Day 8-What Blizzard? It’s Sunny, Warm, and 80 Degrees-At Least in the Whelping Box! (Perspective is Everything)

THE GLIMMER OF POTENTIAL BEGINS TO APPEAR

As you can see by the picture below, it’s hard to remember it’s spring right now……

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But perspective is so important!  We may not be having the nicest weather currently, but hopefully, everyone will be able to settle inside somewhere and enjoy some good music, television, family time or just catching up on their to-do list.  This won’t last forever….at least that is what I keep telling myself day after day after day…… 🙂

Perspective is also important when it comes to assistance dogs. There are all sorts of storylines regarding assistance/service dogs in our everyday world-from those who make training service dogs much more difficult because they try to pass off their pet as a service dog, to those who ask us questions about if assistance dogs are happy and ever get to “just be dogs”, to the dogs who have “made it” and are happily serving clients all over the world, changing their lives and wagging their tails! And let’s not forget the dogs who started in the journey of becoming an assistance dog and for a myriad of reasons were unable to complete THAT journey, but have gone on to lead wonderful lives of purpose as comfort dogs, therapy dogs, and precious pets. The great thing about dogs is that they change lives everywhere they go, and it’s not limited to those in only in the assistance/service dog world! They are truly amazing, and if you haven’t had the opportunity to see that then just take time to stop and observe one day and watch the dogs around you. They read their humans like no one can; they adjust to the changing world around them that’s out of their control with a calm stride and they make others laugh and smile-sometimes they are the only ones that can do this with such little effort!

People ask me why fake service dogs are a problem and I talk to them about how poorly behaved dogs that aren’t qualified to be out in public give ALL dogs a bad name in public places, not to mention the safety factor which is unfair to the dogs who aren’t adequately trained to be in all of those situations as well as the humans who encounter them.  Just like you wouldn’t pay an untrained person to be your doctor or fix your furnace due to safety issues, having people who aren’t trained to handle public situations with dogs is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. Dogs that are put in environments that they haven’t been exposed to regularly can suffer from stress and anxiety, and that can lead to a bad reaction or interaction in a crowd.  One bad experience with a fake service dog that you think is a legitimate service dog will taint the viewpoint of how these dogs serve clients in public spaces.  The more issues that people and businesses encounter with fake service dogs, the more they question us volunteers about the dogs we are training in public. That’s exactly why it takes assistance dogs 2+ years to get enough experience and training to be successful in their careers and that’s why it’s so frustrating for fosters, puppy raisers and volunteers to have to endure the increased challenges of justifying why we have the dogs we are training out in public.  If assistance dogs in training don’t have the opportunity to get out in public and experience all of the things they will need to know about before they go into service, this can decrease their confidence and make them less able to perform their tasks as needed.

As for dogs in training “just being dogs”, I can assure you that the dogs in training that I have personally fostered, short or long term puppy raised or have been a breeder host for have more opportunities, more fun times of play, more one on one attention, more toys (just ask my husband how many baskets of dog toys he begrudgingly has to tolerate in our living room) and more “just being dogs” than other dogs I have owned in my entire life!  We experience life as a TEAM, and they get to enjoy things with me that I never got to enjoy with my own personal dogs.  Movies, restaurants, cafes, parks, buses and light rail, pancake breakfasts and the list goes on!  They’ve allowed me to see the everyday things in my life from a completely different lens and my perspective has changed in ways I could have never imagined!

When I had ankle surgery and was in a wheelchair and on crutches for 4 months, I realized how difficult it was to get places, how hard it was to open doors and how every task for me seemed so much more difficult to accomplish.  I also realized that people are so busy in their lives that sometimes they don’t take the extra few seconds to help someone around them-not wanting to “offend” them by offering help or they are just too busy to stop. But when you watch clients with assistance dogs, part of the difficulty in some tasks gets removed but their companionship also provides comfort, and these dogs draw a great sort of attention that makes people react differently which is so incredible to watch!

