Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Exceptional dogs

This is my favorite time with them: when all is quiet, late at night, after everyone else has fallen asleep. They wake up, make some feeble attempt at play or practice walking on their wobbly little legs before nursing and stumbling over, drunk on their mother's love. They sleep wherever they land.

Pile o' puppies

They twitch in their sleep, tiny feet, ears, eyes, whole bodies spazzing out. They huddle together - one twitching, sleeping mass of sweetness. Occasionally, one looks up at me with a cloudy purple blue eye. Someone growls. They dream.

Ginsberg is the hub of the mass of puppies tonight

Gwennie also twitches outside of the whelping pen, opting to sleep on the cold concrete than on the soft straw with her brood. Her eyes roll back in her head as she sleep, high on oxytocin delivered to her brain during nursing. Oxytocin, it's been found, is the feel good chemical of the century. It is excreted during lactation (of humans and animals) and helps us to relax; during nursing, oxytocin is the chemical that stimulates the "let down" response in the breasts that encourages milk to flow. As I watch Gwennie, I remember feeling that oxytocin rush. Though relaxed, she still rests with both paws guarding the beef shin I bought her today at the butcher.

Sometimes Gwennie tires of motherhood.

Gwennie looking a little stir crazy

After all, the pups are already cutting tiny teeth through the tops of their little mouths. In a frenzy that can only be described as having the same fervor as fish spawning in shallow water, the pups rush toward their mother's nourishment, little feet scrambling clumsily, mouths tenaciously hanging on, only to have her stand abruptly and walk away.

She is not indifferent, however; she is simply teaching little future sleddogs to eat when the window opens, and eat heartily.

Kerouac howling at only two weeks

Even little Lucy has found her way to the warm mass of puppies, hugging her sister, Maggie, in sleep for warmth. And she has found her way to Gwennie to nurse too, finally.

Little Lucy (rear, with the diamond shape on the back of her neck) rests with her litter mates

This experience - or any experience with baby animals - softens you. At least it has me. We all seem to be feeding off the oxytocin and feelin' the puppy love.

Elise in puppy Heaven: here at the Lazy Husky Ranch, we visit puppies in our nightgowns!

Gwennie and I have grown so close through the birth and whelping of her puppies; I know we won't ever part. She is an exceptional dog in all ways.

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