At Richmond Championship Show Rosko (Quilesta So Treasured) was awarded the RCC under breed specialist judge Lynn O'Connell, well done Jan and Caz!!
At East of England Championship Show, Rosko was award the RCC under breed specialised Christine Ogle, well done Jan and Caz!!
I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be less than 6” high and let loose in a ‘wilderness’ of grass and flowers; daunting forests of shrubs; wooden benches as high as the tallest sky-scraper and plies of logs as imposing as Mount Kilimanjaro. Was anyone phased? No. Turns out that these small puppies are extremely adventurous and, at this point in time, have no real fear. This, for us humans, is both good and bad. I’m glad that they are adventurous, seeking out new experiences, absorbing life and knowledge like sponges, however… it does mean that you need eyes in the back of your head—sides too would be useful—in order not to loose anyone!
We took them out in groups, not sure that we could cope with monitoring all 10 at the same time. How right we were! After acclimatising, which took less than a minute, they were off… and like a gaggle of small children they all went in different directions! I remember taking Finn to the zoo when he was about 3. He had never seen elephants before and was totally enthralled. As an adult it is difficult to recapture that initial sense of enchantment: the delight of something unexpected and new, something totally beyond your imagination. I wonder if it was like for the puppies?
Our garden is quite large, with flowerbeds, a vegetable patch, a woodpile, overgrown areas for the wildlife and lots of nettles! I foolishly hoped that the pups would stay, more-or-less, in the centre of the neatly mown grass area—no such luck! They particularly liked the overgrown brambly bits: for human arms a killer combination of scratchy long grass, brambles and nettles, for puppies—a breeze! It’s quite something watching a small puppy disappear head first into the undergrowth, white bum and tail left waving in the air. And boy can they move if the mood takes them, sprinting across what to them must seem like acres of open plain. I guess that could explain their preference for the overgrown areas—safety. Out on the savannah grasslands of mowed lawn they are vulnerable to passing birds of prey and larger carnivores; hidden in the nettles and the brambles they are safe!
What stories they had to tell when they returned to the sanctuary of the kitchen. And when they slept what dreams they had, their small bodies twitching, excited, legs running as they relived their adventures. And tomorrow, tomorrow is another day, with more adventures, more firsts, and more life to be lived, but perhaps nothing will ever be quite as special as that first sojourn into the garden.
Everyone, large and small, has been fed and watered, and are now lying fast asleep: replete and content. There is jazz playing in the background and I am drinking a glass of cold white wine—a small oasis of calm in what has become an unbelievably busy, and somewhat manic, life. Would I change anything? No. Tired as I am, chaotic as my life has become, watching these 10 new lives as they grow and develop is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done. Characters are beginning to emerge: there is the diva, the explorer, the chilled out one, the escape artist. They captivate and beguile; and I will miss them when they go.
Last week they moved into the kitchen. I added a run to the whelping box, so they now have twice the space. In so doing I discovered that I possess 22 drill bits… hmmm… let’s just say that I am equipped to drill any size hole in almost any medium! The pups love their new accommodation. Being in the kitchen means that they are at the ‘heart of the home’, with all the domestic comings and goings, and all the associated noises and chaos of family life. Hopefully, by the time they leave with their new families they will be well versed in the washing machine, the hoover, the clanking of pans, the radio, music, etc, etc.
I started weaning them last week. My Mother was a herbalist and I am following her ‘natural rearing’ method. The pups are started on raw meat: a pulp/paste of chicken meat and bone. I love weaning puppies—encouraging them to taste, watching them engage, enjoy and devourer their new food. Seeing how quickly they develop once they start on this meat diet reminded me of papers I read when studying for my Masters: papers about the relationship between the cooking of meat—the use of fire—and the development of the human brain. I’m not sure what precisely the connection is, but it seems that protein is a ‘force for the good’ and that in order to evolve the human brain required cooked meat. As well as meat the pups are, initially, given milk, honey, tree bark food and oatbran porridge. Over the weeks I will introduce different meats, offal, bone, vegetables and fruit. Dora would, I think, be happy to be fruitarian. I have never known a dog to be so fond of fruit! She loves, blueberries, raspberries, mango, strawberries—in fact any fruit you can think of, except apples! Why she doesn’t like apples I do not know. Our Dora is a bit of an enigma. It will be interesting to see if any of these pups love fruit as much as she does.
Tomorrow Mandy is coming over and we plan to take the pups out into the garden—their first taste of the outside world—now that could be fun!
