I’ve been trying to snap phone pictures each day, though I know I should be doing more photo-taking. I’d love to blame being busy, but the fact is that when I start planning a big beautiful individual photo shoot I get a little hitch in my brain from just plain worry. I’ve been scared for these babies so many times over the last days that I don’t want to hex myself by declaring that all is well.
Fortunately, I think at this point it is only that – worry. Not real anymore. When the babies hit their two-week birthday they seemed to decide to thrive, and the last 48 hours have been wonderful. I’m regularly bottling only the tiniest (Despereaux) to give him a little kick of calories (he’s 1 lb 3.4 oz today, which means he’s tripled his birth weight and that’s fantastic, but of course that’s still small for 16 days and we need to make sure he doesn’t get behind); Daisy Poppy is handling the rest as long as I fill everyone up once a day. The biggest are closing in on two pounds now. They are transitioning into pan feedings with great glee and everybody’s digestive system is working well. Eyes popped yesterday and were fully open today on all nine, and they suddenly want to be dogs. They’re busy and purposeful and sweet.
The real hero, of course, is Daisy Poppy. She’s got to be the most giving bitch I’ve ever known. I’m used to these terribly efficient, brisk bitches who pop out babies and raise them with enormous aplomb. Clue is usually sleeping out of the whelping box by the time her babies are three or four days old; she’ll hop in and feed them prodigiously and then hop back out again. Juno loves her kids but you can tell she’s waiting for them to grow up enough to play. Daisy Poppy has had more crap with this litter than I’d ever want to go through again, but she ADORES them.
At sixteen days she’s still in the box every minute except when she’s out walking or if I force her out to go take a nap on my bed. She sleeps with her head buried in a pile of puppies, breathing in their bellies.
She’s also, very touchingly, decided that I’m the other one who raises them. She does all the spooky “Lassie” things that you picture about dogs when you’re ten years old. She’ll ask me to check specific puppies; she’ll bark at me and repeatedly look at me and then stare at things until I open a door or lift down the water bowl or unlatch a gate. If something is not right – usually something to do with dogs at the door or maybe Bramble has come too close – she’ll run to me and insist that I come look. She understands everything I tell her or ask her, from “Do you need help to get in?” to “Don’t worry; I’m getting them their bottle.”
The one that kills me every time is that she still thinks she needs help to get in the box, though she could easily jump over the wall at this point. So she’ll come find me and huff at me until I get up and walk over, and then she smashes herself against the side of the box. She doesn’t stand up with her front feet on the box, the way dogs normally do when they need a boost to jump. No, she carefully puts her body parallel to the box, even if it means turning herself completely around and backing in, and then looks at me expectantly, so I can use both hands to lift her in super carefully and put her gently among the babies.
Best of all, I realized today that (aside from the days she was sick after whelping) she’s not looked worried in months. Asking a dog to transition homes at four is always difficult. But she never has anything now but that warm, soft, happy eye, usually slitted in total satisfaction as she licks baby tummies or peeks at them from my lap on the bed. She hums at them and gently turns them over and licks their faces for long minutes on end. If Clue and Juno are farm wives, able to change a diaper in fifteen seconds and kiss a cheek and stir a pot and plan the spring planting at the same time, Daisy Poppy is an aristocrat. Surrounded by nannies and looking to them for every move, quite exhausted by the birth, a little overwhelmed, too elegant to know all the lullabies, but also terribly deeply in love with these little miracles. As are we.