Mama Beans taking a break

Beans is with her six 1 week old puppies 22 hours a day. She enjoys spending the remaining two hours sniffing around the block like her life depends on it, cuddling and squirming around on the couch, getting pets, devouring immense amounts of food, and checking out all the best hide and seek places on our lower level (box of balls, wrapping paper collection, under the train table, and in the children’s play house under the blankets are among the best she’s found).

Can you spot Beans in the ball box?!
Beans out for a walk, sniffing everything

When the walk is complete and Beans has had time to act like a puppy herself, it is time to return to her puppies. Beans is easily lured back into the pen with a meal, a treat, or a mere squeak from one of the puppies.

The puppies still have sealed eyes on day 12. We keep peeking carefully at them carefully; we are expecting to have some puppies peeking back at us over the next couple days.


Andrew, Mae, Nora, and Dane holding Beans’ puppies (photo cred: Anne Savage)

The children decide to give them names with “Bean”.

Mae names the almost all white female Vanilla Bean.

Dane names the dark gray one with the skinniest facial stripe String Bean.

Nora wants a name with “heart” or “love” in it for the white female with the heart shapes on her side and rump.  A quick internet search reveals that the largest bean in the world is the Zulu Love Bean.  So perfect!

Zulu Love Bean (photo cred: Anne Savage)

Andrew names the other white female Fava Bean.

Usually Ryan and I also join the fun in naming, but we decided to bequeath the honor to Anne (who was so incredibly helpful with the pen and whelping box construction, couch acquisition, and, though she might not know it yet, with eventual puppy poop clean-up!).  Anne names one of the remaining males, the smallest one, Bean Sprout.

Finally, we decide to leave the name of the final, largest male up to the community.  The Humane Society of Huron Valley posts a poll Tuesday evening, asking for preferences between Pinto Bean, Coffee Bean, and Chili Bean. 

When almost 400 votes are tallied, the winner (by quite a margin over second place “Chili”) is….Pinto.

Now all the puppies have names, and should be opening their eyes sometime soon (usually between 10 and 14 days and they are 10 days old today), which marks a whole new phase of puppy development as they start to take in the world around them and reveal individual personalities. 

The first week

Thursday, November 21st – Wednesday, November 27th

Beans is such a good mama!  She is happy to get up to go outside and then eat and drink, but then she hurriedly climbs back into the whelping box.  Beans rearranges her puppies into a neat pile and then curls around them to offer them her nipples. 

A few times, she gets stuck in awkward positions as they latch on.  She patiently stays there until it’s convenient to lay down.

Thursday, when Beans is outside, I quickly move the puppies into a box, weighing them and checking their genders in transit, and change the bedding in the whelping box.  Beans is waiting impatiently by the door before I finish my job.  I get the puppies back in and rush to let her get back to them. 

The puppies all look to be in good health.  They are all around a pound.  There are 3 females (the ones that are mostly white) and 3 males (the ones that are mostly gray). 

By Saturday, Beans asks to round the corner of the yard.  She wants a walk!  We go around the cul-de-sac.  She sniffs and meanders on the way out, but drags me back.  Sunday, she still pulls me on the way back, but not as desperately.  I spy her laying outside the whelping box on my pet cam.  I spread out a cozy comforter right beside the box so that she will be comfortable during her mama breaks!  By Monday, she is ready to go around the block, about a 15 minute walk.  Tuesday, she is happy to take several 20 minute walks.  She is spending more and more time away from the puppies, little by little.  She feels safe.  She feels secure and happy. 

Beans is eating and drinking a LOT! She has dry food available to her 24/7, and eats about 2-3 cups of it each day. She also has 4 meals daily, 2 cups of dry food plus a half can of wet, which she eats right away. Daily, she is consuming around 10 cups of dry food plus 2 cans of wet food. She has two bowls of water available to her and she is emptying them (and I am filling them!) several times each day.

We are, thankfully, done with the nighttime bathroom emergencies. I have not heard a peep from Beans during the night this week. She is one of the most reliably house trained foster dogs we have hosted, so I am not waking to any messes either.

The puppies are steadily growing.  They are all almost 2 pounds at 5 days old and about 2 ½ pounds by Wednesday, at one week old. 

From the foster perspective, week 1 has been a breeze. We are sleeping through the night and taking care of potty needs exclusively outside. Puppies are healthy and growing. Mama wants to be with them most of the time so she agreeably returns to the whelping box after her excursions. Beans is cleaning up all the puppies’ excrement. For as simple as this week is though, I know this sweet family will be more work in the weeks to come.

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for following along!

