Brandi's Incredible Journey
I would like to introduce a sweet angel, Brandi die Schöne Hündin, a Black Mouth Cur with an exceptionally loving and protective disposition. Brandi has embarked upon an incredible journey to becoming a mama! It is my intention and purpose to use this page to document my holistic approach to caring for a pregnant bitch and her growing brood. This is an immensely exciting time for our family as every opportunity to nurture life is a blessing beyond measure.
Brandi is a particularly intelligent girl who came to us quite unexpectedly. She was discovered standing in a parking lot by my son and his friends. There was a team of men working on a roof near the parking lot, one of whom was the puppy's caretaker. An incredibly loyal puppy, she never wandered out of the sight of the man who was raising her. My son approached the adorable pup with the wildly wagging tail and was greeted with a friendly and submissive barrage of kisses. Concerned for her safety, the boys looked around as to whom she may belong. The man who bred her came down from the roof and offered to give her to the boys, free of charge. Alarmed at such an offer, they accepted to take her fearing her safety was in jeopardy since she was left to wander around a parking lot. Having been told she was a purebred dog, they picked her up and headed to my son's friend's house. That is when I received the phone call and the news that my son was in possession of a pup. The whole story sounded bizarre to us. Who just gives away their "purebred" puppy free of charge to some random teens?
My son knew no better place to bring a pup in need than to me, a professional in the dog world and a Naturorthopathic doctor. Infested with fleas, yet clearly well fed and cared for, we bathed the near full-grown submissive pup who was affectionately named Brandi, and killed all the fleas. Thankfully, she later vomited the well-intentioned cheap kibble meal the guys had fed her previous to bringing her to us. Her gentleness and submissiveness was undeniably attractive. My son chose to keep her as his own for companionship and possibly as a hunting dog. But what else had occurred was a bond she had forged with me that evening, and I felt the clear tug on my heart for this sweet angel. Little did I know that Brandi would soon end up being under my care and she would become one of our pack. And what a precious gift she has been.
My husband discovered that Brandi is a BMC. Without registry papers, however, we couldn't be positive. The National Kennel Club has conducted a breed analysis via a certified breed inspector. After submission of the requirements for breed inspection, the NKC has officially certified Brandi as a BMC and has entered her into their official books. I also contacted a local breeder in our area and she was kind enough to give me her opinion as to Brandi's purity. When she saw Brandi she was sure she recognized her bloodline believing Brandi may be the daughter or granddaughter of one of her pups. Her opinion was that it was only slightly possible that a Mountain Cur may have been introduced into the lineage (her bizarre ear carriage at times), but all in all she was certain Brandi's lineage is BMC.
There is a great deal to be said for a well bred dog. Meeting breed standards is of utmost importance, but what should always be priority is health. Even the most gloriously bred dogs are nothing without health. As I noted to the right, I had my fair share of heartache with Golden Retrievers. Not just my own, but my clients' dogs as well. Two in three American bred Goldens will develop cancer and die too young. I have personally watched four Goldens die from cancer. It breaks my heart, so much so that I will not even own another Golden. It was then that I resolved to holistically raise my dogs; it was the only option for me. And while purebred dogs can be magnificent, they also contain a gene pool that is limited. When fresh bloodlines are not introduced to a line, health diminishes quickly. I used to balk at the people who would argue with me that mixed breeds were far healthier and hardier. I have to admit, I may be becoming a believer. Health is my goal. Health is what I plan to cultivate.
I have been a part of the world of purebred dogs since birth. I grew up with a Cairn Terrier. My parents later added an Australian Terrier to the family when I was a tween. When I entered high school, my life with Golden Retrievers began. I was always active with 4H. As a horse owner, I also relished in the world of purebred horses and spent a great deal of my life showing my horse in Dressage tests and Hunt Seat events. But there is something magical about the world of purebred dogs and being around the show circuit and running agility trials. I loved it. As an adult, I owned a Toy Manchester Terrier who had earned himself a few ribbons. I also owned a Samoyed, the most gorgeous animal I have ever laid eyes on, who was a natural in agility trials. Dogs were an enormous part of my life. In 2002, I started my own holistic dog grooming salon called Fancy Furs & "Pet"icures. I spent the next seventeen years grooming and beautifying dogs, relishing in every joyous shriek that made its way from their owner's mouth. In addition, most of the dogs I took as clients were considered "aggressive" and had been previously rejected from other groomers. I gladly embraced these sweet babies, working with them until they gained my trust and came to their grooming appointments wagging their tails.
