Welcome to the World
A veteran Bullmastiff breeder shares her whelping stories
While some people get the greatest joy from their dogs in the show ring, I am happiest sitting in a whelping box watching the delivery and development of the next generation.
Some Bullmastiff bitches just get down to business and pop out the pups, and others make an adventure, crisis or world-shaking event out of the procedure.
Tomboy was my first champion. She was a shining star in the show ring, but seemed to lack the knack of getting pregnant. Her younger sister Thais was cute, not exceptional like Tomboy, but never missed on a breeding. Tomboy found multiple ways to avoid the consequences of her romantic trysts.
This was back in the ’70s, when the availability of reproductive specialists was practically non-existent. I did have a good vet whose wife bred Golden Retrievers so he was more in tune with breeding problems than most. He decided to do a vaginal culture on Tomboy. The results came up with e-coli. He decided to make an autogenous vaccine using her discharge. I got to give her a subcutaneous 1/10 of a cc shot every day for three weeks. Miracle of miracles, she cleared up and was successfully bred on her next season.
Well, we thought it was successful. Tomboy grew a nice belly and everything looked perfect. With a week and a half to go, I was so looking forward to the whelping. We were watching TV on the evening of the 52nd day when Tomboy indicated she wanted to go outside. I went out with her, and she squatted and promptly dropped a puppy – deader than a stone and hairless on the face and legs. In no time at all, she dropped another in the same condition.
I knew enough to know if we didn’t get her to hold on to the rest it was not likely any of the pups would survive this early.
I called the vet and he met me at his office right away. He decided she wasn’t going to stop and he should C-section the rest of the litter. I asked him if there wasn’t something we could do to stop the delivery, and he said no, and that if he took them all at once there was a chance something might survive.
So we did the section. Six more pups – four of them living. They were totally hairless on the face and legs, but breathing on their own. Born so early, the odds weren’t good they would continue to do so. They really looked like black-masked rats. I bundled everyone up and took them home.
I had a cozy, warm corner in the kitchen with a whelping box and a heat lamp set up. Tomboy settled into the box. I put the pups on her, and she shot out of the box like it was electrified. She had no intention of giving up her diva status and being a nursemaid. She was perfectly willing to lie across the room and watch me care for the pups, but she wasn’t having anything to do with them. They were yucky!
Despite the terrible odds, the pups thrived on a formula I made up. Every two hours they were fed. They could actually nurse from a bottle. Tomboy continued to observe from the other side of the kitchen. I slept on the living-room couch.
On the fifth night, I overslept an hour and jumped up in a panic, fearing the little ones were going to be starving. I walked into the kitchen to find Tomboy comfortably settled in the box and all the babies nursing happily. I couldn’t believe it!
But by later in the afternoon, I wish I hadn’t seen it. All four pups developed awful, watery diarrhea. Tomboy’s milk was in in force, but it was toxic. Now she didn’t want to be separated from the babies but had to be removed from the room. The vet gave me several medications to soothe the pups’ intestinal tracts. Nothing seemed to work. They cried and cried and scalded their bellies and legs so badly with the discharge that their toenails fell out of their swollen little toes. I carried them around in a big robe. They were wrapped in soft paper towels to catch the discharge – one pup under each armpit and one each in the two big robe pockets so they had my body warmth and constant contact. I was sure they weren’t going to make it.
It took three weeks to get them back to some normalcy. They needed constant attention all this time. They slept next to me in a box with a heating pad at night, and I carried them around in the robe most of the day. Finally, they turned the corner – started growing normal skin over the scalded areas, grew new toenails, got up on their feet, and acted like nothing out of the ordinary had happened to them.
I don’t know to this day, close to 40 years later, of a litter than survived this early a birth, let along being poisoned by bad milk. They had no health problems thereafter. Just goes to show when we say Bullmastiffs are tough, it’s definitely the truth.
Another interesting whelping occurred some 10 years later. I had a very nice bitch who started into labor at exactly the right date, but wasn’t making much progress. Naturally it was early on a Sunday morning, so after waiting just long enough to know she wasn’t going to do it, I trotted off to the local emergency vet. I knew she wasn’t carrying many. I didn’t want to risk what she did have so we did a section. I got two lovely pups.
What began to bother me was that while she had plenty of milk and was a willing and good mother, she seemed more restless than I was comfortable with. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was going on, but I kept a close eye on her for any signs of fever or bad discharge.
