Butternut Squash Soup, plus an update

I’m having trouble eating anything right now — stress, you know — and it is so unfair that stress makes you gain weight even if you aren’t eating much. Who made up that rule? (Yes, actually I know why it works that way, it’s just annoying in the modern world.)

I made this soup last night anyway, because a) it’s a soup, so I could tell myself it wasn’t really food; and b) my mother hasn’t been feeling well either (probably just a bug, though maybe she’s stressed on my behalf, I dunno) and this is the kind of thing she will want to try. That’s important because she REALLY stops eating when she feels ill, and, unlike me, she gets into trouble because she loses too much weight.

So: an interesting nonspicy real-food butternut squash soup, very easy and quick to make:


1 lb pork sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 med red bell pepper, chopped (I left this out because ugh, bell pepper)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
16 oz frozen corn
4 C chicken broth
1 can great northern beans or whatever small white beans you like, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp salt

Brown the sausage in a Dutch oven or large pot, along with the onion and (ugh!) bell pepper if you are using it. Add the garlic and cook one minute. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the squash, 1 1/2 C corn, and the broth to the pot. Simmer 20 minutes, until the squash is very tender. Puree the squash mixture with your handy immersion blender. Add the sausage mixture, beans, tomatoes, and salt to taste. Heat through.

There you go, very quick and easy, as I said, and quite good. Even people who are suspicious of squash soups might well like this one.

Puppy update: Five days till the due date! Giedre herself was born this early, by emergency C-section. None of her siblings were alive at the time of the section, and frankly I was dismayed she was alive, since I expected to work really hard to save her and then have her die, too, which was what happened with my last preemie, and yes that was just awful.

Five days early is worse than five weeks early for a human baby — Giedre’s bones were not fully ossified, for example, and her chest deformed during two days of lying on her chest. I noticed at that point and never let her lie on her chest again, propping her in different positions with little tiny stuffed animals. She was fully normal by eight weeks old, but my point is, five days early is really pushing it.

But I did save her, and with zero aftereffects of having been born so early. So last night I celebrated arriving at this point by fixing up the puppy room. Bleaching the floor, setting up and bleaching the whelping box, arranging the special Leerberg heating pad, which heats up just to the correct body temperature of the bitch and can’t possibly burn puppies. I put aside the whelping supplies (hemostats, floss for tying off umbilical cords, bulb syringes for suctioning goo out of little mouths, etc) and laid out the early-puppy equipment, which consists of feeding tubes and syringes, Esbilac milk replacer (a bitch is not likely to have enough milk after a section, it will take days to come in, so I will have to supplement with formula till then), pedialyte (for preemies or really compromised puppies that can’t digest formula), the puppy warming box, carefully tested to have a 100 degree side and a 90 degree side. A scale and my notebook where I record puppy weights — I weigh puppies two or three times a day for the first week so I calculate how much formula to tube-feed them. All my books on puppy intensive care (I have about six books that deal with this).

I don’t think she will have those puppies today. I think this trick of gradually increasing the terbutaline, using supplemental progesterone to slow down the rate at which you need to increase the terbutaline, will get her through today and tomorrow and by then we will be looking pretty good. A ton happens right here at the end. A day early counts as full term as far as I’m concerned. Two or even three days early is nearly full term, as long as the puppies had good placental attachments and weren’t compromised somehow in utero.

Hopefully we will stick with our scheduled section on Thursday. But my vet assures me she will quickly shuffle other appointments out of my way if necessary — and if she is stuck in surgery or it is the middle of the night, Chesterfield in St L has good vets on call for emergency C-sections 24/7. They send everyone else to the emergency clinic, but C-sections, they come in and do those themselves.

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11 thoughts on “Butternut Squash Soup, plus an update”

  1. MM, I love good squash soup. I like mine with a bit of ginger. And anything with 1 lb of pork sausage definitely counts as food!

    Also, I get why you need a C-Section if the puppies are really premature. But surely it’s not helpful if they are only a day or two early? (I would think that invasive surgery is a bigger trauma than natural birth.)

  2. Hi, Pete — no, actually that’s not the case. The C-section is (almost) always a greater trauma for a bitch, and I am sorry to put them through that, not that whelping is fun for them either. But surgery is far, far safer for the puppies. We use isoflorine alone, no injectables, so the anaethetic is a risk, but not a big risk — it clears out of the system almost as soon as you lift them out. You do work pretty aggressively to get them awake and crying, granted. You try to have the vet, a tech to help her, and one person per puppy to stimulate and rub the puppies as you get them.

    It’s true you always have to be quicker and more aggressive to get the goo out of their mouths and noses, because normally the pressure of the whelping process does that and with sections you don’t have that. But a section still safer for the puppies than a natural whelping. This is the case even though the bitch is predictably going to be slow to get milk after a section, and slow to get her mothering instinct as well. This can give you a tedious and slightly stressful two to five days as you wait for the hormone cascade to finally get the girl in shape to be a mother. Cavaliers generally do become good mothers eventually.

