Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Giggle Factor

Regular Reader knows that part of the reason we have our five Labs (and that I've kept the LabTails blog over the years) is because of what I term "giggle factor" -- that quirky ability Labs have to make us smile or chuckle or grin despite ourselves or our circumstances.

Labs make me giggle.  They just do.

And Lab puppies make me giggle too.

What follows are a few pics of our 5-6 day-old neonates (and Kenya) that made me smile today as I was going through a few hundred photos (yes, hundred... the wonders of digital photography).  I hope they make you smile, too! :)

1. The bear (yes, he's sleeping this way.. not stretching):

2. Sleepy puppy:

3. To each his own:

4.  Up and down:

5.  C'mon baby, lets do the twist:

6. Bottom's up (yes, this pup is nursing this way)?

7.  Mom's need pacifiers, too:

Happy giggles to you,


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Whys of the Whelping Box - Informational Post

Whenever we do this document-a-litter thing on LabTails, I try to include some information about puppies or whelping or breeder-responsibility or the "whys" of some of the things you see here.

Today is one of those posts (I mark the informational posts in the title, so if you find them boring you can skip them).

This is our second whelping box.  We burned the first one after our "P" word experience -- didn't want to risk any lingering virus in the environment.  And while the first one (DH's design compiled from what he liked of various boxes he saw on-line) served us well, this second one seems to be serving us even better (again, DH's design, just redesigned from the first).

Nothing is accidental in planning a whelping box; virtually everything you see is there for a reason.  So here are the "whys" of our current whelping box, just FYI.  This is Kenya acclimating to the box a couple days before she's due:

1. The box itself is made of 2 standard sheets of malamine:  for ease in materials purchase, construction, and ease in cleaning up after the litter.

2. The bumpers (or guardrails), necessary to prevent pups from being squished between the dam and the wall, are made of PVC piping:  for ease in clean-up, to make things more comfortable for the dam (the old 2x4s couldn't have been very comfortable), and to prevent chewing on by the pups later on (they loved to chew on the old 2x4s).  The holes you see in the bumpers are for drill-bit access to the mounting bolts inside the pipe (which hold the piping to the wall).

3. The overall dimensions are partly planned to maximize what DH could get out of standard-sized materials (like 2 sheets of melamine) and to give sufficient room to dam and pups without creating too big a space that could result in cold zones where pups could get chilled.  This photo was taken while Kenya was still in active labor (notice pups in warming box under heat light to right):

 Kenya, even when whelping, kept an eye on her pups (the hook you see on the wall is what holds the hinged wall up and closed ... there's a hook-and-eye latch on both sides, the eyes mounted on the edges of the hinged wall, the hooks mounted on the fixed walls).

4. The wall height is to prevent the puppy climb-out factor later on (we had more than our share of escapees with the last box).

5. The hinged wall (instead of a cut out wall) becomes a ramp when lowered, which later will give the pups their first exposure to inclines. Mounting the hinge a couple of inches from the floor creates a lip when the wall is lowered, which contains the neonates in the box, but allows the dam to come and go as she pleases.

6. The swing-arm lamp clamped to side:  allow for easy removal when then pups no longer need external sources of warmth and allows for easy movement of the lamp (depending on where the dam lies down and for when we move the pups to the warming box to clean the whelping box).

I think that's about all I can think of (specific to the box itself) for now.  I'll post a separate list of whys (about the warming box and other supplies we use) separately.

Hope you find this interesting!  If not.. there are plenty of other pictures coming to keep you occupied for a bit, I'm sure. :)

'til next time,

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pictures: Cuteness Factor - 4 Days Old

Why We Stay on Puppy Watch 24/7 for the First Week

So... you've heard how careful Kenya is with her pups.  And she has been. Very careful.  I've only had to make a couple "rescues" over these last four days.

I thought I'd try to capture just how careful Kenya is in a video for you. 

HA!  Best laid plans....

Don't you know it... just when I think I'm getting a good clip, Kenya changes her modus operandi, and you guessed it, she lays back squarely on the puppy pile (first time she's done this), catching most of their heads beneath her back.

If you have your sound turned up, you can hear me gasp when she does so (end of video as I immediately put the camera down to go pull pups out from under her). It actually doesn't look so bad on the clip; I stop the camera before she rolls all the way back, but trust me, she does.

