I'll start with the puppies and how they have changed. The average 'rate' of growth has slowed down slightly, but in absolute terms there has actually been slightly more growth than the week before. Overall week 5 saw an extra 1.5kg of puppy appearing to take their combined weight to 9.2kg!
So the weight story continues much as before. Rose is powering ahead while George continues to slip further behind in absolute weight (but not worryingly so). We have had to resolve not to interfere when the others are treating George like a chew toy in playfights, having read that interfering with the natural hierarchy won't help, which fits with our own instinct on the subject. It can be hard to watch at times, but we expect George is going to grow up to be one tough cookie after weeks of being forced to fight above his weight class (besides it's not unknown that he's the one starting it!)
Their coats have also developed amazingly this week, especially George and Pati who seemingly overnight transformed into wiry, fluffy bundles!
9.2kg is, of course, a lot of puppy for a 7kg dog like to Leela to feed but thankfully, as I said in last weeks update, the pups are increasingly taking more and more to eating from a bowl in addition to Leela's milk. Several times each day we place a bowl of moistened, ground up kibble in with them and provided they're not too distracted by us, Leela, toilet roll tubes, each other, noises from outside, noises from inside......(well lots of things really), they do make a good dent in the portion. When we first introduced them to a soggy kibble mix at the age of 3 weeks old they did show a little interest in it, but the gusto with which they are now (occasionally) attacking more solid food underlines that we may have tried to start them too soon (as we had been worried about Leela nursing). Their teeth and jaws are definitely a lot stronger now, as evidenced by how it feels when they take too much interest in our fingers and toes.
Also, there was another clear sign that the pups are getting ready for more solids which came via Leela. One afternoon she was in with the pups letting them nurse (which she now has to do standing up as the pups are so big) when she threw up on the floor in front of them. Esther's initial reaction was to shout "quick, get them away from it" but I recalled something I had seen online about mum dogs doing this to encourage the pups to eat. Sure enough, in seconds the pack descended and began tucking into Leela's second hand dinner of kibble, chicken and vegetables (they especially seemed to like the pak choi). Then, about part way through Leela decided they'd had enough, growled and they retreated from the pile which she then finished of herself. It really was very natural and beautiful, in a slightly sticky way.
It had been clear for a few days towards the end of week 4 that the pups didn't have enough space and that the high sided cardboard pens were difficult for Leela to get in and out of. So, on managing to find a shop selling a large dog crate and after borrowing a sturdy pen from friends, we overhauled the puppy space. The result was a much bigger area that made it far easier for Leela to get into the puppies and, perhaps more important, out when the marauding furballs charging at her teats got a little too much. We also added a high box that she could jump onto for some rest but still stay near to the puppies. It really does seem to have transformed her willingness to come and go. Sitting upstairs we'll hear some squeaking and scuffling and know she has popped in for a quick feed.
Other changes include her playing with them, running around and mouthing them before jumping away so they can chase her while on the flip side she is also meting out stiff discipline. If Leela has had a little too much attention or just wants to eat her own food in peace then a very scary growl and occasional nip (which terrifies us to watch, but we're trying to let her be natural with them) usually sends them back to bed to sit quietly. However, if one puppy doesn't get the message or continues to (for example) use her tail as a chew toy after a warning then the nip gets harder and that seems to work. Already we have seen them treating Leela slightly less as a walking milk bar and more as a senior dog that needs some respect and distance at times.
In other news the puppies have met lots of new people this week with in excess of 20 new humans coming to say hello. We've also been expanding their world with play sessions in different areas and exposure to new smells and noises. We've also tried to get them used to being in smaller groups, taking them to different areas in twos and three and always mixing up the groupings. Hopefully in the weeks ahead we can start taking them outside a little, although not on the ground just yet until they get their first vaccinations.
For us, we just do our best to keep up with the pace of change. We also try where we can to let our own instincts guide us as to how best to support Leela since looking online rarely leads to a conclusive answer. There just seem to be so many elements of puppy care that are hot topics of debate, that the best advice for us is "read the situation". It's all well and good that one person did 'x' while another did 'y', but that doesn't mean either is suitable for Leela and her pups right now.
We also had to get our heads around the idea that with such a fast pace of change that these tiny, cute puppies that we've fallen in love with won't stay this way forever. Already one family has expressed a desire to offer one of the puppies a home and although it is still many weeks away (due to pet passport laws dictating when they can leave Spain), and while it is great news, it did, still come as a shock. Especially in the past week as they have started to play and interact more with us and each other, the idea of them growing up and leaving isn't something we at first enjoyed thinking about. However, then meeting and speaking with people who are considering giving them a home, it's clear to see how much the puppies would be loved and well cared for. (We'll write more about this as it's too hard to capture all the thoughts and emotions about this part of the puppy journey in one paragraph).
What is has done, however, is helped to remind us that they are growing up very fast and that while we are their guardians we should try and enjoy every single moment as it is and not get too lost in worries about the practical difficulties or future scenarios.
Finally, this past week has also seen us further overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the community here in San Jose. This time at the local quiz, a raffle had been organised and the proceeds given to us to help with puppy costs. As they approach 6 weeks the first of their vaccinations is due (and as we plan to find them homes outside of Spain it means we are looking at 4 vaccinations, a microchip, a passport and travel certification and a few other things per pup before we even cross the border) along with the standard 'running costs' and equipment we've bought such as cages and pens. So it is a massive help that the community are showing their love and kindness in ways like this. That people had worked so hard to arrange the raffle, that people had donated prizes and then taken part in the raffle just to help with the puppies meant an awful lot to us. The winning quiz team, even named 'Leela' this time, also donated their winnings once more as well as the continual newspaper drop offs (being pooled from the nearby campsite as well) plus other help. We're sure Leela and the pups can feel the love and support too, they've certainly enjoyed meeting lots of the people we know.
Once again, thank you everyone for your support and encouragement.