INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Week three is a wonderful and important week for Bandit. His eyes open over a two day period — first little slits, then half moons, then full, round and inquiring. Although the eyes look filmy for a few days, Bandit seems delighted with his new sense.
When I open the door to his carrier, he comes tumbling forward with new confidence. While bottle feeding, he looks up at me and seems to stare. His eyes are bright blue. His ears also become unsealed and he can hear sounds. Perhaps my quiet household isn’t noisy enough for the little guy as he begins a routine of yelping loudly every so often. I think he just enjoys hearing himself.
I play music for him. He seems to like the Beatles, but who doesn’t?
Bandit and his remaining five litter mates seem to be doing well. The biggest problem we foster moms have is getting the pups to poop regularly. Their dog mother would be licking them all over to stimulate the process.
There is a limit to my dedication. We are instructed to rub their abdomens shortly after feedings. The desired result is achieved only some of the time. How often is enough for elimination? How much of what he ingests should come out?
Suddenly this most basic of body processes takes on great meaning. Bandit’s belly has become so large I wonder if there is a connection. Constipation is hazardous so we get occasional expert help from the veterinarian.
Bandit routinely sleeps on his stomach or side. One morning I get up to find him lying still on his back, four legs straight up in the air. I panic, thinking I have lost him overnight. When I open the door of his carrier, he moves. Apparently this is just one more new exploration. He shows me that he can reach the toes on his hind leg and suck them. Limber as an acrobat.
As if seeing and hearing aren’t enough new experiences, Bandit also takes his first real step this week. He is doing his usual crawling/hobbling around when suddenly he stands with his short legs fully extended and moves forward several steps. That’s my boy!
I am still up for bottle feedings several times during the night. Bandit’s demands leave almost no time for my personal agenda items.
While he is getting cuter each day, I am wilting. My friend Diane has two of Bandit’s litter mates. She needs to be away for a time and is very distressed about leaving her two in foster care. I know how much they mean to her so I volunteer to take them.
I now have three three-week-old puppies. I must be crazy. The additional demands are huge and my first night is a disaster for my kitchen and my family.
I concentrate on organizing the process much better — formula prepared ahead, all bottles and nipples lined up, medicine syringes filled, stack of clean bedding and towels ready, roll of paper towels and small trash bag.
It helps. If I can get up before they are squealing, I can waken them sequentially. But if they awaken before me, the screams are unstoppable until all three are fed and rubbed. I am one foster mom holding two bottles trying to feed three pups. Help!
Bandit sees two of his litter mates for the first time since his rescue. He is clearly bigger and more developed than his brother and sister. He has stubby little whiskers; they have only some peach fuzz. They want to cuddle with him but he is not immediately interested.
After some time together they begin to play a bit. Bandit weighed only seven ounces in week one, and he now weighs more than two-and-a-half pounds. He is still a one-handed bundle, but not for long.
— Beverly Keil is a board member with the Pet Network Humane Society. Learn more at www.petnetwork.org.