Birthday Sadness

Around 6pm on the puppies’ birthday, I went to check on the new mama and puppies.  The first born puppy was not tucked in with Beans like the others were.  I very slowly and carefully scooted him into the pile. 

I didn’t expect Beans to want to leave them, but she got up when I asked if she wanted to go outside.  She hadn’t been out to relieve herself since 8am and she peed and pooped then rushed back in to nurse her babies. 

A couple hours later, I checked on them again.  Again, the first born puppy was laying away from the group.  This time, when I moved him, I noticed that he felt cool.  I knew I needed to intervene at this point.  I quickly heated up a heat disk and plugged in the incubator.  He would need to be warmed and then we could bottle feed him if necessary. 

Puppy in the incubator

Once the puppy was set up in the incubator, I let Ann and Anne know what was going on.  I waited and hoped for the best.  After an hour in the incubator, I checked on the puppy.  I didn’t think he was breathing.  Ryan checked him too and couldn’t locate a heartbeat. 

Losing a newborn puppy or kitten is not very uncommon.  We have a stillborn or a death within the first 24 hours in about a forth of litters.  I had noticed that Beans was a little different with this pup from the beginning.  I had noticed his unusual umbilical cord.  Now, I wondered if Beans knew that something wasn’t quite right with him and consequently offered him less of a nursing opportunity.  Or had there been a chance for me to intervene and save him if only I had been persistent in separating him from mama and the others?  If I had noticed sooner that he needed warming?  If he had been rushed to the vet early on?  While losing a baby is not terribly uncommon, it is still emotional and heart-wrenching to evaluate the what-ifs. 

Each time Beans went out she rushed back in and checked on her puppies.  Did she realize one was missing?  Did she have questions too?  Was she grieving? 

Growing up, one of our horses had a rough delivery and the foal died.  The mother horse definitely grieved the loss of her foal, whinnying the most mournful sounds for days. 

I can only imagine from the amount of care and love Beans demonstrates with her remaining puppies that she is sad for the loss of her one.  I am sad too. 

Beans settles in with her six puppies all curled into her, nursing.  A sweet sight. 

I stare at each of them to make sure their little chests are rising and falling, their lips attached to a nipple, then I head off to bed. 


Wednesday, November 20th, 2019 – At 6am, after being up with Beans a lot of the night, I staggered down to check on her.  Still no puppies.  But she was still anxious and I knew labor was imminent.  I was scheduled to walk dogs at the shelter from 9-11am.  I emailed the volunteer coordinator to cancel the shift, knowing that I needed to stay close by our laboring mama. 

After getting the kids off the school, I ran back down to check on Beans.  Still no puppies!

But I didn’t have to wait too much longer. 

Beans delivered her first puppy at 9:05am!  She quickly ate the placenta and cleaned him up.  He was white with large brown spots over his head and rump, with one more small brown spot on his left side.  He looked a lot like his father.  He was beautiful!

He wiggled over to her nipples, but she was still extremely restless.  Beans picked him up (by the head!) and carried him back over between her front two paws and licked him vigorously. 

Every delivery is different, but at some point, I expect to have seen it all.  I certainly have never seen a delivering mama move her babies around by the head.  Beans kept picking him up by the head and moving him around.  I started feeling nervous for his well being.  I decided to heat up some heat disks and put them in a basket with some blankets to create a place where he could await the birth of his siblings and his mother’s willingness to nurse him. 

I moved the first born into the basket around 10am.  Beans did not like that plan.  She grabbed him out of the basket and tucked him back into the whelping box.  I tried one more time about 15 minutes later, but again, she was right on his heels and retrieved him.  Since my goals were to reduce her stress and keep him safe, and moving him clearly wasn’t achieving those goals, I decided to leave them be and hope for a quick next delivery.

(Apparently, mother dogs often carry their newborns by the head, as I have since researched.  But it was nerve-wracking watching it for the first time not knowing this!)

Meanwhile, I had contacted both Ann Edwards, the foster director, and Anne Savage, the shelter photographer, to keep them abreast of the labor progress.  Anne was hoping to photograph some of the delivery but was involved in a filming project at the shelter.  She could slip out and be at the house by 12:40pm. 

In most deliveries, puppies arrive every 30-60 minutes.  Up to 2 hours between puppies can be normal, and I have seen puppies born within a couple minutes of one another.  But whenever the time between puppies or kittens exceeds the 2 hour mark, I start expecting that the baby will be stillborn or at least need some help.  Much beyond that, I start to worry about the mother’s safety as well.

When I went up to greet Anne at 12:35pm, I was entering the “we may need to get mama to the vet” mindset.  I prepared her for the possibility of trouble. 

We went back down to the sight of Beans cleaning up puppy number 2! 

