Two Weeks Old

Happy Monday, everyone! Duchess’s puppies hit the two week milestone over the weekend. It always feels so good to reach this point, because the puppies are much bigger and stronger. I feel really good about how they are all doing!


After seeing this litter of puppies from Duchess and Timber, it makes me realize how incredible it was that her first litter survived! Her first litter was 11 puppies, with one puppy that had died in utero. That dead puppy prompted labor to begin several days early, so those puppies were much smaller. It’s really amazing that they all survived.

This time around, the puppies were all large at birth and have steadily gained since then. I have one puppy that is a bit smaller than the others, but I certainly wouldn’t call him a runt.

Duchess, also, has been doing very well! Irish Setters are thin, lean dogs to begin with, and nursing mothers can sometimes become more thin than usual as their bodies put extra effort into making milk. However, Duchess is looking great! She was a bit thin the days directly following birth, which is very normal; but she has filled out beautifully since then. She makes caring for seven babies look like a breeze! She is soaking in some extra snuggles from us and enjoying getting some eggs as her “mommy snacks.” This momma is very spoiled! I’m pretty sure she thinks she really is a royal duchess!

Over the weekend, I expanded the puppies’ pen to give them a space to go to the bathroom. It amazes me how much sooner our Irish Setter puppies are ready for potty training in comparison to our Mini Goldendoodles. As soon as our setter puppies have their eyes open, they are on the MOVE. They are ready for more space and ready to begin potty training almost a whole week earlier than Mia’s puppies. It’s so interesting to see these differences in breed temperaments even in puppies so young! In another week or so, we will add on a large play area for them, as well.

I hope you all have a great week! Enjoy these sweet faces as you finish out your Monday!




Duchess’s Puppies

What an exciting day! We are excited to announce the arrival of seven beautiful Irish Setter puppies! It’s a smaller litter than she had last time, but the puppies are significantly larger. In fact, the smallest puppy from this litter is the same size as the biggest puppy from the last litter. And the biggest puppy from this litter weighs over a pound! That’s a big puppy! (Mia’s puppies usually weigh around half a pound. Duchess puppies averaged 9-10 ounces last litter.)


Duchess was very kind to me and decided to have her puppies during the day, which was GREAT! With another delivery under my belt, I gained a few new experiences. With each litter, I seem to pick up valuable nuggets of information and experience. Sometimes those nuggets come from good experiences and some not so good. Every litter is different and presents its own unique challenges.

So here’s how my day went.

Yesterday (Thursday), I charted a temperature drop for Duchess, so I knew we would see puppies sometime in the next 24 hours. I checked on her a few times during the night, but she was pretty calm and relaxed.

Morning came, and with it, some encouraging signs. As the morning progressed, Duchess became more and more restless. Pacing, panting, digging, nesting, and frequent bathroom trips.

Her first puppy was born shortly before 11am. She quickly and steadily birthed five more by 12:30. Then things paused for a bit, which isn’t unusual. I was fairly certain she wasn’t finished, though.

Around 1:00 she began pushing. Typically, I see her push for just a few minutes and then a sac presents. Once I see can see the puppy, it’s usually out within seconds. Duchess doesn’t waste time. However, this time, Duchess kept pushing for almost half an hour with no signs of a puppy. (Thirty minutes is the textbook time frame for delivering a puppy. After thirty minutes of pushing, it’s time to call your vet.) I had given her a few doses of liquid calcium in the last two hours, which helps for strong contractions; but she was still struggling. She started to get very agitated. She left her puppies and began pacing and whining.

I was getting very nervous. I called my sister, who breeds Miniature Schnauzers, because I knew she has had some similar experiences. While on the phone, I saw back feet. The puppy was no longer in it’s sack. Both of these things are normal. Puppies are frequently born back feet first, and it’s not unusual for the sack to break before a puppy is totally born. But when those two things are combined, you need to be watchful. If a puppy is breech with a broken sack, it may drown before it’s born. Those puppies should be delivered quickly.

But this puppy, for some reason, was stuck. Duchess kept pushing, but the puppy wouldn’t budge. So far in this entire delivery, I had not done anything except watch. But this little pup was stuck, and mama was clearly distressed. The puppy was out almost up to its hips. I grabbed the legs and gently pulled during the next couple contractions. And just like that, the pup was out.

