“E” Litter Arrival…the rest of the story

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Our first clue as to the imminent arrival of the puppies came over the weekend, when Sue started quietly whining pretty much constantly.  I took her temperature on Sunday at it was normal, around 101F.  A funny aside about Sue’s personality is that when she’s with the people, she’s going to be retrieving you something…anything…(I swear that these are candid and not posed)

Sue on Saturday with a deer antler and a cow skull from our flower bed bone pile

Sue on Saturday with a deer antler and a cow skull from our flower bed bone pile

Sue picking up the kids dirty socks

Sue picking up the kids dirty socks

Sue brought me a "double retrieve" a kids pj shirt and an alligator puppet

Sue brought me a “double retrieve” a kids pj shirt and an alligator puppet

I took her temperature again three times on Monday, each time it was between 98-99F.  They say that when this happens, the puppies come within 24-48 hours (and since I’ve been doing it, it has been true).  I just use a human ear thermometer to take the temperature in her ear.  I am sworn to never do a rectal temp on anything, man nor beast.

Tuesday morning we started walking the yard and property quite a bit.  When I went to make lunch, Sue was hanging out next to me in the kitchen being her normal self: head up looking at me and tail wagging.  All of a sudden her head dropped and turned away from me, her tail stopped wagging, she let out a low groan and I saw the tightening of her puppy belly.  So we walked and walked and walked all afternoon.  About 3 PM she started going into the “poop pose” with nothing coming out pretty frequently.  She began nesting in the dog houses and in the leaf piles under the bushes.  But her water hadn’t broken yet and I had an early evening obligation, so I put her in the whelping area and was away until about 7.  When I got home, she had been asleep in the whelping box and nothing had happened.  So we walked some more and her contractions seemed to be getting stronger.  A black sort of mucus plug looking thing came out while squatting at one point, but still her water wasn’t broken yet.  It was time to put the kids to bed at 9, so I put her back out in the whelping area around 8:30.  The kids took awhile to get around for bed, so I didn’t get back out there until around 9:30 PM.

I was all dressed up to take her back out walking, but this time I had a towel and a flashlight in case she accidentally popped a puppy out on to the snow.  But as I was walking to the door of the room, I heard the distinct sound of a puppy squeak!  I threw down my stuff and tore off my outdoor gear.  She had made quick work of things because I could see where her water had broken while waiting for me at the door, but she was in the box with her first puppy.

Sue and her first puppy around 9:30 PM Monday

Sue and her first puppy around 9:30 PM Tuesday

Having given birth naturally to three children under the care and observation of a nurse midwife very much influences my practice as a puppy whelper.  I totally see myself in the role of the midwife: checking on the mother regularly, but assuming that our bodies know what to do and that mother nature will make things happen properly.  So I give my females plenty of space to do their work bringing life into the world.  I checked back with Sue around 11 PM and puppy number two had arrived.

Sue and two puppies around 11 PM Monday

Sue and two puppies around 11 PM Tuesday

I went and grabbed a couple more hours of shut eye, but Sue was hard at work between 11 PM Tuesday and 1:30 AM Wednesday, as by my check-in she was up to 6 puppies.

Sue with 6 puppies at 1:30 AM Tuesday (there is one under her front leg).

Sue with 6 puppies at 1:30 AM Wednesday (there is one under her front leg).

By the time I was up again at 4:30 AM, two more puppies had arrived on the scene, for a total of 8.  I was able to get Sue up to go outside to go potty and I checked her stomach and thought she was done.  I also went about cleaning out the whelping box and freshening up the chips, assuming everyone had arrived.

Sue and the 8 puppies at 4:30 AM on Wednesday

Sue and the 8 puppies at 4:30 AM on Wednesday

I had an obligation Wednesday morning that I went ahead and attended to, as all of the puppies appeared healthy and Sue had everything under control.  When I went to check in at noon, I knew from past experience that I had better re-count the puppies.  Sure enough, a ninth one had arrived.  It was limp and cold, when I picked it up at first, I thought it was stillborn.  But it was alive, just barely.  It had a small, triangular head and was just odd looking, almost like a mole.  So, I called him “Mole”.

Sue and 9 pups at noon on Wednesday.  "Mole" is on the far left, turned away from the teats.

Sue and 9 pups at noon on Wednesday. “Mole” is on the far left, turned away from the teats.