Puppy number 2 was also mostly white with a brown patch over her right eye.  I was ready with supplies to possibly help a struggling puppy but didn’t need to use them in this case.  Mama Beans got her clean and breathing in no time. 

We didn’t have long to oooooh and aaaaaah over her though, because puppy number 3 was delivered at 12:44pm!  Puppy number 3 was dark gray, with a white stripe down his face and a white marking in the shape of a collar around his neck. 

These two started suckling almost immediately.  Puppy number 1 was still not nursing.  He was in the mix with the other two, but wasn’t latched on yet. 

Anne being present allowed me to confidently attend to our other animals.  I fed our six 7 week old foster kittens, one of whom needed syringe feeding, and walked our two dogs, Livie and Teddy. 

At 1:15pm, puppy number 4 was born.  She was white with a brown spot near her right ear and several spots over her back.  The spot on her right side was shaped like a heart!  And it looked like she had another heart on her rump!

Puppy number 5 was born at 1:44pm.  He was dark gray like his mama with a white stripe on his nose and a white marking like a collar on his neck, much like puppy number 3.

During this time, Anne and I noticed that the first born pup had a red tummy that Beans kept licking.  He was bleeding some from his umbilical cord, which didn’t look normal.  I sent a picture of it to Ann, who forwarded it to the vet.  The vet replied that it looked like a shredded umbilical cord.  As long as it wasn’t actively bleeding, we would just need to monitor it regularly and keep it clean to prevent infections. 

At 2:40pm, right before I was due to go pick up the children from school, puppy number 6 was delivered.  He was almost identical to puppies 3 and 5 and I started wondering how I was going to tell them all apart!

I was happy to have a partner in Anne since I needed to leave so soon after a delivery.  They all looked like they were doing well.  Even puppy number 1 was snuggled in, though we couldn’t tell 100% if he was nursing or not.

The vet had guessed from the x-ray that Beans would have 6 puppies, but she had been wiggly and the vet wasn’t really confident in the prediction.  We were ready for the possibility of more puppies.

I returned from school with the children.  My plan was to let them go sit near Beans, who by now trusted and adored them all, and Anne one at a time.  They were eager to see the newborns, but we certainly didn’t want to overwhelm mama. 

During Dane’s turn, another puppy, number 7, was born!  She was mostly white, with one small brown spot on her head.  He hurriedly came upstairs to report the birth.

Puppy number 7 wasn’t breathing and Beans was busy cleaning up the placenta and herself.  She was exhausted.  After about a minute had passed, I rubbed the new puppy with a clean washcloth, expecting to have to remove the sac and get the puppy breathing if possible.  But just the little bit of attention to the puppy reminded Beans of the necessary job and she began vigorously licking the puppy until she took a deep breath and let out a squeal. 

We sat with Beans another hour.  She looked settled and exhausted and started dozing off.  Guessing that the delivery process was over, Anne headed home and our family left the new family to nurse and rest while we prepared and ate dinner. 

Being present during a birth of any kind is beautiful, messy, emotional, scary, and amazing.  I felt honored to have been by Beans’ side as she labored.  I was so excited to watch them grow and develop!

While these puppies will find loving, responsible homes through HSHV, so many puppies born through unplanned pregnancies are not that lucky.  Please spay and neuter your pets.  

Photogenic Beans

I know, I know…you were expecting a puppy update!  Puppies to come, but I couldn’t NOT include these pictures of gorgeous Beans!

Please follow the Humane Society of Huron Valley’s facebook page (and of course!) for more pictures and information about Beans and the puppies!

Get involved! Find a local rescue and adopt, foster, volunteer, donate…

Amina becomes Beans

Still Thursday, November 14th, 2019 – I read over Amina’s file carefully.  I like to be prepared and learn everything I can about a foster pup’s history.  According to her previous owners, Amina was good with the large dogs that she lived with but not great with little dogs and had never been around children.  At home, her nickname had been Beans. 

When the children arrived home from school, they were eager to meet the new foster.  I decided to introduce them one at a time so Amina wouldn’t be overwhelmed as she was a little shy around new people.  When Andrew went downstairs with me, Amina got really low to the ground and backed away from the door.  Her body language informed me that she was nervous so instead of letting her out, Andrew offered her treats from outside the pen.  Amina accepted them and was back to her relaxed and wagging self in no time.  Imagine a repeat scene with each kid!

When Ryan returned from work and went to meet her, Amina emitted a low growl and backed away.  Did she not trust men as much?  Was this just one too many people to meet in a day?  Ryan retreated with the plan to get her used to him another time.

