It was always planned; that late in the winter we would find a suitable mate for Evie, our little Jack Russell, with the idea that she should have puppies in the spring.
She is without doubt one of the nicest dogs I have ever met; a permanent companion, full of life, and one who will run for hours, although she is more than happy to also snooze in the sun. She will jump in the car to join me wherever I go and then she’ll sit quietly on the seat – so still you wouldn’t even know she was there. To anyone who does not know the ‘European’ Jack Russell, you can forget any stories you may have heard about over-excitable hyper-dogs; this brand of JR is anything but. In fact she is so popular that one puppy was sold long before it was even conceived, let alone alive and breathing!
Our romantic plans all went well and with much excitement the due day approached. But then disaster struck. Her first two puppies were stillborn at around 7am one morning as we roused the household for school. Much panic followed – we called the vet who didn’t answer, and the emergency line was no help either. Children needed breakfast and driving to school, Millie stayed behind to act as nurse (she learnt an awful lot that day by staying at home). There was still no answer from the vet but it was obvious Evie was going to have another puppy quite soon and so we hurriedly got our supplies ready – thin disposable gloves, sterilised scissors and plenty of old clean cloths. Then we waited. All we wanted was just one live puppy, and silently we said our prayers.
Around 10am the third puppy was born. It was still in its sac and Evie showed little interest. Millie took control, breaking the sac and clearing the tiny puppy’s face so the little thing could breath, and at this stage Evie’s maternal instincts finally kicked into place and she did the rest. Hurrah – we had saved one puppy and another quickly followed within ten minutes. Another healthy boy this time who did not need any human intervention.
The morning passed quickly, and because it was a Wednesday the children were all home by midday. I met them outside school grinning from ear to ear as we had two live puppies and I was quite sure there was another to come.
Sure enough, as we walked in the door, Millie met us with a “Be quick!”, and we all watched, scarcely able to breath, just hoping beyond hope that all would be well. Number three puppy was swiftly delivered, safe and sound. Evie was doing a fabulous job, but still none of them had suckled. It was time for a little ‘human help’ once more and slowly we held their tiny heads as we encouraged them to find a teat and start nursing. ‘Nurse Millie’ patiently helped each of them, and eventually they all took their first milk; another sigh of relief all round! The afternoon passed slowly and around 4pm a fourth healthy puppy was born, followed in quick succession by another. Within a couple of hours we had two more – seven healthy puppies, all of them nursing and all seemed well!
Millie put up a camp bed in the study and decided that she would sleep in there for the night, keeping a watchful eye on them. One puppy still needed a little encouragement to feed and every two hours Millie woke herself to make sure it was getting some milk.
Thursday dawned bright and clear. The puppies were all still alive but Evie was not herself and we called the vet who told us to bring her straight in. We carried our precious cargo, mother and babies, in a shallow padded cardboard box into the car and drove the short ten minute journey into Rochefort. Evie had no temperature but the vet was also concerned, she could feel something inside. She took an x-ray which showed nothing and so she followed this with a thorough scan which revealed that there was a placenta, or part of one, which had not been delivered.
We left with an armful of medicine, vitamins and homeopathic pills which would hopefully encourage her body to expel what was left. The vet had also given Evie two large antibiotic injections which would take immediate effect and a ten-day course of pills. Along with this we had puppy-milk powder, a tiny bottle and teats. Evie had very little milk which was certainly not enough for seven babies and we were going to have to help her out. There was also the worry that if she did not eject the placenta within 24 hours the vet would have to operate. It was a very tense day and night. Between us all we kept a permanent vigil but the antibiotics and medicine did their job quickly, and Evie became brighter and more alert. There were several trips into the garden and it quickly became apparent that surgery would not be necessary.
And so the first week took over our lives. Millie made a chart using the names we had given them as they were born, names that had just seemed appropriate at the time, and this way we kept track of their growth, aware to those that were struggling. On the vet’s advice we started weighing them from day three onwards. Slowly Evie’s milk supply increased as she started to feel better and we could stop the bottle feed. We weighed them at the same time each day.
Now the puppies are two weeks old, and already they’re scarcely recognisable from the tiny little things that came into this world just fifteen days ago – their muzzles are covered in fur and any day their eyes will open for the first time!
