The Big Litter

sheba3Sheba had started to get big – really big. She was very pregnant, and her teats were swollen and hanging down. Mom and Dad said that she was going to have a litter of pups anytime now.

Sure enough, one day Sheba disappeared underneath the trailer and didn’t come out. I don’t remember how long it took Sheba to actually give birth, but before too long, it was time to retrieve the newborn pups, and Dad elected me to help him. I think Kim really wanted to be the one to help Dad bring out the puppies. As an adult, she has reminded me that I “got” to do this. It was a little strange to me at the time, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit fascinated by it too.

doghouseIn the coming week, Dad would build a special dog house and fill it with straw to keep the puppies warm and dry. It also would have a small yard, or “run” attached, enclosed with chicken wire to keep the puppies in and unwelcome visitors out. As soon as the pups were able, they’d be moved into this new home, but for the immediate moment, their home was with their mother and with us.

We brought Sheba and the new litter into the kitchen and took inventory. Sheba had given birth to eleven puppies! Each one was different from the other too – some looked part Aerdale, some looked part wolf. One little guy was particularly chubby, and we named him “Olio” because he was round like an “O”. Kim and I gave a little black one the name “Grandpa” because the curly light brown fur over his mouth and eyes made him appear to have bushy eyebrows and an old man’s moustache. The runt of the litter was a small female we named “Ginger” because of her light brown colouring. It was quite a cute mixed up batch.Sheba only had eight teats – not enough for her new family. As you might expect, she was also very tired, so while she nursed as many of the pups as she could, we took a few of the ones who couldn’t get a “drink at the bar” over to a “private table” – a bowl of warm milk to be more exact. After weaning them for a few minutes with our fingers, some of the pups started taking right to the bowl.

Mom, Dad and Kim and I all delighted in the squeals and little yelps from the baby dogs as they climbed over each other, eager to suckle and get close to their Mother’s reassuring warmth. Seeing these little gaffers take their excited first steps in life was quite a magical experience, and that night it seemed to bring our own family closer together too.

Good girl Sheba.


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The memoir and family history of E. John Love