I guess it is true that a watched pot never boils and that whole thing about the best laid plans.
Halo was due on Labor Day but apparently she did not get that memo because she never really moved into active labor. Her temperature had dropped on Sunday, indicating she should start whelping within 24 hours but no real action. She did work on the giant wet hole she had dug in preparation for her new family, and she did a lot of panting, grunting and looking generally miserable and like a beached whale -- but no puppies.
My friend, Joan, came all the way from Salt Lake City to serve as the puppies' private pediatrician, but even that wonderful gesture did not motivate Halo to deliver a puppy.
We were in regular communication with our vet, and on Tuesday gave Halo an ultimatum -- deliver a puppy or have a c-section at 3:30. Halo elected to skip that whole labor thing and take a drug-induced nap so someone else could deliver the babies.
I wish I could say it was easy and fun, but it was not. It is very scary to send a dog into surgery, even though Joan and I were there and Joan was watching; blood and guts are not my thing. Puppies come out fast and furious and so suddenly we were trying to suction and clean puppies, and they were not breathing and had copious amounts of fluid. We had five of us working on puppies -- it was terrifying. We did not think they would all survive but they did, thanks to everyone's efforts and especially Joan who seemed really good at getting puppies going. Pink is indeed my favorite color -- what a relief to see their little blue faces pink up !
The clinic was great. They have a big futon bed and we were all moved quickly to that. Halo sleepily said hello to her new family as they nursed. The staff brought in champagne to celebrate but I think they really just wanted an excuse to have Happy Hour at work!
After a few hours, Halo was discharged on a stretcher -- because of her excessive bleeding she was not supposed to walk and so it looked like she was on a magic carpet ride! We made it home safely and settled everyone in the whelping box. My son, who is the Puppy Nanny when I am at work, stayed up with the puppies so Joan and I could sleep. I relieved him early and he went off to bed, and then we had to say good-bye to Joan, who had to return to Salt Lake City and her real life.
The puppies were born weighing between 18 - 20 ounces with the exception of one who was literally half the size of her siblings. She is vigorous and seems fine, but she is tiny and I worry about her.
I like to name our puppies because calling them by colors or numbers seems impersonal, and I do not feel impersonal about the puppies at all. I had some names picked out but they did not seem to fit, and so I went on line and looked at names of towns in Montana, where we have just moved (although we will still be spending 2 - 3 months a year in Utah for a while).
There are six girls, and their names are Rosebud (aka Moose), Madison, Kinsey, Sula, Darby and Lolo (as in she had a low low birth weigh but that is really the name of a town near us). There are two boys and I resisted calling them Lewis and Clark and instead they are Dawson and Ledger.
Life at Puppy Central is all about eating. We want the puppies to gain weight and so we are carefully rotating puppies. Four eat while four rest on a warming pad. When we rotate, we get Halo up so she can change sides, giving the new group of four some fresh milk. The puppies are weighed twice a day and we keep careful records of these weights, ensuring that any puppy that is gaining more slowly gets preferred seating at the dairy bar. Lolo is presently on this plan -- the poor puppy must feel force-fed as she eats with every group and I protect her from being knocked off the prime spot by one of her more weighty siblings.
We are a bit (okay, a lot) obsessive. Puppies are never unattended. We count them constantly to ensure one is not being suffocated under Halo. At night one of us is next to the box and the rotation meal plan continues; this first week is pretty intense. Galen (aka The Puppy Nanny) is a huge help since I do have a brand new job -- I would not have these puppies if I did not have his help. We miss Kim, my husband, who normally does the night shifts for the first week but he is behind in Utah for a while. He helped out last night by calling me all night to make sure I was awake and rotating puppies!
Puppies are in a warm room and my computer is in here so I can work and watch puppies. The box is 60 inches by 72 inches, so it is quite big. It is lined with newspaper and then a fleece is over that, and we use towels and washclothes under Halo and the puppies to keep things clean.
Halo eats 5 - 7 meals a day. She bounced back from her c-section without incident -- it is amazing how fast they recover. She is a careful, attentive mom and does not mind showing off her babies to the cats, who wander in to say hello. The other dogs watch the action through the French doors that separate the room that is now Puppy Central from the rest of the house; they are curious and are feeling a bit neglected.
It is thrilling to have the puppies here but I am reminded again how difficult this whole breeding thing is. It is simply terrifying to know you could lose your dog, and that puppies might not survive. We are already exhausted, and it is only Day Three. For the next eight weeks we won't be doing much of anything else -- life will be about these puppies. It is just not as easy as it seems on paper to raise a litter and do it well -- but we are blessed to be able to do this and I know that.