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.