We brought Gracie home on April 11, 2018.
Gracie was calm but attentive in the car. She looked around with minimal curiosity and shifted her weight with the turns. I regretted living a whole 20 minutes away from the shelter, knowing she must be uncomfortable.
At home, I took her for a quick 10 minute walk so she could pee and poop. She did neither.
I took her into the basement and she walked willingly into the pen. I gave her snuggles. When I left to unload Gracie’s supplies from the car, her eyes followed my retreat up the stairs, but she didn’t make a sound or a move.
Two very kind people had donated a DuraWhelp whelping box to the shelter for Gracie to use for the delivery. I lugged the huge box to the basement and assembled it. The whelping box took up about a fourth of the pen. I lined it with towels and blankets and hoped Gracie would feel comfortable enough to deliver her puppies there.
I gave Gracie food and water and left her in the pen to go pick up Nora from preschool. It hadn’t been until Gracie was in the pen that I realized how flimsy the gates were. We had only had puppies, no adult dogs, confined by the pen before. With one strong push, one bite, one not-so-impressive leap, Gracie could free herself.
Luckily, as it turned out, Gracie was not a pusher, biter, or leaper and stayed contentedly inside her designated area!
We fell into a routine of feedings, walks, snuggles and observation. Gracie soon won over my heart and it wasn’t long before I trusted her with the children. She had such a calm and kind demeanor. She often walked up to Nora’s school with me to pick her up mid-day and was greeted by her adoring fans. Gracie was not a smiley pup, but she seemed most content to simply be beside people.
Ryan also enjoyed Gracie and agreed that she seemed like a super sweet pup. But he was pragmatic in his thinking about his own family’s safety. We had already established rules with the children like not visiting Gracie without a parent in tow. Ryan encouraged me to think through what I would do in the event that Gracie became aggressive (while I couldn’t imagine it, Ryan gently reminded me about my own “aggressions” when our babies were tiny – apologies to my mother in law!). In most uncertain situations, preparedness is key.
I watched Gracie with the intensity with which a bride watches the weather forecast in the week leading up to an outdoor ceremony. Was that discharge? What did it mean? Did Gracie eat as much this morning as she did yesterday morning? Was she slower to get up today? I didn’t want to miss any signs that each day was the day.
But the days kept passing without delivery.
I studied her vet notes and did some calculations. The soonest that an x-ray reveals the skeletons of the puppies with clarity is at about 45 days gestation. Dogs’ usual gestation period is about 63 days.
Gracie had come into the shelter and been on the adoption floor for weeks before someone noticed her pregnancy. It had been diagnosed by x-ray a week before I brought her home. Even if that x-ray was performed at exactly 45 days, I would have brought her home at 52 days gestation and she should deliver by day 11 at our home, April 22nd. Okay, I relaxed into expecting her pregnancy to last about a week or so before delivery.
But the days kept passing. We reached day 11 uneventfully. No puppies. Continued clear discharge. Continued eating. Continued walks and snuggling and just living life.
I read about a temperature drop that occurs in the 24 hours before delivery. I could take Gracie’s temperature rectally twice each day and have a bit of a heads up on delivery time. But I was spending so much time with her anyways that knowing within a 24 hour window hardly seemed worth the indignity of rectally taking her temperature that often. I was trying to establish her trust in me prior to delivery after all!
Each day, I read the same articles about canine deliveries over and over.
While we were awaiting the birth of Gracie’s pups, our foster cat Dusty delivered her kittens. There was a long interval between the delivery of her first and second kittens and the second was born dead. The third and fourth slipped out quickly and were vigorous.
Witnessing Dusty’s difficult delivery inspired me to read up more thoroughly on assisting with deliveries in the event of complications. After reading about what to do if a newborn isn’t breathing, I wondered if there was a chance I could have revived Dusty’s second kitten.
Two weeks after we brought Gracie home, on a Wednesday, I started to worry that she would deliver a few days later, on a day we were expected to be at the soccer fields about an hour away all day for a tournament. I was planning to have a teenage neighbor let Livie out mid day, but felt like I needed someone a little more qualified to check in on Gracie. I found a shelter employee that lived near me and also worked as a pet sitter. She came over to meet Gracie.
The following day, Thursday, I got ready for my own evening soccer game and then went down to the basement to check on Gracie and let her out. She went out but was walking slowly. Her breathing was a bit labored and if I stared carefully at her abdomen, I thought I could detect contractions. I called my team and told them I would be missing the game. This was it!