Puppy report (And Progress with Invictus)

Happy Monday!

The puppies are now two weeks old — 2/3 of the way to the very important three-week mark, which is where they shift from being extremely fragile to being almost safe.

Leda with Boy One

At three weeks, puppies are finally able to control their own body temperature adequately, which means they are safe from various dire infectious diseases, plus they won’t instantly get chilled if they wind up off the heating pad when mom gets out of the whelping box.

A chilled puppy is going to develop pneumonia as sure as night follows day, and while pneumonia is not always fatal, the rule is never let puppies get chilled. Obviously the little one has been much (MUCH) more prone to chilling than his bigger, fatter brothers. He still cries within one minute of Leda leaving the whelping box, letting me know I need to go move him to the warm side and surround him with his siblings until she’s ready to go back to them.

This is one reason I never leave puppies this young unsupervised. The other is that it’s quite possible for a mother dog to accidentally lie on a puppy and smother it, and yes indeed, Tiny Boy Four is also much (MUCH) more at risk from that kind of disaster. That’s the other reason I supervise so tightly during these first weeks. (My mother keeps an eye on them when I’m not at home.)

Anyway, two weeks today! Not safe yet, but less fragile every day. As of this morning, Tiny Boy Four is 11.5 oz. By tonight, he should be over 12 oz, which means roughly three times his birth weight, which is to say, he’s doing great, even though he’s still so small compared to his brothers. Two of them are over a pound, the other nearly that size. I’m going to continue tight supervision for another week or so, including overnight supervision, until Tiny Boy Four is bigger and more robust.

In keeping with the notion that every. single. litter. of puppies will find its own unique way of turning your hair white, last week these little boys all developed a problem with inappetence and diarrhea. Luckily I had kaopectate on hand, and after rapid consultation with my vet, started tube-feeding every puppy 0.5 cc kaopectate every five hours. Boom, that took care of the inappetence at once, which was a great relief. They all continued to nurse vigorously and gain weight, so this problem overall turned out to be minor. But it sure made me tense for a couple of days in there, as first the biggest puppy and then the other three all developed this problem.

As a side note of possible general interest, the stuff sold at Walgreens as “Kaopectate” isn’t actually kaopectate at all. Its active ingredient is an aspirin derivative, bismuth subsalicylate, and it is therefore not safe for baby puppies (or baby humans, I expect). REAL kaopectate is available over the counter, but not under that name. It’s safe for any dog any age, and if you want to keep some on hand, it’s labeled “Anti-Diarrhea Liquid for Dogs,” which has got to be the single least catchy name for a medication in the entire universe.

Anyway, the basic point here is that whatever was wrong, all the puppies turned out to be fine. As problems go, this was definitely not a big deal compared to … let me see …

–the puppy who aspirated milk in her sleep and gave herself pneumonia (twice!) — that was Naamah. I thought she was going to die for sure, but we kept her front end elevated for ten days to prevent further aspiration and that actually worked, giving her time to develop her swallowing reflex or whatever needed to happen to stop that problem. She’s three now.

–and the puppy who wouldn’t gain weight unless supplemented with extra formula until he was six weeks old — Milo, he was perfectly fine once he was weaned. He’s a year old;

–oh, and Morgan was allergic to her own puppies’ saliva and developed a nasty rash all over her tummy. I had to trim the puppies’ claws every couple of days and wipe down her belly three or four times a day until that problem finally disappeared. You trim the claws of tiny puppies by feel, incidentally, as it’s impossible to see what you’re doing.

–and there was the puppy who snuffled milk through his nose every time he nursed but somehow never did aspirate — Conner, he’s five;

–and the puppy who quit gaining weight on day eleven and had to be tube-fed formula every two hours like a newborn, for several days, until she was back on track — Pippa’s daughter Sarah, so that was a long time ago, but as you see this particular problem has stayed vivid in my mind. I have no idea in the world what happens to a previously vigorous puppy to cause that problem, but I’ve seen other puppies stall out that way since and now I supplement aggressively the first moment I realize a puppy has stopped gaining weight. That gets the puppy moving properly in less than a day, as a rule.

I could list the bad-outcome stories too, because I’ve had some of those as well, but I’ll refrain.

Anyway, Leda’s little boys all kept gaining weight right along, so yay for kaopectate, which made this into a minor problem when it could have been a disaster.

Meanwhile, the puppies are juuuust about to get cute. All the books and websites will tell you that puppies open their eyes from ten to fourteen days. Not in my experience! Most of my puppies open their eyes from twelve to eighteen days, and if they’re preemies, they can open their eyes even later than that. Two of these little boys opened their eyes yesterday, and boom! They look like little puppies now instead of an odd kind of rodent. From now on, cuteness will increase exponentially.

Meanwhile! Invictus! Progress is being made, though slowly. I finished the current chapter yesterday; it’s the first chapter of the actual climax, from the secondary protagonist’s pov. I’m switching to the primary protagonist’s pov for the remaining part of the climax, so although in a sense it’s just one scene, the climax is divided in this perhaps unusual way. I hope and expect to get through the second half of the climax this week. That will leave two denouement scenes, which may take place in two short chapters or one longer chapter. And then — unless I’m missing something — I’ll finally have a complete draft.

I should go back to the original file and see if I can figure out when I started this novel. I bet it’s been four years or so, working on and off. Maybe more. Two years since I figured out everybody’s secret plans and became able to move forward. Five weeks since I picked up the current draft and started moving toward actually getting the thing finished. I will be SO GLAD to finish a draft, even though some of these recent chapters are fairly messy, with a lot of bolded text that in this case means check for continuity. I won’t be able to send this draft to beta readers for a little while as I will need to set the draft aside for a bit and then read through the back, oh, third, and smooth things out and fix continuity issues. Add some exposition toward the beginning. Subtly, of course, but I need to add the right details so that stuff toward the end doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere. This doesn’t even mean foreshadowing — this will be just a sprinkle of names to establish that certain people and places exist.

The question is: after getting a draft of Invictus completed, what shall I do next? The answer is: I may pick up Tano’s story and see where that goes because I know how it begins and ends and surely I can figure out the middle when I get there. The point is, this should be short — shortish — and that might be the right kind of project to work on so that I can take a break from Invictus, but not too long a break before I come back to it, smooth it out, and get it ready to send to first readers.

That would mean pushing back Tasmakat a bit. But once I really start working on that, I may well not want to stop, and it’s a much bigger project, so … yeah, it may make more sense to see if I can get Tano’s story to work and then deal with Invictus and THEN Tasmakat.

But the first necessary step: finishing this draft of Invictus! Finally!

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5 thoughts on “Puppy report (And Progress with Invictus)”

  1. Hooray for good puppy news! I’ve been wondering how they were. (And hooray for good news on Invictus, I’ve been hoping for that as well, although not with actual concern for its survival.)

  2. Nikki Hickman

    Yay! Glad to hear the boys rallied and are doing well! Can’t wait to see more pictures! Thanks for posting!

  3. Camille McAloney

    Thanks for the update, Rachel! I always love reading about your experiences as a breeder. I also love reading about your writing process–super cool and interesting!

  4. Good news on both fronts!
    I hope your tiny boy 4 keeps on gaining as well as his brothers, and they all get to their safe weight and development stage without further alarms.

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