Tuesday morning I was in my living room, and the phone rang. I popped into the kitchen to answer it. While I was speaking with my friend on the phone, I heard a funny noise, and then a strange squeal. I dragged the phone extension cord over to the box and saw this awful-looking big red blob in the corner of the box. Then the blob seemed to quiver. I told my friend I had to go and I’d call back because something really strange was happening.
I examined the blob – a big, fat placenta – moved it, and under it was a gigantic pup. I thought, “I’m going to kill that vet. He left a pup in her and now it’s dead.” WRONG! As soon as I touched it, the pup started squawking and crawling. I grabbed it up, cleaned it off and cut the cord. On weighing her, she was 2 pounds. Now, how her mother couldn’t deliver two normal pups on her own and dropped this one two days later is the question of the century.
This pup thrived along with the other two. We named her Tuesday Miracle, obviously for the day she was born and the circumstances of her birth.
An hour or so after the big event, I called the emergency hospital to discuss the whole thing. I told the receptionist what happened and that the vet had left a pup in the bitch. It wasn’t a very satisfying conversation, but the primary vet at the clinic, who I knew well (not the genius that did the surgery) called and refunded my money, which was very good of him to do voluntarily. I didn’t even get a chance to yell at anyone.
Miracle grew well, went to live with friends of mine, and lived a long and normal life from that point.
I have a lovely champion bitch that had no trouble conceiving but it was always beneath her dignity to go into labor. She had three litters, all by section, didn’t mind caring for them, just wasn’t going to stress herself delivering them.
Therefore when I bred her first daughter I was pretty certain, since she was like her mother in most other ways, that we were going to be toddling off to the vet for a section. I kept a really close watch on Summer, as she was pretty big around the middle.
Five days before she was due, I took her temperature early in the morning. It was a tad low, but nothing to get excited about. Most of my bitches drop their temperatures several days before, bring them up again, and drop the temperature on the 62nd or 63rd day when they are serious about delivery. I checked on her in the whelping box at 9 a.m. and saw she was sleeping peacefully, so I went into the computer room and proceeded to read my e-mail.
My husband likes to use the large shower on the far side of the house, past the dog room, and came to tell me she was up and looking a little restless. I told him the pups were probably moving back, as the timing was right for that, and it would make her a little uncomfortable.
A half-hour later, I decided to check on her. She wasn’t alone. She had delivered four pups in that half an hour. She then gave me four more before the afternoon was over. So much for “like mother like daughter.”
One of my favorite stories of mothers and pups is about Kissy, a bitch born here in the late ’70s. She was the most marvelous mother. Her milk was so exceptionally good and rich, and her pups always lost a bit of weight when they went on solid food after weaning. They were also the devil to wean because they preferred her milk to anything.
I had a Siamese cat who had a great love of baby rice cereal, which is what I first weaned the pups on. When the pups wouldn’t eat I’d put Me Now in the whelping box and she’d head right for the food pan. The pups couldn’t stand the thought of someone else getting the food, and would dive right in and eat. They also cleaned their chins on Me Now, who would look thoroughly disgusted and hop out of the box and wash for an hour.
Kissy was spayed when she was five. We had a rescue cat named Radar who was about two years old at the time. One day I saw him walk up to Kissy in our front hall, stand on his hind legs and butt her in the side. She fell over on her side, and he proceeded to nurse. She was so lonesome for babies to take care of she actually made milk for him. You could see it running out of the corners of his mouth.
She nursed him several times a day. People who would come in when they were occupying the front hall would stop and stare and say, “They aren’t doing what it looks like, are they?” I’d tell them obviously yes, since milk was running all over the place.
Tomboy had a granddaughter, Tanimara, who had just one litter. That was enough for me, as it contained Ch.Tauralan Vic Torious, who was the first top producer of 30 champions.
I would have loved it if she’d had a daughter, but she had just five boys. She was a very large-boned, substantial bitch, and I worried she would not be as careful as necessary in the whelping box. She cured me of that concern right away. When she would leave the box and come back in, she would use her front paws and her nose and put the five boys in a little pile in one corner of the box and then go lie down on the other side. They had to come to her after she was all settled. Clever girl.
There are lots more stories of moms and babies, but that’s it for now. I am sure many readers can identify with the stories I’ve told, and have some fascinating ones of their own.
© Modern Molosser Magazine. This article may not be reposted, reprinted, rewritten, excerpted or otherwise duplicated in any medium without the express written permission of the publisher.
Fri, 03/16/2018 - 1:02pm