Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Milen's Merrehope Mesmerize
(pictured at nine months)

Milen's High Steppin

Well, as you know, puppies are here. Since Ashley didn't take last time it didn't seem prudent to get hopes up until it was obvious she was pregnant. Then 'everything' happened and blogging went by the wayside.

If you remember the first time, Ashley was bred to Kurt, a lovely sable/white. However this time around it didn't work out because of holiday and work schedules, so instead she was bred to 'Frank' a most lovely blue merle that Helen has. I was ecstatic, because blue merles are my favorites in the collie colors. Although any color looks good on a collie, in my very prejudiced opinion.
In order to produce blue merles though Ashley would have to carry the 'tri-factor' (which is the black/white/tan color). It was possible she did, but something you can't know until they whelp.

So the big day arrived last Saturday, after a long sleepless night for Ashley and me, as she became more restless by the hour. Morning brought only more restlessness and attempts to get her settled in her whelping box were futile. Around noon I decided to put her outside and walk around with her, hoping it would help things move along. After a bit I brought her back into the house, and she immediately ran to her doggie bed in the back room, lay down and started pushing. Since she was finally doing her thing, I just ran and got the 'ob' kit, and a stack of towels and came back to where she was.

Within a few minutes she was finally pushing a puppy out. Unfortunately it was breech (which is fairly common in dogs, but the puppy needs to come out quickly so it won't aspirate fluids) and rather large. It took a bit to help Ashley work the pup out and by the time it was born, at 1:10 p.m.the puppy was non responsive and wouldn't breathe. Fortunately Helen had given me 'pep talks' and told me to work on puppies even when it seemed hopeless. Within a few minutes of vigorously working with the pup, she gasped and squealed. And squealed and squealed. Did you know that new born pup squealing sounds like a cat on crack? (Not that I know by experience what that sounds like, but can only imagine....). I cannot even tell you what this did to the emotional level of the resident multiple cats!

Fortunately Ashley was agreeable at this point to move to her whelping box, so, with puppy in hand and coaxing Ashley and being swarmed by, uh, multiple cats we made it to the whelping cage.

The cats were going nuts. Meowing and running around. Meshach demanded--loudly-- to be let in so he could take care of the squalling baby. Both he and Sage tried to pull me through the fence when I had my back near it.

There was no time to counsel kitties though, beyond a few distracted 'it's okay kitties' which they obviously didn't believe.

In case I didn't mention it, the first puppy was a she and tri-color--but the possibility of blue merles never crossed my mind again, as things went rapidly downhill from an already rocky start.

The next puppy was even larger and also breech. All the puppies were over a pound each---which is abnormally large for a collie pup. This one took forever to work out even though I tried everything. I knew it was taking too long and when he was finally born, he never came out of it, despite working on him for a long time. It was a large perfectly marked sable male and he was born around 1:45 p.m.

At that point I was feeling pretty upset and overwhelmed. Ashley was content to lay around and lick on her puppy, with no sign of further contractions. Finally a little before 3 p.m. she started pushing again and another large puppy presented, this time head first, but with one tiny paw out as well. The sac broke and the puppy was moving around, gasping for air but she was wedged tight...and I do mean tight. I worked and worked and Ashley pushed and pushed and nothing..except the puppy became quieter and quieter. Finally I made Ashley stand up and after a bit that seemed to help resolve the impasse and finally the puppy popped out. It was 3:10 and she also was not breathing or responsive. I couldn't even believe it, but doggedly kept working on her and finally she gasped and squeaked. Yes! This one was a pretty sable merle with a full white collar.

Then it seemed we were done. Ashley had some chicken noodle soup and the babies eventually figured out how to nurse with a little guidance.

Helping puppies being born is terrifying---nothing like the lambs that is for sure--and that can be nerve wracking enough! While working with the sheep helped me know 'the basics' of what needed to be done, the puppies are so tiny and there is really nothing you can grab on and pull in fear that you will injure them.

Two hours after her last pup, I gave her a shot of oxytocin, certain she was done. At 6 p.m. she had contractions and very quickly popped out a pup with no assistance from me! In fact I had just hung up the phone after talking to Helen, when I realized that Ash had another pup. Unfortunately she was more interested in the afterbirth and the sac was still firmly encasing the pup. Quickly tearing the sac and cleaning the nose, I took the pup up and rubbed it briskly and just as quickly got that satisfying gasp and squeak. This was a nice big tri-color with a 'broken' white collar (white on the back of her neck and chest but not all the way around her neck). Yes, it was another girl born at 6:10 p.m.

A little later as Ashley lay stretched out with the babies nursing I noticed a very large 'lump' still in her belly. Shortly thereafter she started having light contractions which went on for quite some time.

Finally at 8:03 p.m. in another quick whoosh the last puppy was born, unassisted. Repeat of the sac as above but also quickly responsive. The final puppy was another large sable merle girl.

Let's just say it was a long day. Yes, all four surviving puppies are girls!

There was very little sleep that night either, as apparently newborn puppies can be very noisy. Who knew that four pounds of little puppies can sound like a whole pack of coyotes? At each yelp or scream or yodel I would stagger in there to make sure they were okay.

I think they may have been a little too cool, despite the heating pad in the whelping box. Or maybe this is just normal, I don't know. They have settled down a little, but being a puppy ain't for sissies. I've never seen such dramatics at the 'milk bar' let alone all the yodeling and yelping and humming. Yes, they hum. Apparently this is normal and a good sign.

