COLUMN: Live and learn: It’s all puppy love anyway

What’s a nice nanny like me doing in the kitchen at 2 a.m. with a can of formula in one hand and a syringe in the other?

COLUMN: Live and learn: It’s all puppy love anyway

What’s a nice nanny like me doing in the kitchen at 2 a.m. with a can of formula in one hand and a syringe in the other?  Getting ready to hand-feed 10-day old pups, of course.

Ten days ago, Duchess, my daughter’s  standard poodle, had pups. On day one we all stood around and admired mother and babies. On day two, “mother” wasn’t looking very well. Turns out she had a bowel obstruction from eating a stuffed toy and needed major surgery.

Not knowing when Duchess would be back from the vet, or if she would be able to nurse, daughter Dianne got puppy formula from the pet store, mixed it with evaporated milk, and invested in a number of tiny syringes.

We all lined up for the lessons. Here is what she taught us. Weigh the pup on the kitchen scale.  Hold the pup on its back in the palm of your hand.  Insert the tip of the syringe into its mouth. Squeeze the syringe to expel one ml of formula. Wait for a second or two till that bit goes down, then squeeze again. When the pup has ingested 10 ml, it’s time to get him to pee.

(What?) Animal moms massage their offsprings to stimulate urination and defecation. (Who knew?) So, the final step is to gently rub them until they “produce.”  Then weigh them again and place each pup in the separate box that has been prepared for the fed ones with a heating pad and towels. Simple, eh?

Here’s what really happens.  First, the pup wiggles so much on the scale, he falls off. Fortunately, the drop is only a couple of inches so no damage done.  Holding the pup in the palm of one’s hand requires at least four other human hands to secure the little flailing paws and wiggly head.

Then there’s the part where the pup already knows how to clamp its jaw shut. Three days old and we have nine natural fighters on our hands! Next, wrap the pup up in yards of paper towel. This reduces the wiggling and helps keep the human dry. Squeeze one ml, wipe the spat-out formula off your trousers, re-adjust the paper towel, squeeze again. After 15 minutes, the syringe is empty. How much went in and how much went on is questionable.  Peepee time made me laugh out loud. The male pups respond just like little boy babies having their diapers changed.

Last step – weigh the pup again.  If the scale moves up a touch, you’re a success.

Realizing this could turn into a three-week 24/7 effort, we put out the word for a surrogate nursing mom.

Enter Moxie, a golden retriever who belongs to one of Dianne’s friends.

Moxie’s own pups had just been weaned and she still had some milk.

As soon as she arrived, Moxie went into the big pen, laid down and the pups headed right for her.  Phew!

For the next week, supplementing continued to ensure the pups were getting enough milk. Mike and Dianne took turns feeding the pups every four hours and soon had that “new-parent-just-home-from-the-hospital” look – groggy/cranky.

Meanwhile, Duchess had moved into our place to recover. After her meds were done, we brought the two smallest pups over for her to nurse. Duchess was really glad to see them and started caring for them right away.  But, being the smallest, they still needed supplemental feedings.

Now I’m the groggy/cranky 2 a.m. parent. Except I’m not really cranky.  I’m in a state of amazement – partly that nature is so fantastic that a surrogate dog can step in and take over for the sick mom. Partly that the real mom is still so interested in her pups after all she’s been through. Partly because the pups are so darn cute, and mostly because Dianne loves animals so much she has learned how to do all this stuff.

Pauline Buck is a local blogger and columnist at


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