A Glimpse into the Whelping Process

We are praising God for a beautiful, healthy litter! Mia safely (and rather quickly!) delivered seven puppies last night. We have four boys and three girls. I love seeing them all snuggled together like this!

Some of you may be happy to stop reading right here. Others of you may wish to continue on. I thought perhaps some of you may be interested in a more detailed description of what it’s like caring for a pregnant dog and helping her deliver her puppies. If you don’t want details, feel free to stop reading and carry on with your day. 🙂

Caring for puppies begins long before the due date. Rewind back to March. We did some testing on Mia to help determine her ovulation and most fertile breeding period. We were fairly certain we bred her too early on her previous two litters, because of the very small litter sizes and suspiciously late whelping (delivery). The late whelping dates hinted that she was ovulating later than we thought. This time around, though, we seem to have done it right!

During her pregnancy, Mia remained mostly herself- around people anyway. However, she became very moody around our other dogs, especially poor Jade. Mia is usually a very willing playmate for Jade; but while she was pregnant, Mia wanted nothing to do with Jade. Jade found this baffling and tried repeatedly to engage Mia in her playful antics. Mia usually sassed her with a warning growl that simply meant, “GO AWAY. I DO NOT WANT TO PLAY.” Jade usually left her alone after that, until the next day anyway.

About halfway into the pregnancy (which lasts nine weeks), we did an ultrasound to see if Mia was indeed pregnant and get an estimate on the litter size. We were told to expect 4-5 puppies, so we got a few extra blessings this time around!

Around that time, I slowly started to increase Mia’s food intake, and I began giving her a scrambled egg each day to boost her protein. She tends to be a picky eater while pregnant, so I basically free fed her, allowing her to eat little snacks whenever she wanted.

When she was seven weeks pregnant, I wormed her using fenbendazole. When pregnant, it’s very common for females to contract worms. Their immune system isn’t functioning as well as normal, so they are more susceptible to parasites and other infections. In order to keep momma healthy and to prevent the spread of parasites to the puppies after birth, I like to worm the mother approximately two weeks prior to birth.

In the last three weeks of pregnancy, we could definitely see Mia’s belly getting bigger and lower. I was expecting four puppies, because I didn’t think she looked that large, but Zach was guessing six or seven.

As we came closer to her due date, I began taking her temperature twice daily- morning and evening. A dog’s normal temperature is 100 to 102, slightly higher than a humans. Approximately 24 hours prior to delivery, a female’s temperature will take a sudden drop, usually hitting 98 degrees. By tracking her temperatures, I was able to pin point the night she would have her puppies. (Dogs like to deliver at night, so it’s important to have a good idea of when the time is coming.) Yesterday morning, Mia’s temperature dropped, so I knew the puppies were coming that night.

I made sure I had all my whelping supplies on hand. Dental floss to tie off cords if necessary, clamps, suction bulbs, scale, blankets, gloves, lubricant, liquid calcium, and my computer spreadsheet to record birth weights.

That evening, Mia kept sneaking off upstairs into the dark corners she could find up there. I finally had to close the door at the bottom of the stairs and encourage her to lie in her whelping box.

Zach stayed up with Mia until close to midnight while I got a little rest. Then I took over the puppy watch. Mia was very restless. She kept waiting at the door to the stairs, but I gently guided her back to her box each time. Eventually, she settled in there. Around 1:30, I saw the first puppy. Before the first puppy and its placenta were totally born, the second puppy came. Within half an hour, Mia had four puppies born.

I was planning to record the weights of each puppy and put some kind of identifying mark on each one. I was also wanting to give Mia small amounts of liquid calcium in between each puppy to give her uterine muscles a boost to effectively continue labor. However, the puppies were born so quickly, I eventually gave up. I simply tried to keep track of how many males and females were born! She had seven puppies in less than 90 minutes. She only got one dose of calcium during labor, which I’m sure she wouldn’t have needed anyway based on how quickly her labor went.

