Friday, March 16, 2018

A Highlight

Well, Elva here, I figured you might all like to know how it is going with Bess and her new family. It is going great! 

Bess and I both had a couple of sleepless nights at the beginning, as both of us jumped anytime we heard a squealing pup, but now we are used to their little puppy noises, which are frequent and loud, considering how little they are! Last night, I only woke up when Bess got up and changed position, which caused a mighty ruckus from her children…”Hey! What is going on? Where did the milk go! What’s happening!!” I quickly jumped up and repositioned all the puppies, and soon they were once again content.

Bess is a most excellent mother. She really would rather not leave her pups at all, so my strategy for getting her outside is to wait until all the pups are done nursing and are sleeping. Then I carefully transfer them to a box with a fleece blanket and the hot water bottle. Then I plead and cajole with Bess until she finally heaves herself out of the puppy pool. She then stops for a long drink before going outside. I tried keeping a water dish in with her and the pups, but that was a minor disaster.

Once Bess is outside, she is happy and rolls around in the snow. She is happy to go on a hike with the border collies up until she remembers her pups, and then she whines, spins around and runs back home. Before I let her inside, I wash her off carefully with warm water, as she still has a little bit of discharge from having the pups. She is very patient with me cleaning her off and brushing her. When I finally open the door, she runs to the box containing the pups, but I explain to her that she has to get in the proper spot first. She then jumps in the pool, and I get her properly positioned in the middle of the pool, so that all the pups have plenty of room. Then I carefully transfer each pup, who then remembers that they are suddenly starving.

The pups are unbelievably beautiful! They have these funny little tails and short legs. They like to sleep on their backs, and if you scratch their chests and bellies, their legs start moving, just like a real dog!! 

They appear to have a huge vocabulary, and make all sorts of interesting noises. It is very pleasant to listen to! It reminds me of when I have a raised some chicks in the house, and just before they fall asleep in the night, they make these sweet whistling noises. The pups make noises like that, but even better.

Bess is now eating everything I give her, which makes me happy. It is more fun to cook for someone who appreciates it! Just before she had the pups, she had no appetite, and I worked hard to get her to eat anything. Now she eats four meals a day, each consisting of kibble, one soft-boiled egg, a generous hunk of raw roast beef, lots of bone broth, some organ meat, and lavish splash of raw milk. All this stuff comes from my farm, except the kibble, so I know it is good for her. She eats all her meals in the puppy pool, and she is very neat about it!

Blog reader Ninergirl04 had the excellent suggestion that I put identifying rick rack collars on the pups and then track their weight. I know she is right, but I have this collar phobia, worrying that they could get their feet stuck in each other’s collars or something. I think I will do this when they get a little bit older. Right now, whenever I put the pups in the box when Bess goes out, I carefully examine each one and then also watch how they nurse when I put them back with Bess. I really feel that all of them are doing very, very well.

Another thing I agonized over was whether the pups were warm enough. It was suggested that I use a heat lamp, but I know that Bess would hate that, so I compromised with the hot water bottle. I change this about every two hours in the day, but then take it out at night, as I am afraid it would cool off too much before I woke up. Instead, I roll a fleece or wool blanket up and place it so that they can snuggle up to it. They sleep in between Bess and this rolled-up blanket. So far, this seems to be working well. Tonight I am going to put a hunk of unwashed fleece in the pool, so that they can get used to the smell of sheep.

Well that’s about all that is going on now, but I must say that having these pups is one of the highlights of my life! It is really a special event, and both Bess and I will never forget it!

One last thing…March 16th is RB’s birthday, so Happy Birthday from all of us. Her present from me will be that she gets to see the puppies! What more could a person want for their birthday?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Blood Does Tell

All the little grubs and their mom are doing great.

There are 5 boys, 3 girls and they are all fat as sausages.

These are healthy, vigorous little grubs.  They can manage to sound like a whole pack of coyotes singing when mom takes an occasional break.

Bess has always had an affinity for babies of all species.  She even loves playing with human babies, unlike the Border Collies who generally think little humans are space aliens that either need to be herded up or chased off. 

Bess is amazingly gentle with and protective of babies, all babies.  When there are baby lambs, she quietly worms her way in amongst them to keep them safe and happy.

By the time the calves are born, the lambs are racing around and Bess moves off to look after the baby calves.

The cows and the ewes are always on high alert when the Border Collies are around, but Bess moves in slow, eyes down and the moms welcome her help in looking after their babies.

After the newborn livestock are all on their feet, Bess divides her time between them.  She makes her rounds each day, checking on lambs, calves and chicks all while keeping her human in line.

No one has ever had to teach Bess how to be a great Livestock Guardian Dog, it is just her nature.  It's what countless generations before her have been bred to do.  A really good LGD is a friend and protector of everyone on her farm.  It is no wonder she is being such a good mom to her own puppies.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Little White Grubs

Bessie started having her puppies yesterday afternoon and finished around midnight with 8 wriggly, squirmy, little white grubs.

They don't look like much at this point - newborn puppies always look a bit more like slugs than anything else - but these little grubs will grow up to be super farm guardians just like mom.

While none of us approve of indiscriminate breeding, there is a real place in the world for outstanding dogs who do very important work.  Just as Bess has proven herself to be an exceptional and invaluable farm dog, she is, of course, proving to be an exceptional mom.

These pups will grow up with sheep, cattle, chickens, pigs, tractors and a whole pack of outstanding farm dogs to teach them their jobs.  If that isn't enough, Uncle Connor will be there every day to show them how to have fun.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Ready to Pop

Hello Blog readers,

No the puppies are not here yet, but they are coming soon!!! The much-anticipated ultrasound was done last Thursday, with Bess comfortably cooperating to the fullest while stretched out on my couch on her back. The verdict is possibly seven or eight puppies. This is not an exact science, so there may be even more!!

