Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's foster puppy time!

We've had a foster puppy in the house for the past couple of days. I say "we" because even though I make the decisions on my own about whether to bring foster dogs in, it's really the canine pack that has to live with that decision on a minute-to-minute interactive basis. It's a team effort to manage the transitions involved in bringing a dog in for a while and then let it go successfully.

This foster is a puppy. The owner who relinquished her believed her to be five and a half months old, based on the birth date that she was given when she bought the puppy over a month ago. It's clear, however, that this puppy is only about 3 months old or so, because she has had no break-through of adult teeth. I can just now feel one starting to push through the jaw, and that generally happens at about 3 months or so.

What this means for this puppy is that she was separated from her dam (mother) and littermates at about six weeks of age - way too early for positive development. Between six and ten weeks, puppies usually learn good dog-manners. They learn bite inhibition (not to bite too hard, or for foolish reasons), appropriate submission to older/more dominant dogs, and how to initiate play and play properly. The most effective teachers for these lessons are the pup's dam and its littermates - who teach the lessons organically, in the day-to-day interactions. As humans, we are poor substitute teachers.

Amazingly, this particular puppy is doing really well in her dog interactions. She's been schooled twice by Luna, the pack leader of my dogs. Both times involved a big rush at the puppy by Luna, a LOT of screaming from the puppy, and my quick realization that the adult dogs had never laid so much as a lip on her, let alone a tooth. With the other girls, the puppy has been playing a lot. She's a self-confident little pup, but not brash. She approaches her elders pretty much correctly - although Emmy would like it if she would stop trying to grab onto her side, and has told her so... And the girls are good with the pup - they roll over on their backs so that she can "win" some of their play sessions, and are willing to leap and run and tussle with her pretty much any time she asks.

I don't know how this family managed to raise such a well-adjusted little pup away from her pack, but they did a good job on that front. In her family she lived with six children between the ages of 2 and 14, and apparently was great with the kids. And she's fitting very nicely into the pack life here. I'm grateful to them for that beyond what I can express, because I know the alternative - a dog that cannot be socialized because she missed early socialization, who ends up bouncing from home to home, or in a shelter euthanized because she can't be safely placed. It can happen in any breed. It does, sadly, sometimes happen to Bassets.

On the other hand, they clearly didn't understand the first thing about puppy health. After a single vaccination by her breeder, her family did not follow up with shots of any kind. As a result, I haven't let her feet touch the ground outside the house since she got here, because her risk of infection with parvo or distemper is really high. At her age, puppies don't maintain immunity from shots for more than about 3 weeks or so, so repeated vaccinations are usually given to keep immunity working until the puppy's body can maintain the immune response - usually around 18 weeks. The pup was vaccinated the day after she got here, and in another couple of days, I will feel comfortable with her interacting with the outside environment, but right now, she's still at fairly high risk if she encounters these viruses.

She was also never wormed, which explains why I can see her ribs clearly, and she's ravenous but then had poor digestion. She was wormed yesterday, and is now actively shedding her worm load. Not the most pleasant sight, but I'm still delighted to see it, because it means that soon, she'll be putting on weight and thriving.

I fault the family somewhat for not taking her in to their vet for a well-puppy check - where they would have found out about the need for vaccinations and for worming. But more, I fault the pup's breeder for not educating the family on her continuing care needs. It's the breeder's responsibility to make sure the family buying a puppy they have produced knows what's needed for the puppy to grow up healthy - actually, in the case of vaccinations, even to stay alive! Of course it's hard to do a good job of educating when you meet the buyer in a parking lot to hand over the puppy in exchange for cash. And if you don't follow up after the puppy goes to its new home, it's easy for the new owners to decide not to take the pup to the vet, because after all, you said it had had a set of shots...

But this little girl has dodged the bullet and ended up in a safe haven full of big dog beds and routine (which puppies love) and big dogs who play with her - at least if she remembers to approach the right ones! Tomorrow, she'll be visited by a couple that hopes to adopt her. They've had Bassets for over 50 years, and their vet was delighted when I called for their reference. Their last Basset lived over 14 years, and passed peacefully in her sleep. I'm hoping the same for this little pup.


  1. What a little sweet heart she is -- and a luck one now, too. Thanks for passing the link to your blog along -- Paddi & Vern and I will definitely be following it.


  2. Thanks, Mary! She is a little sweetie, although at this moment, we're in a power struggle over whether she should chew on the cords connecting my computer and my cable modem. I'm winning so far, but it reminds me that my house is not really set up for puppies right now!

  3. i will take her an love her always if that family does not want her. leslie

  4. Hey Sylvie. Glad to see things are going well. The pup is an absolute cutiepie! I really hope the new family works out, they sound promising. Thanks for posting your blog link; Cow, Ru and I will definitely be following. Feel free to check ours out too, its about 1/2 hound related, 1/2 other stuff. (