The puppies turned 4 weeks and their cuteness quotient nearly doubled! The portly group of ten discovered how to coordinate their up-until-now clumsy appendages in efforts to escape the whelping box. They tumbled out one by one over the course of a couple days, and just in time; they barely fit inside with Gracie anymore!
Once out, the pups explored all over the vast puppy pen. They discovered Gracie’s food and water bowl and it didn’t take long for them to appreciate the joys of eating solid food. Gracie was an amicable sharer of her grub. She ate right alongside them, even as they crowded around edging her out at times. I had to continually fill the food bowl to ensure that she, who was still thin, along with her 10 puppies were all getting their fair share. It was difficult to really know how much food each pup was getting with such a big group.
The ever increasing weights were demonstrating that between nursing and a newfound interest in solid food, each of the 10 puppies was getting enough. Despite mama’s slender frame, her pups were quite round!
At 4 ½ weeks old, the puppies had their first vet visit. I was concerned for Gracie as the date approached. Dr. Julie had recommended leaving her at home. Mama dogs sometimes became upset as the puppies were each examined and sometimes cried during their first vaccinations. Plus, the exam room would already be cramped with two big carriers carrying the 10 puppies, the vet, the vet tech, and me. But how would Gracie cope with me taking her puppies away?
I took Gracie for a long walk right before I took the pups to the vet. Once she was back, I let her check on the pups before loading them up. I left Gracie with a full bowl of water and food (to eat in relative peace) and a bone (she was obsessed). She seemed okay. I hauled the pups to the car and embarked on my noisy journey to the shelter vet.
The pups got a clean bill of health from Dr. Julie. They were all growing and developing beautifully.
Time for a confession: remember a few weeks back when the kids and I were in a frenzy to weigh/name/gender/collar all the pups while Gracie implored us to hurry all the faster (Gracie’s puppies – the first week)? Well, some mistakes were made. Okay, it is extremely easy to gender a pup. They have a penis or they don’t (unlike gendering kittens, which was a learned skill for me), and this is pretty obvious. But, as it turns out, once we checked that once, we weren’t in the habit of flipping these puppers over…and we had made some mistakes!
Blast and Thunder, whom we had identified as males were actually females! Whoops! So this litter of 10 that we had thought contained 7 males and 3 females was actually even in regards to gender: 5 males and 5 females. I was so embarrassed! (And have, ever since, double checked genders quite a few times as the first vet appointment approaches!)
I was so relieved to return home and realize that Gracie was still in the pen, still chewing on her bone. Contrary to completely stressing out, she had seemingly enjoyed her time off. The pups were happy to see her though and scrambled over to snuggle and nurse and then snooze.
I have come to know that this week of puppy raising, week 4, is a true sweet spot. The stress of that initial adjustment period is over. Everyone is a lot less vulnerable. Growth and development can be readily observed. The pups are interactive and affectionate and oh-so-cute. And mama still adores them, cleans up after them, and nurses them willingly.
And then life becomes more difficult…