Initially, Molly wouldn't leave her puppies, be it to eat or to empty her bladder. I had to pack the whole puppy crew into a backpack-type animal carrier and tote them outdoors. Molly would then follow and, with a look of panic on her face, instinctively race off well away from them to evacuate. Dogs being den animals, of course, the last thing a mama dog wants to do is foul anyplace near her nest. And nest she did: Before the puppies were born, she went into a nesting mania. I'd built her a sturdy wooden whelping box, complete with a rail to prevent her from accidentally smothering the puppies. After watching her rearrange the towels and pads I put in the box, I had a brainstorm: I put plain brown parcel paper inside. Molly went to town shredding it and arranging it to her liking. It's not what I left as bedding after the pups were born, but it satisfied Molly's instinctive need to create a nest for the little ones.
Once the babies arrived, though, I lined the bottom of the box with cardboard, topping it with bath mats. Foam isn't recommended for newborns due to the risk of suffocation, but bath mats seemed to have the heaviness to remain relatively intact and not fold over onto puppies - and they take a machine washing. The new crate pads arrived today, and now that the puppies are nearly a week old they should be safe with the cozy new pads.
Watching the other house animals with the new arrivals has been interesting and fulfilling. Little Mattie-K8, the Papillon, has had major puppy envy. She has wanted to steal the puppies from the start, but Molly growled her away. Molly's lightened up considerably since the birth, and tolerates Mattie-K8 looking enviously through the play pen wire, but when Mattie enters the playpen and approaches the box, Molly growls. When the puppies cry, Mattie trembles. At one point, as I was bottle-feeding a puppy who needed a kickstart to get over "fading puppy syndrome," I set him down on the heating pad as I walked off to get his formula. Mattie jumped in and took him, moving him about four feet away. When I returned within just a minute or two, she'd already licked him all over.
Earl, our ten-year-old McNab, was nervous about the puppies, but not terrified; just apprehensive. Ethan, the father of the litter, was more involved. Fatherhood has matured him: He's quiet (for him, anyway) around them, and respects Molly's space. He and Molly have been exceptionally close, and during the latter days of her pregnancy I confined her at times in the play pen with the whelping box inside it. Ethan, the athlete, nimbly leapt over the playpen side to visit her. Once the puppies arrived, though, he never once attempted it.
As for the cats, whom I feared might be aggressive - they have been anything but. Froggy-Isabella, the proud huntress, was interested, but neither fearful nor aggressive. Lucy Lovebug was initially frightened, and sought refuge in the basement or outdoors in her catio. But poor Hank - eighteen-pound titan Hank - was utterly terrified. He stayed downstairs in the basement, wide-eyed and trembling, until emerging to visit the catio, and when he did finally come back indoors through the master bedroom door, he climbed onto the bed with my husband and panicked whenever he heard a puppy whimper in the other room. After three days, it dawned on me to put a movie in the player for some background noise. Sure enough, Hank visited and approached the puppy box. He inspected the "threat" and calmly returned to business as usual.
After the first three sleepless nights since the puppies arrived, we have all settled in. Molly, requiring some "adult conversation" at times, now leaves the puppies to go outside for brief intervals of play. She made up her own bed in a blanket next to the puppy box and when it's warm, she lies on it. She happily greets her most-adored human, my husband, when he gets home from work, and is adopting a healthy routine again.
One of the many touching and entertaining things she does is line up the puppies side by side and then sits, grinning, admiring them. Nurse Molly - now "Mama Moll" - is so very happy to have her puppies to cuddle and adore.
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