But Duchess was too agitated to care for her, and she was more concerned about getting back to her other puppies. This little one wasn’t breathing, which wasn’t a surprise considering her prolonged birth. I spent the next few minutes vigorously rubbing her with a towel and suctioning her airways clear of fluid. She began moving almost right away, and soon started some weak gasps. After a couple minutes, she began squealing- LOUDLY. She wanted to let the world know that she did not appreciate her traumatic arrival. I was so happy to hear those angry squeals.

Would have this puppy died without my intervention? Maybe not, but my help certainly increased her odds of survival. Sometimes, healthy puppies are lost in whelping, because of small problems like this. Duchess almost certainly would have eventually gotten this puppy out by herself, but it may not have been soon enough for the puppy. That’s just how nature works sometimes. But, fortunately, I was able to lend nature a hand. With just a little bit of extra help, this little pup seems to be doing well.

Things quieted down after that, and Duchess has been contentedly caring for her babies since.


We did have one more little blip, though. Once Duchess was calm and settled after whelping, I began weighing and identifying each of the puppies. As I did that, I noticed one of them had a torn, bloody ear!


The picture isn’t very clear, but she had a deep tear at the base of her ear. It was bad enough, I was afraid it may tear off completely if I just let it go. (Birth is tough for these little guys!) So off to the vet we went for a couple of stitches and a little glue. I’m hoping Duchess doesn’t bother the stitches! As long as the stitches stay in, the ear should heal nicely.


All in all, it was a good day, and we are praising God for our seven beautiful puppies! Have a good weekend, everyone!



First Post of the New Year

I feel like I have been Missing In Action the past month and a half. Poor Faith hasn’t had a blog post update since she was born. And weekly pictures? Phew, this poor darling hardly has any pictures taken of her.

But, we are all still here, just doing normal life. Mia healed very well from her c-section and is back to her happy, normal self. She will be getting about a year off before having another litter, but there isn’t any concern about her ability to carry and deliver more puppies naturally. Good news!

Dear Faith is growing like a weed. She’s already six weeks old! Weaning has been going slowly, but it can be that way with single pups. They don’t have the competition of other puppies for food, so they don’t really have much desire to try things other than mama’s milk. Otherwise, though, she’s doing very well! She’s active and is enjoying our puppy play dates with a litter of puppies from another breeder. She loves playing with our daughter, and our daughter is equally as delighted have a little buddy crawling around on the floor with her.


As for our other dogs, we were hoping to have two litters this spring- one from Duchess and one from Jade. Duchess’s pregnancy is confirmed, and I was confident that Jade was pregnant, as well. However, she fooled us! An ultrasound showed no babies in there! She seems to be going through a bit of a false pregnancy, which is common with female dogs. They can show very convincing signs of pregnancy, even to the point of producing milk, but still not be pregnant. Typically, the hormones cycle through and everything goes back to normal all on its own. We’re still very excited for Duchess’s litter of Irish Setters, and we’ll try for some Mini Goldendoodle puppies from Jade again in the fall!


Duchess, in the meantime, is eating up a storm! I’ve stopped counting how many cups of food I give her a day. She’s now approximately six weeks pregnant, which is the time that I begin free-feeding my mama’s. I let them eat as much food as they want, and I often supplement them with an egg or vitamin every day. Her belly is growing, and she’s slowing down a bit. She still runs, but she tires quickly. I should soon be able to feel the puppies moving when she is lying still. A few more weeks and then I’ll have some more sweet setter babies from these two gorgeous dogs!


In other household news, my baby turned one this month! And she started walking! I suppose she is now my toddler and not so much my baby. That is a little hard for this mama to accept. She is my social, giggly little girl, and I thank God every day for allowing me to be her mother.


Mmm, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic with the passing of the one year mark. Soak in the time with your loved ones this week. Life goes by much too quickly.




Munchy Monday: Is a Grain-Free Diet Right for Your Dog?

After a longer break than I had planned, Munchy Mondays are back! Today, as suggested by the title, I am posting about Life’s Abundance Grain-Free dog food. I’ll also be touching a little bit on how to know if your dog should be on a grain-free diet.

Let’s begin with the latter.

