Sunday, July 24, 2016

Organ Donor

When Rowan was a little younger, he didn't really understand the whole fostering thing that we do. Every time a puppy we fostered went to its new home, he'd shake his head in condemnation and say, "I just don't understand why you keep giving your puppies away" like I was some sort of puppy trafficker, dealing in milk breath. We're pretty much past that now, but still, he wasn't very happy this week as most of the puppies left for their new homes. It started on Thursday, with two of them leaving, then three more on Friday, three more Saturday.

I'm not gonna lie, it was hard. Waayyy harder than I thought I had prepared myself for. In fact, I've decided that this whole process would go a lot smoother if I could just manage to not get attached: just feed the puppies each day, pick up the poo, make sure they don't die, keep my heart out of it. But it doesn't quite work out that way. Turns out, it's impossible to help deliver a puppy being born, handfeed it with a syringe,  feel the moment those little sharp teeth start poking through the gums and they start earnestly gnawing on your thumb, listen to them scare themselves so badly they pee the first time they realize they can make a bark come out of their mouth... Watch them grow and grow and GROW, from a slick little gerbil into a tiny dog...and not feel anything. And honestly, even if I could pull that off and stay detached, I wouldn't want to do it at all because what's the point if you don't love what you do?

So, I let them go, knowing that each pup that leaves, it's going to take a chunk of my heart and soul with it. It's sort of like being an organ donor without having to give up one of your kidneys. 

I took photos of each of them as they were leaving. I have great ones where everyone's looking at the camera, but my favorites are when their new families are so smitten, they can't stop looking at the puppy. 

And I still have one left for now (Hondo), after an adopter had to pull out due to some work commitments. I think he'll probably leave in the next week or so, but for now, I'm still mainlining the puppy breath. And Mama, she's still here too, but probably leaving within the week. People asked me if I thought she'd be sad or worried watching the babies go and she was, a little. She had her spay surgery on Friday and that helped because she was largely out of it. But I believe she's also really ready for them to go. The remaining puppy keeps following her around and she gives me this look like, "Um, I'm not sure you're aware, but you missed one." (see below).

I suspect she's like me, a little relieved. We've done our part. And she'll never ever have to have puppies again. I will, though. (not right now, later, after I've had a break, and a margarita..or two). 
I gotta have my heart filled back up again. 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

It's all a blur unless they're sleeping

Our babies are eight weeks old today. I've attempted to take pictures of them every day, but honestly, unless they're crashed out after a 30 minute tour of destruction around the back yard, all I get is blur and lots of teef. It usually looks a little something like this:

Or this:

or this: 

They don't sit still. But honestly, I don't mind. I took them to the vet for their very first visit outside of the house last week. They all got their first rounds of shots and got to meet the nice vet techs and learn about why going to vet means someone shoves something up your bum. (I took pictures, but I am not mean enough to post them). 
This was the same vet's office that shepherded me through our very horrible, no good Spring and the deaths of the Diamond Dog Pups. It was a crazy visit--with an assembly line of me and the vet and the techs trying to get everyone weighed and shots administered and nails clipped. But through it all, the puppies kept doing their puppy thing and licking faces. At one point, Dr. Brown said, "oh, I needed this, this morning." And I knew what she meant because I needed it too. I needed these babies to be healthy and strong and total goofballs who play with ferocity and then...sleep with ferocity too. 

I needed them to lick dirt and chew on their brothers and have that total look of crazy that puppies sometimes have.

Quite literally, I just needed them to LIVE. All the cuteness is just a bonus... but man, it's a LOT of bonus, right? 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Pupdate: The Baby Jules

whoa, it's been an entire month since I gave a pupdate! That month flew by fast, didn't it?  I thought we might catch up here with a few FAQ that people always end up asking me and somehow or another I end up never getting a chance to answer, but I'll throw in some pictures.

So, how old are they now?
The babies are 6 weeks old now. One day they were like tiny rabid gerbils and the next day I turned around and they were like giant rabid gerbils. Here's a shot of them at lunch today. About 2 minutes after this photo was taken, they ate the fence.

Dude, did they really? 
No, Dude, they didn't. But give them time. Those puppy teef are SHARP. 

What is that, puppy prison? 
Yes.  It's Puppy Litchfield. I call it Bitchfield. (if you do not watch Orange is the New Black, this will mean nothing to you). 

Wait, where is the mama? 
If you look closely, you can see a line of reddish fur there at the bottom. That's her. She's still with us, though playing a much less active role in puppy rearing these days. I do most of the feedings now, so she can concentrate on gaining weight and moving on from her life of single unwed motherhood. 

