Not a professional dog doula

Before I get to rambling on like usual, let me define doula for those of you who are new to this term. A doula is a “professional labor assistant who provides physical and emotional support to you during pregnancy, birth, and the postnatal period.” (Thanks Google.) I have been trying out my doula skills on Lucy, our Labrador at the farm. The neighbor’s Great Pyrenees paid a visit one day, and much like when the bull jumps the fence because your heifers are in heat…well, you know the rest.
Lucy’s time was nearing. Cora was measuring her belly’s increasing width by putting one leg on either side of her when she would nap on the kitchen floor. I could feel her chainsaw-like snoring vibrations through my feet as I did the dishes nearby. Her sleep volume was increasing daily, thanks to the pressure on her body by an unknown number of puppies growing inside. Peanut was feeling left out. His best furry friend could no longer run and wrestle with him on the walk to the barn, and napping seemed to be her favorite pastime. I pondered readying the basement room for her birthing station, but after a few attempts to get her to even come into it to sit by me were shot down, I tried to accept that the living room would likely be her chosen spot.
Two weeks ago, as I was milking cows, I popped in the milkhouse to check in on Lucy, only to discover that Peanut was patiently waiting for me to finish and Lucy was nowhere in sight. I had all the children combing every open building on the farm, yelling, shining lights. It was too cold out for puppies to be born outside. I was not being a very good doula. I finished up chores and made a beeline for the house, on a whim walking around the outside porch. Out of the shadows popped Lucy, panting like crazy and all wound up. This goofy dog seemed to think her nesting spot should be under there in the cold and dark. Not a chance, dog.
I took the kids home and came back to the farm to endure a long night of listening to Lucy pant and watching her pace, unable to find her comfortable spot anywhere. I tried to lock her in the basement, a very foolish idea for sure, and in hindsight, probably one that delayed her labor. I let her have her choice of the couches and headed home to get the kids on the bus. Cora had a bad cold that day, so I let her stay home and be a farmer and dog doula. We opened the door to the farmhouse and instantly heard squeaking. Lucy was positioned on one couch, with a chubby little black puppy on the other.
The second black one slid out as Cora and I were getting ready for the barn. Assuming (yes, I know that is not always wise) that Lucy would prefer privacy during her labor, we headed out to move cows. Being the worrywart that I am, I called the secretary from the middle of a pen of cows and asked if someone could go check on my laboring mother. She caught the second one and removed the sack. I snuck back to the house in time to greet number four. Back up to the barn, I finished my chores and grabbed Cora and sped back down. Puppy number five was out and nursing, but puppy six was dead inside the sack. Lucy was so exhausted from her night therefore not doing the things that should have come natural to her.
Cora and I mourned number six and went back out to feed the sheep and chickens. In a matter of less than ten minutes, Lucy had pushed out another puppy – still in the sack. I was determined not to lose this one. I grabbed a kitchen towel and, channeling all of my James Herriot knowledge, began rubbing him fiercely. Then I did the unthinkable. I gave this little black ball mouth-to-mouth. I know. A bit gross, but I was not going to give up. After much rubbing and a few more breaths, his tongue turned pink and he gasped. I do not know who was more surprised–me or Cora. It worked. It actually worked. Cora took over with the cuddling as I helped the eighth pup out of the birth bag and to the food source. “Herriot” as he was aptly named, needed some assistance to latch on, but after a few tries on his own, he was proclaimed a pro.
Lucy was treated to lunch on the couch, and after scrambled eggs were devoured, she seemed to have gained some needed strength and began to realize she actually had puppies. She hopped up, and silly me, thinking she was done and needed to go outside, I opened the door. As my luck would have it, she dove under the porch. There was no way I was crawling under there to coerce her out. An hour later, when the kids arrived home, Dane volunteered his wiry body and shimmied through the boards. Ham, a rope, sweet talking, digging, a swift kick to the porch lattice, as much patience as I could muster, and we finally got her back to the house. As Dane worked his way out along her path, he discovered dead puppy number two.
We settled her and all her puppies onto the couch, and I began to attack my pile of dirty dishes. She started snoring comfortably, and I figured all was well. Every time I peeked over my shoulder, she appeared content. 12 hours after the first puppy was born, I crossed the floor and low and behold, there was one final puppy tucked under her tail in the sack, dead.
I suppose it was probably a blessing in disguise. Seven is a much easier number to handle where puppies are concerned when you are a first-time mother. Lucy enjoys her made-to-order meals of hamburger, rice and scrambled eggs. She bounds outside in the morning to wrestle a bit with Peanut again, to his utter delight. The best part? These roly-poly puppies have just opened their eyes, and listening to their squeaks and purrs or sneaking a cuddle or two is a sure way to make everyone’s day.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.


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