Day 5-Sugar is a trooper!

While hoping throughout the day yesterday that Sugar would rebound from her gastrointestinal issues, she seemed to begin getting worse again as the evening progressed yesterday and throughout the night she was needing to go outside every hour or more.  You could tell she didn’t feel well and yet she continued to put 100% of her energy into taking care of her pups and wanting to be right by them at all times.

During the morning check-in with the breeding coordinator who was at the vet for another Can Do dog I explained the latest developments and she said she would consult with the vet and get back to me.  Shortly thereafter she contacted me and said that she would be coming over again today for another possible round of IV fluids if Sugar needed it and that the Vet had prescribed a medication in addition to the one she was on to be a little more aggressive in treating her issues. When you are a breeding coordinator, you don’t necessarily get the same opportunity for “time off”!  When there’s an issue, regardless of the time of day, she is always ready to help and make sure that we are getting the best care for these supermoms!  I don’t know if I could volunteer as a whelping home without her expert guidance, her calming personality, and her love of the dogs in her care as well as her job!

Because Sugar is being filmed for what one day may be a documentary, the videographer was also called to let him know of the new situation so he could determine if he wanted to come over and get any footage of the latest medical development. He was able to rearrange his plans and be able to film the process of a home medical visit.

As we did on Thursday, we administered the required medications, watched her closely and let her rest to see if her body would sort itself out now that she had plenty of fluids to keep her from becoming dehydrated. It was amazing to see in a couple of hours how much the fluids really did help and that she started acting like herself again! She wasn’t restless and she didn’t need to constantly go out to go to the bathroom.

The puppies are voracious eaters, and they are trying to nurse as frequently as possible!  I can only imagine Sugar trying to keep up with their appetites! She’s got 7 mouths to feed and they are always calling for her with their little, tiny voices!

I sometimes think that it would be difficult for those who aren’t in this position of being a whelping home volunteer to understand how worrisome it is for us to have a dog in our care that isn’t ours and watch it becoming sick or not feeling like themselves.  We want so badly to be successful at this mission of providing assistance dogs to those who want and need it that it can almost become an obsession of sorts. (speaking for myself only!) There is a great amount of responsibility we place on our OWN shoulders to make sure that we “do this thing” RIGHT; that we give it everything we’ve got and leave nothing on the table because people’s freedom and independence are counting on it.  We want to make sure that when these beautiful puppies leave our home for the next steps in their journey that we’ve given them everything possible so that their great start homes, their puppy raisers, and their fosters are able to teach them all the skills necessary to be rock stars in their respective fields whether that is diabetes alert, seizure assist, autism assist, mobility assist or hearing assist!!

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These puppies are meant for something-for someone; they will change somebody’s life in a way that we can’t even comprehend at this moment. And the people who they will serve don’t even know that they exist at this moment! Their destinies started the day they were born.  Regardless of whether they make it through the full vision of being placed as an assistance dog, whether they get career changed…….they still have big shoes to fill and this is the beginning of giving them what they need to realize that goal. As you can see, I don’t take this responsibility lightly!

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Day 4-Friday, November 18th

We are hopeful that the IV fluids given to Sugar yesterday are going to do their magic and make her feel better, giving her system an opportunity to recover.

Today we continue to add things to the puppy regimen; nail trims so that they don’t scratch Sugar’s stomach and increase chances of infection and putting a few more items into the whelping box to increase their opportunities to crawl over, under, through and on them for muscle building/problem solving skills.  They are a beautiful bunch of pups and Sugar is so extremely attentive to their needs that she keeps trying to stay in the whelping box even if it’s dinner time or she needs to go outside!

Some of the things that we do daily with the puppies and Sugar:
* Weights twice a day to make sure they are making adequate growth progress and there are no signs of illness
* Daily updates to the Breeding Coordinator
* Changing of the whelping box liner, padding and beds
* Taking Sugars temp to make sure there are no signs of infection
* Keeping an eye on their feeding schedules, their personalities and their development of critical things like getting around the whelping box adequately, any signs of illness (coughs, sniffles, etc.) and checking where they are in the process of opening their eyes which typically happens at 6-10 days
* Get Sugar her necessary meds which seem to be increasing lately….
* LOTS OF LAUNDRY !
* Keeping a journal of all of the details for any future litters Sugar may have so we know what to watch for, signs of problems, dosage of medications that work for her etc.  This is also helpful for other whelping homes because if they encounter the same thing with their litter then there is maybe a solution waiting in the notes from someone else!
* Pictures!!! Lots and lots of pictures, which some of them are used to update fellow volunteers on a closed facebook page so that they can follow along with the litter and share in the joy and excitement of more puppies that will be joining the program!  This is really important because we are a community of volunteers and we count on each other for support and to share in our successes, failures, good times and bad to continue this journey that we are so passionate about!

Day 3-1st Day of Training and a small setback for Sugar

Sugar has continued to have intestinal issues, partly because of her surgery I suspect and partly due to the events surrounding motherhood and the changes to her system.  Because of the frequent loose stools, the breeding coordinator came out to our house today to check on Sugar.  It was determined that her gums were a little tacky and that she could benefit from IV fluids.  Because the Coordinator previously worked at the University of Minnesota in the Veterinary hospital, she is more than qualified to be able to take care of Sugar’s needs to try to get her back on her feet and on the road to recovery again!

Sugar was put on a medication to help her system recover (so that was added to the daily schedule) and we added a variety of things to her diet including pumpkin to hopefully settle things down. Because of her lack of appetite, multiple meals of smaller amounts would need to be given.