Wow, they look BIG! Are they big? 
Well, they are and they aren't. I mean, they're in really good shape, and they're right on target for what they should be, something I am very proud of--that a skinny malnourished mama and ME got nine of them to this point. But, to answer your question, some of them are BIG big and and some of them are...smaller than others. Like Idalou, who is still a squirt. (that is my hand she is eating). 

Huh. She...does not look much like a cocker spaniel does she? 
No, no she does not. Neither does her brother Huxley. But they're sort of killing it, right?

But I thought they were cocker spaniels?
Mama is, yes, but dad was not. We knew this was a distinct possiblity, so when they were about 3 weeks old, we ordered DNA tests that told us what dad might be. I did tests on two different pups and the results came back pretty much the same. But yeah, the majority is cocker spaniel. You can see it in some of them more than others. Like Hondo. 

And Lufkin

Wait, I am confused. They're related?
no, they're not related, I just went to the rabid gerbil store and went nuts. Yes. They're all related. I saw them being born from the same hoo-ha, I can verify. 

But, you never said what the dad was/is? 
I didn't? Can you guess?  Here, look at Hondo again. 

According to the DNA profile, they're mostly cocker/miniature schnauzer mixes. Cocker and Miniature Schnauzer were the two breeds with the highest percentage of markers. There were two other breeds that showed up on the test in smaller percentages: english cocker spaniel and Parson's Russell Terrier. I would argue that Idalou maybe got ALL of that Parson's Russell Terrier part. 

But our group has a wide variety of coat lengths.  The twins have long hair
Huxley and Magnolia have short hair (again, killin' it)

And then Trinity and Idalou have something sort of in between. And then there is a size difference, like the one between Barstow and Idalou. 


WHAT? No WAY. Those two are not related. 
They are related. Same hoo-ha. I was there. 

They are so cute, how do you get any work done? 
I don't. All I do when I get home is pick up poop and take pictures of puppies sleeping. In fairness, they are really freaking cute when they're sleeping.

Stop it. 
I can't.  If I don't pick up the poop, it gets medieval real quick. I mean, NINE puppies pooping. That's a lot of poop. I go through a lot of puppy pads.

Like, how many puppy pads would you say in a day?
I go through at least a box every 2-3 days. Think about it,  if they each pee/poop at least 3-4 times a day, that's... a lot of ca-ca. Let's not think about it, we can just look at Huxley sleeping instead. 

More questions?  Ok, fine, I'll do another one on Wednesday. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Safe for use around pets and children

Every night when they head off to bed, after they've exhausted every method known to man to delay actually laying down to go to sleep, including pretending that they've lost their toothbrushes, asking for Sam to read 15 bedtime stories and inventing phantom limb pain, the boys will finally succumb. For about 2 minutes. And then one of them will head out to the living room to ask me to come and apply some Bad Dream Spray. I'm sure you're familiar. This is the stuff that stops nightmares dead in their tracks. Crafty mothers have been using it for years. It's very effective. All you need to do is squirt some on all four corners of the bed (pillow is optional if the boy is feeling particularly antsy).

This is ours.

I find that a good Bad Dream Spray could also, in a pinch,also help remove urine stains and whatever that Little Boy Funk is. Two birds, one stone.  Sometimes, if I'm out of this stuff, I'll use this all- natural anti-flea spray I bought for the dogs at this hippie pet store. It smells like cloves. And I hear it turns dream monsters into kittens, so you know: highly effectual. 

Sunday, June 05, 2016

A Bell Kid

Recently Sam took the boys to a party where there was a gaggle of other kids running around in a pack getting sweaty til someone got the bright idea to turn on the sprinkler and let the kids play in it. So Rowan did what he always does and resorted to his default mode which is to get buck nekkid. I wasn't there but I'm told he got the side-eye from some folks so his Gram hastily had him put on some shorts and let the Chaffing Gods smite where they may. I get it. He's five, Practically almost a third of the way to puberty. I can understand how nudity makes some people uncomfortable. But part of me wishes we lived far out in the country, like I did as a kid, where I'm told that I too was not a fan of clothing in the summertime. Just like his penchant for salting his (already salted) tortilla chips, his love of everything bagels, his need to dig in the dirt every single day...

Rowan demonstrates, shall we say, Bell Kid tendencies. 

Thursday, June 02, 2016


Today's the last day of First Grade for Hopper, so on the way to school this morning, I asked him in the car how he thought the year went.

"Yeah, what did you learn?"