Bunny trail: I am grateful that Mia is able to free-whelp. I like to be close by to help if needed, but she has always been able to deliver and care for her puppies herself. Even though she has free-whelped in the past, I do not allow her to deliver unsupervised. Why? Because there are so many things that can go wrong. If someone is there to assist, many of these problems can be corrected. If nobody is there, these correctable problems can very quickly claim the life of a puppy, an entire litter, or even, in some cases, the mom herself. Sometimes a puppy is born breech. This is normal; but when a puppy is breech, it needs to be born quickly. If the mom is tiring out and the birth takes longer, the puppy can drown before it’s born. Some human assistance can prevent this and revive a non-responsive puppy. A puppy could get stuck. Sometimes with some calcium to strengthen contractions and a little lubrication, the puppy can be safely delivered. Other times, an emergency trip to the vet is needed. The sooner the problem is addressed, the better than chance of saving the stuck puppy and all remaining unborn puppies. It’s also pertinent to count placentas. On occasion, a placenta may be retained in the uterus. This will lead to an infection that will result in the mother’s death in a matter of days if it’s not caught in time. So I approach each delivery prepared for situations like these. Thankfully, things have always gone smoothly for Mia, but it’s still in everyone’s best interest to be prepared.

Back to the story. After five puppies, I thought we were done based on the vet’s prediction. So I took a picture of them. But I noticed Mia wasn’t quite relaxed yet.

Then, to my delight, another puppy was born, followed by the seventh a little before 3am. After that, Mia visibly relaxed. She began to very thoroughly clean the puppies. She stretched out comfortably and rested. I knew she was finished then. I waited up another hour just to be sure. During that time, I made sure each puppy was able to nurse. Then I went to bed for a few hours of rest.

This morning, I recorded the weights of each puppy and put a colored string around their necks to easily identify them. That lasted all of two minutes before Mia tore one off and ate it. I have now been forced to find other ways to tell them apart. They each have some white markings on their chest or feet. I did my best to find distinguishing features for each one. One puppy has a white spot on his back left paw. One puppy has a white spot on her chest shaped like a right angle. One has a spot on her chest that can best be described as shaped like a palm tree. This puppy here is Huckleberry (Huck for short). He has the biggest white marking on his chest and neck.

Today I haven’t done much with the puppies, besides dab the umbilical area with rubbing alcohol to help prevent infection. Mia has been taking excellent care of them. I will be monitoring them to make sure each of them is nursing; but otherwise, I will simply allow Mia to do her thing. I weigh each puppy twice a day. This is to monitor growth and also get them accustomed to being handled. However, I try not to handle them too much during the first week or so, because it clearly stresses Mia to have her babies removed from the nest.

And here are some pictures of everyone nursing and resting comfortably. Check back later for the individual pictures of the puppies!

Rolling with the Punches

Roll with the punches- idiom

Literal meaning- based on boxing, step back or to one side as you are being hit so that you do not receive the full force of the attack

Figurative meaning- to adjust to difficult events as they happen, especially by being flexible

That’s what I’ve been trying to do the past few days. Figuratively, of course.

Previously, we had been using a stud from Whistle Hill Kennel named Rusty to breed Mia. We were very pleased with the puppies we got from them. However, Rusty was unavailable this time around. (He is vacationing away from home with some other ladies for the week.) We had two other options. Whistle Hill has a young male who is ready to stud out for the first time, or we could use another local breeder, Mr. Beiler, who has a red miniature poodle. I decided to try Whistle Hill’s young stud. I am familiar working with the folks at Whistle Hill, and it’s also a little bit closer to home. (I prefer not to board Mia away from home when she is being bred. I’m afraid it would stress her too much, and I would miss her if she were gone for a week! So I choose to drive her back and forth. It’s more time consuming, but it works best for us.)

Anyway, yesterday (Monday) evening I took Mia to meet with her young friend, but things didn’t go as planned. Mia was very interested and did her part flawlessly. However, the male was not interested. He was too busy dashing around the yard. After trying various methods for an hour, we gave up. This young guy was clearly too inexperienced and immature to accomplish his job.

