Outdoors: The wonderful world of puppies

Photo by Jay AnglinPictured are the Anglin’s household 10 Labrador Retriever puppies.

The power of puppies: One of the greatest forces that nature ever bestowed upon the earth.

These little balls of fur and energy bring pure joy to anybody that has the pleasure of spending time with them. On the “Cuteness Scale,” puppies are the equivalent to an F5 tornado or DEFCON 1. Being overwhelmed is imminent. I’ve even seen women, children and grown men reduced to tears when they are holding a puppy as its littermates yip below.

I have seen this sort of thing multiple times over the past six weeks, because here at the Anglin home, we have 10 Labrador Retriever puppies keeping us company. This is the second litter for my two best canine hunting buddies, Trix and Deuce. The last time Trix had seven pups of which two were black and five were chocolate. This time around, we have three chocolates and seven blacks. When dogs go into labor, there are usually surprises in store, and this time was no exception.

Like most people that love dogs, our labs are like family to us, and we are part of their pack. My wife, Angie, stayed up with Trix all night as she went into labor. I had long since gone to bed knowing the girls had it under control. When I got up in the morning, several had already been born. Angie told me that sometime in the night she had fallen asleep laying on the floor with her head leaning against the welping-box, so she wasn’t exactly sure when the first one was born.

Like all female dogs, Trixie is perfectly capable of handling things on her own with no assistance from humans. This was quite evident when she delivered the first pup, cleaned it up, then gently cradled it in her mouth and prodded Angie awake with it as her tail softly wagged with pride. Her way of saying, mom look, I’m having puppies. Now if that ain’t the cutest thing ever, I don’t know what is!

This house isn’t exactly set up for raising puppies. In particular, in the living room, which is exactly where this litter spent nearly a month in a welping box. I can assure you the first sound they heard was likely the kids arguing over the bathroom in the morning, or maybe a Cubs game on TV. I had big plans to make a cool little puppy area in our backroom, and even started to fix it up and paint it just like excited parents do before a coming child. Unfortunately, the huge rains we received in August found a nice hole in my roof, courtesy of a tree branch that had fallen butt-end first. Consequently, we had some serious repair work to do.

Our dining room is a total disaster, as it’s filled with all my fishing and hunting gear, which is a lot of stuff. But, finally the puppies have their back room to roam. They eat, sleep, play and establish pecking order, but amazingly enough, have slept through the night like perfect little angels, which has been a refreshing departure from the norm.

The weaning process usually happens quickly, but mom seems intent to continue multiple daily nursing, so we are letting this litter have their milk and their occasional meal of puppy food as well. Dad is a big dude and he loves the pups as much as everybody else. There is no doubt in my mind that he knows they are his and he guards them whenever strangers are around and at night.

Puppies grow and mature extremely rapidly, but one day you realize they aren’t so puppy-like anymore and act more like little dogs. It’s quite fascinating to observe on a daily basis. While we’d all like to guess how these puppies will turn out as adults, you don’t really have any truly good “intel” until about the fourth week or so. That’s when things get interesting. In a litter of ten puppies, personalities cover the gambit; there are alpha pups and their closes match, the audacious runt – as well as very soft, dare I say, meek pup - and everything in between.

Obviously, each person has their personal preference as to preferred disposition, but I have found the best way to assure an adult dog has all the right stuff to be a good boy or girl is to treat them as family from Day 1. We socialize our puppies more than most professional breeders ever could. Perhaps that’s not by choice as many breeders are very busy dealing with multiple litters and adults, but sometimes I think it’s just apathy.

Good genetics are very important, but far from definitive when it comes to choosing a good pup. All the best genetics in the world are worthless if the first two months of a pup’s life are characterized by limited human contact and tender loving care. Doting on puppies takes time, but for us it’s a family affair. We all raise these pups and then hand them off to people that will treat them as we would.

These animals will turn out to be great canine companions for a bunch of families, I can guarantee that. Some will also add hunting dog to their credentials and mom and dad are living proof to their potential in that regard. It always makes me feel good when I know that 10 families will soon have one of life’s greatest joys to warm their hearts and erase the stresses of life away, if only for a while.

A couple of weeks from now, it’ll be quieter around here. I’ll be forced to re-organize my gear in the backroom and return the welping-box to the attic as Kong, Charlie, Layla, “Kidsmoke”, Millie, Chica, and Miner head off to live in Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, and of course, Indiana. Takota is already home and her littermates Rogue and Roadie are staying a little longer, too. If nothing else, that’ll make the transition easier for the kids as they will inevitably miss their young canine friends. I have to admit; I’m already looking forward to the next litter.

Jay Anglin writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Argus. Write to him at jay@anglinoutdoors.com.

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