He then got distracted by a sign for a new seafood restaurant opening soon which devolved into a conversation about what exactly seafood is and what characters from Finding Nemo might be on the menu and whether or not he might actually like seafood (answer: probably not as much as he likes Finding Nemo). So, my question went unanswered until we were almost at school. Then he pipes up.

"You know what I learned, mom? I learned that bullies always have a target. And sometimes the target is me."

And I couldn't respond because sometimes when he tells me stuff like this I can't keep my voice from sounding like a strangled dolphin. It's true. He had some rough patches throughout the school year, mostly due to one particular kid who apparently has an issue with my son for whatever reason (..I'll be honest, I don't really care what his reason is). This kid also seems to have recruited henchmen for various giving-Hopper-some-shit side projects. I know his teachers and the school administration know about it and have tried to address it to varying degrees of success. I know too that I've really had to hammer home the idea that he can't strike back, even though what I really want to tell him is all the various ways he can tell those kids to $%* right off and/or how aim for the giblets. Hopper hasn't always taken the high road..or even the middle road, for that matter. He seemed to know where to aim without my even telling him (for which I am secretly glad...because nobody wants their kid to be the punching bag, you know?) So yeah. Long year.

I was thinking about all this and what to say when my voice got back to normal  but then he just flashed me a grin and said, "But it's OK. I'm an Indominus Rex! We're unstoppable!"

I swear if any of you ever tell him that Indominus Rexes aren't real, I will hunt you down. Unstoppable, indeed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Life As a Sous Chef

The puppies are 12 days old now. People ask me how it's going and for the most part, every thing is good and everything is easy. I can say this because I'm not the mama who has nine rabid gerbils hanging off of me every 2-3 hours. Mama, by the way, is awesome. This is a welcome relief from the last two mothers of litters I have dealt with: one of which ignored her pups entirely and the other who physically kicked the pups off of her every time they tried to nurse like she had stepped in some particularly clingy mud.  THIS mama feeds and cleans and nuzzles. Truth is, I don't do very much right now. She takes care of EVERYTHING. And by everything, I mean, I give them clean bedding twice a day but for the most part, the bedding hardly gets dirty because she (gag) consumes it all.

That's maybe something most people don't realize that mama dogs do: the first 2-3 weeks, newborn puppies don't pee or poop on their own--she stimulates their bladders and bowels by licking them and then while she's at it she just, uh, swallows it (gag). I always sort of just want to give her a glass of wine and a breath mint and tell her it will all be over soon. And it will! In just a week or so, they'll be doing things on their own and my job as janitorial staff will ramp up. But for now, I'm just helping her with probably the biggest job: feeding the horde.

For the most part so far, everyone seems to be eating well and gaining weight, but they're just not gaining as much as they should be. Ideally, what you'd like to see is puppies doubling their size each week these first couple of weeks and these pups are just a tiny bit behind that. It's understandable though because there are NINE of them and Mama is still so painfully skinny. She came to me almost a month ago with her hip bones and spine showing, despite being super pregnant. I've been feeding her three times a day with supplements AND treats. I can't feed her too much, or she'll just get sick. So, it's a bit of a slow process. Now her bones don't stick out so much, but still, that food she's taking in has to feed TEN. And while she's doing a fantastic job, she's trying to come from behind AND make sure these puppies get enough to eat so they can grow. So, I've been helping her a bit.

I thought I might show you how all this goes down... First, there's this fantastic stuff called Leerburg Formula. You make it at home. (and yes, you can buy commercial milk replacer at the store, but this stuff is better). I won't post the recipe here because you can go to the website and get lots more information, but in a nutshell, you can make it with these ingredients here--all available at Walmart for less than $10.

And then you need your Fake Nipple (ok fine, you can call it a bottle, but Fake Nipple is much more titillating, isn't it? pun intended). This you do with a makeup sponge, a needle-less syringe and some scissors

You cut off the sides/end of the sponge like so and insert the syringe into the back (it helps if you make a little hole in the back with a pick)

VOILA--Fake Nipple

Then you heat up your Leerburg just a bit (not too hot, just warm-ish, like the temperature mama's milk would be coming out).  There are charts everywhere that will show you how much to feed--Basically, if you're feeding them solely Leerburg and they're not getting anything else, you feed about 1cc per oz of body weight.  Now, I'm not their only source of food, I'm just supplementing. So, I don't really follow the charts all that much, just as a basic guide.  I usually start with about 10 cc's and go from there. 

When Mama tries to feed nine puppies, it looks a bit like this: 

(and yes, I know I'm holding the camera wrong, sorry about that). 