We are coming to the end of yet another day and the beginning of another week. The puppies are 18 days old. We have just finishing weighing them—I have weighed them every day, at about the same time, since they were born. The daily weights are put onto a spread sheet and in my ‘spare’ time I play around with the figures, looking at % increases, who weighs the most, who the least, how it has changed since they were born—they are a remarkable even and consistent litter—Dora is doing an excellent job! Soon they will be too big for the kitchen scales. Although the photo of Octavia suggests that they lie neatly curled up while being weighed, this is a fallacy; mostly they wriggle like mad, try to escape and generally make it very difficult, if not impossible, to get a steady reading. So, although I carefully log all the results, who know what they really weigh because I doubt it what I am recording!
Wednesday (day 14) was worming day. They will be wormed every two weeks until they leave for their new homes. Everyone warned me about the bright pink worming paste and how it got everywhere. I must admit to being somewhat sceptical about that one—2-week-old puppies, a syringe and some worming liquid, how can it be THAT messy? Well… turns out it can! And, I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s only going to get worse. It’s the shaking of the head that does most damage—minute droplets of slightly foamy, fondant pink liquid dispersing into the atmosphere, landing on anything and everything. Needless to say next time I will not be wearing clean clothes! The worming liquid was the first ‘alien’ substance they had encountered, their expressions were priceless—ranging from sheer horror to disgust to disbelief.
The other ‘job’ that seems never ending is the trimming of nails; I keep them short to prevent them scratching and tearing Dora as the pups ‘prime the pump’. With 10 puppies there are a lot of nails to trim. Some don’t mind too much, others protest loudly and wriggle a lot. The first time I did it the pups were so small and wriggly that I was worried I would cut into the quick. Now they are bigger it is a little easier—though it has become a 2-person job: one to hold the ‘victim’ down and one to cut. I guess getting them used to nail trimming, worming and generally being handled is all part of their ‘education’; not skills that they will learn from their Mother or siblings, but rather human constructs that will, hopefully, equip them to be good canine members of our society.
On re-reading this blog entry I feel I ought it be headed— Ways to Torture a Puppy. So I hasten to add that they also get lots of love and cuddles!
Today I have divided my time between editing and puppies—puppies it transpires are exhausting, but rewarding—editing is just, well… exhausting! In the afternoon this is a sunny room, Dora and Scout are stretched out on the floor, fast asleep: Scout is lying in one of the pockets of sun streaming through the window, Dora lies in the shade, taking a smidgeon of ‘time out’ before returning to the ever hungry brood. The room is silent apart from the occasional noise from the whelping box. Puppies, it seems, dream. I’m not sure what they dream about; perhaps they hold memories from long ago, because they cannot, surely, be dreaming about their current life experiences? They are fascinating to watch, their bodies twitching, animated: not the uncontrolled twitching of the newborn but more deliberate; an attempted scratch, the legs moving as if running. And the noises… an anxious noise, a contented noise, a low, soft, gentle growl, that one, the growl, caught me unawares, I thought I’d misheard, but no it came again, a low, soft, gentle growl. Sometimes, like now, the noises sound like singing, and when several of the pups join in it sounds like some strange primeval chorus. When they are awake barking is added to the ensemble, funny little high-pitched barks. It turns out that puppies, even very small ones, are noisy, sometimes very noisy!
Some puppies have opened their eyes. Some puppies can stand. Some puppies can sit. Some puppies go and wee on the paper. Some puppies wee on me! Their personalities are beginning to emerge and I am beginning to have my favourites!
Soon it will be time for tea: Dora and Scout will be fed, the puppies will be weighed and the whelping box cleaned. Dora will, once again, take her place in the box, stretched out, a ready supply of milk. I cannot quite believe the amount of food she is currently consuming — vast quantities of porridge and honey and milk and yoghurt and eggs and meat and tripe and biscuit and veg and… the list goes on. She is still skinny, like a wraith—all that goodness going in and coming out again, turned into nourishing milk for those small creatures she grew inside her for 9 weeks; and now gives her all to feed and raise.
Finn is home from school and the kettle is on. The process of feeding starts again…
A week… a whole seven days… at the moment time seems to be moving both quickly and slowly. Dora’s babies are a week old: their eyes are beginning to open, tiny slits appearing at the corners. They have almost doubled their birth weights, they are trying to stand: I watched one this afternoon, pull himself up, put his hind legs underneath his body, stand… wobble… and fall over! This time last week they were new, so new, less than a few hours old. Their first instinct was to get to their Mother’s teat, to food, to nourishment. Watching them, still wet from the birth, crawling with such determination, I was struck by the desire to live, to thrive.
Given that they can neither see, nor hear, nor walk, they are remarkably speedy and determined as they move across the whelping box. Watching them a couple of days after they were born my daughter likened them to zombies—puppy zombies driven by the smell of milk, an army of undead homing in on their mother, driven forward by instinct, the desire for survival. There are 10 pups and 7 teats: not quite enough to go around: first there, first served. Those who make it to a teat hang on for grim death, as if their very survival depended upon it, which, I guess, it does. As a zooarchaeologist and scientist this fascinates me—this survival of the fittest, their biological urges and desires. I watch them and wonder how many, and which ones, would have survived in the wild. Here, in the comfort of the book room, they are monitored and those that seem in need are given priority access to Dora. The pig rail, in the carefully constructed whelping box, stops them being squashed by a tired, slightly overwhelmed, first-time mother.
