Speaking too soon…

Just when I report that the puppies are starting to use the puppy pads and that mama is still so helpful with clean up…Beans decides that she is done with eating poop (I mean, who could blame her?!) and the puppies decide that the puppy pads make for excellent toys.  I should know better by now…

Beans is now conducting check ins only.  She goes into the puppy pen where she is swarmed by eager babies, allows a minute or two of frantic nursing, scouts around the pen, licks a few pups, cleans up any leftover food, and then exits.  She is content to be closed in the pen a couple times each day for about an hour, where she often escapes to the security of the chair, but occasionally surprises me (and the puppies) by laying down among the pups. 

When Beans wants out of the pen, however (and again, who could blame her?!), she makes this known by rattling the entire pen and howling the saddest sound.  She knows I am sympathetic to her plight and will come release her as soon as possible. 

By now, we have fostered enough mama dogs to know the pattern.  Somewhere between 4 and 5 weeks, when the puppies develop teeth and the ability to climb out of the whelping box and eat solid food, the mother starts to wean them and wants to be with them less and less.

Suddenly, we have a logistical issue.  The puppies must be contained somehow (because…poop) and the mama wants occasional access to them but not to be trapped in with them.  We have solved this before by having the mama move into our main living space and putting her with the puppies when a) she asks to go there, b) at night, and c) when we leave the house. 

With 3 mama dogs, however (Beans being the third), we have not made the transition to upstairs living.  One was due to a contagious respiratory infection, one to a mama not being dog friendly, and Beans due to her limp that one time that made us wary about her going up and down stairs and playing with the dogs.  She hasn’t limped since, and would probably have been a good candidate for time upstairs, but by now, her time with us and the puppies is drawing to a close. 

Our intermediate solution for her has been lots of time with us in the basement.  We play card games beside her, write this blog beside her, and play with the puppies alongside her.  I even set up a makeshift barber shop and cut Andrew’s hair downstairs last night to spend that extra 20 minutes with her. 

When she isn’t snuggling on the couch or out for a walk, she was roaming free in the basement some.  She has proven herself to be completely housebroken and has only chewed something she wasn’t supposed to once (a green crayon).  But for those that foster, you know things couldn’t be that easy for long…

Beans is motivated to be with family and has figured out how to open the doors in the house.  We figured this out this weekend when she appeared on the main level of the house by surprise.  I was stepping out of the shower and Ryan was helping the kids build a Christmas dollhouse in the living room. 

“Devon!  Mom!” the kids and Ryan called.  I hastily wrapped up in a towel.

“Beans is up here.” 

Livie was sitting on the landing of the stairs and Teddy was excitedly greeting his walking buddy.  Ryan and the kids had set up a couple flimsy barriers (a chair and a laundry basket) to the living room to prevent Teddy from walking all over the many screws and pieces of the dollhouse they were constructing.  Ryan, knowing that Beans was timid of him and not sure how she would react if he approached her, stayed behind the barrier.  I quickly called Livie upstairs and put her in our bedroom. 

Teddy, elated by the open basement door, rushed down to check out the puppies.  Oh, no!  What would Beans do?  Well, thankfully, that sweet girl just came right to me when called.  I secured her in the bathroom for a moment while Dane got Teddy and took him outside.  Then, I took Beans back down to the basement (still in my towel!) and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Things could have gone differently. 

And now, when it is time for us to leave Beans, I am offering her the puppy pen or a crate.  She is choosing the crate more and more often.  She goes in willingly but I always give her a peanut butter filled Kong or some other tasty treat (mom guilt). 

After being crated, she likes to go in to check on the puppies and offers them a quick nursing session.  But she doesn’t want to stay long.  She wants to cuddle and walk and get all the pets.  I will be sad to see her go, but I am excited for her to move on into a home where she can relax and really join the family. Her work here is almost complete. 

Meanwhile the puppies are growing and developing beautifully.  Those brave enough to enter the puppy pen should expect kisses and wags…and teeth!  The kids often take one or two puppies up on the chair or out of the pen.  This strategy, having at least as many hands available as there are puppies with you (plus a toy handy), makes for a better user experience. 😉

Mae hanging out with Beans. Nora hiding from puppy teeth.

2 thoughts on “Speaking too soon…

  1. So glad the surprise Bean visit ended well! Thanks for explaining your weaning procedure. I seem to change mine with each mama. When the mama is small enough, we have been able to give her an escape space (like your chair), but that’s rare for us. It’s really nice to know I’m not the only foster mama who wrestles with finding the best solution. Beans has been so lucky to be with you. She is absolutely gorgeous too – blue pitties are my dream dog. Hope she finds her family fast!

    1. Yes, I also tend to modify the weaning procedure with each mother, listening to their cues as much as possible. Some mamas want to get away from their babies sooner than I am ready for and others are happy to nurse the pups for weeks longer. I have definitely improved our set up and gained knowledge through our many litters, but I still feel like I am constantly learning and adjusting. I am always curious about how others address weaning, giving the mother access to the puppies when she wants it, but keeping the puppies (and their mess) contained. Of course, fostering for the humane society allows for the mother to be readily processed for adoption when she is done nursing the puppies. Our mothers usually go back to the shelter when the puppies are 6-7 weeks old. When the mothers refuse to go into the puppy pen for about 24 hours, I know they’re ready. With our first mama, another blue pitty, I would actually carry her in and she didn’t have any place to get away from her 10 puppies; I feel really bad about that now, but at the time, I thought she should just be with them all the time until they were 8 weeks old. We live and learn. Sometimes I wonder how professional breeders handle all these details. I wonder if there’s a “best way” or if just modifying as we proceed with love is indeed the best way.
      Thanks for reading!

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