Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The struggle for existence is the fiercest fight

The struggle for existence: the automatic competition of members of a natural population for limited vital resources (as food, space, or light) that results in natural selection.

Though they weigh less than 2 pounds, their will to live and thrive is fierce.

There is a struggle going on in the whelping box right now. It is a struggle that connects these tiny creatures to their most ancient ancestors, as primeval and innate as the most basic drives. It is the struggle for life, and these little mouths will stop at nothing to gain ground.

Puppies might look cute.

But they're really vicious survivalists.

Their mission is simple: grab on, suction, and fight like hell to keep another mouth from overtaking. They push their way over, under and practically through each other, latch on, and hold tight with a most tenacious grip.

Little feet that will stop at nothing to claw their way over their sibling for survival

Unfortunately, in the struggle for existence, some get pushed aside.

Some, like Darwin, say this is nature's way of weeding out the weak. But I like to flip Darwin's own theory on him and say I think we've evolved from "nature vs. nurture."

Enter Lucy. She was named after an author, like the others. But I find her name doubly fitting because of Lucy, the skeleton that sits in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History who is cited frequently as evidence of evolution.

She should be dead, according to Darwinism. Where the other pups weigh in around 1.5 pounds, Lucy is still a scrawny 11.5 ounces.

She has always been a loner, a little wanderer. Maybe that's why she is so dear to me. On the second day of life, we found Lucy away from the litter, behind her mother's back. She was cool to the touch (newborn pups cannot maintain their own body heat for a week or so after birth), and stiffening. I thought she was dead. I quickly picked her up and did the equivalent of puppy CPR, rubbing her chest gently until she started crying out.

Another theory in survivalism: stick with the pack, for the loner will surely die.

Lucy in bed with me

So, I did what seemed right to me: I brought Lucy to bed with me to elevate her body temperature. I began supplementing feedings with bottle feedings.

Yesterday, when we all trekked out into the cold for a mama and baby vet check, the vet confirmed that I am doing all that can be done. All the others had their dew claws removed, much to Gwennie's distress.

Gwennie very concerned that her babies were in that little crate

I've felt like a new mom myself, up several times through the night for bottle feedings. Luckily, Lucy is still nursing from her mama, so she's getting important antibodies necessary to strengthen her vulnerable immune system. But I usually supervise her nursing sessions to ensure the other puppies don't push her away from her mom.

It's touch and go with her. One hour she is nursing vigorously like the others, and I think she's finally out of the woods; the next hour she is isolated again, cool, crying.

Lucy has really weasled her way into our hearts. I hope she makes it.

Otherwise, the other pups are amazing! They eat constantly and are growing and thriving.

Elise and one of the bigger pups, Maggie

Sophie and Maggie

Taking care of Gwennie and 8 pups, along with Lucy, has been a full-time endeavor! Mopping the whelping room, cleaning bedding, being up with Lucy, making sure Gwennie gets three hearty meals a day...I've been too busy to get the dogs out with the sled.

But I have decided to partake in a race this weekend afterall. Stay tuned!

With love from the Lazy Husky nursery.

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