I keep a list of all the dogs and puppies I’ve fostered beginning with the very first litter in the summer of 2005. Today, I added them all up and discovered Savannah is the twenty-ninth mother dog I’ve fostered. Every fostering experience has similarities yet each is unique too. Every mother dog is much like every other mother dog except each is her own shade of crazy. Savannah is no exception. Like all the rest, she’s adjusted to me caring for her and handling her puppies – it amazes me each time how despite all she’s been through each momma dogs yields to my care and trusts me with her puppies – and she’s responded to instincts to nurture her puppies. But typically, a mom dog develops a odd habit or behavior. Velvet liked to pick up her food bowl and carry it someplace else, spilling kibble everywhere as she went. And Holly would take toys away from her puppies, then bury them in the back yard. In my last post I mentioned that Savannah kept pulling towels or newspapers out from under her puppies. So I stopped using them and put the puppies directly on the vinyl floor of the whelping box. Perhaps Savannah didn’t want the puppies on the towel once the towel had gotten damp. With eight puppies peeing, they get damp quickly. Then last week, Savannah began moving the puppies out of the whelping box and onto the concrete floor between the whelping box and the dog gate – a narrow, den like spot where many of my mother dogs have liked to lie down. Unfortunately, this is not a good place for the puppies because unlike the vinyl flooring in the whelping box, concrete is a good conductor and will drain heat from the puppies, endangering their health. So I put down newspapers and towels in the whelping box again, hoping that maybe she’d like that better than no covering. But whenever I checked on Savannah, she’d moved some if not all of the puppies back to the new spot. Then found a box about the same size and shape as the new spot and placed it there hoping that would discourage her from moving her puppies there. A few hours later I heard whining and crying and went to check on the puppies. I found Savannah lying on top of the box with a couple of the puppies dropped between the box and the gate. After putting the puppies back in the whelping box I realized two were still missing. I could hear crying but several of the puppies in the whelping box were whining too so I couldn’t figure out where the sound was coming from. So I put the six puppies in a box, brought them upstairs and then went back to listen for the missing pups. At first I thought perhaps they’d crawled behind the whelping box so I carefully slid it forward. No such luck. Then I realized the sounds were coming from the long wooden shelves above the whelping box. These shelves run the length of the dog area and the lowest shelf is at least two and a half feet off the ground. To reach them, Savannah would have had to pick up each puppy in her mouth, then jump up on to the shelf. The shelves are very deep, around three feet deep. The lowest shelf has two laundry baskets filled with towels for the puppies, a box of puppy toys and a large box filled with newspapers. I carefully slid out the box of newspapers and behind it found a pile of shredded newspapers. And in the middle of the shredded newspapers, the first puppy. Deeper back, behind the laundry basket, I found the other puppy whining and slowly crawling farther behind the shelves. I carefully put them back in the whelping box and cleared out the shredded papers. Then I pushed the newspaper box, toy box and laundry baskets back as far as they would go onto the shelf. Then I removed the box from the area by the gate – I’d rather Savannah bring her puppies to that spot than jump onto the shelves with them. Finally, I put the box with a towel over it and a large dog bed on its side in the front half of the whelping box to make the area at the back where the puppies are smaller and more den-like. Since then I’ve also started changing the towels twice as often as I normally would. Maybe one or all of those changes helped; Savannah seems to be taking puppies with her to the new spot less frequently.
Besides Savannah trying to relocate her little family to better digs, all is well. Savannah is overjoyed to see me in the mornings and the other times I drop in to visit her. Whining, yelping, she jumps on me, leaps in the air, races circles around me until I sit down and let her snuggle in my lap. She never tires of lying there. Unfortunately she has not warmed to Steve or Amanda. She still won’t let them pet her and growls and snaps if Steve goes near her puppies. I should buy some high value treats to see if she’ll be more open to them when offered something really tasty.
Her puppies are sleeping well, gaining weight and rarely whine or cry. Yet they aren’t as far along developmentally as I would expect them to be at this age.
Here’s video I took Monday when they were exactly three weeks old:
Now here are Velvet’s puppies at three weeks:
Savannah’s puppies seem less surefooted than Velvet’s at the same age.
And except for wanting to sleep huddled together, Savannah’s puppies don’t interact with one another very much. By three weeks, puppies are usually playing together and starting to chew on toys.
Here are Hestia’s puppies a few days passed the three week mark:
Savannah’s puppies were also late in opening their eyes. The first puppy didn’t open her eyes until day 16 and the last not until day 20. Puppies generally open their eyes after one to two weeks.
So I’m beginning to suspect that the puppies were born the early. Dog pregnancies last between 58 to 67 days, with 63 days being the average delivery date. While small dogs are thought to deliver later than 63 days, dogs carrying very large litters tend to deliver earlier than 63 days due to crowding in the uterus. One interesting thing I just learned is that puppies born very early – day 58 or so – have bright pink paws with very little fur on them. I remember being startled at how pink and bald some of the puppies’ paws seemed on Labor Day. The puppies being born early would also explain why they seemed so very thin and why they required sugar water and formula the first 48 hours.
The good news is despite being behind they are advancing at a regular pace. Even though they seem to be a half week to a week behind developmentally, they’ll be just fine in the long run. It may be best to keep them together with their mother an extra week and set their going home date at around nine weeks, the first weekend in November.