Armani X Tia Puppies – 4 weeks old

On the move

On the move

Tia’s puppies are becoming more active and spend more of their day playing with each other, with toys and interacting with our family and the world around them.    Two big events marked our week – the first being that the puppies have moved out of the living room and into the sun room with a much bigger space to play and romp.   They are now in an area which is an expanded version of their whelping box with newspaper at the far end (which makes for the beginnings of house-training).   Amazingly – the puppies already have picked up on using this area (90 percent of the time) for potty duties so that their bedding and blankets stay clean and dry.   As the puppies get bigger over the next few weeks we will make this area even larger for them – but for now this is plenty of room for what they need.    Of course I was very closely supervised by Tia as I moved her little family to their new location.    She followed me as I transported each pup to make sure that it arrived safely and then quickly snuggled in with her pups as if to assure them that this new home had her stamp of approval.

The second milestone this past week was the introduction of PUPPY MUSH.   Puppy mush is the first step towards solid food and consists of goat’s milk, baby rice cereal and ground up puppy kibble.    The puppies did not need to be asked twice to partake in this delicacy.   They quickly lapped up their first bowl of puppy mush and have not looked back since.    The puppies are now getting 3 meals a day of mush with the rest of their nutrition coming from Tia who always seems willing to provide snacks.

We have had a lot of rain the last few days which prevented us from trying any time outdoors – but the sun is shining here today so by the afternoon we will make our first big venture outside.    The pups have an area just outside the sunroom which is high and dry and will be a nice introduction to this next new frontier.   We will look forward to another exciting week of adventures with Tia’s beautiful babies.

Steele X Sparkle Puppies – 2 weeks old

Snug as a bug in a rug

Snug as a bug in a rug

Sparkle’s puppies have had a wonderful week.   The most newsworthy item has been the opening of little eyes….   They say the eyes are the window to the soul so perhaps that is why I always find this stage of puppy development most exciting.    I am sure that our family and the litter mates themselves are just a fuzzy blur of shapes and colours at this point — but over the next few weeks the pups will be able to see things with increasing clarity.

The pups have gained nicely and are all weighing around 3 pounds – with the boys being slightly bigger.   The boys always seem to be first in line at mealtime but the girls are never far behind 🙂    The pups still spend the majority of their day sleeping – however they are spending a few more minutes every day just cruising around the whelping box on shaky feet and crawling over fellow brothers and sisters.   They are pretty excited whenever Sparkle is around – mealtime is still the highlight of their day.   Sparkle is sleeping more now outside the whelping box and heads out for the occasional swim – but she is very watchful and protective of her little family.   I needed to clean up a couple of the pups yesterday and Sparkle was glued to my side as I carried each puppy to the washroom and back.   She would not take her eyes off the pup in my care and I was under her very close scrutiny to make sure that the puppy was returned quickly to the whelping box. She is very dedicated to her puppies and seems to take great pride in them.

This week the puppies will become more active and we will add more toys to the whelping box for their enjoyment.   They continue to love snuggles and cuddles which we ourselves can never get enough of either.     We will be looking forward to watching the pups as they take another step towards maturity over this next week.

Armani X Tia Puppies – 3 weeks old

Miss cutie-pie!

Miss cutie-pie!

Tia’s babies are now 3 weeks old and spending more time awake.   At this point they are starting to play with each other for small stretches of time – but the majority of their waking time is still spent eating or trying to cruise around the whelping box.   The pups are still not very coordinated or graceful – but they are spending more time on their feet and gaining balance and mobility with each passing day.   They aren’t too interested in toys yet but will crawl over them and investigate – usually with their mouth first (hoping to find food I’m sure!).   They also like to be picked up and cuddled and are becoming more aware of our human family – responding to our voices and taking note of when we come and go.

Tia continues to be a super mum – always checking on her babies and still spending lots of time in the whelping box with them.   Whenever things get too warm in there she lays just outside the whelping box door or occasionally heads into the kitchen to visit with her adult friends.   Her trips outside are still very short – by her own making.   She will only go for a quick swim or trot around the yard and then hurries back to the door to go inside and be with her new family.

The pups are all gaining well and this week will see the transition from Tia’s milk bar to puppy mush.  Now that the puppies have teeth, meal-time is growing less pleasant for Tia and it is also time to start moving the puppies towards solid food.     I’m sure the puppies will look forward to some extra snacks as well – the rapid growth during these early weeks creates a great demand for food over and above what Tia can provide.

The puppies are a very contented and happy bunch — they especially seem to like having the windows all around the whelping box open.  On the warmer days there is a nice breeze that comes in and the puppies seem to enjoy the fresh air.   Towards the end of this next week we will venture outdoors for a couple of short periods so the puppies can have a change of scenery and expand their horizons.   It is going to be a fun week for the pups !!

