart from the quantity of her offspring , our experiences were similar at this stage. Then she started to achieve some separation, as they grew bigger and more active and she was willing to leave them for short periods – this is possibly akin to when I ended my maternity leave,  and returned to work when joshua was 6 months old. Only I left Joshua in the capable hands of a childminder, did not leave him with any siblings to fend for himself.

Yesterday I did not see Scruff at all, she only comes in at bedtime apparently and even then she wants nothing to do with her pups now, as they are reaching an age when they are ready to leave home.  I do not recognise any of this stage of motherhood and I do not expect to ever see Joshua leave home and make his way in the world independently.

Joshua and our other dogs have not met Kevin yet, just me and my husband, so he will need to be introduced to them all carefully next week and he will need some space to find his feet in our busy household. If he is anything like the companion to Joshua that Ruby has become, then we will be very fortunate, as they are inseparable. She adores him and they spend a lot of time playing ball together both in the house and in the garden. Hopefully she will teach Kevin to recognise his seizures and to comfort him during that process, as she has learnt to do.

I know that puppies are hard work, with the little accidents and the chewing that are inevitable, but on balance I am expecting Kevin to bring even more fun, love and laughter to our family, which can only be a good thing.