Saturday, September 3, a pregnant fire dog arrives
When the Mill Fire broke out on Friday, we were ready for anything. Sure enough, the next day, an immensely rotund, blue-and-white, female pittie stray arrived at the Adoption Center after being found wandering in the evacuation area. She was heavily pregnant. When a dog gives birth in stressful conditions, the health risks increase. At least she seemed in good shape.
Staff and volunteers gave this heavy-as-a-boulder momma-to-be a solid name: “Andie” for andesite, a lava rock. An experienced puppy foster, board member Laura Finley thought Andie might whelp at any moment. Our girl needed a quieter space than the main kennel area, but she was too heavy to carry and too nervous to walk past the other dogs. So shelter manager Rick Formanek got a utility cart to use as a makeshift gurney, and we rolled her out to the Puppy Palace.
Fortunately, Andie didn’t whelp overnight. The next day, we transported her the comparative calm of the Rescue Ranch Sanctuary in Big Springs.
Seven hours for seven pups: a fire dog gives birth
On Tuesday morning, Laura called to tell me that Andie was nesting. My family had evacuated from Lake Shastina on Friday afternoon, but I was planning to foster Andie’s litter and was delighted to be mentored by an experienced foster mom. I hurried to the Sanctuary.
The first puppy arrived before I got there. She came into the world back feet first, and the birth was difficult. I was present for her sister’s birth, also backwards but easier. If the first two pups were reluctant meet the world, the third was not: he burst onto the scene like a cannonball, twenty minutes later, head first. Thus his name, “Cannon.”
We spent seven hours making sure the heavy, restless mom didn’t accidentally crush her newborns during labor.
The last pup gave us a scare. She came tail first, and her birth sack broke with her head still trapped in the birth canal. Andie strained, I pulled. After a tense few minutes, the puppy slid free. She was blue, not breathing. Laura swung into action, performing CPR for several minutes. Finally, the puppy began to breathe. When she latched on to Mom thirty minutes later, I breathed easy myself.
When I left that evening, all seven siblings were nursing well. I spent the next two afternoons at the Sanctuary.
After a full week, my husband and I returned to our charred neighborhood. We brought Andie and her family home next day. She’s a perfect guest and a conscientious mother. The puppies are thriving. Their presence is comforting as we adjust to life at the edge of a burn scar.
This litter will be Andie’s last. She will raise her pups in comfort and safety. When they’re weaned, she’ll be spayed and made available for adoption. We’re grateful for the opportunity to give her and her offspring a chance at long, happy lives, free from the cycle of breeding.