We had watched from the sidelines, but now our captain was gone and ten tiny lives were completely in our hands.
Momma dogs do more than just nurse their babies; they lick their bellies to stimulate pee, lick their bodies to keep them clean, and lick up their puppies’ poop also to help with cleanliness. Our family did a little research and talked a bit, coming up with a new game plan.
Meanwhile, the puppies began opening their eyes for the first time. It broke my heart that they’d never know what their momma looked like. They’d never see her cross her front paws when she laid down. If felt cruel that just hours after burying their momma, the puppies opened their eyes to this world.
Five of the puppies were taken to an aquaintence who had a momma Labradoodle named Georgia. Georgia’s last puppy had left two weeks prior, but our hope was that her milk might return. Georgia accepted our five Labs instantly. She licked their sweet faces and became immediately protective. We were hopeful.
On that same trip to town, we purchased animal bottles and puppy formula. It took a few tries with different nipples, but finally the puppies got the hang of it. They would chug 3-4 oz at time, then fall into a milk coma. Although not a single pup was chocolate like their momma, every now and then they’d do something that took our breath away, like this….crossing their paws.
The five puppies with the surrogate Labradoodle were thriving as well. Georgia had accepted them as her own and her milk returned. Even her “teenage” son Murphy loved the puppies.
The five at home, at one point, were drinking 45-50 bottles PER DAY. I felt like a first time mom –formula all over my shirt, cleaning up poop constantly, and operating on zombie-level sleep. Everyone at home did chip in, but it was still a lot of work.
We missed Mojo for even more reasons now.
As the puppies grew, they drank more and more. The surrogated puppies nursed from Georgia but also received a supplement of formula each day. And every single puppy in both places was cuddled often, especially by little girls.
With all that formula and vitamins and surrogate milk and cuddles…..the puppies grew and grew.
About two weeks after Mojo had passed, we brought the five surrogated puppies home and introduced solid food to all ten. We’re emphatic about using puppy food with the highest nutritional content. We mixed it with their formula, warmed it in the microwave to soften it, and, once it had cooled, served each puppy. Often they wound up wearing it, then, as a dessert, licking it off each others’ sweet little faces.
Their growth was astounding. Watching their daddy Turner with his babies was even more amazing. Our 100 lb giant was unbelievably gentle with his little ones.
We spent…and still do spend…a lot of time outdoors. We make sure every single one gets lap time and playtime. We take walks to the end of our driveway. The biggest challenge during those walks is simply not getting tangled up in the forty legs trotting around us.
It had been three weeks since Mojo left us, and although Gracie played with and loved the puppies, her brilliant smile still hadn’t returned. John and I decided we missed having a chocolate girl too, so we completely lost our minds and pick up Miley, a 9-week-old chocolate female from Simmons Labs in Virginia. Gracie’s smile returned immediately.
At a little over six weeks, we took the puppies to the vet for their first checkup and shots. The vet called them “magnificent” and couldn’t believe how healthy they were considering all the odds stacked against them. Every pup received a clean bill of health, permission to go to their forever homes, and a very messy bowl of puppy ice cream.
Meanwhile, Gracie finished her science fair project on the genotypes and phenotypes of Labradors. We all learned a ton during her research, and her hard work paid off beyond our knowledge-base. She earned 2nd place!
We continued to love on our babies –all of them –as they began being collected by their families. From Ireland, WV to Indiana, most of the puppies left that weekend. Those who hadn’t yet lavished in the adoration of my daughters and their friends.
Life is full here once again. We’ll never forget Mojo, especially since we are keeping one of her cream puppies with a face most like her momma. Her name is Marley Jo of Clover Fork Labs, and she, too, is registered to the little girl who helped save her life.
We thank God for his amazing design and allowing Georgia to surrogate nurse our littlest guys. Truly, dogs are so much better than we humans are. They don’t need parenting books or advice to know how to be a good mom. They will accept another’s babies as their own because there is no such thing as someone else’s babies. They’re all ours to protect and nurture. It didn’t matter that they were different breeds and three different colors; there was no hesitation.
It was additional work for Georgia’s owner, Hail, who had mid-term exams and two little girls of her own. But like Georgia, she never hesitated. She jumped right in and not once did she complain, even though it must have added hours to her days. From tragedy our friendship was forged, and our families as well as our kennels –Clover Fork Labs and Country Road Labradoodles –will forever be intertwined.
Just one more gift our Mojo gave us.
Thanks to a whole lot hard work, help from others, and blessings from above, we were able to keep all ten babies alive. As long as they thrive, part of Mojo will live on.
And just like Mojo, our new chocolate girl Miley has managed to find herself in Gracie’s bed every night.
It’s been a spring full of lessons, some fun and others just plain hard. But we survived together. There may be no better therapy than puppy therapy –for a broken heart or a life hijacked by chronic illness.
Keep coloring, my friends.