The phrase kept going through my head like a banner at the bottom of the television.
"minimal interference...minimal interference...minimal interference..."
It’s our credo at Summerside Farms. Nature knows, and we assist. We give room for our animals to direct and to show us what they need.
I counted and re-counted the days a few dozen times on my calendar. One week, two weeks, three weeks. 60 days. That's usually Caledonia's average before whelping.
The first time was a complete surprise since she was a few days early and the second time came during circumstances outside of our control. While the puppies arrived perfectly, I was really looking forward to being prepared this go-round.
Here we were, trapped inside during an ice storm. It was raining ice and thundering while too-eager spring peeper frogs were offering a melody outside. In my rush and calendar-obsession, I only gave myself a few moments to really enjoy the natural symphony outside. If I had let nature guide, I would have known that was really a time for me to enjoy and rest, but my control-brain took over: "if only these puppies could have already been here, snuggled up close to their mama while I held my babies close, too!"
Things rarely play out like you think they will. I just wanted to be sure all was okay, that there weren't any issues. I also was curious to know how many puppies she'd have. I thought maybe 11. How many males? Females? Trying to count your chickens before they hatch is never advised, and it's because you can get yourself worked up in worry and miss seasons of rest. She spent almost an entire week resting in the whelping box.
Norah would run out and peek over the edge, "No puppies!" she would yell back to me in the bedroom. I didn't go to the store on Tuesday because what if they came? What if she needed me? What if there are complications? What if she is too stressed? Is she comfortable? Oh my, she probably needs more probiotics...maybe she wants to listen to Celtic music to get in the right mindset…my thoughts were restless.
I had forgotten that she would show me when she was ready.
I put Cali on the leash and she took me for a walk. I could tell she was on a mission, and I loosely held the lead while she followed her nose, winding through the woods.
I squished through the muddy leaves in my Sunday shoes trying to avoid thorn bushes as we moved at a pace of imminent purpose.
She stopped to vomit. She stopped again to relieve herself in the woods.
Thank you for not doing that inside, sweet girl.
Then she stopped again at the edge of our fence-line and looked longingly into the far off pasture of our neighbor's land. Perhaps she knew of an ideal burrow out there, far from the noise of our busy farm. I know she was showing me where she wanted to have them, if not for the whelping box. That minimal interference came scrolling again... "Winter storm warning...minimal interference...minimal interference..."
I saw that instinct and I trusted her will to do it her way; her desire to find her own spot to have her babies.
How badly I wanted to honor that. I was half tempted to let her go, but I asked her to follow me and she trusted me too.
Back to the whelping box, this time.
I needed to be able to help her, should any issues arise, and to keep everyone warm and safe together.
Wolves have their dens and domesticated dogs often remember that. But domesticated they are, and as such, we humans have a role in their health, safety and provision.
So I interfered, minimally. She had no issues and I just kept clean puppy pads under her as she birthed each pup and cleaned them off. Cali is a wonderful mama and it was (of course) worth the wait. Everything happened in perfect timing. She began having her puppies at 2:39 on February 27 and we welcomed 6 boys and 3 girls. All shaded sables, except for 2 almost-identical males who are tri-colored.
I always follow my grandmother's advice that she learned as a child from a farmer - “give your dogs fresh cow milk to drink during pauses in labor”
We started giving it with the last litters - I had my doubts that Cali would want to drink during labor, but both Cali and Bonnie LOVE it. Jared milked one of our cows, brought me some, and Cali drank it without pause.
She's recovering well, now we are supplementing with fresh farm eggs, fresh milk, probiotics and plenty of rest.
Rest before the busy tasks of training, rearing and enriching these little ones.
If you are interested in a puppy, please fill out an application on our 'Scotch Collie' page and I will reach out soon.