Day 81 – Continuing the Journey of a Lifetime, 11 Weeks in the Making!

It’s been an emotional 7 days in our household with a variety of different “Sugar news”.  Last Tuesday, it was time for Sugar to be spayed and begin her journey of smelling the roses!  In the very near future, she will be retired and we will be adopting her!  She is well known and liked at the Vet Hospital due to her litters, and the cutest thing I heard was when the news was spreading amongst staff that Sugar was in for a spay one of the staff came up to me and said: “What do you mean, no more Sugar Cubes????”  After a good chuckle, I told her no, it was time for Sugar to turn that over to the younger pups in the program!

The spay didn’t go as well as we had hoped.  Due to her C-sections and litters, she had a bit more of a complicated surgery.  It was a long night at our house with her.  As the night became early morning and we still weren’t seeing the progress we had hoped, it became evident early the next morning that continued medical care was needed. Unfortunately, there was some unexpected internal bleeding which required her to return back to the vet for an additional procedure the next morning, some extra medications, and observation. She came back to our home on Thursday after her extended stay and has been recuperating while we spoil her rotten and get her back on the road to long walks, fun playdates and some great exercise in the not so distant future.

So it was wonderful to have a fun and rewarding time to play with adorable Sugar Babies tonight and unwind from an otherwise stressful week!

Seriously, how do you resist such an adorable face??

Today was the special opportunity that many whelping homes wait for patiently – the evening to see “their” puppies after they are away at the Duluth prison!  They left around 6 weeks and now this N litter of Sugar’s is over 11 weeks old-the 7 pups have been away for almost half of their life and I couldn’t get to the facility quick enough for my play date with them! It felt like when my girls returned from college!

Norton offering his best sit on command!

When I arrived they were just getting taken out of the vehicle.  Then they were corraled over to the training room where my husband and I would have the opportunity to play with them for about 45 minutes prior to their great start and puppy raiser families arriving to come to pick them up.  Tonight would be their first official time away from their littermates.  They spent time away from their siblings at night when they were all with different handlers, but they got multiple opportunities to play with them during the days while they were there.  The first two weeks they still had Sugar there with them and the last 3 weeks they had the comfort of their other 6 siblings.  They’ve been busy learning while they’ve been there, but that doesn’t mean that tonight won’t still be a tough adjustment for them!  I will be curious to hear how the evening, the overnight and tomorrow go for these wonderful puppies!

While I thoroughly enjoyed playing with them, about halfway through I had to step away and detach a bit.  This litter, in particular, I was a bit sad because I knew it was the last litter Sugar would have, so this goodbye seemed a bit more emotional and final than I had prepared myself for.  I wanted this to be a happy celebration for these puppies who are going to do amazing things during their lifetime and I didn’t want that to be lessened by me falling apart into a puddle of tears, so that meant I needed to step away from the “playing” and observe a bit more from distance.  Over the years I’ve learned a bit more about controlling those emotional stepping stones(but I’m still terrible at it!); I’m not sure if it’s because you get used to it, or you start learning how to protect your heart a bit more from the emotions of the experience.

You never get tired of seeing your whelping litters

Using a “settle” to keep this pup quiet during some of the filming from the news station

After the litter drank the WHOLE bowl of water, those eyes were expectantly looking for more!

The puppies were having a great time with the space and the toys

And as I was playing and watching the puppies, I started seeing the anticipatory faces of the volunteers who were coming to pick their new “adventure” up through the observation windows!  I thought back to the time when I was the one picking up a puppy to puppy raise and how excited I was for the new opportunity I was embarking on!  I can’t believe how many years have passed since that first experience, but my heart feels like it’s been way more than 6 1/2 years!  It is FULL of experiences that 7 years ago I couldn’t have even imagined in my wildest dreams!  Happy, sad, funny, exhausting, overflowing with joy, amazed, scared, determined……Offhand I can’t think of any emotions that I haven’t experienced through the puppies that I have been so fortunate to have in my house whether it was for a short foster, a long-term foster, a great start, being a puppy raiser,  having a litter of puppies, or hosting a breeder dog (or two).  Each of them has taught me something that is now part of me and that I can’t separate from even if I wanted to

Ken enjoyed the opportunity to say hello again as well

Norton wanted to sit and watch the other puppies roughhouse, but he wanted to catch a quick rest rather than joining in!

The mirror in the training room is always a big hit when the puppies arrive!

So, with time, things change.  I get to say another goodbye and think of how my life will change again in the near future, with new and different adventures.  Soon, Sugar will be OURS and we will get to write a new future together!  I’m not sure what that future holds, but I know with Sugar by my side it will be amazing!

Right when we got home, Sugar went crazy when she smelled the puppies on me, grabbed a toy and looked at me like “where are they”??!  Due to her surgery last week, we had to try and keep her calm and quiet, but she was waiting to play with her puppies! 

Even though Sugar won’t be having any more puppies, I hope people will still read this blog!  Since the blog is called “Life of Sugar” we still have a lot of things to say!!!!  I think Sugar has many new things she will be enjoying!  Hopefully, the next post you see will be about her official retirement from the program!

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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

Glimmer

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!

Day 2 – The Wonder of Love in Progress

As I sit here during the pre-dawn hours, I watch with wonder at this moment in front of me.  Just 24 hours ago, we were at the Vet Hospital getting an earlier than planned assisted delivery of future assistance puppies.

