On Tuesday May 5th, an hour to the day of mating nine weeks previously, Carlotta’s first puppy arrived.
I wasn’t there for the delivery….when I had checked on her half an hour earlier before going to collect Elly from school , she was curled up comfortably in the whelping box…true to the style that had been the pattern of this pregnancy every puppy, seven in total, arrived half an hour apart after the first one. Slipping into the world almost unnoticed beneath Lotta’s tail; but with meticulous diligence were cleaned and nudged towards her teats where warmth and comfort awaited.
I’m pretty certain now that on her long journey from Argentina to Paris somebody somewhere slipped Carlotta a copy of ” The Book Of The Bitch ” by J.M. Evans and Kay Whyte. And confined in her big bright blue crate she read it from cover to cover.
This breeding with Bertie wasn’t meant to happen until next spring but a failed pregnancy with my other bitch left me in a situation where if I didn’t breed this year I could potentially end up with two litters around the same time next year, something which I did not relish. So with agreement from Mecha, Lotta’s co-owner, sought and obtained we gave it a go.
The beauty of having both male and female in residence meant there was no running to and from the vets for ovulation testing, no time constraints in relation to travel instead right on cue and with no involvement on from me, apart from holding the gate open , nature took over and the mating occurred.
A slight filling in the flanks by week five made me slightly optimistic that the mating had been successful but she showed no other signs – no morning sickness, no discharge and definitely no ‘minding’ herself as she raced after our springer spaniel in the fields.
By week six she was still giving up no secrets. A scan was needed to enable some forward planning AND to end the agony of wasted hours staring at her abdomen, checking out the tiniest twitches and wondering, ‘well, is she or isn’t she?’
A quick run over her tummy by my vet Paul Kelly, estimated seven which subsequently turned out to be spot on (… definitely one to remember if I’m taking bets in future)….
So now we could tentatively plan ahead.
The heaviness of her abdomen eventually slowed her down and in her final week she was happy to take her walks at a jaunty trot, leaving the mad spaniel to chase away ahead in the woods at Killeen.
As her time for whelping approached she sought out places where she felt safe and away from the other dogs. The big bright blue crate which had carried her half way across the world six months previously was where she spent much of her time sleeping in the days prior to the arrival of her puppies. Maybe it was because it was the one place which bound her to all that had been familiar and safe in her life before coming to Ireland.
The temperature drop on Monday again was the only single clue that I could be certain labour was not far off. She didn’t pace, was never restless, didn’t dig to China and not a single newspaper was shredded in the delivery of these puppies….her labour followed in the same calm no nonsense way that she had set out since mating.
The most valuable lesson I learned from observing and being part of watching Carlotta and her family thrive and grow was just how valuable an “easy” whelping bitch is. The calmness and maturity she displayed throughout her pregnancy and labour followed through in the raising of her puppies.
Now just nine weeks on, all of the puppies except two have gone to their new homes. I have the pleasure of holding, squeezing and loving the final two until August after which they travel to Denmark and Germany where their prospective owners eagerly await their arrival.
I will watch their lives with interest, wondering whether Mother or Father’s genes will shine through more and hoping we here at Riverrrun have been able to give them the very best start to lead long healthy lives loved by their families.
Thank you to all the new owners of these wonderful puppies, and my sincere gratitude to Mecha Roizman of Sailorsbays kennels who took a chance on me and entrusted me with her precious brown girl, Carlotta .