Steele & Sparkle Puppies – 1 week old

Kisses for my sister

Kisses for my sister

This week has had its fill of both joy and sadness.   We were still rejoicing in the safe arrival of Sparkle’s 10 beautiful babies when we were also faced with a very sad event.    Unfortunately there are times when a mama dog can be a bit overwhelmed with her new family – especially if you have 10 tiny bodies scrambling to find a spot at the milk bar whenever you enter the whelping box.    To try and compensate for this there are a few things that we do to try and help and protect a mum and her new family.  Firstly we have something called “pig-rail” that runs the entire perimeter of the whelping box.    The pig-rail is a raised bar of plastic that projects a couple of inches from the interior of the box so that a mama doesn’t get into a position where she is trapping a puppy behind her and against the wall of the whelping box.    I also sleep right beside the whelping box for a minimum of the 1st 14 days so that if any puppy gets in under the mum or is in a bad spot I will hear it and can assist (and I do think I have developed bionic hearing over the years).  I also carefully assist a mum every time she enters or leaves the whelping box to make sure that the pups are all in a safe position.   I also spend the majority of my day with the puppies (especially when they are young) – and constantly check on a mum when the pups are newly born to ensure that she is managing well.     Unfortunately all of these measures did not prevent the very tragic death of Mr. Green who we lost late last week.    I had only left the room for a couple of minutes – during which time Sparkle must have re-positioned herself in the whelping box.   Mr. Green was trapped underneath her in the process and with the other 9 puppies nursing and crying for her – I am sure she just didn’t know how to move to make it right for everyone.    It was extremely heart-breaking to lose such a perfect, healthy puppy….  Sparkle seemed just as upset as I was.    It is very hard not to second guess all the what-if’s and question what I could have done differently to try and prevent such a senseless loss.    To deepen the situation – I then needed to contact the family who had been on our waiting list for this puppy and tell them that I would no longer have a boy for them.    Words can’t begin to express how difficult this loss has been.

However – I can’t help but reflect on how very special it has made my time with the remaining 9 puppies.   They are all growing very well and Sparkle is an excellent mum.    It has not been an easy start for her – but she is very vigilant with her pups, as well as always keeping an eye and and ear open for Tia’s pups who are at the other end of the living room.     Sparkle will sometimes lay just outside the whelping box as it can get a bit warm in there with puppy bodies and summer weather.  She needs to be coaxed to do much else and always quickly returns to her babies to check on them and be with them.

At this stage the puppies still have no sight or hearing – so their only connection with the outside world is through taste, smell and touch.   I am not sure they know who is picking them up all day long – but they seem to enjoy the chance to snuggle whenever they can.   At this stage a puppy always looks very “primitive” in physical appearance to me – but that will change shortly.   I am always amazed at how quickly they grow and how much development takes place from one week to the next.

We count our blessings for the 9 healthy girls and boys that remain and look forward to the week ahead.  By day 12 their eyes should be opening which is always a special time in puppy development.  The adventure begins !

Armani & Tia Puppies – 2 weeks old

Snuggle time

Snuggle time

It would be hard to tell from this photo – but the pups have now opened their eyes which is always one of the more exciting times for our family in puppy development.   We all love being able to gaze into those big brown eyes and have them look right back in complete wonder.    Of course with those eyes staring right into ours the pups always give the impression that they understand every single word we are saying to them…..   Such smart little puppies.    At this point vision is a blur of shapes and shadows at best – but over the weeks to come it will become more refined.

The puppies are getting more mobile with each day.   Their movement still consists mainly of wobbly crawling around the whelping box and over toys (and each other).    However they can be pretty quick to scramble just about anywhere if it involves their mum Tia and milk time.

Tia continues to be a wonderful and attentive mother.    Today for the first time she actually took a wee break and came into the kitchen for awhile with the others.     Until now she has only left the pups for quick potty breaks and the occasional dip in the lake.   Even her meals are served “bed-side” — so she has not ventured far from her little family for more than 5 minutes at a time until today.    She still sleeps in with them at night and watches over them with great devotion.

The pups are all gaining well and are quite uniform in size.   Nice to see that they are all sharing the milk bar equally !!   It will be an exciting week ahead as the pups become increasingly aware of the big, wide world that surrounds them.

Steele & Sparkle Puppies — The first chapter begins

Sparkle - the girl who never stops smiling !

Sparkle – the girl who never stops smiling !