So not much sleep Friday night, little to none Saturday night, marginally more on Sunday night, interspersed between the yelping and crying. By Monday I was zonked. Then I realized that the first born Tri girl was losing ground. I knew she wasn't thriving as well as the others by Sunday, and she progressively was looking thinner and her coat was duller not to mention that her body temp was cooler than the others.

Monday morning I called Helen to ask her what she thought I needed to do. As I feared it was 'tube feed her'. Yikes. I had boughten a can of goat's milk to have on hand for something like this and was instructed to half it with water. Helen had given me a puppy sized feeding tube 'just in case' so with no excuses left, I went to work.

First I had to dig around in the sheep supplies and find a larger syringe, then heat up four ccs of the milk. Attached the tube, removed the air bubbles and went and got the unsuspecting puppy. Laying her on her belly on a towel, I proceeded to measure and mark the tube to the length of her tummy and then thread it down her throat praying it wouldn't end up in a lung. It actually went fairly easily, and every two hours after that I tubed her. Helen called back and we increased the formula to six ccs (she had consulted with her vet on the complicated figuring of needed ccs compared to her body weight (which by then was down to 9.9 ounces).

Through that day and night she was on two hour feedings. By the next morning she was much stronger and starting to hold her own at the milk bar. By noon I was able to start increasing the time to three hours and now a day later up to four hours. She has gained two ounces over the last two days. I hope she continues to gain and thrive. She is now much more vocal and physically fights the tube. (Puppies have no gag reflex at first so it is 'easy' to thread the tube down their throats).

So that has been the first five days. A few catnaps here and there and I'm doing a little better. We aren't out of the woods by any means, as there is always the danger of Ashley laying on the pups and accidentally killing them as well as continuing to tube the little tri. But I've got to settle down and quit my constant hovering and worrying. I've done what I can--and can only pray for a positive outcome.

I'll be glad when they are a few weeks old and able to move about better. Right now they are so helpless--but definitely fighters! They are blind and deaf at this stage, but they sure do allot of sniffing!

I hope to get pictures posted later this week of each of them. And yes, the deal is that I get to keep one of them--although I won't be sure who until after Helen does her assessments and decides who her keepers will be. We have someone anxiously awaiting a tri-color girl as well. (A 'repeat' customer whose older collie died etc.) Keeping myself from getting attached will be know how I am!

And to clarify, a sable merle is a sable that also carries the merle gene, which explains why the sable looking pups have little brown dots on them. It's more noticeable in their faces and tails which almost carry a 'blue' cast. As the puppy ages most of the merling will fade and blend so that they will look like a regular sable for the most part. However sable merles like the blue merles can have partial to all blue eyes or the more typical brown eyes.

Prayers for their safety are much appreciated.

The kitties were so exhausted and traumatized after their long day on Saturday that they resorted to 'pile sleeping' behind the stove....(there are four of them)


Michelle said...

Oh dear, I'm sorry to hear it was not smooth sailing for you, Ashley and the pups! But it sounds like you've done a most excellent job and have someone to lean on for expert advice; will pray that they go "from strength to strength."

Nancy K. said...

What a traumatizing, but ultimately joyful, series of events! Great Mid-wifery there, Tammy! My neighbors used to call me to help out when ever their dog had puppies. I don't remember it being that difficult. Is that common with collies? It's a good thing that Ashley has such a wise and attentive Mom! I'm sorry for the loss of the little boy, but thrilled that you have four, lovely girls. Just wait until they're big enough to torment the cats...


I'll keep you and your precious Ashley & pups in my prayers. I hope you get a good night's sleep!

I need orange said...

What a scary time!

It sounds like you did a very good job in a very tough situation.

Sending good vibes for peacefully thriving baybeez!

Louise said...

I had no idea that birthing pups was such an ordeal, for you, Ashley and the cats. Thank goodness you know what to do and kept your cool while doing it. I hope that you can get some rest now, but, I must admit that I will be anxiously awaiting individual pictures of the pups.

Vicki Lane said...

Whew! What a story! Hoping all goes smoother now.

Tammy said...

I don't think births of this nature are common in collies, usually they do just fine. HOWever...Ashley's pups were overly large--all weighing over 1 lb with the biggest at 1 lb 4 ounces. Thats pretty big--more typically they are under a pound from 9 ounces and up. I'm not sure exactly what caused this but I suspect it was a combination of events. Ashley herself has a 'weight' problem, and when the weather is nasty (i.e. muddy, snowy, rainy etc.) it's like pulling teeth to get her out and about. Factor in the big snows and all around nasty weather of January/February and she likely didn't get near the exercise she needed. Then we lost Boone, and that contributed to her laying about in a depressed state. Had she whelped later in the Spring or Summer she would have been much more toned and the puppies most likely would not have been so huge. Obviously somewhere along the line she was also overfed, when I didn't take into consideration her 'airfern' status. Anyway, this is what I think happened...

Kathy said...

ALL of you - you, all the kittie aunties and uncles, Ashley, pups - everyone are in my prayers for continued improvements!
And may YOU be able to get some rest through all the din. I know Boone is watching and would be very, very proud of you.
You GO, Girl!

phylliso said...

I completely missed this post.Wow,what a time you had with poor Ashley.Poor Tammy too! But you made it happen,bless your heart,you did an excellant job,I`ll bet Helen is glad to have you,phyllis