That night, around 3am, I awoke to the sound of a whimper.  Was Amina in labor?  I ran downstairs.  She was waiting and wagging by the door.  I let her out and she quickly peed.  Those pregnancy hormones and pressure!  The girl had to go!

Friday, November 15th, 2019 – The name Amina was a little tricky for the children to remember.  In the first 24 hours that she was with us, I answered “What is her name again?” quite a few times.  She had gotten more comfortable with the kids, so they visited her with me that evening and we decided to test out her name recognition to both “Amina” and “Beans”.  She responded equally well to both (along with any other word we said with great enthusiasm!), so we decided to stick with Beans while she was with us.  I continued to test this over the next couple days. 

“Good girl, Beans.  Good girl, Amina.”

“Amina!”  Pause.  “Beans!”

I never noticed a difference in reaction between the two names, though Anne, when visiting to take some more pictures of our sweet girl, felt like she responded better to Amina, so I continue to use it occasionally in my chatter for familiarity’s sake.

Friday afternoon, Anne posted the first part of Amina’s/Beans’ foster story on the Facebook page for the Humane Society of Huron Valley.  I could tell from the likes and shares that the animal lovers of our community were super excited to learn more about Amina!

The first FB post about Amina

Again, Beans woke up overnight needing to pee.  I was happy she was housebroken, but was sleeping so lightly awaiting her labor that I was starting to feel tired.

Saturday, November 16th, 2019 – I eagerly checked on Beans in the morning.  No puppies yet.  She ate breakfast heartily.  Most mamas will stop eating about 12 hours before delivery (though not all!), so I guessed it wouldn’t be today. 

The kids were excited to spend some more time with Beans today.  I was still very cautious about their interactions with her.  I watched her body language carefully.  She no longer looked nervous around them, but since she hadn’t spent any time with children, I showed the kids how to look unthreatening and also told them not to make any sudden movements that might startle her. 

Andrew used some treats to test if Beans knew any basic commands. She definitely knew “come” when treats were involved! She could also be persuaded to “sit” despite her advanced pregnancy!

Andrew checking if Beans knows “sit”

Also, we were careful to keep some distance from Beans’ food dish.  Some dogs resource guard, and until we know the ins and outs of a dog’s personality, we err on the side of caution.  I wanted to set Beans up to be comfortable and successful in every way.  Beyond the important education on how to interact with unfamiliar dogs that the children receive, it is also imperative to keep them safe. 

My new toy arrived!  I was so excited to set up the pet cam!  Once it was set up, I checked on Beans A LOT! When we weren’t visiting with her, she spent much of her time snoozing in the whelping box. 

More nighttime awakenings.  Still no puppies.

Sunday, November 17th, 2019 – We used to have a couch for foster dogs.  A neighbor had been discarding it because it had a small rip.  We repurposed it into a place where mama dogs could escape puppy teeth and claws for short rests.  Several mamas had enjoyed it (along with several solo puppies and a kitten – not at the same time of course!), but it had eventually been so shredded by those same puppy teeth and claws the mamas were escaping that we had also discarded it. 

I had mentioned being on the lookout for another couch or love seat on its way to the landfill to Anne Savage.  She told me that she had found a good one and could deliver it to us with her truck.  Yay!

She arrived Sunday afternoon with a beautiful maroon couch with nary a rip or stain on it.  We couldn’t put this perfect couch downstairs to be shredded by puppies! 

We had a decades old couch in our front room (which we use as an art and music room) that had reached its last legs.  We kept it covered and our dogs often snuggled on it.  We decided to haul that one down to the basement and use the one Anne had found in our art/music room.

Livie and Teddy in front on the new couch

We put the couch outside the pen for now.  I wanted to ensure that Beans used the cozy whelping box as a bed and then for whelping.  Once the puppies were a couple weeks old and Beans started seeking refuge, we would move the couch into the pen.

Beans was happy to have a place to sit with humans and snuggle though.  She was very pleased to roll around and get comfy on the couch and receive all the pets! 

Beans still wasn’t sure about Ryan.  He sat on the stairs and tossed treats to her, which she would cautiously dart over to eat.  She growled at him as often as she wagged at him.  He sat with her quietly for a bit and then gave her space. 

We were up at night again, but just to pee.

Monday, November 18th, 2019 – Beans was really settling into a routine now.  She was eager to go out first thing in the morning, and then every couple hours thereafter.  She was happy to go on longer walks and also satisfied to go out on a long leash just to pee and then return to the couch for snuggles. 

She ate a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner so I was pretty sure today wasn’t the day.

