I woke up last Tuesday, July 5th to Zen, tap dancing around on my legs, in the full size bed of guest bedroom I was sharing with her. Even though her enormous Dura-Whelp whelping box was all set up and ready, she preferred the bed… ’cause, well, who could blame her? Besides… she’s borzoi. They seem to be born feeling entitled to ownership of some of the furniture real estate… especially the comfy spots! So, yeah. Zen had shared the bed with me the previous couple nights, sleeping on my legs like my own bitch Mimi does, at home. But the difference here was there was a big waterproof blanket between Zen and me.
I was very glad of that fact! As I was groggy enough to feel out of sorts, wondering for a second where I was, and how Mimi had gotten so HEAVY, it took me a second or two to realize her water had broken. The show was about to begin.
First Journal Entry: 7/5 7:10am Water Broke
(Yay for waterproof blankets!)
As I watched Rita make her first entry on the first page of the notebook she’d set aside for this purpose, I tried to wake up, and ask her some good questions. After all, this was the first whelping I’d ever had the chance to attend, and in a few days I’d be here by myself with them. Although I had a lot of great reading resources from Avidog, I’m a person who really prefers the hands-on experience, and I didn’t want to miss a thing.
“So, what happens now? How long until we see a puppy?” I asked.
Rita prepared her supplies, while she filled me in. I found out that, once the water broke, serious contractions would begin soon. In Zen’s case, contractions began in earnest at 7:25am, and Rita logged it. We knew could expect the first puppy within a few minutes after that up to 4 hours. Any longer than that was a medical emergency. Fortunately for us, there was no emergency. I didn’t even have time to ask many more questions before the first puppy landed in Rita’s hands.
7:49am #1 Girl.
So it began.
One of the things that surprised me about the process was Rita’s meticulous level of note-taking. Did we really need to know which puppy was born in the placenta, and which wasn’t? Which had it’s umbilical still attached? Is it crucial to know what placenta textures were like, or whether or not Zen ate ate them? Was it important to note the exact times of each set of major contractions, or the time when each puppy arrives? Facinated by the process, I just watched, helped where I could, and took it all in.
8:26am Temperature 102.2F
After that very first puppy, it seemed that hours and hours passed. Zen was down flat with contractions, then up and pacing, obviously stressed and uncomfortable. Anxiety built and built, and I was wondering how many hours would need to pass before the second arrived before it was an emergency. Two hours? Four? It seemed a lifetime. And then…
9:18am #2 Boy
Less than two hours passed between the first puppy, the second puppy, but – and here’s the kicker – time is subjective, especially when you’re under stress. Those two hours, from my perspective, seemed to take the better part of a day. If I didn’t have a way to tell time, or know when she started, I could have literally been panicking over nothing!
Once that second puppy made her debut, the rest of them started coming along pretty quickly.
9:46am #3 Girl
9:47am #4 Boy
10:29am #5 Girl
11:15am Zen started fussing and squirming, moving around her box rapidly. We put the pups in a basket with wrapped heating pad set for their for their comfort and safety, and took her for a quick walk on a leash. After a that little potty break, she was ready to get back to business.
12:06pm #6 Boy
12:34pm #7 Girl
12:50pm #8 Boy
A lot of breeders that breed for profit, rather than to improve the breed or put the highest quality animals out there skip a very important step in the neo-natal process – the pre-birth Xray. But that’s a bad idea, and this is a perfect example of why.
After the 8th puppy was born, Zen relaxed, grouped them all together and began nursing her litter. Contractions stopped. She gave every appearance of being done. A significant amount of time passed… and then?
1:49pm #9 Girl
Fortunately, Rita gets all her pregnant bitches Xrayed to get a feel for litter size and to screen for any possible obvious complications. Sometimes labor will cease, and a puppy will remain unborn, in the uterus. Without an XRay, you wouldn’t know to intervene, until the bitch was ill.
I’m one of those people who can be a little allergic to paperwork, but months of talking to Rita about what goes into planning for a litter, studying up on the Avidog materials, and observing this whelping session has really opened my eyes. Now, I have a good understanding of why detailed logging is so important.The more you know, the more weapons you have in your arsenal against the unexpected. This can mean life or death in a medical situation.
This is part – one of the many pieces in the puzzle – that separates breeders who breed truly excellent dogs from breeders that breed “good enough” dogs.