So... this is why we're still watching her and the pups 24/7. 

No, not all breeders do this. Many very responsible breeders can't watch their litters 24/7 (larger breeders with kennels in particular). They understandably consider smothered pups a part of natural selection and chalk it up to normal loss in breeding (it's what occurs in the wild, too). Even the most careful of breeders, large or small, will lose a pup either to smothering or to getting stepped on by their dams.

We, however, only do one litter per year, so we do all we can to ensure that otherwise healthy pups survive. We're not perfect, and we do lose pups, but staying on puppy alert increases our odds of getting these pups through their first week of life.

So we're still in 24/7 mode, and will be until later this week. I do the late night shift (roughly 10 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.) while DH sleeps and the day shift (7 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) while DH is at work. DH covers early mornings and evenings so I can nap. I sleep about 2.5 hours after dinner, and 2.5 hours before breakfast. But it's only for a week or so.

By the time the pups are a week old, they're pretty much strong enough to wiggle themselves out from underneath their dam should she lie down on them.

Anyway... Careful Kenya is careful most of the time. And if she happens to catch a puppy beneath her now and then... well... that's what we humans are here for, eh?

'Til next time,

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kenya is Doing Wonderfully

Our sweet Kenya bean is turning out to be Mom-Extraordinaire. She has a quiet attentiveness and confidence with her puppies I didn't expect from a first-time dam.

She's even calmer, and more careful, than Elsie ever was. 

The interesting thing about Kenya is this:  when she's in the whelping box with the pups, she's nothing but Momma Kenya (doesn't wag her tail because she's so careful of the pups... no wiggle butts around her offspring!).  But the moment she's away from the pups (as in, out of the whelping box), she's 100% our Kenya bean again:  wiggly, people-focused, the always-with-a-bone-in-her-mouth retriever acting almost as if the pups didn't exist. 

It's amazing how she morphs between two Kenyas. But it's wonderful, too (makes it far less crazy for us... we're not as concerned about her squishing or inadvertently stepping on a pup).

Here are a few Kenya pics.  Doesn't she look great?!

She's very careful when she's around her pups, and when she finally settles in, she barely moves.  The risk of her laying on (and accidentally smothering) a pup at this point is pretty slim, and gets smaller each day. 

But we'll still do 24/7 puppy watch until the middle of next week.  Just in case. :)

So all is well.  Kenya is a great mom; the pups are thriving (more on them shortly).

And life is good today.

'til then,

Three Days Old - A Few Pictures

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Neonate Video: Circular Movement Trying to Find Mom

At this age (just under 2 days old when filmed), the pups instinctively (and perhaps by early neurological development)  push themselves around in a circle when they're looking for their mom.

Here's Mr. Blue, who squiggled away from the group, trying to locate Kenya.  I'm putting the video up in two short segments for easier uploading, but it was taken nearly continuously (just a few second break between the two clips).  Be sure to have your sound on.  You can hear Mr. Blue calling out to mom (ignore human noise in background!). :)

Not to worry. Here's the continuation. He does actually get there! :)

They do come equipped with several instinctive survival mechanisms (incredible to see), and they're surprisingly resilient, even at just 2 days old. It's amazing how far their movement has come already in just this short time!

And you gotta love their little noises. :)

But they are still very vulnerable (hence our 24-7 puppy watch). :)

More to come. Just trying to do things in bits as I'm able. You'll have to be patient with the old gal here (not as young as I used to be, and less stamina than I used to have!).  And I'm seriously sleep-deprived (though DH is wonderful about sharing the load - we tag team - a true partnership in puppy endeavors!).

I'll have more on the actual 2-day old report in the next few hours (and of course a few more pics and videos). Enjoy!

'til then,

The Neonates (1-14 days Old) - Informational Post

So here it is, 12:30 a.m. March 27th, and eight of the nine pups are now fully 48 hours old. The ninth will be 48 hours old in a little less than two hours. To simplify things, let's just say they're two days old now (hehe).

DH and I are doing our 24-7-trying-to-make-sure-no-puppies-get-smothered routine. We tag team to make sure someone is doing puppy-head-counts about every 10 minutes round the clock (I get the late night shift). We check every time we walk by the box, every time we hear Kenya move, whenever Kenya settles into the box after having been outside, and whenever we think to (which is constantly at this point!). It may seem excessive but after our experience with Elsie laying on top of one of her pups three years ago, we won't take any chances. We'll do this for the entire first week of their lives. Hopefully, by then they will have become strong enough to squirm out from underneath Kenya if it happens. I'll trade a little sleep for healthy puppy survival any day of the week!

