I’ve mentioned before that puppies are a lot of work. So I thought I’d give you a peek into a typical day of caring for ten large puppies.
Someone, somewhere in the house flushes a toilet and the puppies wake up. The pipes run through the wall in the puppy room which is our converted mudroom. It is somewhat miraculous that they don’t seem to waken if the flush happens earlier than five. Puppies commence yipping for breakfast, pooping, fighting, and zooming through poop while yipping for breakfast and fighting.
Nick gets up and has breakfast, completely ignoring the puppies, and more amazingly, the smell of the puppies.
I accept the fact that the puppies are not going back to sleep and get out of bed. I let Gracie out and put Bell in the playyard because if I don’t, both of these girls will join the chorus when they hear me prepping puppy breakfast. (Fanny sleeps in.)
I prepare the puppies eating area and try very hard not to look into the puppy room, as it is always a poop-covered disaster area and seeing it first thing is just too disheartening. Because the room is too filthy and puppies cannot keep food in their bowls, I don’t feed them in their room. I set up a temporary area in the hall outside their room where they eat.
While they eat, I clean as fast I can, which is never fast enough. You would be amazed how quickly ten puppies can consume five cups of dry food. I gather their dirty laundry (towels that cover beds, beds themselves if the towels were removed and beds are poopy, soft-sided toys, and any extra towels- the ones I sometimes toss in the pen to cover a particularly wet or poopy area I can’t reach by moving the puppy fence or reaching over it. I throw all the hard-sided toys in the mudroom sink to wash later.
Next, I use paper towels to pick up the poop that didn’t land on the puppy pads, and then roll all the dirty paper towels up in the puppy pads and place the giant poop-filled tootsie roll of pads outside the pen. I spray the exposed floor with bleach spray and the areas with dried-on poop with murphy oil soap. While those areas soak, I clean the water bowls with bleach and refill them.
As fast as I can, I set out new puppy pads in the ‘bathroom area,’ and anchor them with the pen fence and a small stool. Puppy pads are a life-saver with this many puppies, even if they do sometimes shred them. We are burning through our supply of pads, so I’m hoping a holiday elf will be inspired by this post to donate some, otherwise, I’ll have to brave Walmart (my least favorite place in town).
Using towels, I scrub the bleached areas (this is usually about the point when the puppies join me to ‘help’). I cover the beds with clean towels and set out lots of new toys. While I’m doing that, the puppies are romping back and forth between the two areas, sometimes pooping on the fresh clean puppy pads and sometimes pooping wherever the urge strikes them. I swoop in with paper towels to grab as many little turds as I can before they’re tracked all over the nice clean pen.
After herding all the puppies except Rocky back into the puppy room, I clean up the eating annex while Rocky helps by eating any stray kibble. I interrupt her efforts to jam two antibiotics down her throat, which she hardly notices and swallows so she can get back to eating. I fill a tiny syringe with iron supplement and squirt that down her throat also. As she’s getting the final stray bits of kibble, I take the fence down and fold the surgery drapes that the puppies eat on (unless they are badly soiled by rude poopers), and use a cordless vac to pick up whatever Rocky has missed.
NOTE: Rocky was examined by a vet last week. She had a skin scrape for Demodex mange. It was negative, but we treated for it anyway. She also had bloodwork which revealed that she has some kind of generalized infection (treating with two antibiotics) and she’s anemic, which accounts for her low energy. Iron supplements have already perked her up tremendously (she’s a feisty girl to begin with!). She is responding well and will be ready to find an adopter soon! (pictures by Nancy Slattery)
Last, Rocky and I go back in the puppy room so I can refill water bowls that are usually drained after a meal and continue to triage the area for poop. Sometimes this is when I also make a live video on Facebook because it’s when the pen is cleanest. I realize that gives the impression that the pen is always spotless; hopefully this post makes it clear that is a momentary situation.
Feed the other dogs. While they eat, feed horses, cats, and chickens. Take Fanny out to play in the puppy yard or for a walk around the pasture.
Finally make my first cup of tea. Sip it in the playyard while tossing a ball for Bell, the relentless fetcher.
Puppies are usually napping and I can sneak in and do another quick clean up, plus clean/fill water bowls. I’m paranoid about water bowls. One of the toughest kinds of worms to get rid of in puppies is Coccidia. It’s spread by poopy paws in water bowls. I try to bleach-clean my bowls a minimum of five times during the day. I keep a spray bottle of bleach/water next to the sink and squirt-scrub-rinse-refill frequently.
Pop in for another clean up. If I have a volunteer coming, this is a good time to get the puppies out to their play area in the living room. The volunteer can babysit while I pick everything up and clean more thoroughly. The early morning clean is always rushed and spotty.
Repeat morning feed minus the Rocky meds. If I’ve have some help and done the thorough clean at 10:30, there is usually little cleaning that needs done at lunch, which is good because it gives me more time for the big dogs before I have to get back to work.
