Homegrown Puppies or How We Fostered A Pregnant Stray Dog

Back in January 2013, my wife and I fostered a pregnant dog named Buttons.

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Meet Buttons!

Buttons was on the “kill list” at a shelter in West Virginia, but some kindly animal rescuers transported her to the Bloomingdale Animal Shelter Society in Bloomingdale, NJ. We agreed to foster Buttons, and find homes for her and her puppies. It was one of the most reward things my wife and I have ever done. Read all about it below, and check out our Buttons Had Puppies Blog.

Meanwhile, we’re keeping tabs on all the puppies in their new homes (including Momma Buttons, who was adopted by my brother’s family in Massachusetts.) We got to puppy-sit June Carter Cash recently, and Jimi Hendrix is coming for a week later this month. (Check out some great video of Jimi swimming here!) It’s awesome watching “the kids” growing up!

Here’s the full story (well, the full backstory, anyway. The story of Buttons and her puppies continues to be written!)

Homeless, Pregnant, and Alone

Shortly after New Years, my wife and I learned the Bloomingdale Animal Shelter Society (BASS) took in a pregnant dog, named Buttons. My wife and I hadn’t actively volunteered at BASS in many years, but we told the group we could foster Buttons if  “you’re really desperate and can’t find anyone else.”

The shelter called us two weeks later.

Buttons wass 25-pound Corgi/Beagle/Something mix that had the misfortune of finding herself in a high-kill animal shelter in West Virginia. Buttons arrived at our house January 22.  She was very sweet, very pregnant, and barely more than a baby herself – she appeared to be a little over a year old.

A few days later, we took Buttons to Dr. Dawn Garro in Butler, NJ. She did an X-ray and predicted Buttons would have between eight and ten puppies. Whoa!

Eight Is Enough!

Buttons gave birth to eight puppies in the wee hours of Monday, February 4. My wife and I had a feeling the puppies were coming that night. Buttons seemed particularly tired and uncomfortable, and was spending a lot of time in her crate (which my daughter christened, “Button’s Place.”)

My wife and I bickered about something stupid that night because we were both nervous about the impending birth. It was the middle of night — what if something went wrong? Neither of us had any experience birthing puppies. We didn’t have any experience birthing anything except for our two kids, and then we were in a hospital with doctors and nurses around. We didn’t give birth on a blanket in the living room.

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Buttons and her babies.

Fortunately, Buttons knew what to do. We heard a tiny yelp around 2 a.m., and when we checked the crate, Buttons was no longer alone. It looked like there was a tiny white mouse in there with her. The first pup was born.

It was almost 40 minutes before the next puppy arrived, but they came more frequently after that. The last puppy was born around 6 a.m. Buttons licked her pups clean, and got them each latched on and nursing. Sure, the birth experience was a bit messy and gross, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it’d be.

In fact, it was amazing. The way Buttons instinctively cared for her tiny, squeaky puppies was both feral and beautiful. Except for the birth of my own children, it was one of the most powerful and moving things I’d ever seen, and my wife seemed equally affected. This was life in its purest, most basic form.

Musical Mutts

We named the puppies after musical legends: Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, June and Johnny Cash, Elvis, Pearl, Adele, and Jimi Hendrix.

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Buttons’ babies get a rock star welcome!

A few days after the puppies were born, we noticed Buttons hiding something under our daughter’s bed. It was Bob Dylan! We put Bob back with the litter, but Buttons moved him again! Bob was the first puppy born, and the smallest of the litter, (Adele was the last and the biggest). Was Buttons kicking him out of the pack because he was the runt?

Later, Buttons carried Jimi Hendrix upstairs, and stashed him under my daughter’s bed! Dr. Garro said Buttons might be looking for a new nest for her pups, one that offered more privacy or warmth. We covered the crate with a blanket like a giant birdcage, and put a space heater nearby. Buttons seemed to like this. She didn’t try to move her babies again after that.

The puppies are flourishing. We recently took the whole litter (and Momma) for a vet visit, and Dr. Garro thought all the pups looked healthy, and were developing nicely.

“Buttons is doing a great job. So are the two of you,” Dr. Garro told my wife and I. ”The hard part is over.”

But I think the hardest part is yet to come. Four weeks from now the puppies will be old enough to leave our home, and move on to “forever homes.”

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Buttons Place … always!

My wife and I have fostered and re-homed many dogs over the years, and it’s always hard saying goodbye. But these puppies have earned a special place in our hearts. How are we ever going to say goodbye? We love them!

Visit buttonshadpuppies.wordpress.com to learn more about Buttons and her puppies, and keep up on the continuing adventures of Buttons and canine kids!

Originally published in Wayne TODAY, March 2013

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