There is a lot of conflicting information floating on the great world wide web about grain-free dog foods and if dogs should or shouldn’t have them. Proponents of grain-free diets point out that dogs’ ancestors, namely wolves, do not eat grains; so it’s more natural for dogs to eat grain-free food. Some sources also claim that dogs cannot digest grains and that grains can cause allergies. Those on the other side would argue that dogs can, in fact, digest certain grains and that grains can provide valuable fiber in a dog’s diet. According to some, grains can actually aid in the digestion and absorptions of other nutrients.

I am not a veterinarian or a schooled dog-nutritionalist, but here is what I have been able to sort from the muddled information.

-Dogs can digest SOME grain. Corn is an example of one that they can’t digest, but other properly prepared whole grains are digestible.

-Grains can be a source of fiber; although, grains are not the only good fiber source.

-Grain is not necessary to a dog’s diet, as long as their food is well-balanced and nutritionally sound.

-Grain can boost the protein in dog food; BUT it’s important to note that animal-based proteins are better for dogs. They can absorb the protein from plants and animal sources, but dogs need the amino-acids are that found in animal-based proteins. A proper balance of plant and animal proteins is important.

-Dogs can be allergic to grains. Dogs can also be allergic to beef, dairy, etc. The number of dogs allergic to grains is very small.

Basically, a diet consisting of grains is fine for most dogs, and even has some benefits. However, dogs don’t necessarily need grain, and a grain-free food may be gentler on the digestive system for some individuals. If a dog is showing signs of allergies (like itchy skin, rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, excessive licking and chewing of feet or skin, frequent ear infections, etc.), a grain-free diet may provide relief. Be aware, though, that grains are certainly not the only food allergy a dog can have. In the end, it comes down to the preference of pet owners and the needs of individual dogs.

Life’s Abundance offers both standard and grain-free food options. Either is an excellent choice. The grains included in the original formula are healthy, whole grains that are digestible and beneficial to dogs. The grain-free formula is a great alternative, though, for the pet owners that prefer it or have dogs that specifically require it.


One thing I personally like about it is the higher protein and fat content. Our Irish Setters are highly active, and we have to be mindful of their weight. They maintain great muscle tone but sometimes struggle to keep a healthy amount of body fat, even when fed more than the recommended portions for their size. We have found that foods with a higher protein count go a long way in maintaining a healthy weight for our very active dogs.

Life’s Abundance Grain-Free food has high quality animal based proteins, including turkey meal, chicken meal, and eggs. There are Omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy sources of fat like chicken, eggs, flaxseed meal, and fish oil. It also contains an antioxidant system including guaranteed amounts of vitamins C and E. Fruits and vegetables provide valuable nutrients. You’ll find potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, cranberries, blueberries, broccoli, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress and spinach in Life’s Abundance Grain-free formula. Some of these like celery and carrots provide good sources of fiber and carbohydrates. Other sources are tomato pomace and field peas. In addition to all of that, it also contains a guaranteed amount of four different health-promoting probiotics.

Whew, that last paragraph is a mouthful; but it helps you to see just how much great stuff is packed into the food. If you feel like grain-free is best for your dog or if you would simply like to give it a try, Life’s Abundance Grain-Free is an excellent option.

Interested in ordering?
 You can order from the Life’s Abundance site. When ordering through our page, you should see Kristen’s Happy Tails listed at the top of the page as the Field Rep. If I am not listed as your representative, please mention my ID number when you place your first order- 20552921. As your representative, I am able to help you determine what products are right for your pet and answer any questions you may have.

Nearing the End!

We are in the final stretch of raising Timber and Duchess’s puppies! Next week marks the time when they are ready to go to their new homes. It has been an exciting two months.

The last two weeks in our home brings a lot of changes for the puppies. The weaning process is completed, and they each receive a health exam, vaccinations, and a third round of de-wormer. We also begin crate training and some more intentional socialization.

For the crate training introduction, I put half of the puppies in a crate in our living room. The first time is usually met with some whining and crying (from the puppies, not me!). I dish out a dose of tough love, and simply let them cry. I make sure the room is quiet and calm; and usually after 15-20 minutes, even the most stubborn puppies quiet down and accept this new place. After all, they are snuggled in a warm place with their siblings, so it’s not a very scary experience. Once everyone has settled, I turn on some music or run the vacuum. This helps them get used to different noises. They usually watch the vacuum curiously but don’t give much other reaction.


