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.





Two weeks

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:


First few days

Tuesday morning, as soon as I open the door to the laundry room / dog area, I hear whimpering and crying sounds. Savannah doesn’t move when I come in. She remains lying with the puppies surrounding her, a few nursing, a few sleeping, the rest crying. Healthy, well-nourished newborn puppies do very little crying. They’re either nursing, sleeping or perhaps making a few sounds before settling down. Something is wrong. Given that Savannah is such a small dog and she has such a large litter, the most likely reason for the puppies’ distress is she isn’t making enough milk yet. In time, her body will probably adjust to the demands placed on her by so many puppies. The more the puppies nurse, the more milk her body will produce. But until then, there’s a risk that some of the puppies will become dehydrated and/or hypoglycemic. Then they’ll become lethargic, lose their appetite and quickly crash.

I head to Petsmart and buy some puppy formula. Back home, I mix up about 6 ounces worth and begin feeding the puppies from a little bottle.

puppy photo from


I don’t find it easy feeding puppies from a bottle. The poor little things are just figuring out how to get milk from their mommies when I come along with this weird rubbery thing with funny tasting stuff coming out of it. Most of the time, they aren’t interested, clamping their mouths shut against the nipple. So I cheat and mix in a little sugar to make the formula sweeter and more appealing during the first few feedings.

Drinking milk from a bottle is a skill and it requires patience while a puppy learns how. But my hope is this is just a temporary measure, a little extra nourishment for the puppies until Savannah makes enough milk to satisfy them. So if I put the nipple in a puppy’s mouth and he can’t figure out how to get formula from it, I give the bottle a gentle squeeze every moment or so. I keep up the feeding until the puppy turns his head away, telling me he’s had enough. I work my way through all the puppies that are awake and not nursing. A few hours later I come back and feed them again.

Savannah begins interrupting the feedings by licking the face of whichever puppy I’m trying to feed. At first I assume she’s concerned about me handling her puppies. Then I realize she is attracted to the formula. After that to distract her I feed her canned food while I’m feeding the puppies.

By evening, only a few puppies are making whimpering sounds. After feeding them, there’s formula left over; I pour it over Savannah’s food.

Wednesday morning I open the door to the laundry room / dog area and pause to listen.  No crying sounds. I turn on the light and go over to Savannah and the puppies. Savannah’s lying down with all the puppies nestled around her, either sleeping or nursing. No need to give anyone formula. Throughout the day I continue to listen for signs of distress; there are none. Little Savannah’s body is doing its job, nourishing all eight puppies.

Thursday goes much the same as Wednesday. Savannah lying down feeding her puppies – getting up only to eat, drink or relieve herself on the newspapers – her puppies nursing or sleeping contentedly. Tomorrow we go away for the weekend and Savannah goes to her temporary foster. Fingers crossed that everything continues to go well while we are apart!





Labor Day

When I wake up Monday morning, Savannah is no longer on the dog cushion next to my bed. I glance around the room and don’t see her anywhere. Then I call for her and she comes out from under my grandmother’s old dresser. I pat the dog cushion hoping she’ll lie down but she chooses the floor next to it instead. Then she rolls over for a belly rub. When I stop petting her, she begins wandering around the room. So I take her out in the backyard; perhaps she needs to pee. But instead of going in the grass, she jumps up on me repeatedly, looking up into my eyes. I give up and bring her back inside. It still feels early so I try going back to sleep. But Savannah’s restless and continues walking around the room. When she tries to slip between the bed and the wall, I know something is wrong. Her backside is all that’s visible from where she’s squeezed in between the wall and the bed; I see something round, smooth and shiny bulging out. She’s started delivering a puppy. I gently ease her out, pick her up and flip her over so her rear is in the air. Then I carry her downstairs to the dog area and the whelping box and put her down on a towel, laying down newspapers around her.

The puppy in it’s membrane sack is only partly delivered but Savannah doesn’t seem to be having any contractions. Several minutes go by and the puppy remains half in half out. I grasp the puppy and give a gentle tug but it doesn’t move; I don’t dare pull harder. A few more minutes pass and the puppy finally emerges. Using her teeth, Savannah rips open the membrane, then eats it, laps up all the fluids and vigorously licks the puppy to dry him. The placenta hasn’t been delivered yet and the umbilical cord still connects it to the puppy. When Savannah stand up, the puppy dangles from the cord. I encourage her to lie down so the cord doesn’t pull at the puppy’s abdomen (this could give the puppy a hernia). Rather than cutting the cord for her, I wait and let Savannah get around to doing it. There’s no harm in delaying cutting the cord and possible benefits as the placenta delivers vital nutrients to the puppy in the first few minutes after birth.  And when a mother chews the cord herself, there’s much less bleeding than when the cord is cut with scissors, reducing the need for tying it off. A few minutes later the placenta comes out along with a second puppy! Savannah takes care of the second puppy then goes back to chew the cord of the first puppy. I make sure that the puppies aren’t losing blood from their chewed off cords. Sometimes if mother dog chews off the chord too close to a puppy’s abdomen there’s excessive bleeding. If that happens, I tie the cord with dental floss. I move the puppies to the clean newspapers knowing Savannah will follow them. Then I remove the wet newspapers and put down new ones. Savannah is doing a fantastic job caring for her puppies post delivery and I give her lots of praise.

Here she is after delivering the first two:

Steve brings me a cup of coffee and I ask what time it is. 9:40am. I settle down on a cushion and watch as Savannah fusses over her puppies. I’ll be here a while. Puppies are typically born a half an hour to an hour apart but can come within minutes of one another or conversely, hours can pass between arrivals. And without knowing how many puppies Savannah is going to have, it’s even harder to predict how long I’ll be keeping her company.

I turn on the space heater; it’s a chilly morning and it’s important to keep newborns warm. Before long she starts to deliver the third puppy. While Savannah is focused on the new delivery, I slip the first two puppies out of the way, so they don’t get stepped on or wet again.

Here’s the third delivery. Warning! Don’t play this video unless you’re prepared to see one of the messier – and to some grosser – sides of mammalian life!

Savannah is doing great! There at the end, she’s a little too focused on licking up the puddle and forgets about her wet puppy so I get a towel and dry it for her. Then I change the wet newspapers so she and the puppies are comfortable while they wait together for the next arrival. I offer Savannah some water.

Four then five come along. Here’s Savannah with five puppies:

And then puppy number six arrives (watch only if you can’t get enough of this stuff):

Six puppies. By now I’m really hoping Savannah is done. She’s thrown up twice. Shaking and shivering. When she’s not delivering a puppy or cleaning up a puppy post delivery, she’s so weary she just lies there weakly licking her puppies. And she’s such a little thing. I doubt she’s fifteen pounds. Six puppies are more than enough for her to feed and care for.

But nature is greedy and number seven comes along (yup, another puppy delivery video):

And before another hour passes, an eighth puppy is born. I’m stiff from sitting so long in the whelping box with Savannah so I slip upstairs for a moment to stretch my legs. It’s after 1pm.

I go back downstairs with another cup of coffee. Around 3pm I call it. Eight puppies for Savannah. Delivered on Labor Day. I decide to name them after heroes of the American labor movement.

I bring Savannah food and water and check on her throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening. Unfortunately, I hear a lot of puppy whimpering. The puppies are so very thin. They have no reserves to hold them while they wait for Savannah’s milk to come in. I mix up some sugar water and give it to them using a medicine dropper. In the morning I’ll go buy some formula; Savannah is going to need my help feeding them tomorrow.