From my first discovery of Mole, I tried to bring him around.  He was too weak to get to the teat and I had to force his mouth open to even take a bottle.  No matter how hard I tried he would never get warm, even if I sat right in front of the fireplace and rubbed him as much as I could.  Every time I went to the box, he was pushed over into a corner, cold and alone.  I really knew something was off when I finally did get him on the teat, as he was strong enough to suckle, Sue pushed him and my hand away.

I had made the appointment to get the pups tails docked and dew claws removed at the vet’s office on Thursday morning at 10:30 AM.  Before we made the transition out into the big world, we did a small one into the living room, just as something in the interim.  Plus a warm fire is always nice.

Puppies enjoying time by the fire before the vet's office.

Puppies enjoying time by the fire before the vet’s office.

9 puppies sleeping, "Mole" is on the left

9 puppies sleeping, 1 day old, “Mole” is at the top

I really adore my veterinarians, Drs. Andrew and Susan Kliewer of Heartland Animal Hospital.  Of course it is cool to work with another husband and wife team, but the best part is that I just feel like we share the same philosophy when it comes to animals and we really “get” each other.  So I showed Susan “Mole”, I talked about what had been going on, my concerns and interventions.  She told me that she had a friend who had recently nursed a pup like “Mole” back to (what was thought to be) health, only to have it get kidney failure at 6 months old.  The persistent coldness showed that he had poor circulation, he had a strangely shaped palate, an improperly shaped skull…there were just too many problems to overcome.  So we elected to humanely euthanize him.  I really appreciate all the support from my dog friends on Facebook when that happened, it helped me feel better.  I knew it was the right thing for the puppy and for the breed and for myself (I was spending the majority of my time, including getting up a night, fussing over him), but it was still sad.

But hey, we have 8 gorgeous healthy puppies and that is something to be so super excited about!!  Here is their debut on YouTube: 

And right afterwards, I took these still shots of them resting:

8 healthy puppies at 2 days old!

8 healthy puppies at 2 days old!

Sue making sure that everyone is having a good nap

Sue making sure that everyone is having a good nap

Sue's way of telling us to go away is when she sticks her head between us and the puppies

Sue’s way of telling us to go away is when she sticks her head between us and the puppies

So now everyone is good, Sue included.  She seems very relieved to have all of the puppies out of her belly.  She can go back to trying to catch the squirrels in the backyard when I let her out.

Sue looking svelte waiting to come back into the house after a run in the backyard.

Sue looking svelte waiting to come back into the house after a run in the backyard.

She even felt secure enough today to come upstairs and visit me while the puppies were taking a nap.  That made me happy, as the first day I always have to feed and water her in the whelping box because she doesn’t want to leave them.

Sue came up for a visit while I blog at the kitchen table.  She brought me one of the kids sweatshirts.

Sue came up for a visit while I blog at the kitchen table. She brought me one of the kids sweatshirts.

Well I need to get my rear in gear, the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Lincoln’s cutoff for next weekend’s AKC hunt test is tomorrow at 6 PM, so I have to hustle to get our entries in.  BB and Sam are going to do some Senior Hunter runs.  I’m hoping that we can get Rick’s pup “Dottie” from Sue and Sam’s “D” litter last year signed up for Junior Hunter too.  Should be a great weekend reuniting with the local dog crazies at the first event of the year at Branched Oak Trial Grounds.  I’m excited that they are having a 100% walking stakes only (no horseback) AKC field trial that weekend too.  Love to see the foot hunting dogs get some respect.

Oh and I do have a pupdate, from TracHer in North Dakota from our “C” litter last year out of Mae and Sam.  Tom and Susan got a GoPro camera that Tom is wearing here on his chest while he’s cross country skiing with Susan and the dogs.  TracHer is almost a year old and looks like she’s having a great time snow diving!  That’s one of her griffy buddies Zephyr along with them.  

I’m in the process of getting e-mails out to everyone with reservations for puppies, so if you have a deposit down with us, please keep an eye on your inbox.  I should have a status for everyone written up by Sunday.  Oh gosh, I almost forgot the Mae update!  She is due sometime around March 18th, so I need to get ready to go through this all over again:)

Mae sporting a puppy belly as she chomps on an antler Saturday.

Mae sporting a puppy belly as she chomps on an antler Saturday.

