PAWS Dog Volunteers are incredible, dedicated, and hard working individuals. Whether raising a puppy, or housing a Mama or Papa Dog there is no question that PAWS would not be able to place Assistansace Dogs without them. The volunteers that house PAWS Mama Dogs are also responsible for whelping litters and caring for those puppies for the first eight weeks of their life. At eight weeks the puppies come back to PAWS and are placed with a Foster Puppy Raiser. This weeks blog was written by one of our PAWSome PAWS Dog Volunteers and offers a little insight into the world of housing a Mama Dog.
On the evening before HADDIE's Special K Litter returns to PAWS for the next stage in their journey to become Assistance Dogs, I'm feeling at once melancholy, excited (for each of the babies and their Raisers), and exhausted. But there are a few thoughts and a request that I'd like to share.
Hosting a Mama and whelping her babies is an awe inspiring experience. From the uncertainties of labor and delivery with a mama whose native language is not English, to the final days with the pups when they are a multi-legged wrecking crew, we pass through hundreds of highs and lows.
We spend many sleepless nights, checking the little ones, making sure no one has been squished, is too cold or too warm. We provide special care for the weak, sometimes supplemental feedings, others just an assist to latch or a boost to reach the milking station. With baby monitors near our own beds, we may get up multiple times a night for any number of reasons.
And sometimes we lose a puppy. It's heartbreaking, whether the pup is stillborn or lives for days, although the longer we care for them, the deeper the loss. It happens.
Watching Mama communicate with her little ones who can neither see nor hear is a wonder. This is one reason for the sleepless nights - just watching them interact, recognizing what she is doing and why, realizing how wonderfully God has created and equipped his creatures for survival. This is part of the joy of being a Breeding Stock Host Home.
Once their eyes are open the fun begins. Good fun, like watching them play, cuddling and puppy kisses. Not such good fun like cleaning the Xpen and toys at least daily, multiple loads of laundry - daily, soaking and preparing puppy food, feedings three times a day with the subsequent puppy food in - processed food out, chasing and herding any number of pups. Nails clipped weekly, weights taken (twice a day for the first two weeks, then once a week), medication administered every other week. Collars changed as puppies grow, records kept. And always, always, we are thinking about their development, providing exposure and stimulation and expectations that shape and influence their behavior.
Yes, it is a busy eight weeks. And we become deeply attached during those two months. So this is the request. Just as Foster Puppy Raisers long to have and depend on the client to establish contact, so we as Hosts long to have and depend on the Raisers to let us know how our “babies” are doing. A little piece of our hearts go with each puppy we whelp and care for. We, too, celebrate the dogs’ progress every step of the way. Thank you, thank you Paws Raisers for loving, caring for, and training the babies!
Plans for Tuesday morning? Sleep in until - oh, perhaps 7:00. Zero loads of laundry. Read at least two consecutive, uninterrupted chapters in my book. And perhaps take a nap! I'm sure Mamas HADDIE and BEEZUS will be right there with me in everything but the book.