Gracie was anxious and got up every once in a while to reposition herself or pace around the pen asking to go out. When I took her outside, she strained while using the bathroom. I became worried that she would have her puppies outside in the chilly April dark!
Each time Gracie came back inside, she went into my children’s playhouse and furiously dug around in the blankets there. I realized that she was planning to deliver puppies there and ushered her back into the pen, hoping she would reconsider the whelping box!
When I went up to help put the children to bed and tell them that there were no puppies yet, Gracie howled. She had never demanded my attention before. I hurried back to her.
The time of my soccer game came and went without much labor progress. My team texted me with the result and asked how Gracie was doing. While I was happy to have been with her through her increasing anxiety, I was embarrassed to admit that I had left my team short a player without any puppy arrivals.
At 9:30pm, Gracie’s contractions became more intense and regular. She was very uncomfortable as evidenced by her constant repositioning. Shortly after 10pm, she became distressed by the pain and began ripping up her bedding. After she was satisfied with the shredded bedding, she turned her attention and impressive jaws to the corrugated plastic siding of the DuraWhelp. She was focused and ferocious in her attack and yet I felt no concern whatsoever for myself sitting alongside her.
Between contractions, Gracie climbed into my lap and snuggled. With each painful wave, she went back to biting the whelping box.
At 10:30pm, with a massive contraction and an impressive push, the first puppy emerged. He was mostly gray with some white markings, much like Gracie herself. Gracie cleaned him, removing the sack and severing the umbilical cord in the process. Within a minute, he was squirming and breathing loudly. Whew! One down, six to go.
About 20 minutes later, puppy number 2 emerged, looking much like the first. I jotted down the time and markings and watched as Gracie cleaned this puppy too.
The third puppy was born 10 minutes later, again looking much the same. I could tell that I was going to have difficulty telling these babies apart!
Gracie took a short break after the third birth but didn’t settle down to nurse them. About 30 minutes after the third birth, she climbed into my lap and birthed the fourth and fifth puppies back to back! The miracle of life was very wet and warm. I will never forget that moment and the feeling of connection with Gracie.
Gracie attended to both puppies, but it was clear that the fourth born pup wasn’t responding to her licking. Once the fifth pup was wiggling, Gracie moved back into the whelping box and delivered the sixth.
I was so relieved that I was prepared with both the knowledge and supplies needed to intervene on behalf of the lifeless pup. With my heart pounding, I quickly rubbed him vigorously with a clean washcloth. I cradled him in my hand and swung him gently with his face tilted downward. I was prepared to suction his mouth and nose and/or offer breaths CPR style, but just the stimulation and gravity were enough to let him catch his first breath. Another whew!
And meanwhile, Gracie had gotten puppy number six cleaned up and she seemed to be just fine.
Because the puppies weren’t all delivered in the whelping box and Gracie was still restless, I collected them all into a blanket lined laundry basket with a heating disk to keep them all warm and safe. Gracie didn’t get the memo about my intentions however, and thought I was setting up a new nest for her. She climbed right in the tiny basket on top of her six puppies. I became worried she would accidentally suffocate them! And it would totally be my fault!
I tried to call her out of the basket, but Gracie was committed to her new nest and refused to budge. I saw the tell tale increasing contractions that indicated number seven was on the way. I daringly reached in under Gracie and extracted puppy by puppy, moving them all into the whelping box. If ever there was a time that a protective mama had validation for biting me, it was then! But of course sweet Gracie docilely allowed me to transport the puppies.
Gracie delivered her seventh pup in the laundry basket. He was the first that looked strikingly different from the rest, being mostly white instead of mostly gray. After he was cleaned up, I moved him to the whelping box to join his siblings and encouraged Gracie to climb in with them.
After checking on them all, Gracie paced by the door, wanting out. Outside, she peed and then wanted back in right away. When she came in, she rushed over to the playhouse again and laid down. I was confused. Why didn’t she rush back to the puppies?
I called her back into the pen and she checked on the pups. She laid down with them and let them nurse in fits and bursts, but was not very settled. I sent an email to Ann describing the situation. I didn’t think Gracie’s behavior warranted an emergency vet call, but I was concerned that Gracie wasn’t more attentive to the litter.
By this time it was 2am and almost an hour after the delivery of the seventh pup. I decided to go to bed, setting my alarm for 5:30am to check on Gracie and the pups prior to getting the kids up and off to school.
I was so relieved to see Gracie curled up with the litter when I entered the basement. But getting a closer look, I was a bit confused. The litter looked bigger than it had in the night. I counted…and then counted again…and again.
Nine mostly gray Gracie look alike puppies and the one mostly white puppy were all contentedly nursing on their mother. No wonder Gracie hadn’t been able to settle down and nurse the first seven; she had still been in labor! I felt terrible that I had abandoned her and grateful that the last three pups were all alive and nursing.
Gracie was reluctant to go outside and I didn’t force it. The towels were wet and filthy and needed a change however. I quickly moved the pups to the basket. Gracie followed them, worried. I pulled out the soggy towels and added dry blankets like I was in a time trial and then quickly and carefully replaced Gracie’s pups to the whelping box. I emailed the happy news to Ann and started my day with a smile!