Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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The “J” Puppy: from birth to ultimate cuteness

So, I’ve been posting the odd photo on Twitter recently because by now it’s pretty clear that my new baby is doing well.

Is he weaned? Well, no, though he’s been trying out this concept of mushy kibble for several weeks now. He doesn’t find it very exciting. I added a tiny bit of turkey baby food this morning and that certainly got his attention. But Cavalier mothers remain quite tolerant of their little hellions even after the puppies have a full set of teeth, so generally speaking a Cavalier puppy sees no need to rush into weaning.

Still, Puppy “J” is hitting every normal developmental benchmark right on time, or even a bit early, and by now even I am pretty relaxed about him. So here he is at last, with a selection of pictures that lets you all watch him grow up — I’m sure you all like puppy pictures, right? Right! So here we go:

Day 1

At birth, Puppy J weighed 6.4 oz, a decent size, especially considering the c-section was scheduled 3 days before the due date. That’s the equivalent of 2 weeks early for a human baby. The mother puts a lot of weight on her baby during that last little bit of the pregnancy, and of course the lungs need to get finished off. I’ve saved a puppy that was 5-6 days early, but it’s really touch and go at that point. Come to think of it, that was a grandmother of this puppy. Anyway, three days is the earliest plausible time to go get puppies if you’re concerned about the pregnancy. Given Kenya’s dire trouble with premature labor, I definitely wanted to get her puppies as early as possible, and as you may know, one of the two puppies that was alive at birth did die near the end of the first 24 hours, almost certainly because the premature labor had compromised the placental attachment.

Anyway, focusing on the one puppy, I will say: J was a well-developed puppy with a nearly full coat even on his legs and face. He was plump and strong and behaved in every way like a normal puppy. I have had full-term puppies that were just about exactly his size, although I’ve also had full-term puppies twice as big, so there’s a wide range (and that 12.5 oz puppy was very difficult for her mother to deliver, too). I think a normal weight for a Cavalier puppy is eight ounces plus or minus two ounces.

Puppy J lost a little bit of weight — he went down to a hair under six ounces — but was back up to his birth weight after 48 hours and then started gaining slowly. Of course Kenya did not have a proper milk supply at first, partly because the c-section was three days early and partly because she had a hard time with the surgery, which was a full spay as well as the section. Since J was nursing strongly but not getting enough milk, I tube-fed him half the amount an orphan his size would have gotten. That was 2-3 cc every two hours around the clock.

Tube-feeding is exactly what it sounds like: you run a feeding tube down the puppy’s throat and inject formula directly into his stomach. This is very easy, actually. It’s much quicker than feeding with a bottle, you don’t have to try to get the puppy to accept an artificial nipple, there is no chance of the puppy choking if you do it right, it is easy to ensure that you are in fact doing it right (first you measure the tube, but also you can pinch the puppy to make him cry; if he can cry, the feeding tube is definitely not in the trachea), and you can be perfectly certain how much formula the puppy gets. And of course it requires no energy or effort from the puppy, which is very important if the puppy is weak for any reason.

Week 1

Here is Puppy J at one week, next to his llama so you can judge his size properly. He was gaining weight well by this time, looking on track to double his birth weight by ten days, which is what you expect from a puppy that’s in good shape. Puppies always pile up and drape themselves over their littermates, so this llama was Puppy J’s littermate. He nearly always lay across the llama, not next to it, but I wanted a picture side-by-side to provide a size comparison.

Single puppies are at dire risk of getting chilled, so Puppy J was always nestled with his llama on a special heating pad (it heats up to the temperature of a mother dog, no higher, so there’s no chance of burning a puppy) with a towel dropped over him to conserve heat, or else nestled against his mother’s tummy with a towel dropped over him for the same reason. He was never, ever left unsupervised during this period, not even for a few minutes, to avoid any risk of him getting chilled or of Kenya stepping on him.

By this time, btw, Kenya was feeling much, much better. She had accepted the puppy from the first moment because after all she’s done this before, but she really started acting like a good mother at about this point. I was weighing the puppy three or four times a day, though, and tube-feeding if his weight seemed to stall out.