Beans sounded the now-standard midnight and 3am wake up to pee alarm.  I dragged myself out of bed and downstairs.  Livie and Teddy were starting to anticipate this as a time for them to go out to relieve themselves too.  Hopefully, they would start sleeping through the night again when Beans and I could.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019 –  No puppies in the morning.  Beans ate a hearty breakfast. 

When I gave her more wet food at 11am, however, she didn’t touch it.  Hmmmm….   This was new.  Maybe a sign of labor?

I watched Beans carefully all day.  She was still happy to go out for walks and potty breaks.  Was she a little slower emerging from the whelping box?  Maybe. 

She also didn’t eat dinner.  Anne wanted to be present for at least part of the delivery.  I told her that we might be close. 

Ryan came down to visit Beans in the evening.  She accepted treats from him happily, if a little warily.  Progress! 

That night, when I let Beans out at midnight, I was pretty sure she was in labor.  She was breathing hard, panting some, and starting to destroy her blankets in efforts to nest.  I took the larger comforter out of the whelping box so the imminent puppies wouldn’t get squished or lost in it.  Then I sat and waited.  There were no changes for over an hour.  At 1:30am, I went back to bed.

At 3am, I got up again and went to check on Beans.  She went out to pee eagerly.  She was still panting and restless.  She vomited a couple times, mostly liquid. I sat and waited with her.  She placed her head in my lap for a few minutes trying to rest.  Then she rooted around in the blankets again.  At 4:30am, I went back to bed again. 

Puppies were coming soon!!

Amina comes home

Thursday, Nov 14th, 2019 – Today was the day we were bringing home Amina, our pregnant foster dog.  I crossed my fingers that she hadn’t gone into labor the night before.  I lined the interior of the car with cozy blankets and an extra leash to secure Amina in the car and headed to the shelter.

I peeked in on Skittles, Snickers, Pixie, and Twizzler, our foster kittens who had come to intake the day before.  They were finished with their sterilization surgeries and ready for adoption.  I gave them some pets and love and wished them the very best luck in finding perfect homes.

Then I went to Dog Town to make sure all the dogs had been out for their first walks of the day before meeting with Kristin to pick up Amina.  Four, an unaltered male dog who had come in with Amina and was the likely father of her pups, had not yet been walked.  I took him out for a while.  He was sweet and a gentle walker.  He loved sniffing everything and following his nose to the most interesting smells.  When I was about to return Four to his kennel, number 27, I noticed that another dog, Henry, was there!  Whoops!  Henry had been taken out of his kennel, number 28, and returned to Four’s kennel next door.  Luckily, a fellow dog walker volunteer and a staff member were there to help move Henry back to his kennel, making room for Four.  What a different situation it would have been if I hadn’t noticed Henry before opening the kennel door!  Whew!

Four, available for adoption at HSHV as of 11/22/2019

After washing up, I went over to intake and met with Kristin.  Kristin told me that the shelter staff had thought that Amina was in labor the afternoon before but she had not delivered any puppies yet.  Another whew!  Moving a brand new mama is stressful for all.

I signed the foster forms and picked up supplies.  By this time we have a ton of necessary supplies for pregnant fosters at home.  We have blankets and towels, bowls and toys.  We have medical supplies like syringes and a baby scale, an incubator and heat disks.  But Kristin loaded me down with all the necessary disposable supplies that the shelter provides at pick up: four bags of dry dog food, many cans of wet puppy food (thanks for running to the store for these, Ann!), puppy pee pads (good for lining the bottom of the whelping box and for puppy messes as they grow!), and puppy formula and bottles (just in case a puppy needs extra help with eating).  Kristin also gave me some kitten food for our 6 hungry 6 week old kittens we have concurrently. 

While I loaded up the car, Kristin took Amina out to relieve herself.  And then it was time to head home.  Amina loaded into the car easily despite her giant belly.  She sniffed out all the interesting smells a minivan in a family of four children contains.  When her nose was content, she hopped up on the car seat and watched the view on the way home. 

When we got home, I took Amina for a short walk to stretch her legs.  Then we entered the basement and she explored each nook and cranny, including her pen.  I filled her water bowl and her food bowl.  She happily scarfed down 2 cups of dry food mixed with half a can of wet food. 

After some snuggle time, I left and closed Amina in the newly reinforced pen.  I went upstairs.  Immediately, Amina started whimpering and then howling.  Loudly!  I knew she would need some time to adjust to her new surroundings.  As I heard her rattle the door to the pen I was glad that Anne and I had taken the time to carefully reinforce the integrity of the enclosure. 

