Puppy Progress - Week 1: How Do Your Puppies Grow?

7 days old and the race to get big fast is in full swing for Leela's 6 balls of fluff. I'd read in advance of their birth that you should expect, indeed hope, that a newborn puppy doubles in weight in the first week but to see it in action has been amazing. Usually when something is right under your nose day in, day out it's hard to notice changes, but not in this case. Every time we walk into the room I can scarcely believe these are the same puppies I saw perhaps just a few hours before. And it's not just the weight gain that has amazed us as we've found ourselves on an astronomical learning curve of dog and puppy needs and behaviours...and yes, it has been incredibly hard at times. Far harder than I thought it would be, especially the 48 hours when we thought we might be losing one.

Rewinding a little and sticking with the weight gain for a moment longer though, I thought I'd share the vital statistics for the 6 little wrigglers over the past 6 days (we didn't weigh the pups on day 1 so as not to stress Leela out too much - weight is in grams):


DayLittle (George)Big LightMed LightLittle Light (Rose)Med Light PatchesBig Brown (Bella)
2195272254230240275
7355491445387440540

Now there are a few things to mention about these numbers. One is that on average the pups have gained 80% body weight in the 6 days we've been weighing them and that 'Big Brown' has gained 96%! There must be something in the milk. The second is that you may notice that a couple of pups have tentative names in the table! I know, I know that everyone we've spoken to who has had puppy litters says don't name them....that's for the new owners to do and it just makes it harder to let go. However, the truth is we never set out to name them, it kind of took us by surprise. We were quite happy saying "the big brown one" and the "medium one with patches" or more usually "that one by her back leg". Yet at a couple of moments as we've gone to point out a puppy a name just fell out of our mouths and seem to stick. We know the new owners will change it and so we won't use the name to train the puppy in any way, but honestly it's been quite nice having a more personal label for a few pups between the two of us at least. 

Back to the steep learning curve and I think it's safe to say we've all been finding our feet. Leela has been a star. As I said in my previous post, the term natural mother hadn't really made sense to me until I saw Leela in action immediately after giving birth and for the most part she has continued in the same way; feeding, cleaning, toileting, soothing and warming her babies day and night despite being just a puppy herself. 

There have been a few occasions where she has just seemed to need a break and gone for lie down elsewhere (so have I), occasionally still ignored their crying for a short while, and we were also worried that she seemed so eager to still go outside for walks so often including the day of the birth. We'd read online that a mother dog won't normally leave her pups so soon for even short periods and so we started worrying she was abandoning them. But then it just showed us that we needed to calm down and remember to trust her instincts. After all she bought them into this world on her own and she seems to know what she is doing, and as the numbers above show, they're doing OK. We've put it down to the fact she is so young and just sometimes needs a rest.

It's a marvel to see the puppies routine. Usually they suckle en masse in a tangle of arms, legs, faces and bottoms all tightly packed together, clambering over each other to get to their preferred teat. This last around 5 or 10 minutes until the writhing mass calms down almost as one before they fall asleep within a matter of seconds in a pile of beige fur....unless one of the puppies doesn't feel they've had their fair share yet of course.

It's not all sitting around watching cute puppies sleep and suckle though. In fact the reality has been that more often than not we are so busy trying to make sure they have everything they need we find ourselves forgetting to just sit and admire how beautiful they are.  "Which ones crying..... is there a problem.......why hasn't that one gone up in weight very much this time......is Leela eating enough...... why hasn't she finished her dinner......does she need to go out again.....try adding some more of that to her dinner then......help that puppy onto that empty teat, it's crying and can't get on one.......are we handling them too much.....how do we know if they get sick......did one just sneeze......" . Just some of the anxieties we've found ourselves experiencing as first time puppy guardians, feeling tired due to being woken up at night every hour by the cries of one or more puppies alongside trying to feed and keep ourselves tidy as well. It has been very hard and tiring, surprisingly so.

I can't really say what I was expecting as I was so focused on trying to be ready for the process of Leela giving birth to think too much about what came afterwards. But I don't think I expected it would all be so hands on. Probably we're worrying too much, but then we've never done this before and for every piece of advice we find, it's usually followed by someone claiming the opposite. The best advice really has been to use our instinct to work out what we think is best. Still, 6 lives thrust into our responsibility is not something to be taken lightly.

In one especially harrowing 48 hours one of the puppies (Little Light, aka Rose) became unwell and we thought we might lose her. It started at 1am on Friday morning as she began crying and screaming and nothing either Leela or us could do seemed to help or quieten her. We stayed up all night trying to soothe her and calm Leela down who was increasingly stressed by the neverending cries and was digging and scrabbling right next to the other 5 to the extent we were worried for their safety as well. It was over 12 hours before we could get the vet to visit us and diagnose a combination of hunger related to the pain of constipation (or colic, it's hard to say), providing advice and equipment for bottle feeding and helping her toilet, but it was a further 36 hours before she started to gain weight again and settle down into even short silent periods, during which time we stayed awake full time in shifts to soothe and massage as required.

All of which has seen us somewhat in a daze for much of the past week. The question on everyone's lips if they see us in the street is "what are you going to do with all those puppies, how will you find them homes?" It's a question that was on our minds a lot since finding out Leela was pregnant. But this experience with Rose focuses us back into the more immediate moment and making sure they grow strong and healthy in this first few weeks when they are so vulnerable.

Yet as this first week of the puppies lives comes to a close I hope that we are starting to find our feet a little more. That we are little more confident in knowing when and what help is needed by Leela and her babies. That as the puppies grow stronger that we can see their independence growing a little more each day. And that we can remember more often to appreciate how incredibly lucky we are to be having this experience. It may not be something we planned for and we often find ourselves worrying about the weeks ahead, finding them homes etc. etc. Yet as tails start to wag just a little and as we anticipate eyes and ears opening we will do our best to enjoy these moments as well.

  

  

  

   

  

  




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Adventures In Life, Love, Health, Travel... & Puppies!: Puppy Progress - Week 1: How Do Your Puppies Grow?
Puppy Progress - Week 1: How Do Your Puppies Grow?
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Adventures In Life, Love, Health, Travel... & Puppies!
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