Puppies in the Dog Yard
Summer is the off-season for dog mushing, so I haven't blogged about it because there isn't much of interest to tell you about. The chores, of course, never stop. Dogs must be fed and watered twice a day, salmon soup cooked up every other day (4 whole fish cut in half with an axe, boiled in 10 gallons of water on a propane cooker in a kettle made from a 55-gal. drum cut in half), poop scooped once a day, weeds and grass kept whacked back to keep mosquitos down, bug dope applied to the dogs' faces twice a day in the bad spells, and pic kept burning much of the time to repel mosquitoes. Summer is pretty much all work and no play in the dog yard. Puppies in their house at 3 days old.
The one big exception is puppy time. Two of the females were bred this spring, Little Belle and Sunhouse. Little Belle's pups were born about two weeks ago, and they are beautiful. It is her first litter and she is being a great mom. She is roaming the dog yard freely now; she doesn't need to be on a chain, as she won't leave her pups, and the chain could hurt them. She had nine pups, but the runt didn't make it, so eight survived--four males and four females. I took this photo of Andrea holding five pups two days ago, at Day 9 of life; their eyes opened yesterday. If you click on this photo to get the larger version, you can see that average-size mosquito on her right hand.
On Day 2, their dew claws are removed, standard practice for sled dog pups. It makes it a lot easier to put their booties on when the trail is icy. Otherwise, the pups are not handled at all the first week. Mom rarely leaves them, and doesn't go far. They grow quickly, and by the second week are almost twice their birth size. Mom stays out of the house a lot more, and the pups begin being handled frequently. It socializes them to human touch and smell, and is a very important part of their training.
My favorite, a little mostly black boy with classic sled dog markings.
Now that their eyes are open, these little guys are stumbling around inside their house a lot more. Soon they will be tumbling out the door and will need some wooden blocks to be able to get back in. By the time they are 8 weeks old, they need to be corraled to keep them from wandering out of the yard, so they'll be put in the heat pen. By this time, personalities and dominance traits are on display, and they need a close eye; sibling rivalries are tough, and sometimes the litter will gang up on one member, and may actually kill that pup.
Belle is still a little anxious when her pups are handled.
Sometime between three and four months of age, the litter will be separated, and each pup given its own circle and house, and put on the chain. This causes several sleepless nights for the musher, as the pups whine and cry a lot at this transition. But it doesn't usually last long. They adapt well to the new circumstance. At five months old they start harness training and going for very short, easy runs with the team. It is amazing how easily it comes to them; they are born and bred (actually, that should be "bred and born" now, shouldn't it?) to pull the sled, and they take to it like the proverbial duck to water. Their excitement and joy is totally evident.
The other pregnant female, Sunhouse, is waddling about big as a barrel, and starting to get that anxious look in her eyes. Her pups should be coming any hour now. There is a restless energy in the dog yard as a female goes into labor. Dogs are running around their circles, jumping on and off their houses, sniffing the air a lot. Once the pups begin to deliver, there is lots of joyous barking, howling, and general excitement over the event. The pack's survival is being assurred, and they are very happy about it.
More photos to come.
Labels: Dog Mushing