Watching Roomba vacuum


Calm and snoozing a few minutes later

And let me mention food. A large litter of growing puppies eats a lot of food! I am feeding about 15 cups of food per day. The puppies eat three times day, with each of them getting approximately 1/2 cup at each meal; and they are growing beautifully! This is what the puppies are currently eating.


As the puppies get older, it’s becoming much more difficult to let them in the yard to play. I now only let half the litter out at a time, because I can no longer keep track of ten setter puppies! They are so curious and have started to wander further and further as they explore their big, exciting world. They have an undeniable fascination with our chickens, but they are bird dogs, after all! They love leaves and anything they can chew on whether it’s toys, sticks, or my toes.

It’s been fun to note the differences between Irish Setter puppies and Mini Goldendoodle puppies. Irish Setter puppies are more independent, exploring farther away by themselves. This is very typical of the breed, which is known for it’s far quartering range while hunting. Some of them already have exhibited the point and stalk behaviors used in bird hunting. Seeing that makes me very happy! We chose to breed a working field line of setters, ones that are worth their salt as gun dogs. Field dogs are usually too small to use in the show ring, but they can out hunt your typical show setter (commonly referred to as “bench” setters). Both bench and field lines of Irish Setters make wonderful family companions; but since both my husband and I come from families that enjoy the outdoors and participate in various forms of hunting, the field dogs appealed more us.

This next week, I’ll be soaking in all the wiggly puppy snuggles that I can! As always, we are excited to see them go to their new homes, but we do miss them when they leave. I’m satisfied, though, knowing I am helping to add a loving companion to so many different families!


Puppy Update- 5 Weeks

It’s amazing how quickly puppies change from three weeks old to five weeks old. There is this sudden explosion of awareness and curiosity. It is such a fun stage!

In the past couple of weeks, the puppies have begun exploring more of their surroundings. They are learning to do their business outside, which is GREAT! They are puppies, and they don’t get it right all the time, but every puddle that ends up in the dirt rather than on their blanket is a success. 🙂

The puppies are now eating three meals of solid food every day. They are still nursing from Duchess a few times a day, as well, but this will be slowly cut out over the next week and a half. The puppies are eating Life’s Abundance Small and Medium Breed Puppy food.


I love feeding Life’s Abundance to our puppies! I know that I am giving them one of the very best foods on the market. It has all of the good stuff (animal based fats and protein, antioxidants, Omega- 3, Omega- 6, probiotics, and prebiotics) and none of the bad stuff (corn, wheat, corn gluten, wheat gluten, artificial flavors, and artificial colors). I know I am giving my puppies everything that their growing bodies need.

For the first few days of the weaning process, I soak the food in raw goat’s milk. This makes it soft and easy to eat, and the puppies LOVE the goat’s milk. After a few days, I start soaking the food in plain water. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I soften the kibble less and less. Around 7 weeks old, I like to have them crunching away on unsoftened kibble.

Now that the puppies are fully interactive, I am seeing their individual personalities begin to blossom. I have a couple of puppies that are my fun and spunky initiators- Winchester, Magnum, and Meadow. Then I have Benelli and Nova who are a bit more mild-mannered than some of the others. They are all so sweet and fun in their own way.








Winchester & Riley







As a quick bunny trail, did you even wonder how I get such cute individual pictures of the puppies? It’s quite a feat, let me tell you. I find it best to perch them on some kind of box or basket. This puts them up off the ground in hopes that they will sit still for a second or two before leaping off to go play. But for every good picture like this…

IMG_6138 Riley

… I have a few dozen of these!




Oh my, I really do love these little guys! 🙂 Some of the puppies are still available! If you are interested in adding an Irish Setter to your life, get in contact with me! This is one of the most fun breeds of dogs you’ll ever meet. I promise, you’ll never have a day without a laugh with an Irish Setter in your home!

Have a blessed weekend!

National Dog Day 2017

Happy National Dog Day! In honor of this special day, here is a mish-mash of pictures of my dogs from today.


I just love that happy Golden smile and the distracted setter stare.



Timber and Mia having a good chase.





I finally got some decent pictures of this handsome boy. He’s always on the move, so it’s hard to catch him in a nice pose.


There’s nothing quite as beautiful as a setter on point! (This isn’t a true point, but he’s alert and scenting something interesting.)