By now, though, I was in a dilemma. As some of you may know, the northeast is getting hit by winter storm Stella. We are expecting over a foot of snow today, and the snow was already starting last evening as we watched this happy little guy bounce all over the yard. We talked about bringing Mia back the next day and trying again, but with the snow, there won’t be any traveling today. It also wouldn’t be wise to wait another two days until the roads are passable to try again, especially if our attempts are still unsuccessful.

So at 8:00 yesterday evening, we called up Mr. Beiler. Thankfully, he was able and willing to help us out. As I drove through the snow on little, windy back roads through Lancaster county farm country, I had to chuckle. I patted Mia as she sat contentedly on the passenger seat next me. What I wouldn’t do to find you a suitable mate, Mia!

I was also very thankful that I had left a bottle at home for dear baby Reese who was spending the evening with her daddy!

I now have met Mr. Beiler and his little poodle, and I am happy to say that my evening improved at this point. I was very pleased with this stud. He is older and has successfully sired good, healthy litters. His offspring have been known to be sweet, mild-mannered puppies. Oh, and he “did the deed,” which was a huge relief for me now that we are holed up at home for the next couple of days.

Although our breeding didn’t go as planned, I am still happy with the outcome and optimistic about the results. In the end, I’m thinking it’s maybe for the best we ended up with this particular male, rather than a young, unproven male.

If the breeding was successful, we will be expecting a litter to be born around May 20th. For those of you on our waiting list, you will be receiving an email with more details and updates about the litter. If anyone has interest in being added to our waiting list, you can email me at miasmunchkins61414@gmail.com.

Off She Goes!

Whew, it amazes me how fast time goes! The flurry of activity surrounding planning and caring for a litter is over again until next time. Part of me is a little sad, especially after having just a single puppy to bond with. I had so much fun spoiling little Noel while she was here! But there is another part of me that is breathing a sigh of relief. Puppies are a lot of work! Once they get to eight weeks old, they need more time, training, and attention than I can give them, especially this time around with Christmas coming and a baby on the way. I feel happy to pass my puppies on to a new family where I know they will get all of that time and attention they need.

Giving Noel to her new family was extra special this time, because Zach and I got to take part in a Christmas surprise! Noel went to a beautiful family and was a surprise Christmas gift for the children. It makes me very happy to know she will get plenty of love and snuggles from her new family. 🙂


Here is Zach getting his final cuddles with Noel.


And here is a sweet picture of Noel from her new home!


Now that the puppy work is over, I am shifting my focus on getting ready for my own little one! We have less than six weeks to go until my due date, so it’s time to get things ready. My wonderful husband is busy refinishing some furniture and painting the nursery, and this mama is looking at her piles of baby things that need to be organized and is wondering where to start. The next few months will bring some big changes to our home. Ready or not, here we go!


Have a very merry and blessed Christmas!


Six and Seven Weeks

Due to Thanksgiving, I skipped my weekly puppy blog post last week; so today I’ll try to give you a brief summary of our last two weeks.

This is the point of time where puppies become the most fun! They are playful and responsive, and you can begin to see their temperaments and personalities.

It has been a little bit different raising a singleton puppy versus the usual multi-puppy litter. There are definitely pros and cons to each. Here are the observations I have made.


  1. We have a very affectionate, people-oriented puppy! Since this little munchkin doesn’t have litter mates to play with, we have become her play mates. She is very affectionate and much more in tune with us than other puppies at such a young age.
  2. She is content to sleep alone. This is, in my selfish opinion, the best thing about a singleton puppy. I was afraid once we started separating Noel and Mia overnight, that we would have to deal with all of the crying and whining that usually comes with lonely puppies. But not this time. Noel was more than happy to sleep alone, since Mia had been slowly spending less and less time with her anyway at night. Sometimes I can hear Noel growling and yipping as she plays with her toys after we go to bed, but she her crying and complaining is very minimal.
  3. I can give her a lot more freedom in our house. With a normal litter of puppies, it’s impossible to give them freedom of the whole house. You’ll end up with chewed shoes, puddles, and general chaos. With only one puppy, she gets to spend a good bit of time with free access to most of the house. I can monitor the potty situation more closely; and therefore, she can spend a good bit of time roaming and playing as she wishes.


