Merry Christmas! The Bean puppies are 5 weeks old today!
We have been enjoying beautiful weather here in Michigan and Mama Bean has been soaking up the sunshine.
This past week has been one of serious growth and development for the Bean pups.
One by one, they started scaling the sides of the whelping box. A pup pops out, victorious, only to find themselves alone in the vast world of the puppy pen (for of course mama hops up on the chair to evade the claws and teeth).
In this video, String is delighted to find me waiting on the outside, but the typical response to finding himself alone was a distress call that would wake the dead (or at least the sleeping!).
To solve this problem for poor String and his siblings, the whelping box had to go. Ryan hauled it out and replaced it with a toddler mattress. The puppies now have the full range of the puppy pen, which they think is incredible. Mama Bean disagrees. She is increasingly reluctant to enter the puppy pen with the swarm of puppies waiting just inside to “attack nurse” on her. She clearly misses the good old days when she could simply step out of the box to escape the many sharp claws and teeth.
The puppies are playing with vigor these days. They love playing with toys, each other, and people. They were delighted that Nora hung a stocking for them, which was filled this morning with a few new toys for their feisty games of tug. But when given the choice between food, toys, or climbing on children…the children win, paws down.
The puppies are difficult to weigh these days. The scale top is slick and they barely fit. Imagine a horse on ice skates for an appropriate visual. As I weigh each pup, the registered weight flickers up and down as they wiggle and the other puppies investigate. I am rarely sure if the weight reflects all four legs or maybe an extra paw from a sibling. As they all approach 10 pounds, I will start weighing myself and then myself with each pup to achieve a more accurate weight.
Zulu – 9.98lb
Pinto – 9.10lb
Sprout – 8.28lb
Fava – 8.88lb
String – 8.68lb
Vanilla – 8.62lb
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I hope everyone enjoys the holiday with friends, family and pets!
As a preface to the vet appointment summary, I need to admit that last night I woke up several times. In case anyone had suspicions that the life of a puppy foster family becomes completely consumed with thoughts and concerns about the ins and outs of puppy care (and I have been questioned since last Wednesday’s post, Bean puppies – Week 4, when I evoked some math), I am here to officially confirm.
Once, I woke to the sound of a puppy in distress. I quickly checked in with the pet cam and saw String once again out of the whelping box pawing at Beans, who was carefully laying on all her nipples to protect them from his aggressive advances. He howled about his disappointment with such vigor that I heard him from 2 levels away. Soon, the other five pups joined in the chorus, also disappointed that Beans had declared the kitchen closed. As quickly as the ruckus began, however, it ceased with yet another puppy snooze and I drifted back to sleep as well.
I woke up from a frightful dream not much later. In my dream, I had arrived at the vet appointment late (which I just don’t do) with a group of kittens instead of the puppies. And not just some kittens…about 30 kittens. To top it off, once there, I couldn’t find a parking spot.
As it was, we arrived with all 6 puppies, 10 minutes early (because that’s how I do things), and had our choice of premium parking places (it was, after all, a Sunday morning). None of the puppies even got carsick or pooped in the carriers.
The puppies were received with all the oohs and aahs they deserve and Dr. Julie gave them all a clean bill of health. They received their dewormers and vaccinations like champs, with hardly a whimper.
All the Bean puppies had a huge growth spurt over the past few days. They weighed in at the 8-9 pound range.
Beans has been a champion mama to this crew, nursing them into complete chunkiness, and yet, they require a lot of my time and care as well (and even invade my dreams!) so I do feel pride in showing them off.
Look how sweet! Look how chunky! Look how healthy and happy!
When we returned home, Anne took Beans on a quick walk while Mae and I moved the puppies back into the pen. They chowed down on some food and then played together. When Beans returned from her walk (Anne said she was particularly eager to get home!) she ran in and checked out the puppies and polished off their food. The pups nursed excitedly for a couple minutes before Beans decided all was well with them and ventured off to explore other things.