Of course, I can’t do a blog post without a puppy update! Duchess and her babies are doing very well! Duchess is back to her happy, lively self; and all the puppies are growing and active. In comparison to the first week, the last two weeks have been a BREEZE! I feel like we are back on track and back to normal. Praise God! The puppies’ eyes have opened, and they are on their unsteady little feet. We have added a potty area for them, and they are already beginning to use it and keep their bed a little cleaner. (These setters are going to be some sharp little pups!)







This is my happy place.




Enjoy this beautiful, sunny weekend! Post a picture of your dog on National Dog Day in the comments- I love seeing your furry friends!



One Week Old

I don’t think the word “stressful” quite captures the emotions that we’ve experienced over the weekend. I didn’t really want to share this happening, but I decided it would be a good opportunity to celebrate God’s protection and grace.

On Thursday, I was feeling really optimistic. The puppies were doing very well, and even Nova was gaining weight and looking much healthier and filled out. Duchess was being a great mom and was recovering very well from pregnancy and delivery. I was still bottle feeding Nova around the clock, but she was definitely getting stronger and able to nurse on her own more. I was planning to lengthen the time in between her night time feedings on Thursday night, so I could get a decent night of rest.

Duchess was in the kitchen getting a special “mommy snack” before bed, when she noticed that the screen door was open just a few inches. Before I could stop her, she zipped outside, and I assumed she needed to go to the bathroom. She wasn’t wearing her collar for the underground fence. When I went outside a few minutes later to call her back inside, I didn’t realize she had already wandered across the road in front of our house. When she heard me calling, she began crossing the road to come back, but she got hit by a car before she made it across.

It was a very sickening feeling when I realized what happened. I was amazed when I found her still standing on the side of the road. We didn’t see any outward injuries, but we took her to closest 24-hour emergency vet to have them check for internal damage. Miraculously, she has only minor injuries that don’t require any treatment besides time and rest.

We still don’t know what prompted her to cross the road. She has NEVER bothered with the road before. We still don’t know how she escaped with only a brush burn and some bruising. Actually, that statement is incorrect. I do know how that part happened. We serve an awesome God, one who created our vast animal kingdom. Although I believe human life is infinitely more valuable than that of an animal, I also know God has created every animal with a purpose. He cares for each and every one, just as He has asked us to do, as well. He cares enough to spare the life of one sweet mama dog.

Duchess was back at home and caring for her puppies again in less than three hours. We did some extra bottle feeding overnight to give her a break and allow her body some time to rest. The following days (and nights) were filled with nearly constant observation of Duchess and her puppies, but everyone is doing well. Again, this is nothing short of a miracle.

Our God is an awesome God.

I still haven’t posted individual pictures of the puppies, but I will try my absolute best to do that very soon. We currently don’t have any clean towels, our yard is morphing into a hay field, I’m not sure when my daughter last got a bath, and I could probably use a shower myself. Once those things are checked off my list, I’ll spend some time behind the camera.

Have a safe week, and take time to thank God for life. He holds all life in the palm of His hand, and nothing happens that is outside of His control. I’m grateful to place my trust in God who is so much bigger than I am.


Puppy Update: The First 48 Hours

We have passed the first huge milestone- the first 48 hours. These two days are such a critical time for puppies, and I always breathe a sigh of relief when we pass this point.

Overall, it’s been a very good start. Duchess is doing well as a first time mama. She’s diligently caring for her babies. She’s drinking the well dry, and eating us out of house and home, but those are good things. 🙂 Feeding ten babies requires a lot of calories!


Nine of the puppies seem to be doing well. They are gaining weight, nursing well, and are acting like healthy puppies. Some signs I like to see with puppies are round bellies, hydrated skin, a strong suck reflex, activated sleep (twitching while they sleep), the ability to crawl to their mom, the ability to stay close to their littermates for warmth, and steady weight gain. By those signs, we have a healthy, thriving litter.

The tenth puppy, the runt I’ve named Nova, isn’t thriving quite as well as her siblings, but the fact that she is still alive is huge! I’m honestly amazed that she has survived. I was pretty unsure about her when she was born. Some people say it’s possible for a few puppies from a litter to be conceived several days later than the others. This means when they are born, you’ll have a set of large, older puppies and a set of smaller, younger ones. With puppies, even just a few days in the womb makes a very significant difference. I have two puppies that are noticeably smaller than the others. This litter was born fairly early on the time table. If these two puppies were indeed conceived later, then that means they are a few days premature. Another possible explanation is that the placentas were attached at a place that didn’t have as much blood flow, limiting the nourishment that they received. Either way, Nova had nature working against her.

