Monday, October 19, 2015

Romy's Story (Part III — Naming Puppies)

A quick recap:

In Sept 2012, a small female dog was rescued from a garbage dump on the west end of the island and we offered to foster her. She was about a year old, of the nicest temperament... even though life had thrown her its worst. Not only had she been dumped (thrown out like garbage... Really, who does that???) and had suffered hunger, but she also had tick fever (ehrlichiosis), a host of intestinal parasites, and she was heartworm-positive. A month later, we found out she was also pregnant—and, in spite of the high-risk birth due to the medication she'd been on, it was a higher risk to terminate the pregnancy. Romy—that's her name—gave birth to seven big, healthy puppies on the night of Nov. 4-5, 2012. All of them survived.
And now the challenge was to raise them properly—socialized, well-behaved, loving—so they could find excellent homes.

(You can check out the full story at Parts I and II.)

Nov 5th, 2:52 AM. Six newborn puppies.
(Unbeknownst to me, there was a seventh still to come.)
With a litter of seven pretty uniformly colored — and uniformly sized — puppies, it was hard to tell them apart.

Now, Romy's wasn't my first birth. I've seen my share. And usually, even with uniform coloring, you can keep track by how dry their fur is, or at the very least by size.

But this time, as soon as Puppy #2 came out, I was clueless. In the end, we had four black ones, three dark-brown, and among them the only ones I could identify were The Girl (only one female in the litter), and a black male who was born with a short tail. (I'd never seen that happen, by the way. I didn't even think it was possible.)

Nov. 11th, 2012
Romy handling motherhood like a boss.
Nap time!
(See the puppy with her head hanging out of the basket?
Yep. That's The Girl.)
Both of these, though — The Girl and Short-Tail — were black. Two other black ones, and all three brown ones, remained interchangeable for at least the first week. Maybe even the full ten days until they opened their eyes. They grew at the same rate, they seemed to have the same amount of energy, and exhibited the same apparent dominance in fighting for a teat or for the 'top of the pile' sleeping spot.

Except for The Girl; from the first, she was the Alpha of the litter, undisputed.

But going on a week later, it got easier to tell some of these babies apart. Mr. Short-Tail also had a white streak on his nose, and a thunderbolt down his chest. The Girl grew brown eyebrows and socks, kind of Rottweiler-ish. Of the brown batch, previously unidentifiable, one developed a white spot on a hind paw. Just the tip of the toes, like his foot had been dipped ever so daintily in white paint.

Remember this. It will change lives.

Sixteen days after they were born, we caught said white-paint-toe-dipped puppy on camera, exploring the world...

Not long after, the den had become too small for them. I started bringing them out to the patio for an hour or two at a time.

The first patio incursion, Dec 2, 2012.
The puppies were 3 days short of a month old.

And, because they were so big—and growing bigger by the day, almost by the hour—and because Momma Romy was so small and so skinny, we started giving them puppy formula to 1) supplement their nourishment and 2) begin the weaning process.

Dec. 4, 2012
"What's this? Milk not in a boob?"

You can see how quickly they took to the formula. And you can tell they were no longer unidentifiable. Our once-interchangeable puppies were becoming little individuals... And it was time to give them names.

The first one, perhaps the easiest one, was The Girl. From very early on, I started calling her Nena, which is "baby girl" in Spanish. (So sue me for lack of creativity.)

Meet Nena (aka The Girl). Looks like a little Rottweiler, doesn't she?
Dec 12, 2012

Another easy one was Bunny—Mr. Short-Tail with the white streaks on nose and chest.

Bunny, Dec 12, 2012
The others took a bit more thinking, but eventually I came up with names:

(Dec 12, 2012)
(Dec 11, 2012)
Two of the brown puppies were getting lighter, and seemed to have shorter, less furry hair than the others. And, dammit, they looked like twins. I named them, but for another month or so, I wouldn't be able able to tell them apart unless I had them both in front of me. Look at them:

The twins, Benny and Dennis, Dec 12, 2012
There was another pair of quasi-twins, but I never had any trouble telling those two apart. You see, one of them was that wandering puppy, the one with the white-paint-dipped toe (although, by then, a few others had developed white toes). And I was smitten.

(Dec 12, 2012)
Duncan and Sam were very, very close in coloring. In the photos above, the one on the upper right has Duncan sleeping in the foreground and Sam behind him. You can see the similarities... But Duncan was lighter than Sam. And, besides the white-tipped right hind toe (you can see it in the bottom right photo, if you look closely), Duncan also had that white star on his chest. And a white-tipped chin. And... I don't know, we had a bond. From the day he could see me and interact with me, something passed between us. He was my dog, and I was his human. Period.

Sam (left) and Duncan (right), playing in the patio.
Dec 12, 2012
Except, of course, we already had more dogs than we ever expected, or could handle. Aside from our own canines (Panchita, Rusty, Sasha, and Winter), in Dec 2012 we were fostering another dog, Blondie, who wouldn't get adopted any time soon (she'll get her own post soon and I'll explain)... And five dogs were already way, way far beyond the limit of 3 we'd agreed on as a family.

So I said nothing about Duncan. I kept this thing between us to myself. I thought, life will sort it out. Maybe when we got adoption applications, the perfect family would come up. Maybe this attachment I felt was just puppy love (literally), and I'd grow out of it. Maybe... Or maybe not.

To Be Continued

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Agility (and Animal Welfare Awareness) Day @ Wilhelminaplein!

I won't try to catch up all at once with everything that's happened in the last — whoa, 11 months! (Has it really been—? Yes... yes, it has. And I'm sorry for that. I love this blog.) I'll start with last weekend and — maybe, slowly — work my way back to some highlights.

So. This past weekend.

I-Animal (an animal welfare organization here in Curaçao) had its yearly Animal Day celebration at Wilhelminaplein — an open space, kind of like a city square, in Punda (downtown Willemstad) — and we were invited to join the agility run hosted by Yuka's Hondentraining. It was free of charge, geared to demonstrate the potential any dog, regardless of breed or previous training, has for conquering the agility course — and the fun they have while doing it.

More importantly, I think, it's a great way to prove Cesar Millán's point about training humans (and rehabilitating dogs). Any sort of "dog" training is, at its core, a way to establish (or, ideally, deepen) the bond between human and dog — and the agility run is a fantastic way to demonstrate it.

Out of the seven-pack, I chose to come with Duncan... For several reasons, which I can get into at length for another post, but in short: he's not the best-behaved (so the training would benefit him and me) but not the worst, either (so I could feasibly be setting him up for success); he's also really food-oriented (unlike, for instance, Sam), which makes everyone's life easier. But, mostly, I chose Duncan because we have a bond. A good, strong, special bond.

Bond which would be put to the test.