As for the puppies, today is their first REAL day of training to become assistance dogs!  They will start Super Puppy today (also known as Bio-Sensor Training); This is the same type of training that is utilized for dogs in the military.  Researchers have studied the genetics of performance and have estimated that 65% of ability is attributable from other influences such as training, management and nutrition.  The began looking for ways to improve natural abilities in a variety of animals and some of the methods have produced lifelong effects.  They have included early stimulation of puppies as one of the ways that performance can directly be affected. They concluded “During these first few weeks of immobility, researchers noted that these immature and under-developed canines are sensitive to a restricted class of stimuli which includes thermal and tactile stimulation, motion and locomotion.”

From days 3 to 16 I will be doing five different “exercises” with them to stimulate their neurological system to get their brain working in a way that it typically doesn’t do at this stage of the game in their development.  This will set them up for the best chance of success in being confident, trainable and solid adult dogs.

Each exercise is only for a short duration of 3 to 5 seconds as MORE IS NOT BETTER. It is important not to overwhelm the puppies and instead just give them a little bit of training.

First, I take a Q-tip between their toes to give them tactile stimulation; this hopefully starts them  desensitizing to unfamiliar surfaces and things under their feet and to be comfortable with that.  Second, I hold the puppy perpendicular to the ground with the head upright. Third, I hold the head pointed down to the ground, 4th I rest the back of the puppy in the palm of my hands in a supine position.  This will teach them trust in what is typically a very vulnerable position for them. Finally, I place their four paws on a damp, slightly cool washcloth for thermal stimulation.  Once again, these exercises are only done for a brief 3-5 seconds each, only one time per day.

 

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First Day of Super Puppy Training! (Also called Bio-Sensor Training)

 

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Day 2-the REAL Journey begins

Today is the 2nd day of our puppy adventure and they have already grown so much!  I have had to loosen some of their collars because of their growth!

Miss White has come around and has started gaining weight and increasing her activity level, so she’s officially off of my “worry list”.    On the other hand, Sugar has all of a sudden started having loose stools and has to go to the bathroom frequently (at least every hour) so now she has made her way to the top of my list to watch!

The days go by very fast; the tasks needing to be done grows along with their age-weighing them in twice a day, temperature check of Sugar, cleaning around the incision and giving the area ample time to dry to prevent infection/bacteria, cleaning the whelping box, mopping the floor of the room, laundry of the towels and changing pads for the next round of cleaning, preparing meals for Sugar to try to reduce the loose stools, keeping a journal for record keeping, etc.

As I sit with them in the whelping box for hours each day, I think joyfully of the upcoming weeks and what I will get to encounter from being part of this opportunity.  I wonder what personalities they will develop, which one will be the troublemaker and which will be the quiet one, who will open their eyes first and who will be the one to run and greet me each morning when they are older.  As much as I try to keep my emotions in check, knowing that in a few short weeks they will be on to another family, another journey, and another stage in this process I still fall madly in love with the bundles of joy in a whelping box in my office.  Their antics already make me laugh and I can’t wait to wake up in the morning(where I sleep on an air mattress right next to the whelping box) to see what they are up to beside me. Often during the middle of the night, I lay awake and watch them move around in the box-watching them drag themselves from one spot to another, blindly, and I know that just around the corner in less than a week they will be carrying themselves on all fours!

Day 1 of Puppyhood

Today is our first day at home with the puppies.  All of them seem to be doing great with the exception of Miss White who is a little sluggish and doesn’t seem to be eating as frequently as her siblings.  While this can just be a typical part of the daily growing process, I will watch her carefully and make sure that she is getting the first opportunity to nurse.  In addition, I will keep a close eye on her weight to make sure that she is gaining adequately every morning and evening.

Whelping puppies for a non-profit service dog organization is different than being a breeding home.  There are a variety of processes and procedures that have been established to insure the best possible outcome for these puppies.  Whelping homes maintain daily contact with the breeding coordinator and we discuss every minute detail of the puppies and the mom-their growth, their behavior, their personalities and the recovery of Sugar after delivery…..and I will love every minute of it!

Today is the first day of lack of sleep, stress about making sure the puppies are healthy, worrying about Sugar to make sure she adequately recovers after her c-section, and the many other unexpected things that may come up along the way.  This journey isn’t always easy, but knowing that these puppies are meant to be with a person who doesn’t even know them yet and will change their lives in unimaginable ways makes the journey one of excitement and anticipation!  This journey will fuel me and hopefully allow me to appreciate every moment of their beautiful growth!

Delivery Day!

Tuesday, November 16th

It’s a very important day because Tuesday, November 16th is the day that Sugar will be having her litter of 7 puppies!  Because she had some issues in her previous litter, it was determined that it would be safest for her and the puppies to have a c-section delivery.

The surgery went quickly; the first puppy that was taken out had a detached placenta and struggled a little bit but with the help of another vet he came around just fine and was given a green collar.

In a matter of minutes, staff had taken the puppies, worked their magic to tie off the umbilical cords, made sure their vitals were great and placed them in the incubator. I was so happy to see them doing well; partly relieved that I didn’t have to worry about the possible problems that could have occurred at home with whelping even though I had spent weeks planning and preparing for it, and at the same time worried because this was a new journey for me with Sugar having surgery, not knowing what to expect as far as complications and recovery time, and the added strain of 7 puppies for her.

This is the story of Sugar and her puppies; how they start their journey as an assistance dog in training and what the process is for those involved in their lives including the breeding/whelping home, great start homes, prison programs, foster homes, puppy raisers and their final training.

Hopefully you will not only learn about the process involved, but it will help you to see the importance of programs like this and maybe you will choose to get involved yourself!