Savannah and pups were in good hands while I was away. Sue Bell, founder and Executive Director of Homeward Trails, had offered to care for them. I hadn’t seen Sue in a long time. Years ago, we used to meet to transfer dogs or dog families from one car to another. But since HTAR has grown, so have her responsibilities. Most of Sue’s time is no doubt spent coordinating with staff, setting policies and fundraising while others do the direct work. It was really nice to see her again.
On Monday, Sue arranged for her boyfriend’s daughter Hannah to be home so I could pick up Savannah and her puppies. Sue had borrowed a puppy pen to make a cozy den. When I first came near the pen, Savannah growled and snarled at me. Either she was so protective of her puppies she didn’t stop to see who it was or it had been long enough that she’d forgotten me. Since Savannah had warmed to Hannah while I was away, I let Hannah take the lead in loading Savannah and her puppies in my car.
Once home, I gave Savannah lots of privacy, coming in only to change the newspapers and fill her food and water bowls. She needed to rest and to get re-acquainted with her surroundings. Within a day or two, her behavior changed. Instead of lying quietly with her puppies whenever I came into the dog area, she began leaping out of the whelping box and jumping up on me excitedly. When I reached down to pet her, she’d immediately roll over for a belly rub. It looked like Savannah’s energy had returned and she was ready for a break from her puppies.
Now every morning and afternoon, I go downstairs and after a quick greeting, let Savannah outside. I clean up any overnight messes and fill up her bowls. Then I go upstairs, grab a cup of coffee and head outside. Savannah, seeing me, gets excited all over again. She wanders around the yard. Eventually she’s relieves herself – she’s one of those dogs who needs some exercise first. I sit down on a patio chair and Savannah immediately leaps into my lap. She lies down while I finish my coffee. Some days I have somewhere I need to be or something I need to do and get up as soon as my cup’s empty. Other times we linger, Savannah curled up in my lap, me petting her fur. After a while I start thinking about all the things I could be doing and take Savannah back inside where we find her puppies sleeping contentedly in the whelping box.
Despite being such a little dog, Savannah is able to make enough milk to feed all eight puppies. Besides keeping them well fed, she also licks them clean and sleeps close to them to help keep them warm. They aren’t skinny anymore but have rounded out. Either sleeping or nursing, quiet and content.
Savannah does have one strange quirk. After the puppies were born and I’d cleaned up all the dirty newspapers, I put down clean towels for Savannah and the puppies to lie down on. Later when I checked on them, I found Savannah and the puppies lying directly on the floor of the whelping box with the towels bunched up in front of them. So I spread the towels out again – putting the puppies back on them – only to return later to find Savannah and the puppies back on the floor again, the towels pushed aside. Several more times I tried to make everyone comfortable on the towels only to find them later on the bare floor. Then I tried newspapers. Which Savannah then shredded. After that, I gave up. For whatever reason, Savannah prefers the vinyl flooring to the towels or newspapers. Since she’s such a fastidious mother, licking up all of her puppies’ messes herself, it’s not a concern for them to be directly on the floor. For now at least. When her puppies start eating solid food, she’ll stop cleaning up after them. Then I’ll need to put newspapers down or there will be an awful mess to deal with every day.
Here’s video from today, the puppies’ two week birthday: