Spears' story is a bit different. We expected Spears to give birth a few days after India. She was bred to Carbon, also from Brent Sass. While her belly didn't get nearly as swollen as India's, we attributed this to the fact that she was probably just having a small litter. But over a week passed, and we started to doubt ourselves, and Spears. She was producing milk, but that could also be attributed to a false pregnancy. This would explain the small belly, too...
The average canine gestation period is generally around 63 days. At 70 days, we finally decided we were going to take Spears out of the puppy pen and put her back with the adult dogs in the yard. Jeff left for work, planning to do this when he got home. Then I finally saw the signs of delivery. Spears dug several deep holes in the pen, but couldn't seem to get comfortable enough to lay down for long in any of them. She turned her nose up at breakfast. She growled at my mom, in town for a visit, when she passed by on her way to the outhouse. At first we all felt relieved, and excited. Then we got nervous.
What if the pups had been inside the mom for too long? There was a real chance they would not come out alive. The thought saddened us, and we began to think of how we should let this new mom receive her quiet babies, if that's what they were to be. There was a good chance she would try to eat them if left alone. Should we allow that? But how would she feel if they were taken away?
From inside the mobile home, I watched her squat, and push, hovering her tail over one of her deepest holes. "She's not going to lay down," I thought. "She's going to drop that pup right into that hole." Quietly I walked outside and approached the pen. Spears and I have a good relationship. She didn't growl or puff up at me, but I kept my distance (at first). It's often hard to be both respectful and curious! I was looking for life in those puppies.
When he finally came, he was HUGE. I knew immediately he may be the only one in there because he was the size of three newborn puppies combined. Spears did indeed drop him into her hole, and he lay there entirely motionless, completely coated in a thick, mucus-y sac. Spears went to work quickly, licking and tugging at the sac. I felt impatient for her to lick the sac away from his face; eager to see his body move as he inhaled, or hear him make a little puppy squeaking sound. Finally she pulled the sac away from his mouth, very gently with her teeth, and he took a breath.
|Red at 8 weeks|
By this time, India's group had been dubbed The Mines, taking their names from existing mines, proposed mines, and mining districts in Alaska. There's Knox, Kenzie, Pogo, Pebble, Polar, Forty and Ambler. And Spears' puppy (yes, there was only one) ended up fitting into this theme nicely, too. We named him Red, for his beautiful color, and as a nod to the Red Dog Mine in northwest Alaska.
|Forty and Pogo|
Both Spears and India were doing a fabulous job with their young pups. But two things were clear: Hyper-personality India was going to have her hands full as an inexperienced mom with seven little ones. And also, even-keeled Spears was underwhelmed by her single responsibility. So we tried something we hadn't before. We took India's two smallest puppies, and gave them to Spears. As we suspended our hands above her nose, clutching the puppies, it was a tense moment. We wondered if she would snatch them and tear them to pieces before we could stop her. But she didn't. She sniffed them, and nuzzled them, and when we lay them at her belly, next to their new brother, Red, she licked them and encouraged them to nurse. From that day on, Spears has raised Polar and Pebble as her own, and Red's close bond with each of them is touching.
This mom-sharing took on new levels of wonderment as the puppies grew older and everyone started to play and go for walks together. While aggressive at first, the two moms eventually learned to trust each other and share their babies, each nursing whomever happened to wander over!
|Here we come! Red leads the charge. |
White puppies are Polar and Pebble. Grey puppy is Kenzie.
These days, the pups have reached their 8 week mark, and do not need to nurse any longer. But they still do -- now all from Spears. India has had it with sharp puppy teeth and is happy to be back in the adult yard. Meanwhile, the puppies all live together in one pen now, and Spears is in another. But twice a day, the pups and Spears enjoy a walk in the woods around our property. They love to attack her for milk when they get thirsty, and she still seems to enjoy it, too.