The first vet visit was a success start to finish. The Bean puppies will return for further vaccinations on January 8th, when they are 7 weeks old.
Meanwhile, they have started playing with toys and are increasingly interested in the attention of people. The kids are home for winter break for the next two weeks and will be vital in the puppies’ socialization with people, new sounds, and differing styles of play.
Anne and I had a great conversation on our way to the vet today. We chatted about the miracle of these puppies’ lives, and how worthy of celebration they are, but that the true miracle will be when the shelters are empty. When no dog lives without love from a forever family, we can truly celebrate. These puppies, and their mama, have joined the millions of pets without homes, and while we are hopeful that they will all quickly find loving homes, it is important to educate the public about spaying and neutering pets in order to minimize canine population growth while there are still shelters bursting at the seams. We all have a part to play in advocacy: spay and neuter your own pets, adopt from shelters, donate, volunteer, or foster, and educate others when possible.
Follow along as the Bean puppies continue to grow.
Amina (affectionately referred to as Mama Bean, Beans, and a myriad of other nicknames around here!) has, like many mama dogs proceeding her, stolen a piece of my heart. As she begins the weaning process with her puppies, nursing them a little less day by day, I realize that our time together is dwindling. The sun is sinking low in the sky of our foster period, the hues of purple and pink beautiful in their brilliance yet signaling a nearing of the darkness.
Many people have asked me how I can take an animal that I have fostered (and therefore loved) back to the shelter for adoption. How do we not keep each and every one? There is a complicated series of self-talks about completing a job well done and having space for the next animal in need. But, to be honest, the heartbreak of taking the mamas back, their eyes imploring for answers, breaking a contract of trust and love in which they thought we were both invested, very nearly destroys me every time.
And so I am beginning, weeks before Beans will win the hearts of her new family, to say goodbye.
I am appreciating her genius at learning our routines. She knows when we eat, walk, snuggle, and nap around here. Clever girl!
I am stroking her sleek fur as we sit on the couch together. I enjoy our quiet time, just two mothers taking a minute to stare out the window and at each other.
I am responding to her lopsided ears with lopsided smiles.
I appreciate her 100% housebroken-ness. All week I let her out at 6am, but she doesn’t have an accident when I sleep in later on the weekends. She entered this completely new environment, which she couldn’t have viewed as home at first, and kept it immaculately clean. I see and I appreciate her efforts.
I let her distract me from whatever typing I am trying to accomplish. Her kisses are landing on their intended targets more often, despite being constant witness to that same tongue’s duties with doodies (!). I giggle as she rolls around, looking less like the dignified mother she usually resembles and more like the young pup that still has a zest for life and fun.
I am enjoying her enthusiasm for walks. She can barely contain her excitement when I pick up the leash. The wait while I put on my endless bits of cold weather gear is tantalizing in the extreme. She is a pleasure to walk, sniffing the ground like she is a detective hot on a promising trail, and then glancing up at me just to check that I am in on the fun as well. She wags at the larger dogs and defends us with a bark/howl from the yipping smaller ones. She knows our normal walking route around the block but also knows that there’s a chance we might add a trip through the park so she glances back to ask at that intersection every time we pass it.
Beans is not without her quirks (my favored euphemism for faults, both human and canine). She is shy with brand new people. She warms up quickly with some (myself, Anne, and the kids – thankfully! – as examples) and it takes longer with others (sorry, Ryan!). Beans greets some passersby with happy wags and slinks away from others. She may need a family to move really slowly with her, to leave the shirt of someone she isn’t sure about tucked into her cozy bed, to leave a radio playing a male voice throughout the day, to take the time to understand what makes her comfortable. Or, her cautious attitude may simply dissolve once she has the weight of responsibility for her puppies off her shoulders. I remember being extremely selective about whom I trusted with my newborns (not many!) and continue to be selective about who enters my personal space. Amina rewards those in her inner circle with adoring eyes and we are letting her simply have space from those who are not. For now, our goals are keeping her comfortable and secure, trying to make her only stressors those myriad puppy teeth and claws.