Moving on:

Week 2

Here Puppy J is two weeks old, counting from his proper due date. A puppy is supposed to open its eyes anywhere from ten days to fourteen days, depending on what source you look at, but in fact I’ve never seen a Cavalier puppy open its eyes before thirteen days. Full-term Cavalier puppies open their eyes from thirteen to fifteen days, with an average of fourteen point something. Premature puppies open their eyes somewhere between sixteen and twenty days depending on just how premature they were.

Puppy J gave me a day of mild concern because he opened one eye on day sixteen and the other on day seventeen — I’ve never seen that before! Apparently it happens now and then, and nothing was wrong with the slow eye. Obviously his eyes opened right on time considering he was three days premature.

Incidentally, before the eyes open, the puppy is said to be in the “vegetative stage.” Its brain waves are basically the same whether it is awake or asleep, so that’s a very suitable term for this period! Once the eyes open, though they still can’t really see much, their brains start developing really fast and very soon they start looking like little puppies.

Puppies are supposed to be up on their feet (but very wobbly) at two weeks. I’ve never had a singleton puppy who managed that; usually the singletons are too fat to get up that early because they get a generous amount of milk all to themselves. Puppy J, however, actually *was* up at two weeks. I was very surprised!

But then his weight stalled out and I realized his mother might not have quite such a generous amount of milk as she had in the past, which explained why Puppy J was a good weight but not fat. I upped her food a trifle, started adding water to her food (kibble soup! Luckily Kenya is a total pig and will eat ANYTHING, no matter what you do to it), and tube-fed the puppy three times over the course of about two days. By this time I was feeding 15 cc at a time, so you can see how much bigger he was by then. Kenya’s milk supply or the puppy’s strength improved, or both, and for the second time I retired the tube, this time for good.

And not before time, either, as by two weeks a puppy is aware enough of the world to be seriously peeved at the tube-feeding process and Puppy J did not like it at all. But very soon he started gaining properly again, about an ounce a day, just what I like to see. And by three weeks, he was actually pretty steady and juuuuust barely starting to show the first signs of play, biting clumsily at Kenya’s ear after nursing rather than falling straight back to sleep.

Week 3

At three weeks, as you can see from the above, the puppy really looks like a puppy!

This is the point at which I start encouraging the puppy to leave the whelping box. I think singleton puppies are usually a little behind with their social development because they don’t have siblings to push them along. Whether the puppies are alone or have siblings, though, I always turn the whelping box over to create a den, like so:

Week 4.2

Here Puppy J is about four weeks old. He had learned all about dens and safety and will toddle into the den to sleep. Or for that matter, dash into the den if he feels insecure — for example, if the other dogs suddenly start barking.

However, he is not intrinsically afraid of the other dogs, and this is the age at which I start to let the other dogs meet him. I was so pleased with Chloe, because she very quickly taught herself to lie down to play gently with Puppy J. She is by far his best playmate now, as the other dogs became less interested once they got a look at him.

Kenya, however, was VERY VERY SUSPICIOUS of the other dogs’ intentions, and particularly of Chloe — maybe because Chloe is only seven months old herself, maybe because Chloe is new to my household, maybe because Chloe struck Kenya as too intensely interested. Here is Kenya glaring at Chloe:

Week 4.5

I, however, insisted that Kenya tolerate the other dogs, including Chloe, and now Kenya tends to snooze through open play sessions. Kenya is a good mother, but she isn’t at all playful, which is why I was determined that she MUST allow the other dogs to play with her puppy!

For about a week, Puppy J would bounce adorably at other dogs and then fall over sideways (also adorable). In just the past couple of days, he has got so much steadier on his feet! Here is Puppy J playing with Chloe this morning:

Week 5.2

Puppy J is five weeks old today, counting from his proper due date rather than the c-section date. As far as I’m concerned, this is where he hits the Ultimate Cuteness stage, which will last for about another five weeks. After which, yes, he will still be quite cute, eventually transitioning to elegant.

