There are many, many reasons to sit and watch a litter of puppies. Or sit AMONG a pile of puppies. Watching them change, sometimes daily, is a treasure. And, it is a different treasure with each litter. I've mentioned before that I believe every child, of every age from 5 to 85, should observe a litter being born. Even help, if possible. It changes you. For the better.
At Pawfect Match Rescue we do not adopt our puppies out until at least 7 weeks of age, but we strongly prefer 8 weeks of age. There is some play/bite learning that puppies learn with each other during that time that is very important for their development. If the pups do not learn that lesson, they tend to not have enough inhibition when they play-bite other animals or people. This is more often a failure of humans - of fosters - than of the pups.
However, it becomes VERY difficult to properly manage an entire litter of pups once they get past about five weeks. They are weaned by then, and at least half-way through the "wading in the mush" stage of feeding. And the POOP. Oh. My. Goodness. The poop and pee everywhere. Momma is no longer eating the puppy's poopies, because you're separating her from the pups to wean them and dry up her milk. So, we typically dole the litter out in 2s and 3s to our foster homes. Two or three pups are more manageable, and they still have each other to play with, learn from/with, and chew on.
This morning, the litter of 8 pups at my house (Olive's crew) turn six weeks old. They started screaming for their food and water before Aida and I were ready to face the day. Fair enough - they get their morning treatment at 5:30 during weekdays, and their tummy alarms do not change for the weekend. And today is Sunday.
After getting two bowls of kibble and two bowls of fresh water down for them, I cleaned up the pee pads and the poop that was not on the pads, replaced the pads, and sat down to share some love. It is very warming, and cool (ironically), to have a swarm of living things running up to you, and all over you, full of love and givings kisses. Until they start chewing on anything they can get hold of. The robe, not so much a problem. The soft flesh of my thigh near the knee - yeah, that hurts. But still, I can keep most of the 8 focused on my hands and face, savoring the wafting puppy breath.
What struck me this morning, though, happened after I climbed out of the pen. One or two of the maniacs had decided that one of the pee pads needed to be moved, then shredded. Others joined in. Then one of them, doing their best DeNiro "You talkin ta me?" in response to a growl, jumped on another with ferocity and vigor. Well, as much as playful pups muster, anyway. What ensued was a free-for-all puppy rumble! One or two sat off to the side watching, maybe chewing on something else or drinking a little, but they usually found an opening and reason to jump in.
To my uncanine eyes, I could not make out any sides. It was like each pup was on its own, and alliances formed and evaporated almost instantaneously. After a couple of minutes, momma and two of my foster huskies were sitting next to me, watching the debacle. Momma, I am sure, wanted to intervene, and the huskies, I am more sure, wanted to join in. I can't blame them, there were some fancy moves going in there. I know I saw at least two Death From Above (r) maneuvers - and I would have sworn in court that these puppies are incapable of flight. Some of the rearing and charging made me imagine them with tiny steeds, plate mail armor, a lance, and a maiden's favor involved. Yes, I have an overactive imagination....
They sure seemed to be having a glorious time of it! After a few more minutes, the rumble finally petered out, and most went about other diversions. Two pairs of pups continued to chew on each other, but more prone than airborne. The best proof that they had a good time? No more than eight minutes after the fracas started, eight out of eight pups are sleeping on the various dog beds, and as usual, one pile of four, one pile of three, and one sleeping by himself near the food. THAT is a happy, sated, pile of pups.
Until their tummies wake them, to pee, poop, and eat and drink again. An play. Play, play, play. Are you ready to RUMBLLLLLLLLLLLLLLE?