Emma normally lives with the Crowder family on Whidbey Island but their schedules became hectic. They knew that Emma wanted to have babies badly so we arranged that in late summer of 2013 Emma would come back here to her birth home (she had visited many times so it wasn't a complete shock) so she could be bred and have a litter. Emma had fun with her younger sister Castiel and cousin Elizabeth. They were a non-stop three-way wrestling match. When Emma went into season, she was bred to Kai (Grand River Kaibab), who has been living here at the Rain Mountain Slug Ranch since Labor Day of 2012. (Originally owned by my close friend Joyce Maley of Hurricane Chinooks, Kai came to live with me after Joyce sadly passed away in the summer of 2012.)
In the world of Chinooks, genetic diversity is very important. As we have analyzed the records and pedigrees and worked with Population Geneticists, we've discovered that there was a four-dog genetic bottleneck at one point in the background of the breed. For this reason we feel it is very important to breed as many bloodlines as possible, retaining as much genetic diversity as we can. Emma is one of only two daughters that her mother Lolo ever had out of her three litters, the other being her half sister Castiel, who also lives here with me. Kai has no siblings that have yet been bred either. So this litter will put the genes of each of them and their respective litters into our gene pool for for the first time allowing future generations of Chinook breeders access to them for other breedings and preventing their loss. Kai also introduces genes that are not common here in the West, which make his offspring attractive to other breeders.
(You can learn more about our efforts to maintain and even increase Chinook genetic diversity, the Chinook Pedigree Project, and the subsequent analysis resulting from it on the website of Dr. Carol Beuchat at www.instituteofcaninebiology.org/chinook.html.)
And Here They Are! -- The 1st Week of Life
Pups arrived right on schedule starting Monday evening December 16th, with a puppy showing up every hour or so before Emma and I took a long nap only to have a surprise pup show up at 6:30 the following morning. When she was done she had a total of five babies. Four of them weighed nearly a pound apiece at birth and one was a mere 6½ ounces. She ate steadily and gained a bit of weight but not at the rate her siblings did. They were nearly double their birth weights by Thursday evening where she had not yet gained two ounces. Sometime during the night Thursday night or Friday morning she died. (She will be buried here at the Slug Ranch in the special graveyard we have for our newborns.)
Since this is the Cosmic Litter, names come from planets and constellations. So our boys are Mercury and Sol and our girls are Venus and Luna. Sol is tawny with a bit of black that will probably fade and Mercury, Luna, and Venus are all dark golden, the same color at birth that Emma is now.
Week 2 - Just How Fat Can a Pup Get?
(Left, Kaibab sneaks a peek at his new children. Castiel is in the background also trying to get a look.) Emma has such rich milk that the pups have set new records for gaining weight. When they do gain so much weight so fast, this can lead to pups becoming what's called a "swimmer" where the chest flattens out from the pup being on its tummy too much. So I drove all over Stanwood and Smoky Point (that's not much as far as number of stores but is as far as miles I had to travel) looking for egg crate foam rubber big enough to line the whelping box. The vet told me it would force the pups to roll around more instead of staying on their tummies. So their chests would receive less impact in the one position; instead they would be lying on both sides as well as on their rather rotund bellies and sometimes even on their backs. The egg crate would also give them a bit more exercise for early muscle development. And it's very comfortable for Emma while she's nursing them.
I feel so sorry for mom dogs when I see them with nothing but newspapers underneath. I once saw a video of how to raise puppies and from what I saw it was more how not to raise them. The mom had nothing more than newspapers under her from the time she started labor. The breeder took the pups away from the mom the moment she delivered them and did all the cleaning and drying herself, not allowing the mom dog to do anything at all. The pups were then kept on newspapers the whole time they were in the whelping box! This means they had no traction for their little feet which were falling out from under them simply as a matter of development. When they got old enough to eat, they were completely taken away from the mom and forcibly and abruptly weaned rather than letting the mom dog set the schedule herself. They were put into a wire bottomed pen where their feces and piddle would fall out through the bottom. Oh and I forgot to mention that all through this process from the time they were a week old, the breeder was tube feeding them because she didn't think the mom dog was feeding them enough. There was no attempt to see if the pups would take a bottle, which is what I do in these situations. Heck, I'll even offer a bottle to a well fed litter since it does a lot to strengthen the bonding of human and puppy. (No, I won't be bottle feeding the Cosmic Litter because they are too darned fat.) Lastly she didn't allow the other dogs in the family even to see the pups at all until they were eight weeks old. Heck, at this point they're about ready to leave!
So you can be assured that these pups will be raised differently. Emma has a comfortable bed both in the whelping box and next to it. I allowed her to be in control of her labor and delivery. In fact, I allowed her so much control that the first pup was born in Taga's bed back in my master bedroom walk-in closet while I was out in the main room of the house. I found it and Emma quickly and moved them to the whelping box in my office, which is now her private room while the pups are small. She will stay with them as long as she wants, then she will gradually separate from them starting with she will ask to go back to sleeping in the bedroom with me. When the pups start getting out of the whelping box I'll put them into a pen with a gate that Emma can jump but they can't get out of until they are much, much older. It will have a crate in it so they get a head start on crate training, and lots of toys of different kinds, shapes, and textures. To keep the toys from landing in poop piles or riddle puddles (can you say that three times very fast?), I hang them from the sides or the top of the pen. This teaches them to look up as well as to the sides.
Getting the rest of the dogs involved with raising the pups is am important part of their upbringing. By the time they leave here, puppies will definitely have good inter-dog manners thanks to old cranky dogs, boisterous younger dogs, friendly neighbor dogs, and so on through the litany of just about every sort of dog you could possibly encounter. Every safe dog that is, since I will do anything I need to do to keep the pups safe. We are out in the country and have wildlife all around us but after having the dogs here for five-plus years now, it's not often that anything dangerous comes inside our fenced five acres.
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.