In comparison to her siblings, Nova is TEENY! It’s hard for pictures to show just how tiny she is. Currently, she is no bigger than an iPhone 7. I am a petite person, so my hands are very small in comparison to most.




However, she does have some things going for her. Besides being small and weak, she appears healthy. She was also able to nurse some from Duchess during the first 24 hours. This means that she got some of the antibody-rich colostrum which will be a great benefit and protection for her in the coming days.

When she was born, she weighed 5.5 ounces. I could pinch her skin and it stayed in a pinched ridge, meaning she was dehydrated. She kept getting pushed away by the other puppies, which meant she struggled to stay warm. She could hardly hold her head or crawl.


Zach put up a heat lamp to keep her warm. I gave her Nutri-stat regularly and helped her nurse. This helped to hydrate her. I also started bottle feeding her raw goat’s milk every few hours from a slow-flow baby bottle. A wonderful friend of mine gave me a recipe to pump up my goat’s milk. I added plain yogurt, Karo syrup, and a raw egg yolk. This makes a rich, creamy formula full of fat, sugar, and calories. I feed her one milliliter for each ounce of body weight at each feeding. Right now, she is guzzling about one teaspoon each time.


Nova’s weight dropped in the first 24 hours to 5.4 ounces. It’s not uncommon for puppies to lose a bit of weight in the first day, but little Nova doesn’t have any weight to spare. She held steady at 5.4 until last evening. This morning, Nova tipped the scale at a whopping 5.8 ounces!


Now, she has the strength to hold her head and crawl. She stays with the other puppies and doesn’t get pushed away. She can even latch on to nurse by herself sometimes. She takes a bottle well, but her suck is still weaker than that of the other puppies. But she is a fighter! She squeals now when other puppies try to push her away when she’s nursing. She has a bit of strength to compete with them. Based on how far she has come in the first two days, I’d say there is a reasonable chance she will pull through. I’ll be bottle feeding for a while yet, but I’m hoping to wean her back onto nursing from Duchess full-time as soon as possible. If that’s not possible, I’d like to at least back off bottle feeding so that it’s only a supplement and not her main source of nourishment.


I am hoping to get individual pictures of the puppies very soon, so check back in a day or two to check them out!

And Then There Were… Eleven?!

Instead of publishing a Munchy Monday post yesterday, I spent my day caring for Duchess as she delivered her very first litter. It was an exciting (and exhausting) 24 hours! Things didn’t go quite according to plan, but everything seems to have turned out well.

I was expecting the puppies to be born the end of this week, so I was a bit surprised when I started noticing some signs of labor Sunday, only 58 days from her first breeding. This is not unheard of, but often delivery happens closer to days 61-63, or if it’s Mia- 65. I was expecting 5-8 puppies, based on an ultrasound done at 4 weeks pregnant.

Duchess lost her appetite over the weekend, and I noticed that her belly dropped. Her waistline and hips were a bit more prominent, suggesting the puppies were getting in position to be born. This meant delivery was close, but not necessarily imminent. Things could still drag on a few more days. I hadn’t seen the temperature drop that indicates delivery within 24 hours, but I had also missed a few temperature readings, so I couldn’t be sure.

Then Sunday evening, I saw green discharge, which is usually not a good sign. Green means that a placenta is detaching. Premature detachment can mean a dead puppy, which can create labor complications. Usually, the only time there is green discharge is after the birth of puppy. If it’s before birth or, in this case, before labor even, it’s not a good sign. It’s not necessarily an emergency, but it’s definitely a red flag.

Sooooo, I stayed up most of the night Sunday, thinking that the puppies would be coming that night. Duchess was restless, but clearly not in active labor. I went to bed around 3am. I was extremely grateful for the small blessing that Reese decided to sleep in until 9! That gave me a few precious hours of rest.

Monday was a tiring day. One cup of coffee wasn’t really enough. Not only did Duchess need a lot of attention, Reese is currently teething. So I had two very needy companions for the day.