Sparkle’s family made their way into the world during the daylight hours on Tuesday, June 10th.   Sparkle was in the first stages of labour most of the night (June 9th) and the first little pup made her grand entrance into the world shortly after 12:00 noon.  It was a nice change to have puppies arriving during the afternoon instead of in the middle of the night – which usually seems to be every mum’s preferred time for delivery !!    Sparkle and Steele are now the proud parents of 5 beautiful boys and 5 adorable girls.     We did have one other little girl puppy arrive around 8 pm. – but she just had been waiting in the wings too long and after 30 minutes of trying everything I know to try – she still could not be revived.   Sparkle seemed to understand that I had tried everything possible but nothing could be done….     It was extremely sad to lose another puppy after losing Tia’s twin boys.    The heartbreak of losing any puppy at any time never diminishes.

I am sure many people think that a breeder just pours a cup of tea and watches the whole event take place — and a mum should be able to deliver the pups pretty much on their own.   To some degree a mama golden should be able to do most of the work and I try to let the mum rely on her instincts without intervening too much….   but in order to make it an easier time for Sparkle and help preserve as many lives as possible – the whelping of puppies is a busy time.    My job is basically to keep Sparkle comfortable, relaxed, hydrated – and support her in any way I can.    Firstly, this usually involves helping remove the placenta from the picture as soon as a pup is born so that Sparkle doesn’t ingest it.    In my very first litters I would let a mum eat the placenta as I figured this is what would happen in a natural environment.   However – placenta can be very upsetting to the digestive system and I found that any of the girls who ate this delicacy were quite sick for days after (not the best state for a new mum with multiple mouths to feed).   So I now remove it as quickly as possible so the mum doesn’t get a chance to gobble it down.      My second role is to help clean up and invigorate any pups that are a bit slower to respond as they are born.  I also help move the existing puppies out of the way as a new one arrives so that the mum doesn’t inadvertently step on someone as she tries to clean her new arrival.      And in Sparkle’s case – she decided to take a two hour break in the middle of the birthing; during that time I made sure she had something to drink and a quick, light snack to try to provide some energy for the rest of the deliveries.    At one point Sparkle also decided she desperately needed a potty break outside …. so we braved the mosquitoes and bugs to make a quick trip outdoors – at which point she quickly delivered another pup on the front lawn !!  Fortunately I had taken a towel with me – just in case.    One of my other tasks is to make sure that each puppy gets to nurse in the first few minutes of life.  The vitamin rich colostrum that is the first mother’s milk is very vital to a puppy’s long-term health and well-being.   I always make sure that even as things get crowded around the milk bar the newest arrival gets a chance to drink in some of the vital, first mother’s milk. Most of all my key role yesterday was just to sit with Sparkle and provide support and talk to her in a calm voice to reassure her everything was fine.    It is amazing how much a golden will pick up on our emotions – and how much they rely on our presence.    It is important that a mum not pick up on any worry or stress through the whole process – as it does seem to affect their overall state of well-being.

That being said – Sparkle had the hardest part of the equation – and delivering pups, although very natural is very exhausting.   I am thankful that Sparkle did such a fantastic job and immediately tended to her new family with complete devotion.    Now the adventure begins !!

Steele & Sparkle Puppies — Day 59 (Pre-parturition)

Just cooling things off....

Just cooling things off….

We are in the final stages of Sparkle’s pregnancy and she has shown definite signs of slowing down the last few days.   Morning walks and running on a trail don’t have much appeal anymore….  which I can completely understand with the size of Sparkle’s belly reaching an extreme.    She almost looks to be touching the ground at times…    Her puppies are fully developed by now – so delivery at any point from now on would be safe.   However, very rarely does a mother give birth before the actual 63 days are complete.  (Usually it is just a miscalculation of when a female ovulated and actually became pregnant if the pups come earlier than expected).

Sparkle is still eating well and enjoys most of her day laying on the cool kitchen floor.    She does seem to be getting tired more easily – but that is to be expected with the large amount of extra weight she is carrying.

Next to the kitchen floor she also loves to just stand in the lake and cool off.   I am sure the buoyancy of the water also makes things feel more comfortable.     She did muster up the energy to still retrieve a ball in the lake a few times in succession today – but I think her passionate retrieval days will be on hold for a little while.   Steele on the other hand had absolutely no trouble bounding past everyone for a chance to grab the Water Wubba.    He certainly does not seem to be too concerned about his little bride and her growing tummy.

Tomorrow we will get the whelping box set up and all the towels and supplies lined up and ready to go.    Fortunately this is Sparkle’s 2nd litter so she should be a bit of a pro and know what to expect 🙂    We will aim to keep Sparkle as pampered as possible for the next 3 days — and will post an update as soon as we have one.