Amina in her foster pen for the first time

At this point, I need to acknowledge that I know our home and set up are not one hundred percent perfect for fostering pregnant and nursing dogs.  Our home is active.  We have two dogs and four children.  Two of those children are budding musicians!  The foster dog cannot have free run of our home because pregnant and nursing mothers should have a space separate from other dogs in which to get comfortable and feel like their pups are protected.  I am not with our fosters all the time.

That said, we provide a safe and comfortable space for expecting mothers.  Our walkout basement provides quick access to the outdoors for mamas reluctant to leave their puppies in the early days.  While not always quiet, it is surely always more quiet than the shelter.  The mothers and puppies are free from disease exposure.  They are well loved, socialized, exercised, and fed.  I am usually at home with them and can monitor deliveries and health needs.  I am so well-intentioned it hurts sometimes.  By now, I have loads of experience with kittens and puppies and that experience can be used to help resuscitate seemingly stillborns, tube and bottle feed little ones that cannot nurse or aren’t getting enough sustenance, reassure mothers, and so much more.  I am willing to do a hundred (or more!) loads of laundry per litter, and be covered in poopy paw prints first thing in the morning when the puppies are starting to leave the whelping box. 

And this willingness and love to share are what make every “imperfect” foster home into the very best place for an animal in transition.

In short, I wish Amina could lay on the living room couch and have her puppies in the corner of the dining room.  (But even without the reality of our dogs, maybe the discharge of a very pregnant dog — and the bloodier discharge of a newly delivered mother– or the often destructive behaviors of a mother in labor wouldn’t be suitable for a home with fabrics and carpet.) 

But not being able to provide everything cannot be an excuse to not provide what we can to animals in need.    

I have to remind myself of all these things as I cycle through the day spending time with Amina and then listening to her whimpers and howls when I leave her alone.  So often I wish I could explain the deal to the animals in foster, let them know as much as I do about the trajectory of their lives. 

I tell Amina, “I know you’ve been through so much change, too much change. But you are safe here.  You will be loved and well cared for.  You will have your puppies and we will love and care for them too.  Then, you, and they, will head off to loving, safe forever homes.  While it may be difficult and scary at times, we will be the bridge from homelessness to forever love.  You will never have to go through this again.”

I tell her, and as the day goes on, I can see her settle down and maybe at least absorb the safe and loved part.  She is always happy to see me arrive.  She stops whimpering and goes into the whelping box for a rest when I leave. 

Amina looking up at me, looking a little like a seal…cute!

I wish I could keep a more constant eye on her though, so I decide to order a pet camera.  I choose an inexpensive one that works with wifi so I can monitor Amina from upstairs, but also from soccer practices and games, school pick ups, and the grocery store. 

I am hopeful that she will have a few days to settle in before delivery, but whenever it is, I definitely want to be there!

Diary of a serial fosterer

Friday, Nov 8th, 2019 – The foster request email was long that day.  Many cats and dogs were in need of a foster, to address medical needs, for a de-stressifying shelter break, for a chance to grow…  At the very bottom of the lengthy email, without a picture, was the comment “we also have a pregnant dog (looks like 6 puppies)”.  Hmmmm.  Both of the “foster animal areas” of our home were occupied.  One space housed 4 once-cusp kittens who had come to us at almost 3 weeks of age, extremely fragile and vulnerable, but were now strapping 9 week olds, confidently taking on the tasks of eating, using the litter box, and playing like their lives depended on it.  The other space was the current home of Goldie, a lovely calico, and her almost 6 week old kittens.  We were occupied and not able to take on more fosters at the time.  Plus, I had been telling myself that after almost 6 months of back to back fosters, we would be taking a short, 2 week break after this crew of kittens.  Still, the pregnant mama was on my mind.  Would someone take her home and let her settle in and get comfortable before her puppies tumbled into the world?
Amina at the shelter

Saturday, Nov 9th, 2019 – The mama was still on my mind when I woke the next day.  The last time we had a pregnant canine (Daisy, puppies born March 31st, 2019), she had been a young, energetic pup who was committed to both escaping her 10 puppies as they became more mobile and aggressive in their nursing and getting closer to us and our 2 resident dogs.  While she joined us for walks and hour long breaks from the litter once they were around 4 weeks old, whenever she was enclosed with the puppies for nursing and other mothering duties, she made short work of scaling our fencing.  She was so proud of herself!  We weren’t bringing home a new pregnant pup anytime soon, but it wouldn’t hurt to revisit the kennel system I had in place so that if we fostered another athletic mama, she would be safely and securely contained.  Plus, between mamas delivering and puppy teeth, our durawhelp and makeshift wooden whelping box had been destroyed.  I took some measurements and made some sketches.

