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IMG_5245It never rains but it pours. In our case, it was pouring puppies. Ten of them!   When we found them they were about a week old, they were surviving in the bush on a nearby farm. Mom had not been to see them in hours and it was going to be dark soon. The poor little puppies had to get food in their tummies.   I know, if you strictly believe in ‘the law of nature’ we should have left them there so that their mom can take care of them. But aren’t humans part of nature? I think we often forget that we are. Weren’t we asked to take care of nature and the animals? We scooped the puppies up and brought them to Dogtown. We immediately got some formula milk into their tummies which they gladly accepted. We split the litter up in two, and Danel and I took them to our homes to hand rear them until we can get their mom, but it wasn’t very long, maybe three hours, when we received the phone call that she was in the trap.   We were so excited that she’d be reunited with her puppies, she was a bit out of sorts when she arrived in her special garden, so we decided to do the big reunion the following day.

13e630eb-bd6f-4918-b873-dde93168517a 8d228940-f3d9-4eab-b610-984fcfb39f3340a23fe7-a7b6-47c2-becd-96b7fe109709However, that was not meant to be, because we discovered that Jamey, their mommy, had pyometra. Her body was too toxic for her babies to drink from and odds are they might develop Fading Puppy Syndrome, which is an illness causing the puppies to die slowly. We were back to plan A, bottle feeding the puppies every two-hours. Of course, Jamey knew her puppies were in the house and she would howl when she heard them. And the following day, Jamey moved into my home doing supervised visits with her puppies.   I wrapped her up in a cocoon of bandages so that the puppies could not drink from her, made sure their tummies were full, and then let her clean them and cuddle them. At this time, their eyes and ears were still closed. The only senses they were using right now were touch and smell.   I immediately started with Biosensor exercises, which is to be done with them from one to sixteen days old. These very short and simple exercises strengthen their immune systems as well as their coping skills throughout their lives.

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At around two and a half weeks old, their eyes started to open, and they became more mobile. They instinctively moved away from their sleeping place to go potty elsewhere. They already knew what to do, I just had to provide a potty place and reinforce them for going there. Treats, were obviously not an option at this stage, but they are so receptive to their hooman’s guidance, even at this age, that treats really were not needed. It was not only potty training that had to be done, but preparing them for vet checks as well, it’s best to do this when their tummies are full otherwise they just want to suck on your fingers all the time.

Every week of their development, brings new challenges and more work to be done. Not only do you have to keep their health and needs in mind but you also have to start preparing them for the life of a balanced pet in a busy hooman’s lifestyle. Mommy Jamey couldn’t be there for them all the time due to her illness, so I had to slowly but surely shape them into a routine, weaning them onto longer periods between meals, no meals during night time, no more bottle feeding and having to drink their formula out of a bowl (that one was ‘fun’). And I just have to thank Hartbeespoort Animal Clinic for answering all my panicky, sleep-deprived questions and e-mails.

ee48f3bd-a6ba-49e8-8ee6-53914ba31056You also, of course, deal with their different personalities. I’m sure you’ll read all about that in their profiles when they are up for adoption though. They are four-weeks old now, we finally have a steady routine and we are entering their critical socialisation period, during the next four-weeks, they are going to learn all about their world, how to adapt and how to respond to it. There is a reason why it’s called critical and that is because you never get these important four-weeks back.

You can become a part of these puppies’ journey by becoming a puppy trainer. Their training starts in July, so drop an e-mail to volunteer@dogtownsa.org if you can commit to helping us every saturday for about 10-weeks to prepare these puppies for the rest of their lives.

By Tersha, Team Leader