Monday morning brought a tough decision. It had been 12 hours since I saw green discharge, but we still didn’t have any puppies. I finally saw the temperature drop, though, letting me know that labor was definitely beginning. Should we take her to the vet for an ultrasound and x-ray to try to diagnose a problem or should we wait to see if nature would take care of things. Dead puppies aren’t all that uncommon, although they can cause problems. Many times, everything is fine. The dead puppy is delivered and causes no harm to mom or siblings. However, if the puppy dies too long before birth, it can create problems in utero. Also, dead puppies are harder for a mama to deliver, possibly resulting in a c-section and/or the death of other puppies due to stress.

Duchess didn’t seem to be stressed, so we decided to take the “wait and see” route. I don’t like to rush into things like c-sections or other interventions. If nature is allowed to take its course, it often does a fine job. I like to give it the chance, but I was prepared to make an emergency trip to the vet if things didn’t progress well.

During the day Monday, Duchess was restless and uncomfortable but not stressed. She wanted to go out to the bathroom frequently. She was nesting. She was clingy. I was desperately hoping for birth to happen during the day, so I could get a decent night of rest.

Around 6:30pm, active labor began. The first four puppies were born alive and healthy. The fifth puppy, however, was the trouble maker. This puppy had died before birth. Thankfully, it was recent. The puppy looked almost totally normal, indicating it hadn’t been dead very long. The longer a puppy is dead in the womb, the greater the chance of it creating other complications. I do think, though, that this puppy’s death triggered labor a few days early.

After the dead puppy was born, I could tell Duchess wasn’t finished. But I wasn’t prepared for just how many were still waiting to be born. They just kept coming and coming and coming until approximately 9:30pm. She had eleven puppies total, with ten of them surviving! This is going to be a busy place in a few weeks!

I have a couple of smaller puppies, with one in particular I am concerned about. The smallest puppy was born very weak. She kept getting pushed away, and she didn’t have the strength to try to nurse even with my help. She was dehydrated and fading quickly. Even in just two hours, she was becoming weaker, so I made an emergency trip to get Nurti-stat from a friend, a high-calorie liquid supplement. I gave her a small dose around 10pm, and she was soon able to nurse a bit. It was very weak, but it was better than not at all. By the time I gave her the next dose at 11pm, I could already tell a difference. Her body was warm, and her skin no longer looked dehydrated. Her sucking was significantly stronger. We will see what the next day or two holds for her. Runts in a large litter like this often struggle to survive.

This is one of those instances where intervention is necessary. I’ll be bottle feeding her and continuing with the Nutri-stat, but I am currently leaving her with Duchess and her littermates. I don’t want to bottle feed her full time. My goal is to give enough supplementation to give her the strength to nurse. Mama’s milk, especially the colostrum produced in the first 24 hours, is the best thing for puppy. Colostrum is what gives puppies immunity from diseases like parvo until the puppies’ own immune systems are developed. No other supplement or milk replacer can come close to mama’s milk. Even if this puppy only nurses half of the time, she is still getting some beneficial immunities from Duchess’s milk.

This is what breeding and raising puppies looks like. I am currently minus nearly two nights of sleep. I’ll be spending majority of the next few days hand-raising a weak puppy and weighing and monitoring the others. I’ll be carefully observing Duchess and tracking her temperature to make sure she recovers well. Breeding is not an easy business, but it’s definitely a rewarding one. I know there are a lot of people out there who criticize breeders, thinking that they only care about money. I really wish those critics could see behind the scenes. I know there are some bad breeders out there who do view their dogs and puppies only as a money source; but most of us really do care. Our dogs are our family. We pour an immeasurable amount of time and tears into each dog and each puppy. We lose sleep and sometimes sanity in an effort to help a puppy pull through. We spend hours each day caring for the daily needs of our adult dogs. We are always searching for ways to make our dogs happier and healthier. We are rewarded by the love of our dogs, by the warm snuggles of a puppy, and the by the happiness of the families who take our puppies. Yes, we depend on the income from our puppies to help support our own families, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a demanding job, but I love every step of way.

Here are some pictures from yesterday.


Duchess getting ready. She insisted on carrying around the stuffed puppy and having it in her nest.


First puppy!


Trying to help the runt nurse



All the babies! Can you count ten?


A very tired mama getting some well-deserved rest


That’s all for today, folks! I’ll post an update on the puppies in a few days! Have a happy week!