Dogs on the Run

During the stretch of nice weather we had last week, the puppies and Savannah spend most of their days outside. The puppies loved racing around tackling one another and exploring the yard while Savannah kept herself busy stealing their toys. One afternoon I got a call from my neighbor saying a puppy had slipped through the fence pickets. This has happened with other litters but never by eight weeks. Savannah’s puppies are such little things, the largest weighs just 3 3/4 lbs. So I went out to the side yard to see if I could figure out where the puppy were making their escape. When I found two pickets that were farther apart than the rest, I wedged a rock between them.  But then I saw that the three smallest puppies were missing from the yard, Maida, Lucy Parsons and Mother Jones. I called and they came running, happy as could be. Reaching through the fence, I slid them up one by one, grabbing them over the top rail.  Back on the ground, they immediately ran to the corner of the yard and disappeared. Hidden behind the grass was a gap below two of the pickets where the puppies could squeeze through.  Leaving them safely in my neighbors fenced yard, I gathered up some old bricks. Then I pushed one under the gap in the corner, collected the puppies again and watched to see if they had any other escape routes. Sure enough, they did. It was a challenge at first as they disappeared behind the bushes and went through the fence before I could catch up to see where they’d escaped. I had to retrieve them repeatedly as I continued to plug up the gaps. Then the puppies started getting confused.  They’d run up to a gap between the pickets, try to push their heads through, fail, then run to the next gap and try all over again.  Before long, slender little Maida was the only one succeeding. Soon after I thought I had found and blocked all the escape routes.

But then she managed to find one last space to slip through and enjoy a final adventure in the neighbor’s yard:

After getting her back over the fence I found her final escape route.  But I guess she’d had enough of me ruining her adventures. When I put my arm through the fence, she stayed just out of reach.  Putting a plastic chair on either side of the fence, I climbed over and  grabbed her.  I watched for a while as she banged her head in frustration against all the just too small gaps.  Before long she gave up and joined her brothers and sisters in play.

Little Maida is with her new family now. I wonder if she’s keeping them on their toes too.



Always learning

Now and then someone will ask me, how did you learn so much about dogs? What I want to say is, I hardly know anything, I’m just an amateur. But I don’t want to discourage the questioner. So instead I tell them I ask a lot of questions of people who own or work with dogs and do lots of googling. In addition, I try to keep an open mind. Our ideas about dogs – how their minds work, how best to train and care for them, keep them happy and content – continue to change so it’s important to keep reading and listening. Some ideas and methods developed from them are best forgotten.* As in all areas of my life, I try to make the best decisions I can with the information I have at the time. When I make mistakes, I try to learn from them and move on. Lingering regret and forgiving myself are what I struggle with the most.

Savannah and her puppies have given me many opportunities to learn. The puppies and Savannah are listed on Petfinder as small dogs. Nearly all my previous fosters have been medium or large dogs. As a result, their potential adopters have had different experiences.  Instead of having mostly owned Labrador Retrievers and other large and medium sized dogs, the folks visiting Savannah’s puppies have mostly owned small dogs. One visitor noticed Cesar’s bi-color eyes and said that Dachshunds sometimes have that trait. Then another noted all the Merle/dapple coats and said that also was a Dachshund trait:

picture from:


Having never seen a dachshund puppy before, I had no idea the resemblance many of Savannah’s puppies have to that breed.

And then Saturday, a third visitor told me she suspected Savannah was part Wire Haired Dachshund based on her appearance and personality. She described her Dachshund as devoted to her people but aloof to others, mostly indifferent to other dogs and calm for a small dog, not apt to bark or behave anxiously as some do – zen is the term she used.  This is just as I would describe Savannah! With this new information, I updated Savannah and her puppies’ Petfinder pages in hopes that Dachshund enthusiasts would find them in searches.

With my trip to Florida and Alana’s vacation, we haven’t yet found homes for all the puppies. Mother Jones, Lucy Parsons and Eugene Debs still need adopters. And of course Savannah needs a home too. I’m not worried as they are all darlings. But new visual material always helps so when I let the puppies outside for a romp today I took some new video.

If this one doesn’t get us a few applications I’m hanging up my hat:

Even though the 70 degree weather days appear to be behind us, I try to let the puppies outside everyday (until the shivering begins). Yesterday’s rain made that impossible. As a result, today they seemed extra energetic:

The puppies aren’t the only ones who enjoy racing around:


The puppies are eight weeks old today.  It’s possible that most if not all of them will be adopted and in their new homes by this time next Monday.  Fingers crossed everyone.


