Candy's temperature was down Sunday morning to 98.3 --- the first sign that puppies are actually going to arrive within 24 hours. We always let the vet know when time is getting close so she can know there's a possibility of a c-section if things go wrong. Dr. K. was out of town, but we had a backup. I called our backup at home, who cheerfully wished us luck and said she would be around if we needed her.
Walt and Candy and Ivy and I settled in to wait. Ivy had her special Grandma crate set up and was quite content to just stay out of the way. For some reason all our moms allow Ivy to be in the room during whelping, but woe be to any other dog who tries to wander in. Ivy, of course, is everyone's mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother, so maybe they think she knows some kind of whelping voodoo and should hang around to help midwife.
Sunday passed, waiting and watching nothing to speak of. Walt brought his notebook computer up and we both go some work done. Candy redesigned her box some more and Ivy slept. That night we made a pizza to eat in the whelping room, put a DVD in Walt's laptop and watched a movie. (Dr. Who) I called Dr. K -- just back from her trip -- at 10 pm and woke her up to let her know nothing was happening. I'm sure she appreciated that little news item.
Finally Walt went to bed and I took a short nap on the floor next to the whelping box. Candy entertained herself by jumping out of the box and onto my back, cozying up beside me, waiting till I got back to sleep, then leaping back into the box, using my back as a launching pad.
At 5:25 am, she wormed her way under the covers with me once more and began whining. I snuggled her close to me and then realized it wasn't her puppies I felt moving around, but an honest to goodness contraction!
So we settled into the whelping box and a beautiful little brindle and white girl arrived at 5:47. That was Kitkat. She had a full white collar and a mark that looked (you guessed it) like a cat on her side. She had a wide white blaze and weighed 10.1 ounces. Walt woke up and checked in on us. I said all was going well. He took some of the dirty laundry to wash (whelping puppies is an incredibly messy business) and went downstairs to make coffee.
After that, things got more complicated. Candy kept insisting she had to go out. I kept telling her, no, she didn't, that was a puppy wanting to get out. No, she said, she had to poop. We took two trips out - no poop, no puppy. On one of these trips, she knocked my coffee over onto the postage scale we use for weighng them, so Kitkat was the last one to be weighed until the next day when Walt went to get me a new scale.
I was getting a little concerned -- puppies usually are spaced 3o minutes to an hour apart, and we were headed for three hours. However, since she hadn't been having contractions, there was no real emergency yet. I called our vet, Dr. K, just in case. She said to let her know. She just seemed pretty happy with her one little girl, except she said she had to poop. Really she did.
Finally on the third trip, at 8:25 am, she squatted and out came Godiva, a lovely blue brindle and white girl. Fortunately, I had brought a clean towel with me for just such an occasion, so I caught the little one before she hit the ground, and we went back upstairs, with me telling Candy, "I told you so." She ignored me. Walt had gone back to bed, so he missed that whole little drama.
We all went back upstairs and an hour later Skittles, a brindle and white male with a stripe across his back, arrived right on time. I kept thinking he looked like a Dutch belted cow so Lakenvelder was a possible name, but considering how little sleep I was getting, staying with the "candy" theme seemed wiser. He will never know how close he came to being named after a cow.
Candy apparently decided faster was the way to go (I agreed) so at 10:03, along came Truffles, another female, with a dramatic zigzag stripe up her back.
Candy was doing her job, cleaning and licking and nuzzling and puppies were doing well. At 10:20 (yes, just over 15 minutes from Truffles' arrival), she stood up, the sac around the next puppy broke -- indicated by a whoosh of amniotic fluid -- and I looked under Candy's tail to see a second tail...a little tiny one, but definitely a whippety-looking tail, protruding from Puppyland inside. One push from Candy and Twix arrived before I could catch him. Plonk onto the bedding. He was no worse for his dive, so I put him with the four others for Candy to mind till it was time for the next one.
I waited and Candy licked and nuzzled and cooed. (Okay, she didn't coo, but she would have if she could) And I waited. And waited. No contractions, no concern on Candy's part at all. An hour passed and then two. I knew there were still four puppies in there, due to the magic of xrays, but Candy was in no hurry.
I, of course, was frantically going through all my books on reproduction. They always seem to cover every possibility before the babies actually start arriving, but when you need to see something specific in print like, "Some dogs, like Sharyn and Walt's girl Candy, can wait 12 hours and 20 minutes between puppies and be just fine," it just isn't there. Some said two hours. Some said two hours if the bitch is having strong contractions. One said three or four hours between puppies was not unusual if the bitch is resting comfortably. One assured me that her own dog had produced a puppy an entire day after the rest of the litter, but she added that it was "mummified."
And here is where the real headaches come. The veterinarian is a breeder's best friend, but when it comes to whelping litters of puppies, they are not nearly as familiar with what's normal and what's not as an experienced breeder. I bred collies for 20 years and have bred whippets for ten. I've advised other people on what is an emergency and what is not. I called Dr. K at three hours and she said to go ahead and get ready to come in, but that Candy would probably deliver one in the car on the way. Unfortunately we are 30-45 minutes away from the office or Walt could have run over there and picked up an oxytocin shot for us to give Candy. They stimulate contractions and a lot of breeders keep them on hand.
The trouble is that in some cases, stimulating contractions is the last thing you want to do -- for instance, if there are two puppies in the birth canal, if the uterus is twisted, if, in other words, no amount of contracting is going to get the puppies moving. In that case, if you give an oxytocin shot, you end up with a mama with a ruptured uterus. Which is why we have decided not to keep them on hand here.
--more to come--