Meanwhile, let’s catch up on the latest events from here on the farm. Most importantly, my friends and I celebrated Bess’ third birthday last Saturday with the annual winter dinner. 

I host a dinner for each season here on the farm, and the winter dinner featured homemade English muffins, made by RB, which we turned into mini pizzas. Everyone brought their favorite toppings, like basil, arugula, mushrooms, pepperoni, onion, etc. Since I am a plain Jane sort of person, I had a cheese pizza, until one of my friends encouraged me to try roasted cauliflower on it, which was delicious!! I highly recommend it! 

For our favorite gluten-free person, I made home-raised chicken baked in tomato sauce along with a fabulous salad. Then for dessert, RB totally outdid herself. Remember those chocolate Hostess cupcakes you ate as a kid with the creamy filling? Well she made cupcakes like these, only a THOUSAND times better! 

I got to help assemble them, and it was fun! The procedure involves taking out some of the cake (and eating it), filling it with creamy filling, and then plugging up the hole with more cake. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Anyway, it was a great dinner, and Bess is now three years old. Of course we also made sure we remembered RB’s departed Maggie, who also would have been three. We miss her greatly and will always remember her.

So now we are in the home stretch of the pregnancy. I have Bess’ special whelping dog wading pool all set up in the living room. She likes it!!! I have two entire unwashed fleeces as padding, followed by a sheet donated by Dancing Donkey Kris, and topped off with five large bath towels, kindly donated by RB. This is the birthing setup. 

Once the puppies are all born, I will take all that out, use the soiled fleeces for mulch, wash the towels, and replace the bedding with two washed fleeces. This will keep Bess comfortably padded and the puppies warm. The unwashed fleeces are very oily (lanolin) and sticky. The washed fleeces are not very sticky, as I don’t want the pups to get tangled in it. As they get older and bigger, this won’t be a worry. I want some unwashed fleece in there soon, so the pups grow up with sheep smell, in case they go to homes as livestock guardians. Don’t worry; I will have plenty of fleeces to work with, as my sheep are getting sheared in two weeks!!! 

Feeding Bess has been a bit of a challenge. Like I mentioned in my last guest blog, Bess had a spell of decreased appetite at about her third week. This was followed by a voracious appetite, which I satisfied with lots of home-raised raw grass-fed beef, including muscle meat, tongue, heart, and liver. I added lots of eggs from my chickens, along with plenty of bone broth, and her regular kibble. For the past week, her appetite has been decreasing, so I feed her many very small meals to tempt her. I just fed her a meal of raw roast beef (bottom round) topped off with a poached egg. I think she is looking good. We take two or three moderate hikes every day, and she sleeps a lot too. We are all ready!!!!! 

Bess’ actual due date is approximately March 12th or 13th. This can be variable, as she was bred more than once, and the days of gestation can vary. Anyway, no matter how you look at it, the pups will be here soon!!!!!!!!!

The spring dinner, which is usually at the end of May is set for very early May, so that everyone gets to see and play with the pups, which will be about six or seven weeks old. It should be fun and you are all invited!!!

My next guest blog will document THE BIG EVENT!!!!!


I've had a number of people ask me where to find a toy like the one Di gave to my donkeys.  They can be found on Amazon here:

You will need to inflate the toy with one of those needle thingies that you use to inflate a basketball or soccer ball.  It is super easy, but if you've loaned your bicycle pump to your friend like I did, you will have to remember top retrieve it before you can accomplish this little task, which, for me at least, took a while:)

And...just because everybody needs puppy is the latest of Lulu already outgrowing the beds. 
Doesn't she look just like a big, soft, squishy toy herself?  The kind you'd just like to grab up and get a good whiff of puppy breath.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Border Collie's Torment

While Emma and ramsey were checking out the new toy yesterday, Ben decided to play one of his favorite games.  As you've probably noticed, Connor is ultra, super obsessed with the frisbee.  He is also tireless, relentless and the most hyper-competitive Border Collie I have ever met.  Even when Connor is sleeping, he is dreaming of frisbee.

He takes being a frisbee-obsessed Border Collie to whole new levels of obsessive Border-Collie-ness.  If I am not actively throwing the frisbee, than he is actively trying to get me to.  Can you feel the stare?

Connor can hold this pose and keep up this level of intensity for HOURS.  He can outlast any attempts to ignore him.  I distract him with walks and other jobs and he'll go off happily and do them, but when we come back, he will pick up exactly where he left off.  I took the frisbee away and hid it behind the couch once - a year ago - and he still checks back there.  Every. Single. Day.

Connor's attempts to make me throw the frisbee include leaving it in my path and then moving off into ready-launch mode until I pass by it.  Every now and then though, this backfires on my crazy Border Collie because the one toy Ben likes to play with is the frisbee.  He especially likes to play with it if he can taunt Connor with it at the same time.

Yesterday, Connor left the frisbee right in my path, but someone else got there first.

Ben generally ignores Connor, but he always watches him and will not let him come onto the donkey side of the fence.  Connor knows better than to mess with the donkeys and Ben knows better than to go after Connor, but he is not fond of dogs and he sure would like to.  Beneath that placid, phlegmatic surface lies a fire-breathing dragon and dogs make the dragon appear.

When Ben gets his hooves on the frisbee, he loves to tease Connor with it.  Yesterday, he found the frisbee right where Connor had left it for me to throw, picked it up and waved it around and all the while, poor Connor laid on the other side of the gate in appalled horror, whining and quivering.  Every time he inched closer, Ben dropped the frisbee, stood on it and puffed smoke at my poor dog.

I swear I could see a little evil smile on Ben's face the whole time.  Tormenting the dog is his idea of a good time.

This is Connor's idea of a good time.