I am not going to lie, Brandi is the first dog under my care that is not registered with one of the world's most renown kennel clubs. I share this because it took me all these decades to appreciate that distinguished registry, bloodlines, and beauty is only secondary to having an animal with a fantastic disposition, an intelligence that turns head, loyalty that puts people to shame, and simply radiant with health and joy. THAT is Brandi. And this, is Brandi's story.
Growing babies is hard work!
The importance of feeding your canine a high quality, species-specific diet cannot be emphasized enough. When your bitch is well fed and nourished, she will be thoroughly equipped throughout every season of her life, including those new seasons, whether expected or unexpected, in which she embarks upon. Pregnancy is a season in a bitch's life that requires a healthy body and weight well before conception. In this way, even if the unexpected does occur (which is not uncommon), you will have no worries.
During the first four weeks of pregnancy, your dam will begin to show subtle signs that she is pregnant, the most obvious
Sixth week of pregnancy
being teat enlargement. During this time, she will have no need for extra calories. Depending on the diet, some females may experience vomiting or morning sickness, while most owners may notice their dam is logging in more time in the napping department. It is here where I will commence Brandi's diary...
During the fifth week of Brandi's pregnancy (days 29-35), we became increasingly convinced of her conception. The only signs she had exhibited during the first four weeks were teat enlargement and stealing extra naps. By the beginning of week five, she had begun to grow more dense in her abdomen and her teats had "pinked." At this time, I began to make adjustments to her diet. Since her calorie requirements remained the same, increasing the amount of food was not yet necessary; however her nutrient needs necessitated adjustments. To increase her mineral intake, we gave her extra bones and I added organic whole-milk yogurt and cultured cottage cheese to her morning meal while only slightly decreasing her regular food. We continued to take her on our 2-4 mile daily walks which she enjoyed with the same enthusiasm and vigor. Up until now, Brandi had only gained about 1 1/2 pounds. We called the veterinarian to set her pregnancy-confirmation appointment for the following week.
Week six Brandi began to grow! I continued the same dietary
adjustments. During this week, veterinarians recommend
switching a dam's diet to "puppy food." Since a holistic diet
does not follow an "adult" and "puppy" food kibble-based diet,
an increase in the protein, fat, and mineral percentages is what
needed. Since Brandi was already consuming meaty bones
along with the whole-fat yogurt and cottage cheese, no other
adjustments or changes were necessary.
Day 36 fell on our house blessing day, a custom in Orthodox Christianity where we have our house blessed by our parish priest. Our dogs "participate" in the blessing service having the honor of being sprinkled with the holy water used for the blessing of the house (the water is blessed on the Feast of the Theophany of Christ which is celebrated on January 6th). Father made sure Brandi had a thorough blessing! On day 41, we attended Brandi's veterinary appointment. By now she had gained four pounds. I requested a sonogram to confirm the pregnancy. The veterinarian rolled the SONO machine into the room and we spied our first look at four healthy puppies. Because the appointment was not meant to give us an expected pup count, we were only able to view four pups during the confirmatory sonogram. Our veterinarian declared the puppies were healthy and developing beautifully. Because Brandi is a very densely muscled dog, I did ask the doctor's opinion regarding Brandi's weight (body fat percentage) to ensure she was at a healthy mass. She confirmed my opinion and recommended no additional food during this week. We continued our regular walks in which Brandi delightfully relished.
Week seven brought with it a jump in weight gain and an ever increasing belly! Brandi weighed in at 48 pounds. Her pre- pregnancy weight of 40-41 pounds now had an eight pound expansion. It was on day 46 that we began to shorten the duration of the walks. Although she was still walking and running with ease, the extra weight of the puppies can take a toll. Aside from her breakfast and dinner, I added a mid-day meal to increase her caloric intake. Holistic supplemental canned meat for dogs is an excellent addition to increase
calories. I gave her 1/3 of the 12.8 oz. can of meat along with 1 whole soft boiled egg (with shell) and 1/3 cup Whole Earth Farms holistic kibble. Her regular diet of raw meaty bones, Nature's Variety Instinct Raw, homemade raw food, Whole Earth Farms canned food, and full-fat yogurt and cottage cheese needed the mid-day meal addition. (Brandi also continued to enjoy raw vegetables for roughage!) Her abdominal hair had begun to shed and her teats began preparing for colostrum production. We began to feel very slight movement from the pups. Brandi had not begun to nest or act any differently than usual, in fact she still insisted on spending hours basking in the sun and pursuing her hobby of chasing and barking at cars from the backyard fence line.