  1. Singletons aren’t as well socialized with dogs as most puppies. Puppies teach each other tolerance. All of the play biting and wrestling and such makes a puppy generally used to not always getting his own way. He is used to sharing his food and his toys, and he is generally not overly surprised when his sibling jumps on his head during a nap or wakes him up with a chomp on the ear. Singletons don’t get nearly as much of that socialization. I have had to be much more intentional about socializing Noel with other dogs. I can still tell a difference, though. She gets overwhelmed more quickly by other puppies. She likes them and wants to play, but her comfort level is fairly low. It quickly becomes too rough for her. She actually does much better with older dogs. She loves Duchess and Jade. These dogs are much bigger, but they aren’t like puppies. They are calmer and more gentle. They follow the doggie rules of good manners. Noel doesn’t get overwhelmed when playing with them. They are sometimes pretty rough with her simply because of the sheer size difference, but Noel can sense they are “safer” and more “mannerly” than other puppies.
  2. Singletons are harder to wean. This little lady is spoiled. Without the competition of other puppies for food, she didn’t take much of an interest in eating solid kibble. She would nibble at it, play with it, and then scamper off and play with her toys instead. Usually, puppies are greedy and immediately devour whatever food is given to them. Instead, I found myself hand feeding this little miss and coaxing her eat. She wasn’t in a hurry at all. She knew she would get enough to eat, and there was no reason to fully devote her attention to eating. It took some extra time and new methods of teaching Noel that meal time is for eating! I also had to be much more strict in separating Mia from Noel. With only one puppy, Mia wasn’t helping the weaning process at all. She was very tolerant and was still allowing Noel to nurse as much as she wanted. Despite the extra hurdles, though, Noel is successfully weaned! She is eating unsoftened kibble, and she eats most of it from her bowl (no more hand feeding! Yay!). She sometimes prefers to eat it directly off of the floor instead of from her bowl, but we are conquering one habit at a time. 🙂 I’m satisfied at the moment that she doesn’t need to eat from my hand any more.

With the extra work of weaning and such the past two weeks, I realized I have done a terrible job at taking pictures! Here are just a couple.


Here is a fun video of Noel and Jade playing. Jade is an awesome dog. She is so big, yet she is so gentle! (Although, Noel doesn’t think she is gentle when Jade accidentally rolls on top of her.) Noel thinks she is such big stuff when she gets to play outside with the big dogs! (If you are viewing this from an automatically sent email, you may not be able to watch the video. Click the URL at the bottom of the email, and view it directly from my website.)

Have a good week!

Happy Fall & Four Weeks Old

This week’s blog update is going to be mostly pictures. I have some pictures of the big dogs enjoying the beautiful fall weather, of Duchess hunting, and of sweet Noel, of course. Enjoy!


Pennsylvania is truly beautiful in the fall!


Way to go, Duchess!


Little Jade isn’t so little anymore.


My 60 pound love bug.


I lied. We’re not selling a real puppy. She is a stuffed teddy bear.


Noel enjoyed exploring outside one warm afternoon.


She started eating a little bit of softened kibble this week!


This is Noel’s new favorite toy.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Three Weeks Old

The fun has begun! Look at this precious face!


Big stuff has been happening in the last week. First off, Noel is walking! With that, comes the potty training. Our goal is to teach Noel to use a designated “potty area” and to discourage her from pottying in her bed. Here is evidence of one of her first successes. She even did this one all by herself. She woke up, tottered out to the newspaper, pottied, and went back to her bed. Good job, Noel!

She certainly isn’t perfect. Most of the time, she doesn’t potty on her bed, but she doesn’t always hit the desired “potty area.” However, for 3 weeks old, I am impressed!

Along with potty training comes food. I’m very slowly beginning the weaning process. Right now, I am just giving her a little bit of warm goat’s milk to get her interested in eating from a bowl. As you can see, we haven’t had a lot of success yet.


How does that saying go? It’s no use crying over spilled milk?


Nothing mama can’t clean up.