And yet, Beans is more and more reluctant to go back into the puppy pen. She lays on the couch and thumps her tail. “Let’s just sit a little while longer,” her eyes seem to communicate. At night, she is no longer tricked by the promise of a treat. I am suckered into sitting on the arm chair in the puppy pen, luring her with my presence, but then feeling too guilty to just slip out. So we sit some more.
I wish she knew, like I know, that this time is fleeting. I wish I could explain to her, in a language she could understand, that she is loved and yet her real, forever family is out there waiting for her. She will soon be done with the tremendous work of raising puppies and be able to bring out her inner puppy more often! I think if I could truly communicate this to her, my heart would hurt a little less.
The puppies have grown from newborns to toddlers this week. They are exuberant about life, wagging at every bit of attention they get. Their tails wag so hard sometimes that it sweeps them off their newly functional legs.
You guys, I take way too many puppy pictures (if that’s possible!). The following slideshow are pictures of just one puppy, Fava Bean, over just a few days.
Mama Beans is offering “walk-through nursing” only, in which she passes through the whelping box cleaning each puppy’s face and rear and the puppies leap up, grab a nipple, and devour as much milk as they can while she works. They follow her, hopping along on their back legs like a circus performance gone awry, occasionally knocking off a less balanced sibling who tries to scramble back into the mix as quickly as possible. Beans looks so disheartened during this process, almost like she is being forced by her own beloved offspring to endure 60 razor sharp claws and multitudes of needle like teeth grasping her sensitive nipples. After only a minute or two, Mama steps back to the freedom side of the whelping box, the puppies craning their necks for one last drop, nipples and necks extending beyond any possibility of comfort until POP and the nursing session is over for the time being.
Some of the puppies are clearly more coordinated, motivated, or lucky in this pursuit. Offering the puppies regular meals of puppy gruel these past few days has resulted in a narrowing of their weight gap (at least in percentages!). Zulu is still hanging onto the lead weight at 7.82 pounds and Vanilla is still the peanut of the group (though no runt by any definition!) at 6.42 pounds. All the puppies are growing very well and have caught on to eating solid food quite quickly.
As the puppies approached the 4 week mark, I glanced back over some weight charts for previous litters. The largest pup in the last litter we fostered (a litter of 10 German Shepard mixes, with a 70 lb shepard mama) was 4.84lb at 4 weeks. I have the pleasure of knowing him now; he is an 80lb 9 month old. I know that all puppies grow at different rates, influenced by both their genetics and environment. But just like a pediatrician can estimate a child’s adult height based on their growth charts, veterinarians have attempted to develop somewhat accurate puppy growth charts as a tool to estimate their adult sizes.
Out of curiosity, I pulled up a puppy growth calculator and entered the stats on these giant Bean puppies. The formula is pretty simple: take a puppy’s weight in pounds and divide it by the puppy’s age in weeks then multiply by 52. The answer predicts the puppy’s ideal adult weight. (Keep in mind that the prediction for our former foster puppy referenced above would have been 65 pounds – off by 15 pounds, if he’s even done growing – which demonstrates the fragility of the model… or the impact of a few steak dinners!)
By these calculations –
Zulu: 7.82 lb/4weeks x 52 = 102 pounds as an adult
Vanilla – 6.42 lb/4 weeks x 52 = 83 pounds as an adult
And the rest of the Bean puppies fall somewhere in between.
I hope that whomever adopts these puppies is prepared for some large lap dogs! The father of the puppies is a Great Dane mix, but it is still difficult to imagine these lovable littles as dignified giants.
