Pitter patter of tiny feet.

This whole on-again, off-again thing with the internet is getting to be real annoying. It has taken over three weeks to write and post this. Apologies if I’ve kept anyone waiting…

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We met, Jenn and I, building a dog run. It was, perhaps, foretelling of a dog-filled future, for each of us previously had a ‘thing’ for dogs. I suppose ‘met’ is not quite correct; we met at work, she as a server and I a cook. We never really had much chance to talk with one another while working, such is the nature of restaurants – especially with the just-below-the-surface rivalry between the ‘front of the house’ and the ‘back of the house’ – so with our free time we shared late night coffees and the occasional movie beside a warm woodstove. During these quick moments between shifts, we got to know each other better on our days off through our work on what was to be a dog run for my dogsled team. We worked hard together: Jenn wanting to show she was every bit as capable as I, and I not wanting to be outworked or be thought a slacker.

The plan was to run fencing – 8-foot high wildlife fencing (read: heavy and awkward) – through the bush, cutting as few trees and shrubs as possible. It was a design without a plan; we would just stretch the fence as far as possible, weaving it in and around the trees until we met its other end. At the point closest to the house a hole would be cut for a gate and any low spots would be filled in with rocks to prevent the dogs from squeezing out. A simple idea that made for more work than sounds possible, mostly due to the need to pull the fence in sections because it was impossible to drag all 330 feet at once, and the impossible amount of times the fence squares would catch on the stubs of branches we had limbed to allow the fence to pass by.

Through it all we were polite and courteous to one another, despite the multitude of hang-ups and blackflies, neither of us wanting to voice our frustrations lest we frighten the other off. In many ways, the construction of our first dog pen was a proving ground for what was to become a serious relationship – serious enough to have our shared employer demand that we choose either our job or each other, allowing one of us to remain employed at the restaurant, but not both of us, such was their policy: “no dating co-workers.” We both quit. Right then and there. We watched our bosses back-pedal then because, frankly, they could scarcely afford to lose one of us, never mind both.

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Cowgirl’s new whelping pen: a whole lot of woodchips went into here.  Even though they are soaked from a huge rainfall we had prior to moving them, they have stayed dry and mud-free.

Spending as much time together as we had in the building of the dog pen, talk soon turned to what has been referred to as “the pitter patter of little feet” around our house. We talked about how fulfilling it would be to have to have little ones running around, we discussed names and breeds because, after all, puppies seemed to be the next logical step to take. Even though we were both excited to have a litter of our own, it wouldn’t be for almost four more years before we were able to find the right pair of dogs for us. It is now nine years since the construction of that first dog pen and we have become pretty adept at building dog enclosures and we still get excited about little puppies but it is possible to say that no one litter has been more anticipated than our newest one.

Last weekend, Jenn and I spent a day preparing the whelping pen for Cowgirl. Even though it had been occupied for the entire spring and summer without incident by Moxy, one hour with Ruby in it – as a pal for Pokey – and it had been breached. The Cowboy Law says to make your fences “…horse high, bull strong and pig tight”. I don’t know what the Musher Law says, probably something like making fences “bitch high, stud strong and puppy tight” but it was clear something had to be done if it were to contain Cowgirl and her soon-to-be-born puppies. The pen already had a fence roof and the sides were still good, so all that remained was to fix where the fence met the ground. We decided that burying a fence along the edge of the run was best. We attached the floor to the sides and then buried the ground fence under six inches of woodchips. Cowgirl now had a secure run. We moved her in on Saturday and waited.

We waited Sunday.

We waited Monday.

Tuesday came and went and still we waited.

Wednesday came and Jenn had to go to town with the turkeys to have them butchered. She left early and came home at about noon, by which time Cowgirl had two little puppies squirming around and looking for food. Jenn spent the rest of the day in the whelping pen, leaving only to pick Hunter up from school.

In all, Cowgirl delivered six puppies. Four females and two males. Five were healthy and one was unable to latch on to a nipple so we have been feeding her with a syringe at first and now with a small bottle. She is inside the house where we can best take care of her and she is being fed every four hours, which means middle-of-the-night feedings. We feed her and clean up after her. It is funny how the pitter patter of little feet always seems to mean bleary-eyed feedings late at night and poop and pee to contend with, too.

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New puppies in their whelping box.  The lid is removable so we can get in to clean it out when necessary.  Cowgirl can stand up and turn around comfortably in here.

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Hunter and one of the puppies.

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