Sunday, Nov 10th, 2019 – I had a vet appointment for all my kitties that morning.  Mae and I loaded up all 11 (!) and headed to the shelter vet to see Dr. Julie and Kristin.  Goldie’s kittens passed their check up.  All but one was eating and growing well.  Dr. Julie suggested syringe feeding the slow grower.  Goldie wasn’t producing much milk and the kitten needed the extra calories.  Goldie herself was thin.  Dr. Julie suggested that she wean the kittens as soon as the littlest was eating well, within the week hopefully.  The once-cusp kittens got a positive health check too.  Two of them were put on the intake list for that coming Wednesday, the 13th.  The other two were placed on the intake list for the following Wednesday, the 20th.  One of them was just under 2 pounds and could use the extra week to grow.  The other was being treated for a possible URI, and while he wouldn’t be symptomatic or contagious this week, he could keep the other kitten company and finish out his meds at home.  Kristin mentioned the pregnant dog, Amina. 

“She’s such a sweetheart.  Would you want to foster her?”

“Well, my two foster areas are occupied,” I replied, gesturing at all the kittens.  “But tell me a little more about her,” I said, and Kristin smiled as she launched into telling me about Amina: pitty, 70 pounds, gentle.    

It was worth chatting to the vet about the week’s what-ifs.  What if the pregnant mama didn’t find another foster as her delivery approached?  The shelter, with all its noise and contagions, is no place for a mama and newborns.  Could our two kitties who were planning to stay with us another week potentially be ready for intake sooner? 

“Yes,” replied Dr. Julie.  “But don’t feel like you need to take the dog.  Let someone else..”

And here I started nodding in assent.  Yes, I should let someone else have a turn with a mama and puppies.  What a cool experience.

“…take the burden of that big job,” finished Dr. Julie. 

She was right, both on what I thought she was going to say and what she meant.  I should let someone else both experience the wonder of a whelping mama and take on the work.  Acclimating a new dog to our home and raising puppies to weaning age is a massive, messy job! 

Monday, Nov. 11, 2019

But if nobody else reached out and accepted the joy and challenge of taking this mama, I wanted to be prepared.  I sent an email to Ann:

Good (snowy) morning!

Checking in about the kittens.  Dr. Julie put two of them on the intake list for this Wednesday (Twizzler and Pixie) and two on the intake list for next Wednesday, the 20th (Snickers and Skittles).  She said to double check with you about space, however, and if either of those intake days is crazy, all four can do the other.  

Goldie (mama cat to the six 6 week old kittens) should come in sometime this week too.  She is underweight and Dr. Julie thinks she will benefit from weaning the kittens.  Let me know when would be best. 

Kristin mentioned the pregnant doggo at our visit.  (Like I didn’t notice that at the end of your Friday email!!).  Right now, our two foster animal areas are occupied, but I suppose that could change soon.  Maybe somebody who has been waiting and hoping for a pregnant dog will snatch her up this week, but we are open to learning more if not.  

Have a good day, 


I looked back over the sketches I had made for my plans to bolster up our dog and puppy pen and made some tweaks.

Tuesday, Nov 12th – Ann wrote back that nobody had offered to take the pregnant mama.  She included some info about her including notes from her previous owners.  Her name was Amina, but her nickname at home was Beans.  She was a gray pitty mix around 3 years old and 70 pounds who had already delivered at least one litter of pups.  She had been a beloved pet and was super friendly.  Amina had not, however, been around any children in her life. 

I wrote back that if Dr. Julie gave all 4 of our upstairs kittens the green light for intake the following day (and if there was space for them to have their neutering surgery), I would bring them and Goldie (mama cat) in and meet Amina while there.  If she seemed good-natured, I would move Goldie’s kittens upstairs and ready the area for Amina, then return for her Thursday morning. 

Ann replied that the cats were a go for return. 

I looked again at my lumber requirements and made a shopping list for Lowes. 

That evening, I received a message from Anne Savage, shelter photographer extraordinaire.  Anne and I had met several times for her to photograph some of our foster dogs and cats and I always enjoyed her company.  She asked if we would be fostering Amina.  Anne was hoping to photograph and document some of her story, from intake to delivery to weaning to adoption.  I replied that I was planning to meet her in the morning and, if we were planning to bring her home, I needed to complete some work to ready the area and would pick her up the following day.  Anne asked if I needed any help. 

“I am happy for help if you’re around tomorrow (1-2:30ish).  How are you with a drill?!  But I will be fine solo if you have any plans then.  Thanks for thinking about it.”

I didn’t hear back from Anne that evening, but I understood.  I was suggesting a middle of the day power drill date and I didn’t know many people available or willing to sign up for that!

Wedneday, Nov 13th, 2019 – I joked with the kids at breakfast about having scared Anne off with my mention of the drill. 