Mama Bean is a lover of food, so it’s no surprise that her puppies are as well. I coordinate her walks with their eating so they can actually get a taste. Once she has access to the puppy pan, whatever food is left is vacuumed up into the great abyss of Beans within seconds. If we return from a walk and the puppies are still eating, I occupy Beans with a round of the “practice your tricks for treats” game. She readily sits, shakes, comes, and lies down for treats. Beans also loves fetch and snuggle time but only the promise of treats distracts her from the puppies’ food dish. She works fast and knows when I am out of treats at which point she shifts her weight back and forth, back and forth by the puppy pen, emitting a whimper, waiting for access.
Lest you begin to feel sorry for the poor, hungry girl, keep in mind that she is not only eating her regularly scheduled 4 meals a day (each comprised of 2 cups of dry food plus a half can of wet), she also has unlimited access to dry food, helps clean the puppies’ extras, and is rewarded with treats throughout each day.
On Sunday, while Mae and I were playing with the puppies, Pinto was the first to scale the seemingly insurmountable side of the whelping box! Mae caught him before he landed on the other side the first time, and he tumbled out onto blankets the second time. We put him back with his siblings (it’s easier to climb out of the box than back in due to the pig rails on the inside), but were thinking he would be back out in no time.
Pinto’s feat must have been a fluke, however, because despite his desperate attempts to get out again and gain the coveted access to Beans, he hasn’t scaled the sides since.
His brother, String, happened upon the correct combination of body movements that result in access to a private nursing session today. I heard a ruckus not long after feeding the puppies breakfast. I continue to adore the pet cam, as I can quickly and easily peer in on the group. What I saw was String nursing hungrily on Mama Beans while the rest of the puppies cried pitifully as jealous witnesses.
String looked so happy and Mama Beans was letting him nurse despite having the arm chair to climb up on if needed, so I left them together and the other puppies gradually settled down as they realized today just wasn’t their day.
I returned String to the whelping box the next time I let Beans out and he hasn’t snuck out again…yet. I know it won’t be long until all the puppies are hopping out of the box at will.
Soon, I will move the whelping box out of the puppy pen and replace it with a cozy dog bed that everyone can get into and out of easily. And add an extra gated area at the front of the pen, a way that Beans and I can get in and out without 6 puppies running wild through the house. Because 6 puppies are surprisingly messy…and destructive…and disarmingly cute!
I realize that Bean Sprout and Zulu Love Bean are underrepresented in my photo journaling. In reflecting on this and looking back over my camera roll, it is because they are too wiggly! My pictures of them tend to be blurry. But I will make a concerted effort to get better pictures of those two in the coming days, never fear!
As Beans nurses the puppies less and less frequently, they are growing an interest in food (and they are growing teeth, which may be why Beans is less interested in nursing them!). They are almost 4 weeks old; it is time to see what they think about eating.
I scoop some wet puppy food (further softened with some warm water) in a puppy bowl and place it before them. I then add puppy by puppy with their faces close to the food. Some start eating with vigor and others turn away. It will likely take a week or so for everyone to catch on. They will nurse a little less week by week and get more of their calories from food as that happens. Meanwhile, I will offer food a few times each day and mama will clean up whatever the puppies don’t finish.
And suddenly, just like that, the puppies are wagging and snuggling into laps! Their tails are little clock pendulums, measuring out the happiness found between puppies and children.
Tiny white teeth have emerged, much to Beans’ annoyance. I trimmed and filed their little razors of claws yesterday, but there is nothing I can do to protect her from their puppy teeth. She walks through the whelping box, cleaning as she goes, and six puppies jump up on their hind legs nursing as she moves.
They are desperate to climb out of the whelping box and explore the world. We are taking guesses on when they will be successful and the most common prediction is Sunday.
For now, Beans naps outside the box, ignoring their pleas for more uninterrupted nursing time. I admire her ability to discern actual cries from those petulant “mommy, mommy, mommy” calls. I wonder if she realizes how fleeting this time is, how quickly they will be climbing all over her.