I once found a cluster of neonatal canid bones, several puppies buried together in the corner of a cave. These bones supposedly came from a time before domesticated dogs. Archaeological data indicated that hunter-gatherers were using the cave on a seasonal basis—were these bones evidence of very early interactions between wolves and humans, or had this ‘burial’ occurred while the humans were absent and the cave was being used as a whelping den? Research into wolf behaviour revealed that wolves bury their dead pups. We will probably never know if this cluster of neonates was the result of natural animal behaviour or human intervention. Watching Dora and her newborns I am reminded of the wolf pups, the strength of the maternal bond, the love that comes unbidden, the desire to protect and make safe, even if, as in the case of the wolf pups, that means carefully burying the ones that don’t survive.
I’ve been smiling a lot this past couple of days: little smiles that come unbidden and play around the corners of my mouth. Dora is a mummy! She has ten babies—five girls and five boys. As I write she is lying surrounded by black and white, spotty blobs. The pups look as if they are auditioning for a Persil advert—they are snow white; she keeps them very clean does our Dora. And they are so soft to the touch; their coats feel like the finest velvet. They are quite extraordinarily beautiful.
The miracle of birth never ceases to amaze me. Dora went into the first stage of labour on Tuesday. I had been carefully taking her temperature, waiting for the ‘magic’ drop that would signify the start of the pup’s journey into this world. I’m still not sure when the drop happened. I guess, Dora being Dora, she did things a tad differently to ‘the book’ and I missed it. No matter, when you know your canine companion well you can tell that ‘things are happening’! Dora isn’t a diva, she doesn’t make a fuss, she just gets on and does, and true to form, that is exactly what she did. I kept a close eye on her; she was so relaxed and laid back that at times I thought I’d made a mistake and that she wasn’t in labour at all. Just as I had been at Dora’s birth, Mandy was coming over to be at this birth. We’d kept in close contact all afternoon and evening, I would let her know once Dora went into second-stage labour.
I drank copious cups of tea—I’m seriously thinking about buying shares in a tea company! Everyone, except me, went to bed. I remember sitting on the floor, with my back to the wall, watching Dora stretched out serenely on the sofa opposite me. Was she really in labour? Then she looked at me, and I knew, yes, she was. Around midnight I debated calling Mandy, but decided against it. There was no point in two of us loosing sleep unnecessarily. Half an hour later and Dora had definitely moved on… I rang Mandy. It takes about an hour and a half to get from Mandy’s to mine…plenty of time for the first puppy to arrive before she got here! I rang my friend Sarah; she lives 2 minutes away, and is very good at making tea! Dora had decided, unhelpfully, that she was going to have that first puppy just inside the whelping room door. She was also determined to have it standing up. Sarah and I covered the floor, typically the only bit of the floor not covered with a plastic sheet, with layers of newspaper. There was a gush of liquid—her water’s had broken. The first puppy was imminent. The puppy bag appeared at her vulva—I could see and feel feet—it was going to be a feet first delivery. About half of all puppies are born feet first, so this was nothing to worry about, though a head first delivery is easier for a first puppy from a maiden bitch. Slowly she began to push it out. She was still standing, so I gently cradled the emerging puppy, guiding it downwards in line with her birth canal. Mandy and the puppy arrived almost simultaneously!
Dora instinctively started licking the babe, removing the bag and detaching the placenta. Bitches often try to sever the umbilical cord very close to the pup’s belly, which is not good as you can end up with hernias. Dora was determined to remove as much umbilical cord as possible, so with a few deft moves the cord was clamped and neatly cut by human hands. We gave the pup a quick rub with a towel to help dry it off and got it suckling. I remember smiling, all three of us smiling, Dora’s first baby had been safely delivered. As each new life enters this world they are sexed, named, drawn, weighed, checked over and the time of birth noted. This first puppy, a girl, named Andromeda, was born at 2.09am.
The next puppy arrived some 20 minutes later. By now Dora had moved into the whelping box, though she was not convinced that lying down was the best option. She had my sympathy—I remember when I was in labour with Finn, being on all fours was definitely my favoured position! This time it was a head first delivery, a little boy, whom we named Thor. My son had come downstairs to watch Thor’s birth—he didn’t say much. Birth is a messy, anxious business, lots of blood and gore and pain! He will, I am sure, remember Thor’s birth for the rest of his life—watching a new being come into this world is a wonderous experience and something you never forget.
And, on that philosophical note, I must go and attend to Dora and her ever-growing brood.