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Say hello to Lightnin', the only member of the Storm Litter
When Hurricane Elizabeth
in the Rain came to me, her original breeder, Joyce Maley of
Hurricane Chinooks, was dying of cancer. Joyce was one of my
oldest friends in the world of Chinooks and I owed her a lot of favors
over the years, both as a breeder and as a friend. When an earthquake
in the Seattle area in 2001 was cause of death of my computer while I
was home on medical leave after a gravel truck ran into me, the next
day Fed Ex rang my door bell with a new PC, courtesy of Joyce who
simply said she needed to be able to email me. that's the kind of
person she was. So when she was dying, I was devastated. I distracted
myself by only taking in Elizabeth and Kai and not her other twenty
Chinooks. It was probably a good thing that she was 3,500 miles away in
South Carolina or I would have wanted to take them all in here at the
But it only seemed right
that Elizabeth's first litter be a "Hurricane - Rain" litter like many
others that Joyce and I had bred together. (Elizabeth's mother Mercury
was from just such a litter.) No way was I going to presume to put my
kennel name first. After all, Joyce had won ten out of sixteen Best of
Breed awards at our Chinook National Specialties. I doubt that
anyone will ever touch that record again.
So Elizabeth was to be the dam and the next step was to pick the best sire. Since she was closely linebred on Joyce's Hurricane bloodline, I wanted to find a male with divergent genes from hers. Our Chinook Pedigree Program publishes just such a list of the most divergent mates for each dog of breeding age, so I went to this source and started looking. I like to do natural breedings when I breed a female for the first time and luckily there were many good choices in the Northwest. Elizabeth then surprised us and cycled quickly to the fertile stage when she went into season, so we had to use a stud that we could get to quickly. I had been very impressed with the quality of pups produced in the Hundred Acre Woods Litter sired by Moonsong Never Cry Wolf (aka Peter), so he was chosen. If his sons Mowich and Shooter (mom was my girl Lolo) were any example, Peter produced gorgeous sons.
Elizabeth's pregnancy was uneventful other than her normal ravenous appetite went into hyperdrive. All manners and training went out the window and she began an assault on all things edible or even close to being so. We added child- (and dog-) proof latches to the cupboard where the trash can is kept and made sure not to leave things out on the kitchen counter even though she's not left in the house unsupervised. But mealtimes still had her attempting to climb on our laps to eat right off our plates unless we gave her warnings in severe sounding voices. those behaviors are NOT TOLERATED here at the Slug Ranch. Temperatures were in record-breaking highs as well, with a long string of days over 90. June was the hottest ever recorded. Some places in the country you may be saying "So what?" But no one here has air conditioning; I think the statistic is one out of six homes at the most and our house isn't one of the "one." But we could see that she wasn't going to have a big litter by the time she was in her sixth week. She was definitely pregnant but not getting huge like other girls had. An x-ray a few days before she was due confirmed that there was one or perhaps two pups. I was going to disappoint a lot of people.
I was concerned that her labor and delivery would be rough because the pup(s) looked so big on the x-ray but that wasn't to be the case. Elizabeth started a quiet whining dinnertime on Wednesday (though she did eat!) and kept it up most of the next 24 hours, napping a bit overnight, alternating with jumping up on the bed next to me to ask for belly rubs. The next day I was nervous leaving for work but brought work home late afternoon. Elizabeth was fine and still pregnant and whining. Finally that evening I noticed her getting quiet and starting to strain in one of the dog crates in my bedroom. I had to put a leash on her to get her to move to the whelping box set up in my office. It was in the nick of time as Lightnin' was born just as she stepped into the whelping box. Big sigh of relief! I stayed up with her for about half of the night, then slept on the cot in the office with her just to make sure there wasn't another pup, since the x-ray had been ambiguous. But no, Lightnin' was to be an only child.
I don't know if I've ever seen a puppy grow as fast as Lightnin' but then, most pups have competition from littermates. Lightnin's only "littermates' are a stuffed gorilla, monkey, pig, lion, and rabbit. Luckily we have enough dogs here that he'll get a lot of exposure despite the lack of littermates but even so, I'll try to find another litter in the area that he can have play session with. All of that will come much later though. for now Lightnin' is only focused on eating and sleeping and the occasional bath from his mom.
