Expecting

Not much has gone as expected for the past few days. Okay, well, a few things. My husband took off for France. Ian won his soccer game, and Addie got the part she wanted in the school play (of course it wasn’t the part I expected she’d get as she’ll be Blackstache instead of Molly or any other part normally assigned a girl in Peter and the Starcatchers). The tomatoes continue to produce, as do the horses, and now that school has started pretty much no one puts their dishes in the dishwasher. Those things I expected and they happened. Yay, life behaving itself.

What hasn’t gone as expected is most everything having to do with our 50th foster dog.

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I’d painted this lovely romantic picture in my mind of our 50th foster dog, Edith Wharton, giving birth to a handful of puppies in our kitchen as we all watched and were amazed by the miracle. What a great experience for our milestone foster. I was so ready.

I borrowed a really nice handbuilt whelping box from my neighbors (who at this point are probably beginning to wish they lived on a different road as I hit them up for pretty much every dog dilemma I have). We set it up in our kitchen and Nick ran to the hardware store and bought foam pipe insulators to cover the top edges so Edith wouldn’t rub her heavy belly on it when she climbed in. I set down a layer of soft things and puppy pads in preparation.

I looked through my calendar for the next week or so, making sure I could be home if necessary, already preparing my excuses (“Sorry, you’re on the own. Gotta go. There’s a dog giving birth in my kitchen…”)

I read about puppy whelping and even watched a few badly made YouTube videos of it actually happening. I gathered advice from my knowledgeable dog-breeder neighbor and made a list of the supplies I’d need. A box of some of those supplies arrived from OPH (thanks Gina!) and pretty soon I was ALL READY. Edith was due to arrive in less than 24 hours!

And then I checked my email.

Apparently Edith was not made aware of my preparations and my whelping box and she gave birth to the puppies at the shelter that morning.

I was disappointed and a little bit relieved.

Here’s the other unexpected news – she had TWELVE puppies. Twelve? I said to Gracie, the only dog in residence at that moment. (Lucy moved in with Juanita earlier that day.) Where will we put twelve puppies? Nine puppies pretty much maxed out the puppy pen last spring. Ah well, that’s a problem for another day, because now I had to spend an entire evening worrying about Ms Wharton traveling all night on a transport van in a crate with her TWELVE just-born puppies.

Nick and I met the transport van at 6:15 the next morning. I had barely slept. I’d stayed up too late drinking too much wine catching up with a dear friend I rarely see. And then I’d lain in bed worrying that my alarm wouldn’t go off and wondering if Edith would be a friendly sort of dog or would she say, “No, you may not touch my puppies and get out of my crate,” when I reached in to move them to our car in only A FEW HOURS. Best not to sleep, just in case the alarm doesn’t go off….

As we drove to the meeting place in the dark, I rattled on to Nick about how I was worried Edith wouldn’t want me to touch the puppies and then how would we move them to the crate in our car and oh-my-gosh, why does this rescue trust me with things like this. He said. “She had TWELVE puppies. I think she’ll be like, please, take a few.”

Nick was more or less right, but only in the sense that Edith was fine with me touching her puppies. She still wanted to stay close to them, and fretted as I took her for a quick pee break while Nick moved the puppies.

When Edith first climbed out of her crate, she brought tears to my eyes. She was SO skinny. Not skinny in like, she could use a sandwich, but skinny as in all of her bones were sticking out. I could count her individual ribs and her hip bones looked like horns on her back. The truly miraculous thing about this, beyond the fact that this girl was alive, was that she had grown TWELVE puppies and clearly, it had taken everything she had.

When we got home Edith climbed in the whelping box and lay down with the puppies and that’s pretty much all she’s done now for three days. There are puppies nursing on her 24/7. They all have little bellies and are growing steadily. I’m feeding Edith every hour – really good dog food, fresh eggs, vanilla ice cream, and this powerful fat/protein recipe called satin balls (which Addie and I keep calling Satan balls for some unknown reason).

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Once all thirteen of them were safely in the house and I’d monitored them constantly, checking that everyone was breathing and moving the two tiny ones to the better milk fountains as much as possible, I started thinking about their names.

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Nick took this picture because this is all he’s seen of me all weekend.

Because I named Edith after the first woman to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction, I wanted to name the pups after famous writers. Seemed like a great plan. So many great names—Twain, Dickens, Fitzgerald. I had some girl names picked out, too—Eudora Welty, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott.

I asked Chris, another foster who has whelped two litters, to come over to verify that everyone looked good and help me weigh the pups so I would be able to tell if they were all growing. I picked up each pup, described it to Chris, who was taking notes and then put a different color whelping collar on it so we’d be able tell them apart. Other than the fact that there were five yellow and seven black pups, they looked a lot alike. I picked up the first one—girl! The next one—girl! The next one—girl! If I hadn’t been putting on whelping collars as I went, I’d think I was repeatedly picking up the same pup. Turns out Edith gave birth to eleven girls and just one boy. It shall be very interesting to see the dynamic in the puppy pen this time around. Every other litter I had was heavy on the boy pups.

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That wasn’t the end of the unexpected, but I could write pages and pages, so I’ll leave that for another day. It’s time to give Edith her Satan Balls and check on the pups.

 

 

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Published by

Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and occasional cowgirl who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

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