Preparing for the Storm

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“Now why don’t he write?” – Timmons the drunk wagon driver on Dances With Wolves

If you’ve seen that movie more than once, you get the reference and know that I haven’t been shot full of arrows by natives.  But the weather predictions have kept me hustling to get things ready for the puppies to arrive.  They’re saying that by this time next week we should have 2 feet of snow on the ground.  I am working towards being organized enough to have a dedicated puppy whelping area ready all year around, but the space that I use for those purposes tends to get re-appropriated in the 0ff-puppy season for sorting unused items for charitable donation and storing seasonal/holiday items.  So here it is in all its glory (or lack thereof):

Whelping area and box

Whelping area

That’s just a camera phone shot, so I wasn’t able to get the whole room in, but it is about 12×20 feet so the mama has plenty of space to move about.  The wooden box is the actual whelping box and where the puppies will be born and spend their first few weeks (when we’re not messing with them).  I also picked up an extra large kiddie pool in case I need to do some shuffling when Mae’s puppies arrive.  Other supplies that I’m stocked up on:

1) Wet canned adult and puppy food for the mamas to have extra energy right before and after the puppies are born.

2) Powdered milk replacement and canned liquid goat milk replacement.  Both to give the mamas as they are whelping (they won’t eat solid food while whelping, but will drink milk if it is placed at their mouths) or if it looks like some of the puppies need an extra boost with a little bottle feeding.

3) Wood chips.  My favorite all-around bedding, it keeps things very sanitary.

The room itself will be heated when labor begins and the box will be heat lamped.  All of my dogs are conditioned to outdoor temperatures, so they really are not comfortable in climate controlled environments, but for the comfort and safety of the puppies the females have to deal with being hot for a few weeks.

As the temperatures were warm at the end of last week and on Saturday, I took the opportunity to groom and bathe all of the dogs.  It takes me a good hour per dog at least to get that done, but it’s necessary and good quality bonding time with them.  Sorry, I didn’t have anyone handy to take pictures for me.

I do have some shots of the mamas though, they are both doing fine.  We are a week and a half to two weeks away from Sue’s pups and a month or so away from Mae’s.

Sue is very pregnant

Sue is very pregnant

Another angle of Sue

Another angle of Sue

Mae is definitely showing

Mae is definitely showing

Another angle of Mae

Another angle of Mae

Not only are we waiting for puppies, but we are getting Sam and BB ready for the next level of hunt testing, so it is a very busy time around here.  I feel so much better now that the whelping area is prepared and am looking forward to welcoming Sue’s puppies soon!  If you are looking for a puppy this spring, please know that I currently have 14 reservations with deposit.  I would be okay with taking additional reservations and in the event of not having a puppy available, either returning the deposit or having the reservation carry over to next year.  Feel free to call (402) 682-9802 or e-mail bluestemkennels@cox.net with any questions.

Snow, Cold and Goings On


Winter has finally arrived in Nebraska.  It has been unusually mild, with only one or two significant snows up until last weekend.  I had wondered if Mother Nature was going to be like the animated segment in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where she skips significant seasons (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZLP0siJI-8), but it our case going directly from fall to spring.  But alas, after our 70 degree day in January, she reminds us now that it is indeed winter.

Dogs and kids alike enjoyed the snow last Saturday!

Sam Wirehaired Pointing Griffon snow

Sam races through the snow

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons kids

Sue, Sam and BB sled with the kids

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon snow

Mae wanders about in the snow

Although you can’t tell in the picture from last week, Mae is certainly with puppies.  Her tummy has grown considerably since this last picture and like all pregnant mamas, her priority is food!  We will have her X-rayed the first week in March to get a puppy count and expect her puppies to arrive sometime around March 15th.

My Valentine’s Day present is a whelping box kit and we have a spot in the garage prepared for setting it up.  The actual whelping will most likely occur inside the house in the laundry room, which is an easier spot for me to access for monitoring but will keep mama and pups out of being messed with by the human kids.  We’ll have a disposable carpet remnant on the floor and a woodchip-filled sandbox to warmly welcome them into the world.  As the pups get bigger and squirmier, we’ll transition them into the heated garage with the whelping box.  Once they hit 3 1/2-4 weeks, they’ll be big and strong enough to move into an outdoor kennel with an insulated dog house.

Tonight is a designated “dog party” night, where the dogs come in to hang out and watch evening “telly” (TV) with the family.  Mostly, they chew on their cow hooves, which gives off a bit of a barnyard breath aroma, but they last longer than the 15 minute rawhides and keep them from perpetually wrestling with each other or breathing in people’s faces for attention.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons in the house

TV time the evening of Feb. 11th: Mae, Sue, BB and Sam