Still we weigh them and Mum keeps a watchful eye to make sure we were not doing anything untoward.
They’re tough little things, shuffling on their tummies to get where they want to go, permanently suckling if Evie is with them. Tumbling over one another and feeding upside down if that is what it takes to get a teat and keep hold of it without letting another sibling push them out of the way. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving. It’s a permanent game of rough and tumble.
Evie often prefers to lie on the old leather sofa, next to them but out of reach. She’ll observe them with one eye open, allowing herself a little peaceful time away from the scrum.
They are incredible time wasters. But not all of us are quite so taken with the new arrivals, in fact some are less than amused. Rory our great big furry cat and Evie’s best four-legged friend doesn’t know quite what to make of it all; in fact he is so confused I thought it might be best if he explained his thoughts himself –
“At first I wasn’t too sure what was happening, I only knew that Evie hadn’t been quite as playful as usual in the week before these new ‘things’ arrived. She didn’t seem quite so ready to pin me to the floor in a mock fight the moment she saw me, and she’d got sooooo fat. Of course, I must just put you straight on one thing – Evie only thinks she is winning; I may appear to lie hapless on my back whilst she stands over me a leg at each corner looking smug, but you and I know that I only have to give her one decent swipe across her nose with my claws and she’ll go running, squealing like a banshee and I would be the victor.
Anyway, back to these ‘things’ in that box with her. I sauntered into the study one morning, after a good night’s hunting, ready for some comfort time and a little tussle with Evie, after which I would find a nice bed upstairs where I could snooze for the day. However, there were tiny squeaks coming from a box in the corner. “A mouse!!” I thought and my ears instantly pricked up, my senses suddenly on full alert. I silently crept over, ready to pounce, all thoughts of sleep forgotten, but jeez, there wasn’t a mouse but two or three wriggling things and a little blood and Evie curled up with them giving me an evil stare. I scarpered pretty quickly I can tell you. Since then I have checked in on the box and the ‘things’ a few more times; there are more of them, and while the blood has gone they’re getting bigger! I admit though, they’re of no interest to me. Evie’s no longer a ready and waiting playmate and spends most of her time with them – these new additions have not made me happy at all.
However, Bentley was a little more cheerful at first. He and I get along just fine, he’s not Evie and he never plays, but we’re friends. I had a chat with him to ask him what he thought of the situation and I can tell you he was feeling pretty pleased with himself. This is what he had to say.
“Well at first I was a little put out, I seemed to have been temporarily forgotten, or at least it felt like that, everyone was running around paying attention to the French girl and her newest additions. I’ve seen puppies many times, being an ex-prime stud dog I’ll have you know. A champion many times over I might add, and hundreds of children to my name. But that was a lifetime ago; now I’m a contented old chap, happy with my lot and more than willing to leave the baby thing to someone else. But, there is always an upside, and that in my case is food, never far from my thoughts and I found a way to get more than the measly portions that the family give me. It was a cunning touch of genius on my behalf. You see Evie needs as much food as she can eat, so they keep saying, which to start with put my nose right out of joint. That and the fact that she, my friend, had the nerve to growl at me when I went to look at her wee bairns, the cheek of it. Well that did it, my mind was set. When she popped out of the house to do her business, I snuck into the study and there in the open – for all to see – was her bowl of food, only half-eaten! Full of rich meat and even richer puppy meal for optimum vitality and weight gain, all mixed together and just waiting for ME! I wolfed it down. Everyone praised Evie for eating so much more now that she was feeling better and I was licking my lips, with a permanent satisfied grin on my face. All was well in my world for a few days and then someone gave me a second glance one evening, and then a third, and then everyone stared and there was some serious talk. I had to prick up my ears to make sure I heard it correctly but it became apparent my scheme had been rumbled….I had to really choke back the tears. They said I looked fat again, they said I was a roly-poly once more, they said all sorts of mean things and then she, her who must be obeyed, got straight to the point, she guessed what I had been up to; there was much nodding and agreement. I was back on my diet before I could blink and Evie’s bowl is now out of reach. Now she’s gaining weight and they are all wildly enthusiastic about it. How can that be fair? I’m starving to death again and the only elation surrounding me is if I lose a pound…..I tell you, I will never understand humans.”
So you see puppy life has been good for some and not so much for others! It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for us all, but would we do it again, hell yes!