As Phoebe matured and began oestrus, mom wanted to get her spayed for the fear that she would have to go through the same ordeal as Cara if a stray dog ever entered our property. But, following several pleas from dad and us, she relented and said that Phoebe could have a litter just one time before the surgery. To make things even better, it was right around the same time that I had met a writer who was searching for a mate for her male Labrador Retriever.
Discussions were had and stud fees were fixed, and before we knew it, my sister and I were driving Phoebe to and from the writer's Tivim-based house for three consecutive days to facilitate mating.
At first, we thought the interaction would be unsuccessful. Despite introducing the dogs to each other around ten days after Phoebe began bleeding, all that the couple was doing was playfully chasing each other around the writer's garden. We didn't expect anything much when we returned home with her on the third day.
Three weeks later, however, we noticed Phoebe becoming sluggish...and heavier. A trip to the vet confirmed that she was indeed pregnant! She was immediately put on a slew of supplements. The vet feared that she might develop complications because the pregnancy was detected rather late.
BUNDLES OF JOY: A filmstrip of the delivery
Thankfully, the pregnancy was progressing normally and Phoebe was healthy and unusually cooperative. Even at the peak of her gestation, she would allow us to put our ears to her tummy to hear the gurgling of amniotic sacs and feel the kicks from within. Being a one-of-a-kind experience for us, we researched on canine pregnancies so thoroughly that our school and college projects paled in comparison.
March 27, 2006 arrived and mom noticed Phoebe getting restless and searching for a quiet place in the house. Her contractions had begun by tea time, and at around 5.30pm she gave us a priceless gift...her first puppy! Tenderly licking off the remnants of the sac from her first born, she graciously let my sister tie and cut the umbilical cord, wipe the tiny thing and place it near her teats for its first feed. It was a golden female (Phoebe's mating partner was the same colour).
We had read that simultaneous breastfeeding facilitates an easier delivery of the remaining litter. And, it seemed to be working. Everytime Phoebe nursed her puppies, her contractions came on stronger.
The cycle went on for almost five hours, by which time Phoebe had delivered TWELVE healthy puppies, surpassing our expectation of a maximum of eight. They were immaculate. Nine females and three males. Six black and six golden. The last puppy had almost turned blue because Phoebe, tired and stressed by the time, refused to lick the sac from its face. A few pumps of air into its nostrils and several downward swings later, the golden female was fine.