INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Week four is a very busy week. Two of Bandit’s littermates will be staying with us for six days while my friend Diane goes away. Before she departs, Diane takes Bandit for two days. I wash my hair, do my nails, change the sheets, and pay the bills — all the things I have neglected since newborn Bandit took over my life. In some ways caring for Bandit has gotten easier, or at least less stressful. We understand each other better. But caring for three 4-week old pups will be a big job.
I have three carriers lined up with three needy bottle fed pups. They all cry for their formula at once. I can’t stand to hear the sorrowful yelps so I open all the carriers and they tumble out, crawling onto my legs and fighting over the one nipple. I learn to hold two bottles at once and try for three.
Good news: I am told the pups can now go for four hours between nighttime feedings. I do the math. If I can stay awake until 11:30 for a feeding, then I will have to get up only once during the night. Bad news: No one told the pups about this change of schedule. At the 2-1/2 hour mark, I hear their persistent cries. Like a well-trained dog, I respond by delivering the milk. Reprogramming will take some time.
The three pups tumble and play a bit after each feeding. They still make peeping sounds, but once in a while I am startled by a real bark. Peep, peep, peep, peep, woof. Having the visiting pups here is very good for Bandit. Week four is an important time to begin developing social skills. It has pretty much been Bandit and me to date. Time with his littermates is important for him.
Becky at Pet Network has offered nursery day care for the pups in the office area and I take advantage of this several days during the week. The pups cannot be cared for in the shelter until they have been fully immunized, which is several weeks away.
But the office folks, Becky, Jim and Annie, are pitching in to provide this unique day care. I would not have been able to handle the responsibility without their help. So, about 9 am I pack 3 carriers, heating pads, baby bottles, formula, clean bedding and medicine into my car. I have new found sympathy for mothers I see at airports schlepping diaper bags, bottles, blankets and strollers.
No more prescribed belly rubbing! The pups are now old enough to pee and poop on their own. In fact, they become peeing machines. It seems that every time I take them from their carriers, the bedding is wet. And when I let them out for play time, the blanket gets a soaking. I am now doing four loads of laundry a day just for the pups.
I learn about something called “puppy pads.” The package says “absorbent, attractant.” But I am not very impressed. They certainly are not the equivalent of the handy litter box for cats. The pups ignore the puppy pads and pee wherever they like.
The pups seem to be outgrowing their carriers. I improvise a “play pen” area in my rec room where they can be free to roam and sleep without the confinement of the plastic housing. It works pretty well and will contain them until they are able to climb the stone step. They respond by respecting the sleeping area and wetting only the areas outside their beds.
It’s still hard to say the breed or mix of the pups, but Bandit and his friends are beginning to look like little Doberman Pinschers. I research the breed. No longer bred as junk yard guard dogs, the Dobies are highly intelligent (on a par with Border Collies and Standard Poodles), very trainable, loyal to owners, friendly, made for indoor family living.. They will make excellent companion pets, especially with the intense human bonding they’ve had for their very survival.
After four weeks, we are half way to the time when the pups will be ready for adoption. I look back and marvel at Bandit’s development and the fact we volunteers have been able to save 6 of 10 newborn motherless creatures against incredible odds.
The dumpster pups have made the news and will certainly find loving new homes. There are many other wonderful dogs and cats at the shelter. They did not have the tragic start that Bandit had, but they became homeless somewhere along the way. I hope the publicity Bandit has received will open more homes and hearts for all the homeless pets.
The visiting pups go home and Bandit and I feel relieved. It was fun to have the company, but also a lot of work and we both need a rest.
— Beverly Keil is a board member with the Pet Network Humane Society. Learn more at www.petnetwork.org.