*An example, based on a flawed study of captive, unrelated wolves, people believed for many years – some still do – that wolf and dog communities are hierarchical , i.e. there alpha wolves/dogs, beta wolves/dogs but studies of wild wolves showed they naturally live in family groupings. This new knowledge completely changed the philosophy of dog training from one of dominance and submission to that of positive behavior.


Labor Day Puppies meet the Caps

Monday while I was still in Florida, the puppies had a field trip. They, along with a number of other dogs from Homeward Trails, went for a photo shoot with the Washington Capitals hockey team. It’s hard to say whether they had a good time or not, but it sure looks like the players enjoyed cuddling them. And it wasn’t just for fun, it was for a good cause. The photos will be used in a calendar which will be sold to the public.  Proceeds will be used to pay veterinary bills for dogs we would not have been able to rescue without these funds. So we can say our little Labor Day puppies – only seven weeks old – have already volunteered for charity.

Caps Canine Photo Shoot

P.S.  Lucy and Dolores stayed home to keep Savannah company.


Playful Puppies

Yesterday was warm enough for the puppies to go outside to run around, play with one another and their toys.

When ever they got the chance, they also chased down their momma for a drink of milk.

In the background we can hear my next door neighbor’s daughter playing with her dog Auggie. Savannah is a very protective. She barks and sometimes growls when she sees and hears activity next door. She still hasn’t warmed up to Steve. Lately he’s been feeding her treats in an attempt to win her over. I hope it works because later this week I’m visiting family in Florida and he’ll be the one caring for Savannah and her puppies.


First meal and more!

I realize I completely forgot to post the videos of the puppies’ first meal from a week and a half ago (October 6):

They weren’t interested at first so I had to stop filming and bring them over to the bowl:

Savannah joins in:

The puppies weren’t very eager eaters at first, mostly content with Savannah’s milk.  But each day the puppies seem more interested in the food and eat a little more.

I also named all the puppies, took photos of them and posted pages on Petfinder and Homeward Trails.  As promised, in honor of them being born on Labor Day, they’re all named for people who contributed to the labor movement.

Taking photos of puppies for Petfinder is one the most challenging things I have to do.  Puppies rarely stay still when they are awake.  And they especially don’t want to stay still if you bend down in front of them as I do when taking a picture. I’ve learned over the years that I have the best chance of getting them to stay still if I bring them to a new location where they aren’t yet at ease. If all goes well I can get a decent picture before they get to comfortable and active.  The downside of this is they often look sad.  Because they often are. Nervous and alone in a new place, I keep pointing a strange thing at them instead of picking them up!

When I was trying to take pictures of the first puppy last week, I inadvertently left the camera on video.  So I ended up filming while I was trying to get him to settle down so I could take a picture.  This will give you an idea what it’s like trying to get a picture of a puppy.

I’d been struggling with him for a few minutes before calling Steve over to help:

Eventually I had Steve hold the puppy while I took the photo (puppy wins, I surrender).

Howard Wallace


Thankfully, none of the others were quite as wiggly as Howard.

Lucy Parsons


Mother Jones


Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta


Maida Springer‐Kemp



Woody Guthrie


Eugene V. Debs


Cesar Chavez



Puppies go outdoors

This afternoon the temperatures were in the high seventies, perfect for bringing the puppies outside for the first time. The pups are so little, they all fit comfortably in a mid-sized plastic container.

Savannah is very excited that I brought her puppies outside. The puppies are a little less certain. After all, up until now they’ve only known the dog area, the whelping box, towels, dog beds and newspapers. Some are more curious than others. A few are nervous; they whine, one even howls.

Some of the puppies’ coat colors are changing, patches or spots of Orange/tan are appearing. And some of them are getting longer hair on their bodies and faces.  Will some end up looking like Savannah?

After I finish shooting video, I sit down among the puppies. I comfort the one howling and another who is shivering. Savannah jumps in my lap but leaps away as soon as the puppies start trying to nurse. Before long I’ve piled all the puppies on my lap or in my arms. They are so small I can literally carry all eight back to the whelping box in my arms at once (don’t try this at home folks).

Tomorrow I’m going to introduce them to solid food.


Each momma, her own shade of crazy

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.