Eyes and Ears Open Up
Puppies are born with eyes and ears shut. They cannot see or hear for about 2 weeks after birth. The day their eyes open always feels special, not unlike a human baby’s first steps. About the same time they start hearing as well. Engaging of those two senses marks the beginning of a so called “transitional period” in puppy’s development. They are no longer neonates. They regulate their body temperature and are preparing for exploration of their environment.
Navigating The Environment
As soon as puppies are able to see and hear they start engaging with their surroundings. They notice each other and start interacting. First, each of them is checking out if their brothers are edible. Next, in addition to the mouths they add their paws to the interactions, and stop trying to suck on each other’s bodies. They notice a toy I put in their box almost immediately and all four want to climb onto it at the same time. They still sleep most of the day and night but their waking minutes are noticeably characterized by more and more awareness.
First Bite of “Real” Food
During transitional period, at the age of 3 and a half weeks, the puppies are ready for their first taste of something other than Beanie’s milk. There are three major implications of supplementing the mother’s milk diet:
1. Beanie will no longer want to eat the puppies’ poop. She is keeping the puppy box immaculately clean, as long as the waste product is made out of her milk. All bets are off when it isn’t.
2. Beanie’s body will no longer be taxed with having to be the only food supply for four hungry boys, a reprieve I feel she is ready for. She might as a result spend less time with the puppies, which will in turn signal to them a need to refocus their attention from exclusively on their mother to now include the rest of their environment.
3. Adding meat to puppies’ diet will jump start the instinct for elimination away from their sleeping quarters, and conveniently will populate their GI tract with new digestive flora allowing for it to happen without mother’s stimulation.
A first bite of “real” food is therefore quite a big deal and I get everyone ready for it by preparing new quarters for the puppies. The whelping box was their home from birth all through the neonatal period. We are moving on to transitional period. Literally moving to transitional quarters at the same time.
The new puppy home is a giant dog crate with a removable top. I set up sleeping quarters lined with the Sherpa blanket the puppies are familiar with, and next to it I install potty area. “Puppy bathroom” is a plastic tray lined with a wee-wee pad on the bottom (mostly for traction) and filled with kitty litter made of recycled paper pellets.
After allowing them a short exploration of their new home, the puppies are offered their first meal of meat. I am using Weaning Paste made by a raw dog food company All Provide. Raw ground meat has enzymes and bacteria aiding in digestion. I add goat’s milk to the raw meat paste, which creates a softer, more liquid texture.
The gruel is then heated slightly to be just a tad warmer than a room temperature. The first bite is taken right off my finger and you can easily see how the food first surprises and then immediately excites the puppies. They want more. Each boy eats about a teaspoon of gruel. Although they want more, their tummies should be given a chance to process this novelty.
Within three minutes all four puppies go the “puppy bathroom”. They are a little unstable on loose pellets but even with the challenge of navigating a new surface all four boys poop in the litter box! Don’t you just love it when things go as planned?
The next meal is offered 5 hours later and this time the puppies are learning to eat from the bowl. First they dunk their heads too deep into the food, but learn quickly what works. A lot of food still gets onto their fur, but more and more of it ends up going where intended. Again, all four poops happen on the pellets. And that is my definition of a successful day.
Time for sleep!