Day 50: Brandi now weighs 50 pounds. She is beginning to look like a hippopotamus! I will now be taking her off the yogurt, cottage cheese, and bones to reduce her calcium intake until after she whelps. We took Brandi and her brothers for a casual walk through the fields today- watching closely for fatigue. She was just as enthusiastic to go for her walk, but was panting sooner than usual. She is beginning to stretch out when she lies down. We have just begun to feel stronger and more lively movement from the pups. We set up her whelping pool and put her memory foam bed inside of it to try to encourage her to sleep there. We are beginning to make preparations for whelping.
Day 52: Brandi is now consuming her regular diet without any extra calcium-rich foods. While she is still in need of three meals per day, the extra calcium and mineral-rich foods are unfavorable at this point in her pregnancy. Her parathyroid gland now needs to begin storing calcium for labor. Removing the extra calcium will encourage her body to store calcium. She is high energy today and very alert. However, when I took her for a walk, she was a little sluggish. Time to cut back the walks even more.
Day 53: Brandi was overjoyed to have a doggie-daycare visitor today. Bella is one of our regulars who is a ball of energy! I was a little nervous about so much energy being around Brandi this late in her pregnancy, but they played calmly. Instead, Brandi ended up running around like a crazed squirrel in the backyard barking at the landscaping crew. I had to pull the plug on that fun. Her appetite has increased even more, so I began adding a small holistic kibble meal made by Merrick Pet Care, Inc. I would prefer more raw, but for cost efficiency, Merrick's is a great food to add extra calories and nutrition. I already use Merrick's canned food (one of the only supposed BPA-free canned foods) along with the homemade raw meals and Nature's Variety Instinct Raw. Puppy movement is more active than ever. I have already begun to prepare my holistic puppy guide to be given to new puppy owners, along with our application and contracts. I received my response from the UKC (United Kennel Club) this morning for her registration. I will be sending in photos if I cannot find an acceptable breed expert to assess her for breed standards.
Day 54: Brandi's weight five hours following her breakfast is 52.6 pounds. She is still incredibly agile for her growing belly. Today we walked her around our neighborhood. She is still walking well, but taking more time to sniff around and indulge in the scenery. I decided a couple of days ago that walking with her brothers is no longer a good option especially since my Siberian walks like he's on a mission and its getting harder for her to keep up with his extraordinary pace and endurance (as would be expected for a Siberian). Brandi's appetite is still very hardy. I felt I needed to increase her food intake just a bit as she is looking very tight and muscular, possibly a little too lean. She is one impressively athletic girl!
Day 56: Brandi is now officially 8 weeks. Her belly hair has shed, and when she sits down, her belly touches the floor. She is also becoming a little slower. We took a lazy walk around the neighborhood yesterday and today. Her belly is starting to take on a shape-shifter appearance with all the puppy movement! Today's weight is 54.4 pounds. Tomorrow I will begin taking her temperature twice daily. Despite her ever expanding girth, she still ran along the fence line. Brandi's appetite has remained voracious. Last night she ate three whole chicken thighs and an egg besides her full breakfast and lunch meals.
Day 57: Brandi is still eating well as of this morning; however, before breakfast she dry heaved. We took her body temperature late morning which read 99.3 F. We will begin keeping a close watch on her today. By early afternoon she was sleepy and feeling lazy; however, when we were about to walk down the street to get our mail, Brandi insisted on going for the walk around the block with us. She was surprisingly full of energy. She ate hardily for dinner and was still begging for food later that evening. Evening temperature check was 99.7 F.
Day 58: Sunday Morning before leaving for Divine Liturgy, we checked Brandi's morning temperature. The digital thermometer now reflects 98.9 F. She ate her breakfast and appears no different than usual. We decided to leave her with our adult son while we went to church. By the time we returned home, Brandi was still active and normal behaviorally. Her whelping pool has her bed in it and she sleeps there most of the time if not under our bed or on the living room doggie bed. She does like to get in lots of cuddles from us!