Here are some other fun pictures from the week. Since Noel doesn’t have litter mates, it’s especially important for her to become familiar with other puppies and children. We had our first play date this week. (A huge thank you to BJ’s Farm for allowing us to use their Boxer puppies as Noel’s “foster siblings”!)


With the puppies being so young, the play date was pretty uneventful. It was more of a sleepover, but it was good. It’s better to get her accustomed to it now before she is old enough to have much of a reaction. Then, in a few weeks, she should be very happy and comfortable playing with these little guys. They won’t seem so new and scary if she has been visiting since she was three weeks old. I decided if she was relaxed enough to sleep, then the visit was a success!

She has also had some visits from my nephews and from a family in my neighborhood. The same theology goes for children. The younger the puppies are exposed to children, the better. If they are used to being handled by children at a young age, they tolerate them much better as they get older. Noel didn’t seem at all perturbed by the rough little hands and shrill little voices.

She was even giving some kisses! (It’s possible that she was just very hungry, but we’ll call it showing affection.)


Overall, this past week was busy but very good! There has been a lot of growing and changes, and we are now entering the fun puppy stage! Have a good weekend, and enjoy that extra hour of sleep!

The First Noel

There is once again new life in our home! Mia gave birth to one puppy today; and although we sincerely were hoping for more babies, we are very grateful for the one, healthy puppy we have.

We are happy to introduce Noel. I chose a Christmas name, because this little girl will be ready to go to a new home in time for Christmas this year.


I sincerely apologize for this less than ideal picture. Noel was unhappy and crying about having her picture taken. Mia, being the very good mother that she is, would not allow me to take any pictures without comforting her baby. You can at least see her beautiful dark color. I’ll post some better pictures when Noel is feeling more cooperative. I don’t like stressing little puppies more than necessary.

Raising a singleton puppy will definitely present some new challenges, but we are prepared to make the necessary adjustments. I am currently arranging for Noel to have some “foster siblings.” I’m blessed to know of two people close by me with a young litter of puppies that will be able to help give our puppy the proper socialization she should have from litter mates. I also made a trip to the store tonight to buy her some stuffed toys to snuggle with and crawl over. We’re also making some adjustments to our whelping box to keep it warmer. Usually, litter mates depend upon each other for warmth when mama has to leave the nest. We have to be more careful to keep the temperature warmer than is usually necessary.

My most immediate concern, though, is milk supply. Some mamas don’t receive enough stimulation from just one puppy to keep up a milk supply. In some cases, however, this isn’t a problem. It really depends on the mama. So far, Mia has plenty of milk for Noel, and Noel has been steadily gaining weight even in the first 24 hours. This is excellent. We will still very closely monitor her weight for the first several days to make sure Mia continues to keep a good milk supply. I am hopeful that no intervention will be necessary. I am prepared to supplement if needed, but I try to avoid those situations if at all possible. Mama’s milk is best, so I will be praying that Mia keeps her milk.

That’s all for tonight! Thanks for reading!

The Waiting Game…

Anticipation is the word of the day! We are eagerly expecting Mia to deliver her second litter of puppies any day now. Things are ready to go, and now we get to…


And wait.

Make sure you are checking back often in the next week to see the very first pictures of Mia’s puppies!

On another note, I have some fun pictures and information to share about Duchess! Last week we took her for her first official bird hunting training session.


Last fall, we took her bird hunting a couple of times, but we had never done any formal training with her. We mostly relied on her natural instincts and allowed her to find and flush birds.

Zach recently found a local place that offers training and even some paid bird hunts on their land. We scheduled a time for Duchess at Pheasant Valley Farm, and it was AMAZING! Not only was Duchess absolutely thrilled with the experience, it gave Zach and me some valuable teaching about how to work with her. The formal hunting training is as much for us as it is Duchess.

This first training session basically helped our instructors to see what Duchess could do and to teach us how to begin working with her. Our goal is to teach her to quarter (zig-zag) across a hunting area in search of scent. When she catches a bird scent, she should immediately stop and point. She should hold that point as either Zach or I walk in the direction of her point in order to flush the bird. Once the bird is flushed and shot, Duchess should retrieve it on command.

