Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Life in One Room

Three weeks have passed since our dog, Spray, gave birth to ten puppies. In that time, we - the ten puppies, Spray, our grumpy older dog Splash, my two teen daughters and my husband and I have basically lived in one room.

The puppies have kept us there. It helps that there is a big wide screen TV and two couches.

Historically, this room is the coldest room in our house, but now it’s the warmest. We have an electric heater and a heat lamp in the whelping box with the puppies. They can’t regulate their own temperatures until they are at least three or four weeks old, so we keep the door to the room closed and the temperature in there has stayed a toasty 75 degrees. We actually have to disrobe in there. We usually pile on the blankets.

We live in a vertical house with the bedrooms on the third floor, so one or two of us sleeps with the pups every night because we can’t hear them upstairs. But we sure can hear them when they wake up in that room. When they’re hungry, their peeps and squeaks turn into squawks and they sound like a flock of seagulls following a ferryboat.

In three weeks, the puppies have morphed from glorified hamsters to real little dogs. They still sleep a lot in a big pile – one on top of the other – but they also spend time investigating the bigger world. We take them out of the whelping box and watch them lurch around the rug in what my husband has dubbed “the dinosaur walk”. We always cover the rug with a fuzzy fleece to catch their poops and pees and I’m back to the baby days of doing laundry multiple times a day as their bedding and their walking mats need repetitive cleanings.

The pups’ eyes have opened, but we don’t think they really see much as they still seem to gravitate by smell. Their hearing also doesn’t seem to have developed yet because when we clap our hands or whistle, only Spray looks at us hopefully.

Spray is tired. Nursing ten pups is exhausting. She constantly looks for food. She eats bowl after bowl of puppy chow – it has more nutrients than dog chow – mixed with yogurt or wet puppy food, or she’ll eat cake off the counter or whatever else she finds lying around. She discovered and left behind those chalk-like Valentine “Sweetheart” candies. Smart girl.

She needs her down time and is happy leaving her puppies alone for bits of time. If I’m upstairs in the kitchen, she’ll visit, plop down on the floor or on her special couch cushion. But when she’s ready, she scratches at the back room door to be let in. She sniffs each of the pups to make sure they’re all there. She either starts licking them, or if they start squawking, she lies down – sometimes on her own, sometimes with our encouragement – to nurse them.

She watches them carefully when they have their playtime and they crawl between our feet, under a stool, stick their heads in slippers or try to walk on the slippery floor, which means they do massive spread eagles. They’ve also found each other and started roughhousing, mouthing each other and knocking each other around, which is highly entertaining to watch.

When I open the door returning from a day of teaching, I never know what I'll find – who will be lying on a couch with a pup on their chest, nestled by their side, or whether all ten pups will be lying curled up inside the box, or nursing outside the box, or cruising around. I don’t know which daughter will be pretending to do homework with the Olympics on as she calls out “look at what Simba is doing.” “Oh, watch out, don’t step on Mushu.” “Get the video camera. Esmeralda and Zazu are playing together.”

I need the video camera to capture my family – all 16 of us – in one room together.

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