Mama basically gets swarmed and someone always gets left out. So, I just nab a leftover puppy and get to feeding. Some of them do better than others. Hux, for example, he's my boy. 

look at him. LOOOOOOOK.

Do you not just want to gnaw on those toes?  NO? (man you have more willpower than I do). Wait, see if you can resist this:


When I'm doing this, I'm right next to where Mama is feeding everyone else. So, we sort of just work in tandem. Lufkin here below: 

And Trinity...

I will usually end up feeding four or five of them in a session. It's not always the same group of pups, I'll rotate which ones I'm feeding. While this isn't everybody, what it does is allow some of the others to get in and get some while the getting's good. And this way, everyone gets a bit of Mama's Milk and everyone gets a bit of Leerburg. Plus, I get to snuzzle puppies and get goats milk all over my lap (added bonus). 

In just a couple of weeks, we get to start introducing puppy gruel! Yaaayyy GRUEL!
But for now, this is my life as a Sous Chef. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Package Has Been Delivered

Since we got Jules exactly two weeks ago today, I have walked around expecting her to sling puppies out her hooha at any given moment. If that sounds a little crass, I don't mean to be. It's just that she went around looking like this for thirteen straight days. This is a look that clearly conveys that not only is she most definitely going to sling puppies within seconds, she's considering aiming one at me.

For a different angle, consider that she could not sit without most of her stomach touching the ground.

But still, we waited and waited and took rectal temperatures every 12 hours (note: if you ever need a thermometer and you're at my house, opt to go buy new one). I was getting a little uneasy because every morning I'd wake up and she'd be incrementally bigger and I could not imagine she'd make it through the day without going into labor.
Finally, yesterday, she did. She waited until everyone left for work and school and then got down to business. Luckily for me, I came home at lunch to check on her. By that time, she'd had three. Within an hour, there was another. Then, in the space of about 50 minutes, she gave birth to four more: boom, boom, boom, BOOM! (So, frankly, I feel a little justified about my original theory.....) And then, after a bit... TWO MORE. If you're bad at math, that's ten. TEN. She had started sometime after 9:30am and it was all over by 5:30pm. To put that in perspective, in the amount of time you and I spend in a regular day at the office, this mama dog pushed out over half the Duggar Population.

Sadly, the last little one did not survive long but the other nine are doing well. And mama, of course she's happy. She doesn't look happy here below, but this was about an hour post labor and she's a little pooped. Also, nine little gerbil aliens are attached to her boobs.

I named them all after Texas towns: Lufkin, Huxley, Idalou, Barstow, Hondo, Glen Rose, Odessa, Trinity and Magnolia. The little angel baby had a name too: SantaRosa. She was beautiful and fully formed and I'm not really sure what happened, but I guess the easiest explanation is that she was competing for space with 9 other honkers in a womb that was not built for that many. Still, it made me sad.
I've taken lots of photos on FB and shared and plenty of people have asked how I can tell them apart already and know who's who. Well, for one, some of them are unique like Lufkin who is the only one with white all the way around his neck and is built like a Holstein cow.
 And then there's Idalou, who is a bit of a super model.
I originally thought she was the only tri-color, but I was wrong. She's the only GIRL tri-color. Hondo, as it turns out, is also a tri (note: white chest). And a ham.
So that means that there is only one black/tan boy and only one black/tan girl (Huxley and Glen Rose)

AND only one solid black boy (Barstow who refused to sit still). That just leaves three solid black girls that I have to tell the difference between and they all actually have white blazes on their chests that are a wee bit different each. This, for example is Odessa.
And ever so helpfully, Trinity, has a triangle on her shoulder. You can't make this stuff up.
And, of course, I can also tell them apart because I spend so much time staring at them trying to figure out which one is managing to squeak his head off AND be attached to the teat at the same time (spoiler: it's Hondo).
If anyone is interested, I also managed to snap a couple of videos of actual birthings. It's not really that gross (ok, it's a little gross, but there's a puppy at the end!). I actually showed the boys this morning. They were not horrified at all, like I thought they might be. Hopper wanted to know if she was actually pooping the puppies out (uh, no, son, that is another, um, hole) while Rowan wanted to know if the puppy had chewed it's way out (good lord, I hope not).
Right now, we are giving Mama lots of space and quiet. She doesn't particularly appreciate my judgment about her cleaning skills (LAY OFF WOMAN, THERE'S NINE), but she's tolerating me. I don't think she will really tolerate anyone else for a while, which is ok because we are on a "no visitors" lockdown for a bit.
All in all, it's going ok. I'm trying not to freak out over the fact that I technically have 13 dogs in my house at the moment, but shhhhhh, let's just not think about that.