Schnudl’s puppies were born on Saturday, 13th May.
She had been nesting in various places, but mostly in the puppy pen, which had been hauled out of the outside room, thoroughly disinfected and put in its place in the kitchen.
We were waiting with excited anticipation as we had been very disappointed to have missed out on the birth of the Rottie pups. As it turned out, it was a most rewarding experience to witness the miracle of birth at first hand. (My personal experiences of giving birth don’t count. For one of them I had my eyes closed in effort, and for the other I was anaesthetised!)
The first puppy was born at about 8pm and it almost shot out, it was so quick. Schnudie gave a loud yelp and then turned to look with great surprise at what had come out of her. She gave it an experimental lick and when it wriggled, instinct took over, and that puppy was licked within an inch of its life!
It was a male – a brindle colour with a black mask giving him the appearance of a little bandit. Because he had rather protuberant eyes he soon became known as Popeye.
After that nothing happened, even though Schnudie was clearly still full of puppies. More than two hours later we were becoming quite bored with hanging around. Her contractions were becoming progressively weaker too. This was not good news and I had visions of having to dash through to Piet Retief.
Then suddenly she gave a push and I saw the puppy. Quick as a flash I inserted my fingers, grabbed hold of it and hauled it unceremoniously into the world.
It was bigger than the first puppy (no surprise!) and another male of a most unusual pale colour – a beautiful sort of light caramel shade, difficult to describe. We immediately dubbed him The Cork, but because he had very loose skin, for all the world as though he were wearing an older brother’s coat, it was not long before he became known as Wrinkles.
The third one popped out fifteen minutes later. It was another little brindle male with the same bandit appearance as his eldest littermate, but he was much smaller than the other two and was obviously the runt. As soon as the amniotic sac was off he growled. Just like an enraged squirrel. Crr crr crrr! He was making no bones about the fact that he was very annoyed about the delay. It was so cute we burst out laughing.
For a few days we called him Squirrel, but he soon became known as Little Scamp, eventually simply as Scampy. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind. This was the one we were going to keep!
By this time Schnudie was considerably reduced in size and we were not sure if there was another puppy. But after a while the contractions started again, although it was a full hour before the fourth and final puppy arrived. It was yet another male – a stunning black and tan puppy. He turned out to be the most affectionate of all of them and just loved being cuddled. Finding a name for him was a no-brainer. What other than Cuddles?
From the very start it turned out to be totally different from our Rottweiler experience.
Schnudl, for all her aggressive attempts to dominate the animal kingdom, turned out to be a marvellous mother. She would come and join us in bed early in the morning as she always had, but could not settle and within minutes would go rushing back to the kitchen. Besides being attentive, she was also very careful and protective – no fear of finding her lying on or stepping on her puppies! (Though, In Lulu’s defence, it was more difficult for Schnudie to lie on her puppies. They were comparatively large. In fact, they were about the same size that most of the Rottie pups had been at birth. There is also a huge difference between four puppies and twelve!)
But most marvellous of all – she had PLENTY of milk!
The sound of the puppies soon attracted the two Rottweilers. (Purdey did not give two hoots.) Lulu especially wanted to get to them, but we kept the door firmly closed. One morning, to our horror, she jumped clean over the lower half of the kitchen door. Fortunately, we were in the kitchen, but we need not have been concerned. She just wanted to see them and give them a good sniff.
Schnudie shrank back and made no effort to defend her puppies. She had very obviously not forgotten her last experience with Lulu. But once Lulu had satisfied her curiosity, she was happy to be led out of the kitchen, and although she remained interested, she did not jump over the door again. (You can be sure that we also shut the upper part of the door whenever we were not in the kitchen though!)
As different as the whole experience was, there was one similarity – we found the different personalities of the four little brothers of absorbing fascination.
Popeye was the most adventurous and he disappeared one day, even before his eyes had opened. I found him around the corner in the laundry! How he had got there I never found out. As befitting the eldest, he was also Top Puppy and came close to bullying the others. Scampy was no push-over but he was considerably smaller and the other two had easy-going, rather submissive characters.
Cuddles caused much amusement as he was particularly lacking in co-ordination. When he began to walk his fore-legs would go in one direction while his hind-legs went in another. He was therefore unable to move directly forward, heading off instead in a diagonal direction so that he had to keep correcting his course.
Wrinkles was also a sweet little dog, but it was without a doubt Scampy who stole our hearts. He became cuter and more adorable by the day. Similarly to Little Man, his eyes opened a day earlier than the other three, and he was noticeably brighter and more alert.
All went well for four weeks and then the weaning process began.
This turned out to be problematic because those puppies were never hungry!
I first tried very sloppy mealie-meal (maize meal, for those of you who might not be familiar with the South African term) which the Rottie pups had eaten with relish. (Yes, dog experts, I know. Please forgive my ignorance. I was following outdated info. With the Rotties I had soon added puppy pellets, though, and steadily decreased the ratio of mealie-meal until they were eating pellets only.)