But now, as I watch with only the light from the streetlights and the heating lamp, I am on the sidelines, watching this beautiful bond being formed between a mother dog and her puppies. I quietly sneak a peek into her private world-where humans aren’t part of the equation.  You would think that she was too tired, in too much pain from the surgery, or too concerned about herself to concentrate any of her limited energy on her litter of 7. But, what I witness is exactly opposite of that; I see Sugar-who with every litter has given it her all in ways I would have never guessed would happen in the canine world! You see her watching the puppies as if she were studying them to get to know them; at the first sound coming from them she immediately reacts to see what the issue is and she offers the only thing she has to make them feel better -herself. And tonight is no different because she searches for them even if she is out of the box for a couple of minutes-wanting me to bring her food into the whelping room area where she will be close to the puppies.  She chooses to only leave the room to go outside to the bathroom, preferring a 4X5 whelping box in the office in our house instead of the freedom of our entire house where she could relax! Now that the babies are here, she knows where HOME for her is!

And her mother’s senses which are laser sharp seem to gain clarity with each litter and each day, like when she finally decides to come out of the box to sleep right at the entrance but wakes up for no apparent reason, goes into the box and walks directly to ONE particular puppy who magically goes to the bathroom only seconds later- and she is right there to clean her baby up!  What is it that tells her which puppy would need her a few moments into the future? Is it a particular scent that gives her direct cues of what she needs to do with which puppy?:  She also hesitates and doesn’t step into the box; preferring to wait for us to come check on her when she gives a little whine so that we can move the puppies out of her way and she can get into the whelping box without incident! She also exhibits this behavior if she is going to get out of the box and puppies are on her.  Rather than jumping up and displacing the puppies she waits for them to be cleared from around her before making her exit.

I sit outside of the box with a sense of wonder at watching this critical bond with her puppies unfolding right before my eyes! I wonder what it must be like for her to wake up and all of a sudden have someone placing puppies on you.  I can only imagine her instinct is so strong that taking care of these babies just seems like another everyday experience that came her way!

Some of those questions got me to thinking about whether scent makes it possible for dogs to ‘smell” their relatives even years after they have been separated.  The studies seem to show that indeed they do!  See the article below for some of the backgrounds on studies done by Cornell University.

picture of article about dogs remembering relatives
Sugar for sure is a natural at this motherhood thing, and the pictures below give you just a tiny glimpse of how evident that is when you watch her with her puppies, the “N” litter!

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Miss Pink having some one-on-one time with her Mama

Mr. Blue showing he knows what he wants and how to get it!

 

Sugar and her puppies are enjoying a sunny afternoon catching up on some much-needed sleep after 2 night shifts!

 

 

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….

 

July 19th, 2017 – Oh! The Places You’ll Go! Congratulations GRANDMA Sugar!!

Ivy with AU litter (002)

Ivy looks so content as a Mom-completely reminds me of Sugar with her smile!

You’ll be on your way up,
You’ll be seeing great sights,
You’ll join the high fliers,
Who soar to great heights!

Wherever you fly,
You’ll be best of the best,
Wherever you go,
You will top all the rest.

~Dr. Seuss

While Sugar only has a little over a week left until she has her 4th litter of puppies, I received the awesome news today from Can Do Canines that Nutmeg (now named Ivy) from Sugar’s very first litter has just become a momma to 5 beautiful puppies in Japan, and Sugar now is a Grandma!

This is special news on its own, but it is even more special when you consider that the journey of these dogs in training cross state lines, traverse countries across the globe, and touch the lives of countless numbers of people along the way. Sugar currently has puppies in Japan, California, Canada and Minnesota amongst 4 different organizations.

Sugar began her career at Guiding Eyes in New York.  When she was 1 1/2 years old. Guiding Eyes and Can Do Canines arranged to have her become a breeding dog for Can Do Canines, with the opportunity of some of her pups going back into the Guiding Eyes program or a program of their choice to continue to bring great bloodlines into programs across the world.  Sugar had her first litter in August of 2015 and had 6 beautiful little girls-2 yellow and 4 black pups which became the Spice Girls litter.  Cayenne, Poppy, Sage, Nutmeg, Clover and Saffron started their journey in the assistance dog world!

It was determined that Nutmeg and Sage would be in Great Start homes here in Minnesota until they were old enough to travel and then they would go back to Guiding Eyes. Then the puppies were sent to Japan in helping to further develop a program for guide dogs there.  After leaving Can Do Canines, their names were changed to Ivy and Isla. and their big journey began!

At some point during that time it was decided that Ivy (Nutmeg) would become a breeder dog and that Isla (Sage) would be in the guide dog training program. It’s really incredible all of the things that are taken into account in Assistance Dog programs that determine which path will be best for each dog, but I’ve learned over the years that it is not a decision taken lightly! Personality/Temperament, breeding qualities, size, and a huge variety of other factors play a role in the decisions of making awesome assistance dogs!

After this first litter, Sugar has had 2 more litters and has had a total of 16 puppies with more on the way! She’s definitely doing her part to make a difference in the world!

And, so the legacy continues for assistance dogs across the globe on a daily basis-with the help of many, programs flourish, lives are changed, and success is realized!

Congratulations to Momma Ivy, Grandma Sugar and EVERYONE who has a hand in making the dogs, the programs and the world better every single day!

Above are photos of Sugar (left) taken today at 8 weeks pregnant and on the right is Ivy/(Nutmeg) before she had her puppies.  Like Mother, Like Daughter!!!

Ivy Nutmeg and Isla Sage

Ivy and Isla are representing November for the calendar!

 

 

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!