And, don’t ever feel TOO bad for a career changed assistance dog; their lives are full of people who love them, families who play with them, and opportunities to continue changing lives!  Many become certified therapy dogs and bring joy to another whole plethora of people!

So, on this blustery winter day, my suggestion is to change your perspective, and feel the warmth of these puppy pics-and just TRY not to smile!!!!! Feeling warm inside from the cuteness of these adorable puppies is a pretty good alternative 🙂

Miss Pink-I just call her heart stealer……

cuteness overload!  Check out the extra skin on the leg of Mr. Red-he’s sure got his Mama Sugar’s extra skin gene!!!!

Sugar just relaxing on this cold blustery day with her beautiful pups!

Mr. Blue getting comfortable

NOW he’s comfortable!

A little snuggle time with Miss Pink

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Day 5: The Gift You Can Only Give Once-Puppies of Purpose Have a Busy Schedule Ahead of Them!

Many people love seeing Service/Assistance Dogs when they are working with clients, but often don’t realize the work that has gone into those dogs over their entire lives to get them ready for the job at hand, and the work begins as soon as they are born.  As a whelping home for my first time in 2015, I was a bit amazed at everything that these puppies are exposed to in the early days of their lives which research has proven has a direct impact on how well adjusted they can be as an adult dog!  I also had to learn that holding and loving these puppies is critical, but it doesn’t replace the other things that puppies need to experience; new environments to experience and changing their environments to teach them to adapt to their surroundings, exposure to a whole variety of sights, sounds and smells, socialization with every possible opportunity once they are old enough (but at the very least with me and my husband handling them frequently until they can socialize with others) creating brain challenges for them to keep their neurological stimulation at its very peak so they can transfer that to becoming a dog that loves to work and help with tasks.

Here are the stages of these tiny pups and what they should experience in order to give them the perfect building blocks for success!

The excerpt below is taken from a Healthy Pets article by Mercola and does a great job of explaining the first 8 weeks of puppy development.

5 Milestones in Every Puppy’s Life

Stage 1: Whelp. A whelp is any just-born carnivorous animal. The word is most often associated with newborn puppies. Whelping means birthing; to have whelped means to have given birth.

Stage 2: Neonate. Neonate refers to a newborn pup from day 0 to day 13 of life. Neonate puppies can’t see (their eyes are still closed), can’t hear (their ears are sealed shut) and can’t pee or poop without stimulation (licking) from mom.

They have no teeth, nor do they have the ability to regulate their own body temperature.

These tiny babies depend on mom and their littermates to stay warm, which is why they tend to snooze in furry little piles. Neonates sleep about 90 percent of the time, and when they’re awake, they’re nursing.

Fortunately, they’re born able to smell, which helps guide them to mom’s nipples at mealtime.

The first milk a mother dog produces is colostrum, which contains the antibodies that transfer maternal immunity to help protect the pups from opportunistic diseases during their first weeks of life.

NEUROLOGICAL STIMULATION

Virtually all the energy a neonate’s body generates goes toward growth. They typically double their birth weight during the first week of life. Since they can’t yet stand, they sort of paddle around using their front legs. This soon leads to crawling.
It’s during this time (days three to 16) that its beneficial to institute early neurological stimulation (“super puppies,” as some say) which can oftentimes result in more balanced adult dogs.

The U.S. military did studies on raising puppies, and they found that doing certain exercises with puppies during the time of rapid neurological growth, between the puppies third and sixteenth day of life would increase the pups performance in later life. They created a program called the Bio Sensor program consisting of 5 exercises to be done once a day with the pups. They found that not only were puppies able to cope more with stressful situations, and problem solve better than other puppies, but that they were actually physically healthier with higher cardiovascular performance, stronger immune systems, adrenal glands and heart beats.

They are only done for a brief 3-5 seconds so as to stimulate the neurological functions without stressing them too much.

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Holding them upright encourages neurological stimulation and blood flow


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Holding them upside down for 3-5 brief seconds causes additional neurological stimulation which is different than when they are held upright!


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The supine position has them laying on their back or cradled-I can just imagine those brain cells developing as we go through these exercises!