Rather than squealing each time I pick them up to weigh them or change the bedding, they approach me and wag.
The cutest little barks and snarls are emerging from the whelping box.
They are learning how to prop themselves up on the pig rail, the board located about 6 inches high inside the whelping box. By next week, I imagine I will be reporting some escapee puppies.
Their claws are razor sharp, good for gripping as they learn to wobble walk…not so good for mama Beans’ tender underside. I will be giving them their first nail trim and file for her sake later today.
They play together!
Zulu Love Bean is still the largest. She weighed 5.86lb this morning.
The smallest is Vanilla Bean at 4.80lb.
Mama Beans is still quite attentive to the puppies. She enjoys spending time out for short walks and cuddling on the couch, but she is quick to respond when any of the puppies makes a peep. She gets in on the excitement of card games and is a superb homework “helper”, nudging her way into each lap.
Thankfully, she hasn’t had any limping at all this week, but we are still taking care to keep the whelping box well padded and the walks short and calm. As long as the kids are around to take Teddy and Livie’s leashes, we can walk Beans with Teddy and Livie with confidence. She enjoys seeing them and walking with them. They are over the initial thrill of a new dog and can walk peaceably next to each other.
Beans still has a voracious appetite, for which I am thankful. She looks really healthy despite nursing six, quickly growing puppies.
This coming week is an exciting one in puppy development. The puppies can see and hear and will soon be climbing out of the whelping box and displaying their individual personalities.
On Wednesday, Anne and I met to walk Beans alongside Teddy and Livie to determine if they could be potential playmates (or at least, spend some tension-free time together).
In the past, mama dogs that we have fostered have enjoyed being able to go on longer walks with Teddy and Livie and then spend a little time upstairs, snuggling on the couch, laying in the kitchen during meal prep, and generally having social time away from the puppies after they’re a few weeks old.
We took Livie and Beans out together first, Livie being the low key introductory option. Livie barely glanced at Beans, but Beans strained on her leash, yipping excitedly, and wagging energetically upon seeing Livie. We walked with Livie in the lead and then Beans in the lead. We waited for Beans to exhibit slightly calmer body language before allowing them to meet nose to nose. But when we extended the leashes, Livie backed away, not showing signs of fear, but rather complete lack of interest in meeting this ball of energy Beans had transformed into. Maybe Beans reminded Livie too much of her overly playful, in-your-face little/big brother Teddy?
We switched Livie for Teddy and repeated the same steps. They met nose to nose briefly and all went well. We decided to pick up where we left off with Beans and Teddy the following day.
In the evening, Beans was favoring her back right leg as she rose from nursing the babies to go outside. Instead of a walk, I let her out for a quick potty break then gave her a once over on the couch. Nothing was in her paw. She didn’t wince when I touched various areas of her leg. She hopped up to get a toy and was walking fine. Had she simply had a pins and needles feeling from laying on her side nursing puppies so many hours of the day?
Later that night though, Beans was limping again. Hmmmm. Maybe she was stiff. I had only put a few layers of towels and thinner blankets in the whelping box to protect the puppies from suffocation. But they were bigger and sturdier now. I moved them out and added some extra cushion before putting them back. I gave Beans food, water, a potty break, and some snuggles and went to bed.
There was no sign of a limp Thursday morning. Maybe the extra layers of blankets had helped ward off the stiffness or pins and needles feeling.
Shortly into the walk on Thursday, Beans and Teddy were walking side by side, sniffing each other and everything else in the world, wagging in unison. Anne rewarded Beans’ “checking in” behaviors with high value treats, cheese in this case. Soon, Teddy caught on and was gazing up at Anne as well. With nary a raised hair or lip, we completed our walk. Clearly, Beans and Teddy had strong friendship potential. We decided to try the same parallel walk with Livie the following day.
