Wednesday, November 20th, 2019 – At 6am, after being up with Beans a lot of the night, I staggered down to check on her. Still no puppies. But she was still anxious and I knew labor was imminent. I was scheduled to walk dogs at the shelter from 9-11am. I emailed the volunteer coordinator to cancel the shift, knowing that I needed to stay close by our laboring mama.
After getting the kids off the school, I ran back down to check on Beans. Still no puppies!
But I didn’t have to wait too much longer.
Beans delivered her first puppy at 9:05am! She quickly ate the placenta and cleaned him up. He was white with large brown spots over his head and rump, with one more small brown spot on his left side. He looked a lot like his father. He was beautiful!
He wiggled over to her nipples, but she was still extremely restless. Beans picked him up (by the head!) and carried him back over between her front two paws and licked him vigorously.
Every delivery is different, but at some point, I expect to have seen it all. I certainly have never seen a delivering mama move her babies around by the head. Beans kept picking him up by the head and moving him around. I started feeling nervous for his well being. I decided to heat up some heat disks and put them in a basket with some blankets to create a place where he could await the birth of his siblings and his mother’s willingness to nurse him.
I moved the first born into the basket around 10am. Beans did not like that plan. She grabbed him out of the basket and tucked him back into the whelping box. I tried one more time about 15 minutes later, but again, she was right on his heels and retrieved him. Since my goals were to reduce her stress and keep him safe, and moving him clearly wasn’t achieving those goals, I decided to leave them be and hope for a quick next delivery.
(Apparently, mother dogs often carry their newborns by the head, as I have since researched. But it was nerve-wracking watching it for the first time not knowing this!)
Meanwhile, I had contacted both Ann Edwards, the foster director, and Anne Savage, the shelter photographer, to keep them abreast of the labor progress. Anne was hoping to photograph some of the delivery but was involved in a filming project at the shelter. She could slip out and be at the house by 12:40pm.
In most deliveries, puppies arrive every 30-60 minutes. Up to 2 hours between puppies can be normal, and I have seen puppies born within a couple minutes of one another. But whenever the time between puppies or kittens exceeds the 2 hour mark, I start expecting that the baby will be stillborn or at least need some help. Much beyond that, I start to worry about the mother’s safety as well.
When I went up to greet Anne at 12:35pm, I was entering the “we may need to get mama to the vet” mindset. I prepared her for the possibility of trouble.
We went back down to the sight of Beans cleaning up puppy number 2!
Puppy number 2 was also mostly white with a brown patch over her right eye. I was ready with supplies to possibly help a struggling puppy but didn’t need to use them in this case. Mama Beans got her clean and breathing in no time.
We didn’t have long to oooooh and aaaaaah over her though, because puppy number 3 was delivered at 12:44pm! Puppy number 3 was dark gray, with a white stripe down his face and a white marking in the shape of a collar around his neck.
These two started suckling almost immediately. Puppy number 1 was still not nursing. He was in the mix with the other two, but wasn’t latched on yet.
Anne being present allowed me to confidently attend to our other animals. I fed our six 7 week old foster kittens, one of whom needed syringe feeding, and walked our two dogs, Livie and Teddy.
At 1:15pm, puppy number 4 was born. She was white with a brown spot near her right ear and several spots over her back. The spot on her right side was shaped like a heart! And it looked like she had another heart on her rump!
Puppy number 5 was born at 1:44pm. He was dark gray like his mama with a white stripe on his nose and a white marking like a collar on his neck, much like puppy number 3.
During this time, Anne and I noticed that the first born pup had a red tummy that Beans kept licking. He was bleeding some from his umbilical cord, which didn’t look normal. I sent a picture of it to Ann, who forwarded it to the vet. The vet replied that it looked like a shredded umbilical cord. As long as it wasn’t actively bleeding, we would just need to monitor it regularly and keep it clean to prevent infections.
At 2:40pm, right before I was due to go pick up the children from school, puppy number 6 was delivered. He was almost identical to puppies 3 and 5 and I started wondering how I was going to tell them all apart!
I was happy to have a partner in Anne since I needed to leave so soon after a delivery. They all looked like they were doing well. Even puppy number 1 was snuggled in, though we couldn’t tell 100% if he was nursing or not.
The vet had guessed from the x-ray that Beans would have 6 puppies, but she had been wiggly and the vet wasn’t really confident in the prediction. We were ready for the possibility of more puppies.
I returned from school with the children. My plan was to let them go sit near Beans, who by now trusted and adored them all, and Anne one at a time. They were eager to see the newborns, but we certainly didn’t want to overwhelm mama.
During Dane’s turn, another puppy, number 7, was born! She was mostly white, with one small brown spot on her head. He hurriedly came upstairs to report the birth.
Puppy number 7 wasn’t breathing and Beans was busy cleaning up the placenta and herself. She was exhausted. After about a minute had passed, I rubbed the new puppy with a clean washcloth, expecting to have to remove the sac and get the puppy breathing if possible. But just the little bit of attention to the puppy reminded Beans of the necessary job and she began vigorously licking the puppy until she took a deep breath and let out a squeal.
We sat with Beans another hour. She looked settled and exhausted and started dozing off. Guessing that the delivery process was over, Anne headed home and our family left the new family to nurse and rest while we prepared and ate dinner.
Being present during a birth of any kind is beautiful, messy, emotional, scary, and amazing. I felt honored to have been by Beans’ side as she labored. I was so excited to watch them grow and develop!
While these puppies will find loving, responsible homes through HSHV, so many puppies born through unplanned pregnancies are not that lucky. Please spay and neuter your pets.