    It’s not just that the whelping process itself is a trauma for the puppies, though it is. The thing is, when you have a Golden Retriever, a puppy is about one percent of the mom’s body weight, but when you have a toy dog, every normal-sized puppy is about five to seven percent of her body weight. I have had puppies that weighed 12 oz; a smaller Cavalier would never be able to deliver that large a puppy. Or a puppy can be malpositioned. Or two puppies can head for the exit simultaneously and get jammed up (that happened to a friend of mine last year, who did an emergency section and saved them both.) Stuck puppies are just not all that rare. A stuck puppy will die if you can’t get it out pretty briskly. And the one behind it will probably die, too. And possibly the one behind that. I’ve known it to happen. (Not to me.)

    More than that, a bitch who has been experiencing early contractions, like Giedre, may have compromised the placentas. Every single contraction she has had — and sometimes, in between adjusting the terbutaline / progesterone regime, she has had two contractions per hour — has represented another trauma to every placenta. Her puppies’ placentas are therefore more likely to detach early during the whelping, and if that happens, the puppies will die.

    And that’s why I’m doing a section. Ideally I would schedule it for two minutes before Giedre was due to go into active stage-one labor, thus minimizing the waiting time for milk and mothering instinct, but that’s not nearly as important as avoiding the risk of serious whelping complications.

  3. Oh, wow. I was thinking of the trauma to the mother, not the pups. And I had no idea that pregnancy was so much more complex for (very) small dogs. I was thinking they must be like, well, cats. (Or foxes. Or jackals.) Best of luck for what sounds like a week or two of hard work.

  4. Yeah — foxes and cats are the size they’re meant to be! Toy dogs are a lot more artificial.

    I DO feel bad about putting the mothers through a surgery. But after all nearly all bitches are spayed. For Geidre, it will be just about like being spayed twice — since the second time I breed her, I will probably take the puppies via a C-section / spay and call that good. Granted, I think a section is somewhat harder on her than a spay, but not that much more.

    My vet won’t do more than three sections for a bitch, considering that enough to put one girl through. I totally agree.

  5. Sad to say, but this makes me a lot less appreciative of toy dogs. It seems pretty brutal to have a breed that isn’t even able to reproduce naturally. I actually otherwise like the toy dogs–they aren’t yappy and obnoxious like traditional small breeds. The Soviet tame fox is looking pretty good now.

  6. Ah, I should mention that Cavaliers usually either have no problems, or they have this premature labor thing. For THIS litter, I am not willing to risk natural labor, because I have a multi-generational plan for a puppy from this litter, especially a boy. I would like to establish a family of Cavaliers that are glamorous, sound, and utterly, completely free of heart defects. In order to even hope for this, I need these puppies.

    When I breed Folly, I will be much more likely to chance natural labor, because although I would really like a nice daughter from her, I don’t have specific plans for that daughter, so it would not set me back years to lose one of her puppies.

    You can bet I will trying to breed away from this premature labor thing, though — several different questions about free, natural, full-term whelping just went on my list of questions for stud dogs.

    I love some of the small toys, but you’re right, I would be very hesitant to breed Papillons or Pomeranians.

    Also, it’s not actually just a toy dog thing: look at bulldogs. I admit I really do not approve of breeding bulldogs like that, or Pekes, but I have less ground to stand on than, say, you do.

    Actually, it’s not even an artificial-breed thing: look up kiwis, sometime, and check out the size of their eggs. There is no (good) evolutionary reason for kiwis to suffer with eggs a fifth of their own body weight. That happened to them for the exact same reason puppies are bigger in proportion for toy dogs than for big dogs: because kiwis are ratites that sized down dramatically, but their eggs did not size down in proportion.

    If I were guessing, I would guess that fennec foxes also have trouble. And perhaps black-footed cats. And, as we all know, human women are in the same boat, though not for the same evolutionary reason.

    Those Russian foxes are indeed really interesting. I’m full up with pets, but I would love to have someone I knew get one so I could meet it first-hand.

  7. OK, I see your point for your breed: you’re looking for a way out of two different genetic problems. That makes sense.
    Apparently, the “silver fox” domestic fox program has largely moved to Cornell University. If you’re ever in upstate New York, there are a lot of reasons to visit Cornell:
    * The Reulaux collection of 19th century machines.
    * The Blaschka collection of glass marine invertebrates (I love this one!) I love the one at Harvard, too. And the one at Corning Museum of Glass…
    * The Dorothy McIlroy bird sanctuary. That’s MY way cool grandmother, Cornell ’28!
    * Any number of waterfalls and gorges, especially Buttermilk falls, especially in wintertime.

  8. I did not know that! Now I would really, really like to visit Cornell! I would love to see that glass marine invertebrate exhibit, and the foxes.

  9. Ooh, and I forgot the other awesome one: Tuaghannock Falls, where the water is supercooled as it falls (and evaporates like in a cooling tower) in a straight shot to the gorge bottom. There the spray freezes extremely fast and forms a really huge ice cone. Up close, the water looks blue against the ice, and forms little rivulets–kind of like cold lava–that freeze solid all of a sudden; maybe a whole gallon of water solidifies into slush at once. This forms a dam, and the rivulet moves somewhere else. Since my grandmother lived in Ithaca all her life, I saw these often as a child (around XMas). They always blew me away.
    “Ithaca is Gorges” is the town tourism slogan.


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