Sunday, February 7, 2021

Molly Goes on a Diet

Maternity Photo Shoot
Photo Credit: Caitlin Phair

While Molly was pregnant, her food needs increased to help care for those growing pups. After her emergency spay and the heart breaking removal of her deceased pups, her dietary needs changed. We adopted two 6 week old Border Collie puppies for her to foster, feed, and care for. This is not something we planned for, but the back story seems important for context, so I will retell it here. (I wasn't writing at the time it happened, and only shared it on our FB page.) 

We were very pleased to allow Molly the chance to be a mom. Our dogs and cats are routinely spayed to help control the pet population. But, we decided to allow Molly to breed one litter for several reasons including her temperament, intelligence, age, and her disinclination to accept outside dogs to our lives. {Our 10 year old Husky, Fenn, was laid to rest the year before due to a marked deterioration in his health. Our 17 year old Pomeranian mix, Buster, passed in 2020, when Molly's adopted puppies were about 5 months old.} With Molly reaching middle age, we didn't want to wait until she was gone before welcoming another dog to love. We found a lovely sire in a young, healthy German Shepherd we knew. He had just the characteristics we hoped to meld with Molly's- intelligence, loyalty, desire to work, and the ability to deter wild predators from preying upon our herds. Black Lab/German Shepherd pups were exactly what we wanted and we had a waiting list of families to adopt the rest of the litter. With this being her first and only litter, and with minimal exposure, we hoped for a smaller litter size.

Molly in labor with her toy "babies".
May 3, 2020.
We got that right- Molly became pregnant with a litter of two. Honestly, that was perfect since both pups were claimed and would be loved. We would keep one and my eldest daughter claimed the second puppy. In actuality, it was not so perfect. The day of delivery things were proceeding normally. We were in touch with our veterinarian just in case there were any complications, but it looked to be going well. Within a short period of time, the first kid was born. It was stillborn. That was sad, but we didn't lose heart. We didn't know at the time that there were only two pups growing, so we expected the next pup would be born alive. Time passed. We called our Veterinarian again. Pups should be born fairly regularly in a normal delivery. Something was wrong.

An ultra sound revealed one other pup inside. It was giant. Much too large to be born naturally... and it wasn't moving. The veterinarian was almost certain the pup was already gone. Our hopes were further shattered when they advised an emergency c-section AND spay. It was too dangerous to Molly's health to allow her to try again. 

We were scared and devastated. Molly was our first priority. We pooled every penny we had to fund her surgery. What should have been a relatively easy (so much so that controlling the unwanted pet population is an ongoing challenge) and joyous event turned into a nightmare. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we couldn't even be inside the building with her while she waited for surgery. The technician suggested we go home and they would call us in the morning. Nope. That wasn't happening. Sean and I waited in the van in the parking lot through the night. In the morning, we took our girl home.

Molly snuggling her new puppy, Luna.
Immediately, Molly was changed. I wouldn't have thought she knew what was wrong, other than the obvious after care of having surgery. The pain medication she was given kept her physical pain in check. Her behavior was something else entirely. She was in mourning. In the days after her surgery, she created nests around the house and filled them with squeaky toys. She frantically attempted to nurse them and frustrated howled and bayed when they didn't move or respond. I have never seen anything like this kind of deep, mourning in any animal in our care. I've seen cats lose a kitten, cry for it, then accept its loss and continue living. Sometimes a goat doe will call for her lost kid, they sniff the dead body, and accept its loss while they care for their living young. Nothing prepared me for the kind of mourning Molly was experiencing. After a return visit to our vet, a visit by a close friend (and former vet tech) who knew Molly personally, and much prayer and discussion, Sean and I looked for a pair of young puppies to adopt for Molly to care for.

I am convinced we found an answer to our prayer in finding a pair of 6 week old Border Collie pups. I found the listing in my search for fostering puppies who might need milk. I wasn't sure Molly would accept them or want them- they weren't tiny pups. At 6 weeks, they were drinking their Mother's milk occasionally, but were eating solid food already. We made sure that the farm would accept them back if that was the case. The point was to help Molly, not cause her additional stress. We carried the puppies home, wrapped in Molly's blanket to help transfer some of her scent. Molly's behavior changed almost instantly. She sniffed the pups, cleaned them, and offered them milk. She stopped whining non-stop and turned her attention to caring for the new pups. I was so relieved. Within 24 hours, it was clear the pups would be accepted and stay.

Echo & Luna
Belfast Dog Park 2020
The larger puppy became part of my daughter, Caitlin's home. She rents our basement apartment, so the transition when it came, was both smooth and easy. She named her puppy Echo. The smaller puppy joined our family. We named her Luna. Molly and Luna are best friends. Echo comes upstairs for doggy daycare while Caitlin is away at work and returns home with her mother in the evenings. The dogs have an outside yard that connects to both our back doors so they can come and go and play as they want to. It is an arrangement that works well. 

Molly is so patient with Luna
The puppies have very different personalities. Echo is quiet and loves to cuddle. She has learned to shake hands, turn in circles and sit when asked. She also loves chasing a frisbee and retrieving sticks. Luna is pure energy. Hugs are not appreciated, but she wants to be next to me wherever I am and constantly looks to me for direction whatever we are doing. Luna knows sit, lay down, catch, back up, off, to me, come and we are working on stay. She is getting better at catching her frisbee. She has been introduced to the goats with the mind that in time, she will help work them with us. 

Echo (left) & Luna (right)

Breakfast~ February 2021
Molly eats much faster than Luna!
All this brings me back to the point of today's post: diet.

While Molly was pregnant and nursing her adoptive puppies, she was fed a puppy food formula before switching to Rachel Ray's Nutrish Dish. We are not animal nutritionists, but we believe that feeding the best food we can afford has a positive impact on our animal's health. We like the ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, dried peas, whole dried potatoes, pea starch, pea protein, poultry fat, cranberries, flaxseed, and vitamins and minerals. We also feed farm fresh raw eggs & farm made plain yogurt a couple of times each week. The puppies are doing great on this formula. In time, however, Molly began to gain too much weight. The combination of being spayed and eating this diet, caused Molly to be about 20 pounds over weight. We tried feeding less at each meal and increasing Molly's exercise, but that didn't work and the pounds stayed on. 
Rachel Ray Nutrish Dish
with added chicken

Concerned about Molly's health, we switched her to another dry food. She is currently eating Purina Beneful Healthy Weight with Farm Raised Chicken dry formula. The ingredients are similar, but it has only 8% fat compared to Rachel Ray Nutrish Dish. And, it seems to be working. She is starting to lose a little extra weight. At her next visit, we will re-examine her nutritional needs with our veterinarian and listen to their recommendations. We want this girl to be in good health and happy with us for as long as possible.

Purina Beneful Healthy Weight
with added chicken
Have you had good success with a particular brand of dog food? Or, one that you didn't like? Share your experience with us in the comments, please! 

Thanks for visiting with us today, Friends. We are happy you are here. 

Sean & Sonja

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