Why We Foster - K-9 Lifesavers

Why We Foster

Larissa's Puppies

Fostering Larissa and the “Baby L” Pups

by Lynne Brummitt

We became a foster family for K-9Lifesavers in January and we have had an incredible experience over the last 3 months! After fostering our first dog Marika mentioned that sometimes a pregnant dog is rescued and it is harder to find a foster family. I told her that we would be willing to take a pregnant dog, never thinking that I would be asked the very next week if I would foster Larissa, a pregnant Australian Shepherd mix expecting 6 puppies (at least that’s what the vet thought!). I had never seen puppies being born (never been around a puppy younger than 7 weeks) and I had no idea what to expect. I asked a lot of questions of k-9lifesavers volunteers and did some research to find out what could be used as a whelping box, what supplies I needed to have on hand and what I could expect during the births.

When Larissa arrived at our house on February 4th she was due to give birth in a week to 10 days. She was very sweet from the moment we met her and was immediately comfortable with our family, including our daughters (ages 6 and 16) and our golden retriever, Mia. Being pregnant didn’t stop her from chasing our cats and trying to eat their food. Despite her big belly, she was able to squeeze her way through the cat door we have into the mud room (where we keep the cats’ food and litter box) and she climbed or jumped over all the baby gates I had to try and get to the cats. This called for a change in the location of the cats and their supplies, so I bought an extra tall gate to keep Larissa on the main floor and the cats upstairs.

This worked for a few days until Saturday morning (exactly one week after her arrival) when I awoke to the sound of an animal scratching the rug. I found Larissa under one of the upstairs beds, nesting, I assumed. I had been told that I would know when she was about to give birth because she would display nesting behavior and she would stop eating. Since she was hungry all the time she never really stopped eating, but that Saturday morning she did walk away from her food bowl before completely finishing her breakfast. I had set up a plastic kiddie pool for a whelping box but after finding Larissa under the bed I realized she wanted to be in tighter quarters. I quickly cleared out the bottom of the closet in what was to be her and the puppies’ room and set this up as her whelping area. She liked this area better than the pool and at about 10:00am on February 11th she squatted and gave birth to her first puppy. (Luckily Rebecca had warned me plus I had watched a video online of a puppy birth so I wasn’t shocked when Larissa starting licking the puppy and eating the after birth.) Larissa very easily, quietly and calmly gave birth to the rest of her puppies over the next four hours. There was no indication of pain (no whimpering or yelling) and no difficulty pushing. (Dogs seem to have a much easier time with childbirth than we do!) After the 6th puppy was born I left the room and when I went back in to check on her a short time later I noticed another puppy half way out – Larissa was asleep – I had to wake her up and show her this 7th puppy so she could clean it – we all (Larissa included) were only expecting six! It was very exciting to watch each puppy being born as they all looked so different and we found ourselves wondering what color the next one was going to be. Larissa did a great job delivering her puppies and cleaning each one. My 16-year old daughter, Daryn, and I cut one umbilical cord because the after birth had not come out yet and when Larissa stood up to shift position the puppy was dangling by the cord; we were afraid that she was going to sit on the puppy. This was the only help we had to give her – Larissa did everything else beautifully!

Word quickly spread down our street that Larissa was having her puppies. Neighbors stopped by to offer congratulations and see the babies and Larissa and her puppies quickly became the talk of the neighborhood! We didn’t have to do much for the first couple of weeks except change the paper and bedding in the closet and make sure the closet stayed warm enough (with a heat lamp and small heater). During these initial weeks, we weighed the puppies each day or two to make sure they were gaining weight. (Daryn was a great “lactation consultant” making sure that each puppy was getting a chance to nurse.) We moved Larissa and pups to the kiddie pool after the first week. Around the 2nd week the puppies began opening their eyes. Almost as soon as their eyes were open they began to try to walk. (Their first steps were followed by some of them falling on their noses as they tried to stay upright on all 4 legs.) Not long after they started walking many of them started standing up against the side of the kiddie pool and I realized that it wouldn’t be long before they would need a taller barrier. Sure enough I was awakened one night by a whimpering to find 6 puppies inside the pool and Larissa laying outside the pool with one of the puppies who had obviously fallen or climbed over the edge (she was such a good mom!).

We created a larger puppy area by using furniture and scrap drywall for walls that were tall enough to keep the puppies in, but still low enough that Larissa could come and go as she please. At about 5-6 weeks things got a little crazier and hectic but it was all good. The puppies started eating puppy food and feeding seven puppies 3X/day and cleaning up the puppy area required more time than when Larissa was doing all the feeding and clean-up herself. The puppies went from sounding like a bunch of squeaking mice to a flock of squawking seagulls and every now and then we’d hear the beginnings of a bark. (Needless to say our house seems very quiet now that all of the puppies have been adopted.)

Fostering Larissa and her puppies was incredible! It makes me so happy to know that I was able to give Larissa a temporary home in which to bring her puppies into the world and be such an integral part of the puppies’ early weeks. I was surprised by how much interest and support I received from neighbors, co-workers, and friends. At work and in the neighborhood “Hi!” was replaced by “How are the puppies?” As hard as it was not to keep one of the puppies or Larissa, we all agreed that, for now, we want to continue to foster instead. Saying goodbye to each of them has been difficult, but knowing they all got wonderful homes has made it easier, as have the emails and photos the adopters have sent (thanks!). Although these last two months have made me more tired than I would have been, it was well worth it. I can’t say enough what an amazing experience it was!

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