Anyway, Popeye just puked it up and the others turned their little noses up and refused to even try it.
So I tried oatmeal.
They all humoured me by giving it a taste, but they only ate a miniscule amount. Popeye promptly puked it up.
In desperation I gave them plain cow’s milk just so they could learn to lap. Popeye puked it up, though the others did lap.
I was just beginning to wonder if Popeye would have to be nursed forever when I had an inspiration. Pronutro! Scampy, Cuddles and Wrinkles tucked in with relish. Success at last!
Popeye had one mouthful, then turned to the gap between the fridge and the deep freezer where he sat and retched for five minutes, before staggering back to his pen, a broken dog.
What a blooming little drama queen!
On my next shopping expedition to Piet Retief I went to the vet and bought a supply of puppy pellets. And what do you know – they all ate happily, including Popeye. (Another lesson learnt!)
During all this time we only had one vet visit which was for Popeye’s eye. It would appear he had been prophetically named. It was an inflammation of the inner eyelid which looked like a bright pink bubble. The tiny bottle of eye drops was horrendously expensive, but it worked, so I did not grudge the cost. (Well, not too much.)
They had their first inoculations at six weeks and just before they turned eight weeks old,Tasha and I prepared for a trip to Vaalpark with all five of them – Schnudie included – to deliver Wrinkles to my friend, who had been champing at the bit for the past three months (ever since she knew Schnudie was pregnant) and Cuddles to my mom, who is a sucker for black and tan daxies, especially the puppy variety!
One of my sisters had said that if we could not find a home for Popeye she would take him.
It was all so easy. No advertising, no desperate phone calls to ladies staying in fancy Sandton hotels, no mad rushes across the country, in fact, no stress whatsoever.
The day before we left for Vaalpark, however, Scamp started puking and had diarrhoea. We made a quick trip to Piet Retief but the vet said it was too soon to say what it was.
We decided to go anyway, as Scampy didn’t seem too ill, but he deteriorated quite dramatically during the trip. I had to concentrate on the road, but Tasha, seated next to me, with Scampy on her lap, had never prayed as desperately as she prayed for that puppy.
By the time we arrived in Vaalpark, we had a very sick puppy on our hands indeed. When we found blood in his stool we rushed off to the vet in Vaalpark.
Yes, it was parvo!
I could not believe that we were going to go through this again!
To cut a very long story short, Scampy was put on a drip and kept in hospital for four days. Thanks to the wonderful care of the animal nurse, who took him home so she could feed him during the night (1mm of purity chicken alternating with 1mm of electrolytes every hour – talk about going beyond the call of duty!) and the skilful treatment of the vet, Scampy was saved and we fetched him from the clinic, a tiny little skeleton with skin on.
I slept with him against my chest that night, and he licked and licked and licked my vest. Poor little guy. It took a number of weeks before he regained weight and strength. The vet bill was eye popping, but we did not care. Our beloved puppy was safe.
It was now almost a week since Scampy had become ill and the other pups showed no signs of succumbing. We delivered Wrinkles to my friend who said she was willing to take the chance, and left Cuddles with my mom.
We should have known better.
We duly returned home with Schnudie, Popeye and our little skeleton.
A week later my friend phoned. Wrinkles was puking.
Dear God, no!
I phoned my dad. Was Cuddles all right? Yes, he was fine.
An hour later he phoned back. Cuddles was puking.
To cut another heartrending story short, Cuddles died three days later and Wrinkles died in hospital the day after that. My dad and my friend were heartbroken.
I cannot describe the pain.
To have reared those exquisite puppies only to have them annihilated by a virus!
Parvo had killed Fairy and it was possibly also what killed Little Gem.
Our vet explained that the problem with parvo is that it lives in the soil and survives for years even without a host. Once it is on your property it is there, and is very bad news for breeders. While the puppies are being nursed they are fairly safe because they get antibodies from their mother. They only get some immunity of their own about three weeks after their first inoculation and then full immunity only three weeks after their third inoculation.
Popeye did not get it because he was not separated from his mother and did not suffer the trauma of being separated from his litter like the other two. Scamp probably succumbed because he was the weakest of the pups.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I regretted having brought Schnudie home to have her pups. Even more did I regret having separated Cuddles and Wrinkles from Schnudie and the litter before we were absolutely sure they were all okay.
But as we all know, regrets are futile.
There was only one thing to do. Lulu was taken to be spayed forthwith. Tessie Bear, by this time more than five months old, was taken in two months later, with Schnudie to follow a month afterwards.
My dog breeding days were over.
However, our lives were enriched by the gain of two beautiful dogs, for both Tess and Scampy became dearly loved members of our family.
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