Junior looks like he’s just fine as far as structure and bone and proportion. His baby head looks promising. His markings are fine. He still has four cosmetic issues that could cause trouble. Only one could stop me from keeping him. In order, these are:

I would like him to have double-pigmented eyes, ie, the sclera should be pigmented brown. Any white in the sclera is a strike against a Cavalier in the show ring, though this won’t necessarily stop a dog from finishing a championship. Kenya has a white area of sclera in one eye and she finished. So did Kenya’s daughter Honey. Hopefully Junior got his eye pigment from his father, Ishmael, but it will be impossible to tell for sure till he’s older.

I would like Junior to not have freckles, at least not on his face. At least not more than one or two small freckles. Preferably not between his eyes. Freckles appear at about three months, so it’ll be quite some time before it’ll be clear whether he’s going to freckle up and if so, how badly. Ish has freckles on his face, but Kenya doesn’t, so I’m really hoping Junior follows his mother on that one.

Ish’s mother had a fairly significant underbite, Ish himself has a nearly correct bite, and I would really like this puppy to have a completely correct bite (like Kenya). Right now his bite is correct, but he barely has teeth! The bite can come in correct and then go wrong. It can go from correct to under and back again, and in Cavaliers it often does. I had one dog whose correct bite went level when she was three years old! No telling how Junior’s bite will settle, but if it improves at all on on his father’s, it will be acceptable.

And … the one problem where there’s no wiggle room at all … if a male dog doesn’t eventually have two testicles descend to the correct place, he’s hopeless as a show and breeding prospect. Ish was late to settle that issue, so I’m kind of expecting a long wait before I’m sure about Junior. I’ve read that about 13% of male puppies have a problem with this, but I have my doubts about that number. Either way, nothing to do but wait!

You see why I am truly sorry not to have more than one puppy, since all these things need to line up properly to give Justinian a chance to be a great show dog. Well, at least he started off by being male and well-marked, or the rest would be irrelevant.

Finally! Answering the important question: DOES PUPPY J HAVE A NAME?

Yes and no! For his formal registered name, I have picked Justinian. Won’t that look nice on trophies? Champion Anara Justinian, I can see it now! With a string of performance titles after his name just to give it that complete look.

For his casual call name, I dunno. Right now I’m just calling him Junior, which of course starts with J, so who knows, that may last for a while. I’m not crazy about the name Justin for a dog, though (obviously, if you’ve read PURE MAGIC) I like it for a person. I could perfectly well call him Jay. Or Tin. Or Tiny. Or I could just pick anything I like and call him, for example, Jos.

The most important thing is that at this point, he is healthy, happy, and on his way to being a well-socialized little puppy.

Here’s my favorite picture of Junior so far, taken at the beginning of this week, during his first exploratory trip to the Big Dog country of the living room:

Week 5

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4 Comments The “J” Puppy: from birth to ultimate cuteness

  1. Macsbrains

    Oh, he is such a cute puppy! Kenya also glares adorably, I don’t see how the other dogs could be deterred when she’s that cute.

    This was very interesting and informative, especially the part about the the brain waves in the ‘vegetative state.’ Fascinating.

    I’ve only had cats, all of which have been adopted strays of various ages that have followed me home, so I’ve never raised a litter of any kind.

  2. Rachel

    Thanks! He is indeed!

    You aren’t getting the sound effects associated with the GLARE OF DOOM. Kenya is also growling in that picture, and would amp it up to a Loud Serious Growl followed by a lunge and nip if the other dog didn’t back away.

    By now, however, Kenya has completely relaxed about the other dogs playing with her puppy and probably finds it a relief that Junior jumps on them and not so much on her. I left both Kenya and Chloe in the puppy room this morning when I left for work.

    All my cats have been adopted strays, too, but one of my cats did have kittens once (when I was a mere child and didn’t recognize she’d gone into heat, and she was an indoor-outdoor cat, so …)

    I must say, I wish my dogs would have as few problems as that cat. Maybe Chloe! Her mother has had no trouble at all carrying and whelping nice litters.

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