Fostering a pregnant dog sounds like a daunting task, but we have found our mama dogs to be the Best Houseguests Ever – easier to foster than litters of orphaned puppies, hands down, any day of the week. Why? Because you take care of mama and mama takes care of the rest.
STEP 1: MAKING MAMA FEEL AT HOME, OR, THE FUN PART
Having a pregnant mama around is just like having a pet – only for free and for just a little while. Love your mama, take her for walks, let her get comfy. Keeping her relaxed and happy gives her puppies their best possible start.
Honey got to stay in foster for almost a month before having her babies. She was practically a member of the family by the time they were born.
Ramona, on the other hand, had her puppies unexpectedly about two hours after entering her foster home.
Your home provides mama with not only comfort but also a clean and safe place to give birth. In a shelter environment, mama dogs who are kept around (most shelters don’t have the resources to keep them at all, so rescue is their only good option) will likely give birth on a concrete floor, possibly outdoors. Puppy immune systems are too delicate for busy, crowded shelters, and they cannot regulate their own body temperatures; they need to be kept nice and warm. This is why Texas Humane Heroes – and rescues everywhere – have such a great need for foster families.
STEP 2: THE MAIN EVENT, OR, IT’S OK TO TRY THIS AT HOME
Mama has been with you getting spoiled and loved on for days or weeks, and now it’s time for the Main Event. Your friendly Texas Humane Heroes Foster Coordinator has coached you for this moment, and the good news is that mama tends to know better than you on what to do. We like to hang around and watch the Miracle of Life play out, and we keep gloves and clean towels handy, but mostly we trust mama to do her job.*
There are people who let their own dogs breed – “just this once” – so their kids can experience the Miracle of Life, but it’s much better to foster a mama dog. You get the same miracle plus an additional miracle of saving multiple lives that would have been forfeited in a shelter, where mamas and babies are not welcome houseguests.
*SOME HARD TRUTHS
We don’t always know what happened to our mama dogs before they came to us. Sometimes they are in rough shape, and sometimes, even when mama has had the best of care, their puppies are stillborn or fail to thrive. This is no one’s fault. Families who foster mama dogs and litters of puppies eventually have to experience these sad moments, but our consolation is that, without us, none of those puppies would have made it.
When we are sad about things that do not go the way we wanted for our foster babies, we are comforted to know that the nice people who work at Texas Humane Heroes are always available to talk about it and support us, even when there is no particular solution to be had.
STEP 3: WATCHING MAMA DO ALL THE WORK, OR, THE OTHER FUN PART
Now that the babies are born, you go back to taking care of mama, and she takes care of her babies. Mama dogs will feed and clean their babies. They will eat (yes, eat!) the waste to keep their living space clean. You will provide clean linens and keep an eye on your mama dog to make sure she is doing a good job.
Sometimes an overwhelmed mama dog will need a helping hand – you may need to provide supplemental bottle feeding or help her keep her babies clean – especially if she has a lot of puppies. Usually, though, mama will let you know that she can handle it all herself, thank you very much.
The babies will be fat and cute and oh-so-cute and mostly lay around like little baked potatoes for about a month. When they start growing up and getting feisty (about 6 weeks), they can be weaned off mother’s milk and taught to eat wet and dry food. Once they are eating on their own, you can continue to foster them until they are 8 weeks old and ready for spay/neuter surgery, or you can ask your friendly Texas Humane Heroes Foster Coordinator to find new foster homes for your puppies so you can have a break. At that point, mama will go back to the adoption center to get spayed and find her forever family.
This is the real Miracle of Life: fostering a mama dog who had nowhere to go, giving her puppies a healthy start, and finally shepherding her and all her babies to loving homes.
Plus 6 weeks’ worth of free puppy breath and puppy bellies for you.
By: Amy Gelfand, Texas Humane Heroes foster