After school drop off, I loaded up Skittles, Snickers, Twizzler, and Pixie with a heavy heart, but also with amazement about how much they had grown in their time with us. 

I also loaded up a VERY reluctant Goldie.  I knew she was ready to wean her kittens and start her new life, but I also knew she had a tough couple of weeks ahead of her.  Taking in the mamas is always particularly hard on my heart.

After dropping the kittens and Goldie off at intake, I headed over to meet Amina.  She greeted me with a low, slightly nervous wag.  I leashed her and took her past several barking dogs to head outside for a walk.  She didn’t even glance at the other dogs on the way out.  Outside, she favored her paws as we traversed the salted path.  I took her into a play yard to get her off the stinging salt and to get to know her.  She was, as advertised, friendly and relaxed after a few minutes.  I knew then that we would bring her home.

Leaving the shelter, I checked my messages.  Anne had replied that she was very handywith a drill and would love to come help me with cleaning and bolstering the pen.  She would bring her drill and see me that afternoon.  Unbelievable!  And incredible! 

I feel confident about tackling simple building and repair projects around the house.  But I do always have to take a deep breath and settle into them, as it is not my particular forte.  To have a helper, much less one who was confident with her power tools, was such a gift!!

I walked a few more dogs, then headed to Lowes.  I owe a quick shout out to Don and Ashley, who helped me pick the right lumber and even made the majority of the cuts and helped me load up. 

At home, I cleaned the upstairs area where the kittens had been and then relocated Goldie’s kittens from the basement area to upstairs.  Out of breath but eager to keep working, I greeted Anne and we started unloading the lumber and hauling it downstairs.  Over a pleasant afternoon (and leading into the evening!) of comradery, the back straining work of drilling through hardwood, and two trips back home for Anne to get more screws and make a few more cuts of wood, we converted a medium weight, mobile pen into a solid, strong, secure puppy holder!  We also constructed a new whelping box with pig rails to ensure that mama didn’t roll back on and crush the newborn puppies.  We loaded the pen with comfy blankets, clean bowls, and toys, then stood back and admired our work. 

The pen was ready.  The family was ready.  Now I just had to hope that Amina didn’t start delivering her babies tonight, before I could pick her up tomorrow morning!

As you may have noticed, I usually only post pictures and information about animals that I fostered in the past.  The Humane Society of Huron Valley asks fosters to refrain from posting information about animals who are not available for adoption on the internet, as it can distract from those who are available as well as cause confusion with potential adopters who wish to submit applications.  In the case of Amina and her puppies, however, the shelter has opted to share her story with the public in order to educate about the importance of spay/neuter, the foster program, and dogs that exhibit characteristics of the “pitbull”.  Please follow the Humane Society of Huron Valley’s facebook page for beautiful pictures of Amina and her puppies and this blog for more of the ins and outs of daily life fostering them.  Thank you!

Lynn is adopted!

On Saturday, Roger arrived at our home eager to meet Lynn.  He had recently lost his wife and dog and was searching for a new companion. 

I told him all the wonderful things we had learned about Lynn as we got to know her.  When he asked about her house manners, I was brutally honest about where she had started…but also about how far she had come over the six weeks she had been with us.  She wasn’t perfect, but she was definitely a people pleaser and was eager to learn. 

(I left out the part about the diarrhea!  Lynn had recently returned to solid poops, thank goodness, and was finishing up the meds by the time she met Roger.)    

Roger was an older gentleman and he had slightly reduced balance and mobility.  He was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to walk Lynn safely.  His last dog had been around 40 pounds and while he loved the look and temperament of Lynn so far, he was worried that her size (about 70 pounds) coupled with her energy (high) would prove too much of a challenge. 

Roger asked if we could go for a short walk together so he could see how Lynn walked on a leash.  We did and Lynn was her usual phenomenal self.  Roger was impressed and I could see that he was seriously considering life with Lynn.  He worked from home and they could provide each other company all day. 

Over the next couple days, I tried to distract myself from wondering about Roger’s decision.  Would he decide to adopt her?  Would he, like Andrea and Tom, pass on her with hopes of finding a better match? 

I received a message that Monday.  Roger was moving forward with adopting Lynn!  He had completed the paperwork and was willing to continue her heartworm treatment care, which at this point was simply a wait and see and a recheck in a few months.  Yay!  I celebrated with Lynn.  She had scored a home with someone who would love her and shower her with the time and attention she craved. 

Our family, knowing Lynn would be leaving that week, lavished her with our love and attention.  We were so happy for her, but also sad that she was leaving us.  She was such a sweet, good natured pup and we would miss her.