This time, the ‘other things I had to do’ all felt considerably more important than this blog.
This time I was kept from posting by Szóda and her litter of eight healthy puppies.
Szóda whelped the puppies on the 11th of January, and this is the first chance I’ve had to write about it. And I’ve been dying to write about it.
It was a life experience, and I don’t use that phrase lightly here. I have lived to see a dog give birth. Like psychedelics, sex, or salsa lessons, you’ve either been through it or you haven’t.There are those who may chastise me for allowing Szóda’s accidental pregnancy, but…
Well, you’re right. This is normally the kind of thing you want to plan – in detail. So I’ll be the first to admit, I screwed up a little bit. But we did want puppies eventually, and it’s not like Szóda will have to drop out of school and study for the GED while nursing.
Still, I knew that I had dropped the ball when I caught Szóda and the sire – who I like to call Mitt – in the act on the lawn outside the house in Leányfalu. Mitt is a neighborhood dog who has shown some affection for Szóda in the past. He’s a medium sized muscular black dog – looks to be mostly Lab. When I stepped outside, Mitt was on top of Szóda, and all the equipment was firmly in place.
In my defense, I thought Szóda was finished with the receptive stage of her cycle. She was not. She was receptive… or receiving or whatever you want to call it. Both her and Mitt knew, however, that I didn’t like what I was seeing. Mitt quickly changed his mind about what he was doing, and turned to run down the hillside.
Now, I’m no dog-breeding expert. I don’t have me one of them fancy degrees in dog-breed-ology, but I saw something right then that I don’t think many lay-people are familiar with. Dogs can’t simply pull out (you’ll forgive the phrase). When Mitt went running down the hill, he took Szóda with him. Szóda, for her part, was trying to run toward me, but Mitt had the hill and a bit more towing capacity. It was an odd sight, to be sure.
Over the next few weeks I watched Szóda for any signs of pregnancy. I didn’t really know what to look for, but I figured her appetite would change or her energy level would fluctuate. Nothing. So five weeks later, when we left for the holidays and had to board her, I didn’t think to mention anything to the kennel. The only reason that (poor) decision didn’t end in disaster is that our kennel is run by the kindest, most wonderful animal lovers in the whole of Hungary. They contacted a vet and got Szóda an ultrasound. Pregnancy confirmed.We returned from Florida on a Sunday. First thing, we got the name of a good vet who does house calls, picked up the dog, and got ready for the big day. While we waited, we read up on whelping puppies. We didn’t have to wait long.
Szóda stopped eating on Thursday. We knew from our reading that was a sign. The next day she was sniffing around the house. That was the next sign. Then at about 5:00pm, she started panting. It would be soon. I was alone in the apartment, but when I called Dóra, she told me she’d be there right away.
The first puppy was whelped before Dóra got home. Initially it looked like Szóda wanted to do this on the floor near the heater. She was whining a little and seemed confused about what was happening. She shifted between lying down, sitting, and the different poses she strikes while going to the bathroom. Her ears were pinned back. She seemed afraid I was going to scold her. I started petting her and reassuring her that she was a good dog, and that’s when I saw it. From between her hind legs there was a foggy translucent bubble pushing its way out.
I started panting. I had read about what I would have to do if things went wrong. It all sounded very complicated. I just kept hoping Szóda’s instincts would do the job. My hopes seemed misplaced when Szóda moved from her spot on the floor to her ottoman. (Yes, we bought Szóda an ottoman. She likes to sit how people sit.) She jumped up and got situated.
I didn’t like the look of things. The way she laid down meant the puppies would be born into this world only to tumble off the side of a piece of IKEA furniture. So I squatted down beside Szóda and held out my hands. I felt like I was behind home plate.
The first puppy fell into my palms around 6:00pm. It was still inside the placenta, but Szóda got to licking and nibbling, and soon there was a wet puppy taking its first breath. While the puppy struggled out of my hands and onto the upholstery, Szóda ate the placenta and the umbilical cord. This was surprisingly less gross than I had thought it would be. She licked everything up and then went about cleaning the pup.Dóra got home to see the second puppy arrive. The next five were easier than the first.
The seventh was on the small side, and somehow I convinced myself that the runt was always the last one whelped. I thought I must have read it somewhere, because it sounded so reasonable. You ever do that? Make up some kind of fact and then decide it’s true without any real world evidence? I do it all the time.
Anyway, I was wrong. By the time the vet came over, there was an eighth, and when the exam was over, he told us a ninth was on the way. By 10:00pm the whelping was over, and it was doggie day-care time. Nine puppies and one tired bitch.The runt wasn’t strong enough to make it, but the other puppies are getting bigger every day. They are starting to walk – kind of. They wobble up into this bow-legged stance and stumble around. Of course it’s all unreasonably cute. We’re enjoying it. There are homes for most of the pups already. We’re going to keep one. That was the plan all along. When we decide which one, I’ll write something about that.