But then Beans slipped on the floor coming in and was limping again. Maybe there was actually a latent injury there, exacerbated by the many sedentary hours nursing puppies, the slightly more strenuous walks, and then the slip. I emailed Ann to let her know what was going on, as I like to keep her and the vets in the loop when in doubt. The vets responded that Beans should rest (no walks) for a few days and that we could ice the area for 10 minutes at a time a couple times each day for pain relief.
So our plans to slowly introduce Beans to the resident pups and have her playing and chilling upstairs by next week have been thwarted. Likely, to let Beans heal and not stress any potential injury, she will spend the next four to five weeks downstairs. I have no doubt that we will be able to take our walks together, as Beans passed the dog interaction test quite well, and we will continue hanging out with her as much as possible to relieve the tedium of nursing puppies all day and to satisfy her strong need for social stimulation. As I type this, she is cuddled up on the basement couch at my side, her head resting against my leg, her eyes gazing up at me when I glance at her.
My college bestie (who does not have children) commented on one of her visits to our busy household, “we need to bust you out of here for a vacation away from all this,” this referring to diapers (gladly a phase we have naturally left behind!), meal preparations, animal care, cleaning, carpool, homework help, and general being a mom stuff. Now, while I love traveling with my adventurous, loving, globe hopping friend, I also love the life I am in, and gain immense pleasure from doing all the stuff. I do not feel the urge to get away.
I watch Beans with her puppies and admire her seeming contentedness with her role. She is attentive and nurturing. She finds joy in her walks, meals, and surely all the pets, but she is also aware of her larger role. She accepts it with grace.
So I wonder if my efforts to bust her out of the basement as her puppies grow are somewhat analogous with my friend’s sweet, well-intentioned desires of taking me on vacation. Beans will bust out soon; her puppies will grow into independent doggos and she will move on to her forever home. Likewise, my children will grow and need me less. But right now, Beans has moved to check on her puppies who were making some peeps and I am moving on to complete some of my mom stuff too.
The Bean puppies (String, Sprout, Pinto, Vanilla, Fava, and Zulu Love) are 2 weeks old today. Their favorite activities (okay, their only activities) are sleeping and nursing. But all that sleeping and nursing have translated into a lot of growing. Zulu and Pinto are the largest and have exceeded four pounds today. The others are not far behind, all weighing in at around 3 ½ pounds.
Last evening, Nora noticed that the females (Zulu, Fava, and Vanilla) had their eyes open, just a crack. Maybe the boys’ eyes are starting to open too, but their dark fur makes it trickier to see? Or maybe they are just sleepier.
We are still mostly leaving the pups alone except to weigh them and check in on them. Mama Beans is doing all the heavy lifting of keeping them warm and fed. In another couple weeks, they will be exploring the world and craving attention, but for now, they do not require too much care from us.
“What can I say about the puppies? They’re adorable, but a ton of work. Every time I get to this point (six weeks), I wonder why I do this and swear I never will again.” (Then Cara continues the post with individual pictures and descriptions and you can tell she adores them all and will totally do this again in the future!)
As I smile down on these six chunky Bean puppies, despite having been completely overwhelmed by the workload of puppies before, it is difficult to imagine them being anything but idyllic. (Check back with me in a few weeks!)
Amina/Beans is starting to want to spend a little more time away from her brood. Anne is coming over this afternoon to help me walk her alongside my pups, Livie and Teddy. I am hoping they are friendly together so Beans can start spending some time upstairs with us when she is not nursing her puppies. She will appreciate the ability to get away, especially as they start developing teeth and clamoring all over her with razor sharp claws in the next week or two. I have my reservations because Beans regards other dogs she encounters on walks with anything ranging from complete indifference to raging barking. Livie is a calm, neutral presence with new dogs, but Teddy is an exuberant, in-your-face giant adolescent that many dogs are tempted (though maybe too intimidated) to bite! I will keep you updated.
Beans rolling around enjoying a moment of personal space!