Not long after her lunch, Brandi vomited her food twice. Her body no longer wants the supplemental commercial food, despite it being holistic. Back to raw only. We got the leashes for our other dogs so Brandi could nap in peace; however, that back fired and she came running out. We decided rather than take my Siberian, we would allow Brandi to walk for a bit with our Pomeranian. She was in high speed mode for awhile. Brandi chose to take our familiar route, leading the way happily. Upon returning home, she stretched herself out and took a nap. I got dinner ready for the fur babies, but Brandi refused her dinner. I offered her an egg yolk for nutrients and healthful fats which she did eat. Fifteen minutes later she came into the bedroom with me and went right into her whelping pool where she fell fast sleep. I began diffusing calming essential oils in our room while she napped. Around 8:30 pm, I offered Brandi one of her homemade raw patties which she ate without hesitation. Around 10:15 pm, I offered her a second patty which she refused. All is well for the remainder of the night.
Day 59: Brandi had a small amount of clear discharge this morning and throughout the day. She ate her homemade raw patty for breakfast and an egg yolk. She is acting normally, with the exception of frequent naps. Today we called the veterinarian to inform her of Brandi's progress and to give her the heads up for her approaching labor. Brandi also ate her lunch and dinner today with no more vomiting since yesterday afternoon's incident, which I quite expected. I began giving her my homemade chicken bone broth which she welcomingly slops up. She is eating less, so I increased her fat intake slightly as well. I have also chosen to stop the rectal temperature readings. After discussing how unnatural it is, as well as it being clearly uncomfortable for poor Brandi, my husband and I chose to side with nature. My job is to provide Brandi the most natural and stress-free pregnancy possible for her benefit and for her pups.
Brandi sleeping in her whelping pool All whelping supplies, charts, and scale ready
Is it time yet? See the puppy pushing?!
Waiting for her pups in good spirits!
Day 60: I gave Brandi Instinct Raw nuggets in my homemade chicken bone broth for breakfast and I believe she may have vomited. I didn't see her vomit, but I noticed our Pomeranian stud eating something outside. Brandi was hesitant to eat lunch so I brought a chicken thigh to her whelping pool where she was resting and she immediately began to bury it under the towels. She did eventually eat it after some coaxing. She also appeared to be a little off her normal disposition.
I spoke with my holistic breeder friend today for her advice, guidance, and wisdom as Brandi approaches labor. My own professional knowledge calls for careful wisdom when utilizing holistic and natural approaches in a world that is brainwashed by conventional medical practices and ideas. My breeder friend's expertise in vaccine-free and chemical-free worming in her breeding and rearing business is next to no other. She excels and I turned to her today for some of her priceless wisdom.
Brandi is not holding food down. She later vomited the chicken thigh. Whelping approaches. Around 8:30 pm, I realized stage 1 labor had begun, likely much earlier, but she wasn't letting us on to that fact. A long night looms ahead of me...and so did the long line of prayers.
Day 61: I did not go to sleep for fear Brandi may enter stage 2 labor while I slept, so I was running on fumes. Brandi had been moved to our bed around 5:00 am so I could lay down, and she fell fast asleep next to me. I called to speak with our veterinarian at 8:00 a.m. when stage 2 labor was still not presenting itself. Everything inside me was clashing between my natural philosophies to let nature take its course, and the fear that was threatening to grab hold of my better senses because her stage 1 labor seemed too long. As it turned out, the veterinarians were not due in until 9:30 a.m. I prayed asking our merciful Creator to assist his precious creation, Brandi, to be unharmed, and to give me the wisdom to know what best to do until the veterinarian was available to take a call an hour and a half from that point. Immediately I saw the first contraction and my mind settled; she began stage 2. I did call the veterinarian at 9:30 a.m. to run past her my previous concerns, and she agreed that Brandi should not be brought in or looked at as it would disrupt the natural flow of labor. Praise the Lord for such a wise doctor and a merciful God! I jumped in the shower to get ready for the pups and the long day ahead...on no sleep.