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Using a Q-tip on the paws and between the pads is a tactile stimulation that can help them be adaptable in future situations where there is a flooring change, a different surface that they need to manipulate, etc. and keeps them learning to be adaptable to their surroundings

 

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Placing the puppies on a cool, wet rag briefly continues to stimulate the neurological connections that they will use as they grow into adult dogs!

Below is a video explaining neurological stimulation by a veterinarian.

Stage 3: Transition period. The transition period covers days 13 through 21 of a puppy’s life. The ears start to open at around day 14, and the eyelids between days 10 to 16. As you can imagine, these events give the pups a whole new outlook (literally) on their world.

They begin to respond to smells and tastes, and their little puppy grunts evolve to whines, yips and barks. By day 15, most pups are standing up, and within the next several days they take their first unsteady steps. At this point, they go from total reliance on mom to a bit of independence.

Stage 4: Awareness period. The awareness period is day 21 to day 28. By 3 weeks of age, pups are using their senses of sight and hearing to learn. They’re beginning to play with their littermates and explore their environment.

This is also the time during which puppies gain some control over elimination and begin moving away from their “den” (sleeping area) to pee and poop.

Stage 5: Socialization period. The initial socialization period encompasses weeks 3 to 8 in a puppy’s life. It’s during this period that her interactions with other pets and people increase, and she’s able to form attachments.

At about 4 weeks of age, mom’s milk production begins to taper off, and the puppies’ calorie requirements increase. As mom gradually weans her pups, they begin showing serious interest in solid food.

As luck (and more importantly, nature) would have it, at 3 to 4 weeks, the canine teeth begin to push through, and a full set of puppy teeth make an appearance between weeks 4 and 6.

Age 6 to 8 weeks is considered a critical time in every puppy’s socialization period. This approximately two-week window is when puppies are most accepting and least fearful of others.

How quickly a pup’s mental development occurs is a direct result of the environmental stimulation she receives during this period. By week 8, most puppies are fully weaned. Puppies need additional, expansive socialization from 8 weeks to 6 months of age to best acclimate to all life will throw at them as adults. At 3 to 5 months, permanent teeth begin to replace puppy teeth, and by 7 months, puppy has a full set of permanent teeth.

Here is a video that I believe explains the process of Super Puppy Training that Whelping Homes perform with their litters to help them have the best possible start in life on their journey to becoming an assistance dog!

 

Day 3-The Foreign Language of the Whelping Box; Strangely Familiar and Yet Totally Brand New at the Same Time

The puppies have been in my home for 3 days now, and what I realize is that although it’s not my first litter,  it’s a whole new world that I have to explore again with new eyes.  Every litter, every momma dog,  every experience, and every puppy is different; and every whine, cry, and pant that I had learned to decipher from a previous litter in my home is now only a casual reference point and I have to learn the “language of the box” all over again.  I have to use what I’ve learned in the past to help guide me on this journey, yet I can’t allow the previous experiences to cloud my judgment for what’s in front of my eyes with THIS litter.

 

A cry from a puppy can be that they are too hot, too cold, hungry, not feeling well, are looking for their mom, or have to go to the bathroom which they need Sugar’s assistance for, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The possibilities are endless, and as soon as I assume I automatically know what it is without exploring all of my options I’ve lost the benefit of fresh eyes to find the real reason for their vocalization.  Honestly, it’s like learning a foreign language in a record amount of time! Some litters love a warm whelping box, while others don’t; some love being with their littermates and others love to be in the far corners of the box away from everything-yet puppies going off on their own could also indicate something might be amiss.  So, you carefully watch and wait for their next move so you can compile the information and then come up with your best guess as to what’s going on and if it’s an issue or just puppies being puppies.

