Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The wet nurse

Easter Sunday brought an unexpected surprise: our golden retriever gave birth to her first litter.

I wish I could say the experience was pleasant, but it wasn't. She delivered the pups a full week before the target date, and so we were psychologically unprepared. The puppies came at long intervals so we had to watch over her for several hours. Possibly the only good thing was that it was a Sunday and we were all at home.

The most infuriating part of this episode was our golden retriever herself. We have several mongrels and they've all given birth without much fuss or incident. But our golden retriever's motherly instincts seemed to be all askew. Instead of nursing her pups, she would lay all of them in front of her, or drag them around with her mouth. We just could not get her to stay put. Worse, her teats did not seem to expand as we expected them to, and her long hair got in the way of her pups' hungry mouths.

It was a good thing that our Japanese spitz had also delivered her umpteenth litter just a little over a week ago. We eventually transferred the golden retriever pups over to her to nurse.

Unfortunately for a couple of pups, the transfer came too late. The last pup to come out was stillborn, and so there wasn't much we could do about it. An otherwise healthy pup died yesterday morning after our golden retriever accidentally injured her while moving her around. This morning, a third one died, possibly from the cold.

So now we are left with three.

Our spitz accepted the new pups after a bit of orientation. She's nursing them now, alongside her two own offspring. The near-simultaneous pregnancies and deliveries was pure serendipity. I don't quite know what we would have done if the spitz was not there to take over our frisky and irresponsible golden retriever.