The pups birthdays has always been a difficult time of year for me as it marks the 10 day countdown until the anniversary of our first dog Travis' passing. It should get easier over time, it doesn't. The amount of times spent crying are less but there will always be a part of my heart that aches for him.
|Travis with Mollie in the background|
What is compounding it this year is that next month Mollie will be 11. Although she amazes everyone with her energy levels, she still behaves and looks pretty much like a two year old, the signs of old age are starting to show. All around her muzzle her fur is now starting to lighten. Our vets are amazed that she looks so good for her age. After all she has had some pretty traumatic incidents during her life, losing half her right ear on some barbed wire back in 2007 and in 2008 having an emergency spay due to her uterus showing pre-cancerous signs.
It is not that I love Mollie, Willow or Frankie any less, it is just by a cruel twist of fate he is not here with us still. He would have been 12 years old at the end of this month, instead he died a few weeks short of his third birthday. I am not going to lie and tell you Travis was an angel. He wasn't in fact at times he was so obstinate it was almost as if he was the spawn of the devil. Many a time he drove me to distraction with his behaviour, such as running off during a walk, back to the car when we were a mile away from it. I would arrive back in the car park only to find him in someone else's car refusing to get out or on one occasion asleep in the back of someone's horsebox.
We are lucky that we have his sister Mollie, the same parents but from the following years litter. Mollie is Willow and Frankies mum. So we have had the pleasure of breeding and delivering our own dogs into the world which is a special kind of privilege not many people get to experience. The memory of them being born will stay with me forever, after all 9 pups had been born I felt like I was walking on air. I think it's the closest I will ever get to the feelings new mums have, I was completely exhausted also as by the time I got to bed that night I had been awake for over 48 hours.
We had never considered breeding dogs until we got Mollie, Travis had been neutered as soon as we were able to because he humped everything in sight. He had his own Teddy which was his object of desire until they had a falling out and he removed all its stuffing. We were very lucky that we had good friends who had bred both Travis and Mollie, who could give us support and advice. Initially I spent hours on the Internet looking for a stud dog. In the end we found Arkwright who lived just outside Oxford. His owner was also incredibly knowledgeable, showing at Crufts (USA equivalent The Westminster Dog Show) and having previously held positions within The Weimaraner Club of Great Britain.
The mating is something I will never quite get over. I came home with a black eye after getting headbutted by an over amourous Arkwright. Mollie is slightly small for a female and Arkwright was larger than a standard male. Due to the size difference I had to hold Mollies back end up so he could perform his duties. Being so green to the world of dog breeding I had been under the naive impression that the dogs got on with it all by themselves. I didn't realise I was going to be so present at the conception. I then got a blow by blow account of what was going on by the owners husband, even telling me when Mollie had reached orgasm. There are some things you just don't want to hear. Every so often hubby will say " See if you feel her belly, you can feel her womb contracting, she having her orgasm now" which sends me into fits of laughter. Who knew dogs did that? I certainly didn't. It was like having sex education all over again and the embarrassment level was still as high!
|Arkwright & Mollie (at the back)|
I knew Mollie was pregnant within two days of the mating, many people will tell you it is far to early to tell but I just knew. Mollies behaviour changed dramatically, up until that point she had always been hubby's dog and Travis was mine. Suddenly she couldn't get enough of me and hubby was being given the cold shoulder. Also her nipples had flushed pink, the stud dog's owner told me it could be a phantom due to the mating but despite the warning my gut was telling me she was pregnant. There is no pregnancy test for dogs, the only way you know that they are pregnant for sure is either when they start to show (like a pregnant woman) or by taking them to the vets and having an ultrasound performed. My belief in her pregnancy did begin to waver as Mollie didn't start to show until quite late in her pregnancy. We had her booked in for an ultrasound but the day before we were due to take her to the vets, she woke up looking like she had swallowed a barrel and there was no mistaking it.
As the pups grew within Mollie's belly you could start to see them moving inside her. A friend of ours came around for a coffee one day and whilst she was stroking Mollie she said "I can really feel Mollies ribs", I moved her hand to have a look and said "no I think that's a bum or a head". I thought my friend was going to puke on the spot. I used to love seeing Mollie lying on her back with all the puppies squirming around. As they got bigger you could make out the difference between the heads and bums. I can't imagine what it is like to have nine squirming puppies in your belly but it never seemed to bother Mollie. She never slowed down at all during her pregnancy and never really ate much more than normal, despite all our attempts to up her calories.
The spare bedroom was transformed into a whelping room, dogs pregnancies are short around 63 days. We borrowed our friends whelping box in which both Travis and Mollie had been born. A heat lamp was hung from the ceiling and all that was needed was a bulb. Towards the end of Mols pregnancy I went off to source a bulb with our friend J who had bred our dogs. When I returned home a few hours later I found all the dogs bedding had been piled up in a heap on the floor. Being new to all this I had to ring J to ask her if this was a sign of early labour, she replied yes it was. I totally freaked out!
If I was freaked out it was nothing compared to hubby's reaction. I was working late that day so wouldn't be home until after 10pm. That meant that hubby was going to be left with a dog in labour from 5pm until I got home. I reassured him that dogs labours can last up to 48 hours and Mollie was still in the very early stages. I don't think he was entirely convinced but had he read any of the numerous books I had read about breeding dogs he would have known it to be true. Had Mollie's waters broken there would have been no way that I would have gone into work but that was a long way off yet.
Next week the birth ........