Rose to the Rescue
by Cheri Thomson

I have heard that there is a reason for everything, and perhaps that witticism was made more clear to me with the recent happenings at our house.

A much anticipated breeding of our Ch. Lucene's Scarlet Rose to Ch. Barkerville Vesuvius resulted in only two puppies.  A big disappointment, since we had reservations for at least 5 puppies from that union and were hoping to have at least two to keep for ourselves as well.  With just one red male, and one B&T female, it was clear that there would be no puppies available from this litter.

The two babies were unremarkable, growing fat and strong on their mother's milk, which would have been sufficient for at least 8 to 10 babies. By two and half weeks of age, the two were butterballs, in the bloom of good health.  They also appeared to be very promising puppies that intended to keep.

Then, a call for help from a fellow breeder.  A healthy young Rhodesian Ridgeback bitch, with her first litter had died during an emergency C-Section.  Her litter of 12 orphans had struggled to survive, but alas, only 6 of them were alive at 10 days of age. They were not responding well to hand rearing, and it appeared all would be lost if a surrogate mother could not be found.

The six helpless waifs, looking like refuges from some famine ravished third world country arrived on our doorstep in dreadful condition.  They were nothing but skin covered bones, no flesh and terribly dehydrated.  Their owner had never raised orphans before, and had been feeding them by bottle, which resulted in aspiration problems and insufficient caloric intake. Afraid to use commercial formula, she had been feeding a watered down mix of goats milk, egg yolk and corn syrup, that clearly was not sufficient for these babies to grow on.

Rose was removed from her room and the 6 Africans were placed in the maternity box alongside the week older Dachshund puppies.  It broke my heart to see their pathetic little bodies alongside my plump, shiny puppies. They were about 1/4 the size of the Dachshunds, which was surprising since they are a much larger breed.  I had expected them to be at least as big, even though they were one week younger.

Rose was somewhat dumbfounded to return to her box of puppies and find they had multiplied while she was out doing her business.  She carefully stepped among them, sniffing and moving them, then tentatively licking them. Within a few short minutes, she got down to the task of cleaning each every one of them from top to bottom.

The Rhodesians had never seen a mother dog, as theirs had died during their birth. They were very focused on the human hands that had always been the supply of their bottled formula.  It took some doing, they were eventually convinced to try drinking their meals "au natural". Within 24 hours, they were all nursing at regular intervals.

The poor little things also had a problem with bowel elimination.  They had become extremely constipated on the formulae they were being fed and were unable to have a natural bowel movement, even with stimulation from Rose. Their stool was rock hard and badly impacted, giving them a bloated look. They strained and struggled to eliminate, obviously in discomfort. Fortunately, Rose was persistent, and continued to lick them until that problem was resolved.

By day two, our little "third world refuges" were starting to re-hydrate.  No longer were they so without flesh that they looked like bags of bones. They were starting to plump up, and their skin was no longer hanging from bodies in loose folds.  The Jersey Cow look was fading and they were starting to look like normal puppies, although still very small and immature for their age.

I learned a few things about big dog puppies. First, and foremost, they have legs...long legs!  They can stand up and toddle about on these long legs, and if you are not careful, they will fall right of the box, which is designed for Dachshunds, who have no legs!  They are also very noisy, which I at first put down to their hunger and stomach upsets, but according to their owner, all Ridgeback puppies are screamers.  Hard to sleep when the puppies in the next room are screaming like banshees all night long.

I also learned that Ridgebacks are a very tough breed to work with.  They have very specific requirements to be even considered worth having.  They must have a Ridge.  Ridgeless puppies are usually culled at birth. There here is the requirement of what this ridge must be.  It must have a single crown at the top, be straight, with no additional whirls or direction changes, or they are strictly pet quality. If you are lucky enough to get even one with "show" ridge, then you take a look at conformation. No wonder a big entry of Ridgebacks is just a few dogs.

Since Rose's milk supply was little light for such a big increase in puppies overnight, I started out feeding the orphans with a commercial bitch milk replacement, by tube feeding directly into the stomach every 3 hours throughout the day.  At night, while I slept, they had only Rose to appease their now ravenous appetites.

At nearly 3 weeks of age, the puppies were well established, and at 3 weeks and one day old, just 11 days after their arrival at Rose's side, the 6 strong healthy puppies went home to their owner.  Now able to drink a slurry porridge of formulae and pabulum from a bowl, the puppies were well on their way.

Like they say, everything happens for a reason.  Maybe Rose had only two puppies of her own that she could save the lives of some desperate orphans. I do know that seeing their once sad and depressed owner taking home a lively healthy bunch of babies was reward enough for me. Out of the tragedy of the loss of her beloved 2 year old female, she at least has one promising male puppy to carry on, with the other 5 puppies all going to waiting pet homes.

Cherri Thomson
Blackloch Standard Smooth Dachshunds
Surrey, B.C., Canada

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