None of these photos really show just how gorgeous his big blocky head truly is. He is a very substantial pup. Of course Elizabeth, though not a large Chinook, has a very nice head and a gorgeous build herself. So if her son gets the male version of her head, I will be very pleased.
Most of the first week of
life is spent eating and sleeping, often with the latter overtaking him
while he's doing the former. While sleeping we can watch him twitching
as his neurological development completes. The oxytocin in the room
makes my office so very peaceful. Elizabeth is a very calm mother and
doesn't mind Toketie, Taga, and Kai coming in as long as they aren't
too close to the whelping box but we're holding back the Moonsong pack
of mom dogs (Chili, Faethe, Cornelia Marie) and wanna-be moms (Wink and
Mouse). Elizabeth still figures she needs to grovel everytime she
leaves the nursery; Chili, Faethe, and Cornelia Marie helped raise her
so she thinks of them all as her mothers and she's a submissive dog in
general. I try to tell her that she's important now that she is a mom
but that doesn't matter to her. As long as she can lord over Toketie,
that's enough for her.
(Eyes Open - Days 15 to 21)
During the second week of
life on Days 8 through 14, the normal litter of pups continues to be a
sack of potatoes, lying around nestled up against their mom, nursing,
snoozing and twitching, then nursing again while mom washes them
carefully to make sure that they are going potty regularly (they have
to be stimulated to piddle and poop at this age). But normal litters
have more than one puppy in them and those puppies are not as huge as
Let's compare two litters. On the left are the 2013 Rain Mountain 100 Acre Wood Litter (think Winnie the Pooh), with a different mom but the same dad as Lightnin'. There were six pups in this litter. Mom dog Lolo is a bigger girl than Lightnin's mom Elizabeth. But compare them in size to Lightnin' on the right. See the difference having one puppy in a litter makes to having six?As an adult, Lightnin' will probably be the same size as the pups from the 100 Acre Wood. I see the pups known as Owl and Pooh Bear often and they are both big dogs, with Pooh Bear an exceptionally big guy. But they started out as just average size pup.
Lightnin' was so fat that we had to be careful that he didn't turn into what is known as a Swimmer Pupppy. This is when a puppy is so fat and they sleep on their belly all the time that their soft rib bones tend to flatten out. If it isn't taken care of right away, it can cause great problems later in life. So when we felt the very first signs of Lightnin's ribs flatnening out and were seeing him spending too much time on his belly with his front legs splayed out straight in front or to the sides (hence the name "swimmer"), we immediately took the simple step of taping his front legs together for a few days. It was simply paper tape cuffs with stronger adhesive tape between them. It was just enough to get him in the habit of lying on his side. It also helped him to start sitting up and toddle around a bit. We already had him on "egg crate" foam mattress to help prevent this and kept many toys in the whelping boy for him to encounter and have to climb over; we added a few small pillows so he would have to exercise even more. By the time the tape came off, he didn't need it again. He was still a big boy but the danger of his becoming a Swimmer Puppy had passed.
Once his eyes were open, Lightnin' was off and toddling. Walking was a challenge since his fat belly was difficult to get off the ground but by the end of the third week, he was doing the drunken sailor swagger for a few steps at a time before falling over. Even before that he mysteriously was able to get from the living room where dog beds to the dining room rug one day while I was in my office for a few minutes. On the days I was working at home, I would set him out in the living room where we have a pile of dog beds where the adult dogs spend the evenings while we humans eat dinner, watch TV, and read. for Lightnin', this is a big, exciting world.
Bottom Right Taga and center right Kai both check out their new pack mate
while Elizabeth cleans his nethers. Both males had already visited him in
the whelping box but wanted to make sure he was safe and not too
scared on his first trip out to the living room. He was about 17 days old.
At the end of Lightnin's second week of life, we had the annual Western Chinook Picnic here as we do every year. He was at such an age though that we couldn't let him meet all the visitors though so he and his mom had to stay in the nursery while everyone else enjoyed the picnic. He did get to meet a few choice friends at a distance though, such as longtime Chinook breeder Susan Fletcher, who was enchanted with his large head, and good friend Tessa Thomas, who stayed with us for a few days and took many of the following photos for us.
Copyright © Ginger Corley, Rain Mountain Chinooks, 1988 to present. No material may be reproduced without permission, though permission is usually granted. Logo by Susan Fletcher, Frontier Chinooks, used here with permission and much appreciation of her great talent.