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From the Newsroom
Neither power failure nor sleet stops Mother Nature
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Bulletin reporter Debbie Hall is shown Thursday with Delilah with some of her puppies.

Friday, December 28, 2012

By BY DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Okay, I admit it. I am absolutely tuckered out today, and not because of an extended Christmas celebration.

I was up most of the night working frantically to warm up a litter of frigid puppies without the benefit of electricity, running water, heat or any other modern conveniences.

You might wonder who in the world allows their dog to have puppies in the winter. Not us. We raise a couple litters of Australian Shepherds each year, but it generally is in warmer weather.

Neither of these litters was planned, but when Santa Claus and Old Man Winter conspire, virtually anything is possible. At our house, that meant two litters of pups in fairly rapid succession.

Delilah’s brood of 10 healthy babies arrived smack dab in the middle of the hoopla and family fun of Christmas Day.

A new mother, she had the pups in two different dog houses. Some were wet, chilled and barely moving. After getting them in the house, I used towels, a heating pad and a blow dryer on the lowest possible setting to warm them. Of course, that was Tuesday, when we had electricity, water and a warm quiet bathroom in the hall where they could take refuge.

But that was not the case in the wee hours of Thursday, when Blackie Merackie’s litter had been marked for “Special Delivery.”

Less than 24 hours before, we woke to find that Old Man Winter had called, leaving a half-inch of ice and sleet on roads, trees and power lines. Howling winds snapped trees and caused widespread power failures.

Wednesday morning, our electricity flickered several times before it finally went out for good, with estimates that it would be restored by 4 p.m. the next day.

That left us with no heat, no water and a very pregnant Blackie Merackie.

Then, and with her sides bulging and a pathetic look in her eyes, she stood at the front door, with soupy brown eyes that pleaded to go outside — presumably to do her business.

A few minutes later when I called to let her back inside, she didn’t come bounding — or waddling as of late — onto the porch. She was nowhere in sight.

Several hours later, we found her under a shed, where she had dug a nice deep hole in preparation for the births.

We tried anything and everything to coax her out, but she refused to budge and seemed quite perturbed at our insistence.

After we moved several boards from the end of the shed closest to her, the indignant soon-to-be new mom huffed her displeasure and dragged her uneven belly out from under the building.

Attaching a leash to her collar lest she made a waddle for it, I turned to walk back to the house. She steadfastly declined to follow and had to be carried — all 100 or so pounds of her. (Well, it felt like it.)

Safely in the garage — albeit none too happily — she perched as best as she could on a comforter we had put out for her, moving only when the garage door was opened and she got a crazy notion that in her condition, she could make a break for her little piece of heaven under the shed.

Night fell. The winds howled and temperatures inside and out dipped. Icicles popped as did more limbs and trees.

I was asleep when I heard a voice say, “You want to get up and help me get Blackie’s pups in the house?”

Using flashlights, we found the new mother and eight puppies along the back wall in the blustery garage. Another puppy arrived later.

We carried the pups inside with their mom following closely behind and spread sheets and towels in the other lower level bathroom. Candles we had used the night before were gathered and lit for light and heat as I set about working to warm the babies.

But without electricity, I was befuddled as to how.

I tried rubbing the coldest pups first with my hands and then with a soft towel, all the while trying to use my exhaled breaths to help warm them. After several minutes, they seemed just as cold.

Then, I laid a thick robe in the floor on top of the towels and the sheets, and I plopped down beside the new mom with another blanket. With few other options and only limited heat from the candles, I tucked the four coldest pups under my sweatshirt. Their cold little bodies felt like ice cubes against my skin.

There in the wee hours of the morning, I mulled the “what-ifs.” I thought about God’s unflinching sense of humor, and I laughed out loud.

I am a puppy nut and proud of it. But around 4:30 a.m. Thursday, I realized that 19 newborns and a couple of moms in the house are a little much even for me. And the fun has only started.

Mothers and both litters of pups were doing well when I left home Thursday morning.

They will be for sale in about six weeks.

(Debbie Hall is a Martinsville Bulletin staff writer.)


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