Enforced nap time for the puppies. Much like children, some of them don’t nap. I turn off the light and try to keep the exterior noise to a minimum. This is also my ‘creative writing time’ when I work on fiction so I need the quiet. The puppies generally cooperate, but not always. They are on the other side of the wall from my writing desk, so sometimes I hear the rumbles that go on, but I make myself ignore it even as I know the clean up will be brutal.
Clean up and if it doesn’t take too long, I spend time with the puppies in the pen. I try to give each of them a few minutes of snuggles, holding them on their backs in cradling position to see if they trust me. This litter loves to snuggle but not many of them will allow me to hold them like babies for long. This also gives me time to examine them and sometimes, if they aren’t too wild, clip their nails with baby nail trimmers.
If there are people coming to visit puppies or potential adopters coming by during the week, I try to schedule them in this window since I’m not working on anything at my desk that can’t be interrupted (it’s usually reading, research, and social media time).
Dinner. This is a repeat of their morning meal with Rocky getting her meds again.
This is a live video my friend Lisa made of Saturday evening’s meal (and yes, Rocky is a girl but Lisa like many people mistake her for a boy because of the name and the fiesty attitude.)
Time in the play area in the living room. Now that they are jumping out of the playbox we’ve had to put a puppy pen around it. The puppies love Gracie and Fanny. Gracie has mostly disdain for them but will sometimes interact. Fanny seems curious and unsure of them, but she will touch noses and when there isn’t a puppy fence, steal their toys. It’s harder to interact with the fence up and because there are so many in this litter, I can’t fit in the box with them.
If this is a day that the pups need weighed, dewormed, or vaccinated, Nick usually helps me. Ian may also be enlisted to keep the other pups in the box, while we work with individuals. He compares this to playing Whack-a-Mole (not that he whacks them!) because you basically have to sit at the opening in the fence (it doesn’t quite fit all the way around the box) and keep putting puppies back in the box as they jump over.
One last clean-up before lights out. The puppies are quiet all night as long as there isn’t any movement in the rest of the house. On the nights that one of my kids is up and roaming or has people over, the pen is inevitably a bigger mess the next morning because the puppies hear them and get up to play and party too.
I didn’t include laundry in the day, but that is done sporadically EVERY day because puppies make a lot of laundry. Keeping toys, towels, and bedding clean is important if we hope to have worm-free puppies.
The other thing I do at least ten to fifteen times a day is wash my hands, pretty much after every trip into the puppy room, and before I go in if I’ve been away from the house.
Every day can be different and Weeks 1-4 are definitely easier than 5-8. Because these pups were born on a Monday and adoption day is a Saturday, I have the pleasure of caring for these monsters sweetie pies for nearly nine weeks this go round.
This is week seven, a little breather as there are no scheduled dewormers or vaccines, only microchipping to be done. Jen Hedrick, another OPH volunteer and former vet tech, came over to chip my pups last night despite the awful weather and the crazy detour to get to our house (thanks Jen!).
There is a lot of work to puppies. You definitely pay for the pleasure of all that cuteness. Every puppy foster home has its own system, likely honed by trial and error, and it improves with each litter. I wish we had more space, but this is what we’ve got, so I work with it. Ten big puppies are much more work that five small puppies (my last litter). At this point, I almost always declare that I’m not doing any more puppies ever again, but I never stick to that ultimatum because if I have an opportunity to save a life, I’ll safe it. Yes, it’s exhausting and endless, but when you consider the alternative, it’s worth it. Even with all that poop. (If you’d like to foster for OPH, click here.)
If you’re in the Harrisburg, PA area and you’d like to meet the PA Pups (or at least some of them), I’ll be pimping them out for donations to OPH at Cupboard Maker Books this Sunday from 3-5pm. Edith Wharton (my fiftieth dog ) will also be there signing books with me. Another Good Dog is now out in paperback, just in time for the holidays (what a great gift!). Stop by and see us if you can.
Also, the 2020 Another Good Dog calendar featuring the PA pups will be for sale next week. As soon as they arrive, I’ll announce it via the Facebook group. They are simply gorgeous! How gorgeous? Well, here are some of the ‘bad’ pictures we didn’t use:
Nancy is such a talent and managed to capture each puppy’s personality, plus even a picture of the entire litter (not an easy feat). Here are the outtakes from that circus:
If you want to see the ‘good’ pictures, we’ll be selling them next week (I’ll announce in the FB group and on the blog when they come in.) We have a limited number of copies to sell, but will take orders if we run out and all proceeds will go towards our next shelter trip in February. Nancy and I will be traveling to Tennessee and Mississippi to raise awareness and drop off donations.
Thanks for reading!
If you’d like regular updates of all my foster dogs past and present, plus regular videos of the PA pups, be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.
For information on me, my writing, and my upcoming book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, visit CaraWrites.com.
And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit WhoWillLetTheDogsOut.org.
Our family fosters through the all-breed rescue, Operation Paws for Homes, a network of foster homes in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and south-central PA.
Recently released from Pegasus Books and available anywhere books are sold: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs.
I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.