So far, so good: only one or two "rescues" necessary so far. :)

Kenya is a fabulous, careful, calm, relaxed mom. She barely moves once settled in except to clean or stimulate the pups. Kenya's job as a mom, however, is a topic for another day. Just know she's fabulous! :)

So the pups are officially neonates now, have been since they popped out and will be through the end of their second week. Here's what we know about them at this stage and can expect from them for these first two weeks of life:

  • their eyes are closed and ears are sealed (won't open until 14-21 days)
  • they respond only to warmth, touch, and the scent of their dam (Kenya)
  • they can't regulate their own body temperatures, so they need external sources of heat (like Kenya's body, the heat lamp, or a heating pad).
  • because they can't regulate body temp, they are very susceptible to any excesses in temps (cold or hot), so the more constant the temps, the better. A chilled puppy can quickly become sick. A hot puppy can dehydrate.
  • they can't regulate their peeing and pooing yet either (can't even do it yet voluntarily); Kenya has to stimulate them to do both (they're being on their backs for her to do so is the first step toward learning submissive posture)
  • they sleep 90% of the time
  • they're still developing neurologically, so they twitch a lot (part of their nerve development)
  • their forelegs are far stronger than rear legs at this point
  • when they try to find their mom, they bob their heads (looking for scent) and push themselves in the direction of her scent (often pushing themselves in a circle). 
Hee hee.  That's Canine Puppy development, Neonatal stage, in brief. :) 

To summarize simply:  they're 100% on Kenya for literally everything! :)  And Kenya is happy to oblige.

I'll post this now just as an informational post.  I'll give you puppy update in a separate post in a couple hours (also have some fun, puppy-noise video!). :)

In the meantime, just so you know, the pups are thriving, Kenya's doing a superb job as a dam, and we're sleep-deprived but deliriously happpy that things are going to smoothly so far.

Update specifics to follow.

'til next time,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

NeoNate Videos (Nursing and Pottying)

Here are the first two of a few videos of the pups as newborns.

The first is of them nursing (make sure your sound is on), in which you can see their "kneading" action on Kenya's teats and hear some of their "singing" noises. :)

The second is of Kenya "stimulating" the pups to pee and poo while they are nursing (something the pups aren't thrilled about). Neurologically they are incapable "going" on their own yet; Kenya must groom them to get them to do so.

More to come. :) We're napping as we can (like with newborn human babies, Moms and Grandmoms have to nap when the babies do!).

For now, we're still on high alert about potential accidental smothering (as in what happened with one of the pups in Elsie's first litter). Kenya, however, seems to be extraordinarily careful for a first-timer, so it might be okay.

Whelping box has been thoroughly post-delivery scrubbed and refreshed; Momma Kenya has had a quick bath, all puppies are fed, everyone is back in the whelping box now.

Now it's time for some sleep and a shower! :)  Yes... in that order. :)

Happy puppy birthdays!!!  And GREAT job, Momma Kenya!

'til next time,

Miss Yellow and Miss Orange Make Nine!

Yup... it looks like the gang's all here now.  Two more black little girls bring this litter's grand total to nine! :)

Miss Yellow made her grand appearance at 12:03 (just past midnight) weighing in at 11 oz. and officially making this litter another 2-date litter.

And Miss Orange (for now marked with a pink/yellow double collar) decided to announce little self at 2:22 a.m. and weighing 13 oz.  Oh my, and announce herself she did... wiggly, strong, and vocal from the second she popped out!

She even posed for the camera (such a smart girl she is!)(hehe):

And here's the crew, belly up to the bar!

I'm certain we're done with delivery now (Kenya is acting like she is). And we have nine lovely little additions to our Lab family. :)

Here's our final tally:

6 girls, 3 boys
6 black (2 boys/4 girls), 3 chocolate (1 boy/2 girls)

And all are healthy and fine.

We still have some cleaning up to do, but I'll check in later today with some videos (hehe... the pups are singing away as I write this!). :)

How grateful we are for an uneventful whelping. Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers (keep 'em coming... first days are critical).

Look for more a little later in the day.

'til next time,