 

 

There’s what the books and the experts tell you about tiny little puppies and then there’s your vision of what you see, your gut instinct, and the interactions between mom and puppies.  It turns you into a detective of sorts until you solve the mystery and you see a reaction in the puppies, the mom, or the environment that tells you either you are right on or try again.  More often, it seems to fall into the latter category, and yet you don’t have the option to get frustrated because being alert to the tiniest of clues is really important. You don’t have time to pat yourself on the back, because a new mystery is waiting just around the corner to present itself for you to solve! The first big hurdle is the birth of the puppies, but sometimes people don’t realize that there are a hundred more hurdles along the way to them becoming 8 week old bundles of joy! Lucky for us, staff is there to guide us along the way with their knowledge and expertise so we don’t have to do the journey alone!

 


One litter in our home loved a 90-degree whelping box and this litter prefers more like an 80 degree box-but the variables are what played into that difference.  Sugar is spending much more time in the box this time around and so they are cuddling with her nice warm body more often; the days have been sunny and the sunlight in the window can warm the room more than if it were the middle of winter; even my choice of waterproof pads and sheets can affect the level of heat that the floor retains which affects their comfort level. All of these things that change are out of my control and so I have to figure out how to solve it differently this time than maybe previous times. We watch the puppies constantly to watch their body language.  If they huddle they might be cold, if they spread out they are too warm, if they cry it could be either or a combination of anything else!

By the end of the night, your mind feels like you’ve spent all day in a college-level course of a brand new language, and tomorrow you get to do it all over again with a whole new language! My brain loves a challenge, so this experience gives me opportunities in thinking “outside of the box” and to be open-minded.  I honestly believe that my experiences in whelping have directly impacted my views of the real world; I have learned to explore options much more freely and to look for solutions that might not be “traditional”.  It’s taught me to appreciate experiences and people, places and things that I may not have previously because you never know how much effort, training, skill or heart that has gone into what you see in front of you!

 

 

Nursing while laying down is EASY!  But sitting up gives you an idea of just how smart I am already!

 

I never get tired of watching the puppies vie for their Mama Sugar’s attention!

14 days and counting!

April 8th is Sugar’s due date, and that means just two more weeks until we get to discover how many puppies are waiting to join the ranks of life-changing “puppies in training”! She is 46 days along currently and the pups will start growing rapidly during this last stage of development!

Their organs have developed, claws have formed, hair has grown, and on Friday I was able to feel them kick for the very first time!  No one else could feel it, so I thought maybe I was mistaken, but Saturday I felt it again and today there was no doubt that what I was feeling was some tiny puppies making their presence known!!!! This may not sound surprising, but when you realize they are only about 5 inches long at this age of their development it might change your mind!

Sugar showing one of her former whelping moms who stopped by for a visit what she’s growing….

So, the journey begins over the next two weeks!  I will be picking up the whelping box, whelping kit, and some supplies to start preparing for a home with puppies; the room they will call “home” will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to make sure they have a great area to start life on the right track, and our schedule starts slowing down to make a calmer environment for Sugar to just rest and relax!

At this time, we have no idea how many puppies to expect other than the fact that during her ultrasound they were making an educated guess of somewhere between 2 and 6 puppies!  So, when delivery day comes-I will be just as surprised as to the number of puppies as everyone else!

And now the waiting begins….this is the two weeks that can feel like an eternity:)

Some interesting things about the puppies growing during the pregnancy;

The Rate of Growth of the Fetus:

  • At 10 days the ova is approximately 1/12 to 1/20 inch long.
  • At 3-4 weeks old they are approximately 1 inch in length.
  • At 6 weeks old they are approximately 3 1/2 inches long.
  • At 7-8 weeks old they are approximately 5 inches long.
  • At the 9th week, they are 6-8 inches long.

The stages of development are interesting as well:

  • At 10 days the fertilized ova have reached the uterus.
  • At 10-21 days traces of the fetus appear, and traces of head, body, and limbs can be discerned.
  • At 3-4 weeks the first indications of claws can be seen.
  • At the 5th week, the stomach is well defined. At 6 weeks large hairs appear on lips, eyelids, etc.
  • At 7-8 weeks the eyelashes have appeared, and hair is beginning to appear at the tip of the tail, head, and extremities.
  • By the 9th week, the puppy is getting fully covered with hair and ready for its birth.

The killer puppy dog eyes waiting to be fed….

 

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!