I was impressed with how well we she responded to our instructions for quartering. There is enough of a natural instinct, I believe, that with a little guidance from us, she seemed to pick it up quite well. There were times she wanted to run in a straight line down the field. Zach, who was mainly working with her and the instructor while I observed, would then call to her and point to the opposite side of the field. Duchess caught on very quickly; and when Zach would call and motion, she would quarter across the field. With his assistance, she did quite well in learning to effectively cover a hunting area.

The area we need to work on the most is holding the point. It’s very obvious when Duchess catches a bird scent, but she doesn’t hold a point. She rushes into the bird and flushes it. This bad habit comes from a lack of training and our own inexperience in technique. We allowed her to do this last fall while hunting, and now we have to work at changing that habit. For now, we are working with her on a long lead, so we can stop her once she catches scent. We are also teaching her the command, “Whoa,” so we can command her to stop and hold a position until we give her a release word. She did decently well, but we have a lot of ground to gain.

Here is Duchess watching the instructors. She knew there were birds in the back of that golf cart!


For anyone who owns an Irish Setter or other breed of hunting dog, I cannot overstate how amazing it is to hunt with your dog. Duchess can be difficult when it comes to obedience training. Her manners are a little rough around the edges, because of her boisterous energy and boundless enthusiasm. When it comes to taking her on a walk, some days I think I’d be better off trying a jack-rabbit. Duchess has to run all around, “hunting” and sniffing all the bushes, yards, and flowerbeds. She always wants to RUN. Walking is only for the feeble-bodied, as far as she is concerned.

But when we get her out in the field hunting, it is BEAUTIFUL. All of those attributes come into play, and we have the chance to work with her instincts instead of against them. At home, we try to teach her to walk nicely in a straight line. We try to keep her focused on one thing at a time, like sitting or playing fetch or whatever. We try to keep her from chasing our chickens and the neighborhood cats. Out in the field, though, she can do all the things she wants to do. She can run in a zig-zag. Her energy is focused everywhere all at once, so she can catch that bird scent. She even gets to chase and catch birds, ideally on command.

Suddenly, she isn’t so hard to deal with and train. Because we are working with her natural instincts, she is much more obedient. She understands us, and she wants to obey. It is so beautiful to work with a hunting dog in the field. The bond of trust and communication you build can’t be replicated elsewhere. I highly, highly recommend getting your hunting dog out in the field. The experience is definitely worth it!


Holiday Fun

Happy December! I hope you all enjoyed Thanksgiving. I know I did, but I am very much looking forward to December 25. The Christmas season is my favorite time of year! I love the music (that I have been listening to since before Thanksgiving), the food, the family time, and the general atmosphere of peace surrounding the season. I think the feelings of peace and love and hope that we feel during this time of  year comes from the fact that Christmas is the time that we celebrate God’s greatest gift to us- His Son. What other thought could bring us such hope?

Ahhh, even as I think about it now, I am content. I love December. If it were up to me, December would be twice as long so as to draw out this wonderful time of year as long as possible. I am currently picturing in my mind fuzzy socks, hot chocolate, colorful Christmas lights, snow, and evergreen trees. I really do love this time of year.

For those of you who are local, you will (probably) know that yesterday was the opening day of rifle in Pennsylvania. This means, I was alone for the weekend while my husband was at the cabin deer hunting with his uncles and cousins. As much as I love my husband, I do enjoy the time alone once in awhile. I had some time to do some crafts and such that I wouldn’t ordinarily take the time to do.

I have recently been Pinteresting some cute ideas for dog toys, decor, and accessories that I could learn to make for my pooches. I spent my weekend buying craft supplies and experimenting with a few holiday themed projects! Take a look!

Holiday Doggie Donut Toys:


Mia approves of her new toys. 🙂 They are cute, but I don’t recommend for heavy chewers.


Red and Silver Paracord Collar:


I was impressed that I ended up with a functional collar and toys on my first try. 🙂 I have a few other crafts I want to try in the next few weeks as I enjoy my December.

Merry Christmas! Take the time to enjoy the season!