Brandi's pups will have a natural beginning to life. While we cannot make decisions for new puppy owners, it our hope to find likeminded people to adopt our puppies. I practice limited vaccination (and only because the law require rabies vaccines, otherwise I would be vaccine-free) and natural worming. Vaccinating a puppy prior to 12 weeks of age will alter and potentially destroy the natural maternal antibodies they receive through nursing. It is my advice, along with several holistic veterinarians, to wait until a puppy is 16 weeks old to receive vaccines.
Puppies who are chemically wormed at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks are exposed to potentially life harming chemicals. While those puppies who are wormed with chemical wormers appear superficially "well," the potential damage done to their immature bodies cannot be seen on the outside nor through routine puppy exams. Damage begins internally. Like my vaccine philosophy, I do not use chemical wormers. We do, however, use a food grade Diatomaceous Earth and ground pumpkin seeds once puppies reach at least 6 weeks. We also keep on hand FourGuard, an organic liquid herbal wormer, for those who want a reassurance. It should be noted that dogs on raw diets do not have to worry about worms. While nothing is impossible, the likelihood of a raw fed dog getting worms is highly unlikely.
WHELPING DAY! (61 days gestation)
Brandi began pushing around 10:10 a.m. Her contractions were nice and strong, and boy did she pump out the puppies like a dam on a mission. Nine gorgeous pups arrived in less than six hours!
At 10:50 a.m.: first pup enters the world! 14.5 oz. female.
11:22 a.m.: 1 lb. .02 oz. male
11:47 a.m.: 15.3 oz. female
12:27 p.m.: 11.3 oz. female
1:06 p.m.: 15.1 oz. male
1:12 p.m.: 12.8 oz. female
1:47 p.m.: 13.6 oz. female
Brandi takes a rest and lavishes her pups with licks and cuddles.
3:00 p.m.: 13.9 oz. male
4:08 p.m.: 13.1 oz. male
Because Brandi had not taken in calories in more than 24 hours, I was delighted to see her hardily consume her pups' placentas. Filled with nutrients taken from her own body, the placentas are a vital source of nutrition for the whelping dam to replenish her body. Brandi was a natural with detaching the placentas from her precious puppies.
I was amazed at Brandi's stamina and strength! Once all the pups took to nursing, Brandi enjoyed two hand fed meals.
Waiting for number nine...
Nutritional deficiency potential is highest during lactation. In order to prevent a depletion of vital nutrients, Brandi must eat the highest quality and most nutrient dense food available. Brandi's regular raw diet with meaty bones will have to be adjusted and fine-tuned, as well as increased as much as 25% her normal requirements per each puppy. (That equates to 25% increase times 9. Four puppies would require doubling her food portions, while eight puppies requires triple.) Since she has nine puppies, Brandi will need to eat at least triple her normal intake. In order to provide enough food, Brandi is fed every three hours. Her body's priority is toward feeding her growing brood; therefore, having food available continuously is necessary.
Every week to two weeks, I fill ice cube trays with ground organ meats (liver, kidneys, heart, etc.) that I purchase from our Farmer's Market. I also make a large batch of pureed vegetables and fruits. I include a variety of fresh produce such as pumpkin, carrots, red bell peppers, spinach, peas, green beans, broccoli, apples, parsley, yellow squash, etc. I vary it with each batch I make. I fill several ice cube trays with these mixes as well. I keep the trays in the freezer for convenience of feeding and to lock in the nutrients. Popping these out of the trays are simple and they thaw quickly. When feeding a lactating bitch a raw diet, convenience and ease of preparation are absolutely essential.
I also keep Nature's Variety Instinct Raw on hand when I am in need of a fast, already prepared meal. It is not sufficient on its own to meet the nutritional demands for lactation, so I use it sparingly or I add fats and yogurt to the meal, or feed it with raw goat's or cow's milk.
Another factor to consider is supplemental additions to the raw food. As with all my dogs, I always add fish/krill oil, coconut oil, kelp, a probiotic source (I generally use whole-fat plain yogurt), and a nutritional herb such as alfalfa (you can also use nettle or dandelion leaf). A fantastic addition for a lactating bitch is a bovine colostrum to boost, maintain, and build her immune system, as well as a homemade eggshell powder for extra minerals. Never use a supplemental calcium source or other individual vitamin or mineral. Most of these supplements are synthetic, but even those that are naturally derived should never be given because it can cause nutrient imbalances. Always use a food source for needed nutrients such as eggshells, yogurt, and herbs.