Column: Pandemic presents foster puppy surprises

Puppies+play+outside+in+the+summer+heat+during+quarantine.+Pictured+left+to+right+is+Bear%2C+Apollo%2C+Athena%2C+and+the+mom+Luna%2C+who+are+around+9+weeks.+%22This+experience+has+been+amazing.%22+columnist+junior+Alyssa+Clark+said.+%22But%2C+it%27s+also+been+a+very+noisy+and+dirty+experience+too.%22

Alyssa Clark

Puppies play outside in the summer heat during quarantine. Pictured left to right is Bear, Apollo, Athena, and the mom Luna, who are around 9 weeks. "This experience has been amazing." columnist junior Alyssa Clark said. "But, it's also been a very noisy and dirty experience too."

Alyssa Clark, Social Media Director

Reading Time: 4 minutes

My family’s life changed forever on April 19. This date didn’t mark a big, traumatic event. A small, adorable, 35-pound black pit bull terrier named Luna brought us new life.

April 19 was the day my family went to pick up Luna to foster her. A small and energetic bundle of sunshine, Luna brought us love at first sight when she ran to us and knocked my mom down. 

But, six days later, at the vet, my dad and I sat in the car. (The veterinary office didn’t allow owners to enter due to COVID-19.) The phone rang so we could talk directly to the doctor. On that call, she said two words that totally changed our quarantine: Luna’s pregnant.

We started calling everyone. My mom, my sister and my best friends, who flipped out. It was a total surprise because we had only signed up for one dog to foster, but many more were now on the way.

When dogs are pregnant, they’re not pregnant for long. It only takes two months, a max of 65 days. The doctor had told us she was around a month along already, so we felt the deadline approaching us soon. Constant researching and overall panic took over my dad, who freaked out with the news of puppies. My mom was ecstatic, already thinking of names. My little sister was also excited, and she placed bets on how many puppies we thought Luna would have. 

We went back to the vet around three weeks later to get an x-ray of her stomach to count the number of skeletons of the puppies inside. This gave us an estimate of how many she would have. When the doctor called us, we were sent into shock again when she said Luna was going to have 10 puppies. Panic ensued, and none of us could know how this would turn out.

The puppies all came on May 21. All 10, happy and healthy, and Mama Luna was good, too. My family members and I felt fascinated and so excited. We knew this journey would be amazing, and we also felt so happy that because we fostered Luna, we not only saved her life, but her puppies’ lives, too. 

Four boys, who all looked extremely different from each other, offered colors ranging from blonde to silver. Then, the six girls proved harder to tell apart; they were all dark in color, like their mom. We could only distinguish them by their individual, unique white markings.

For the first two weeks or so, the puppies weren’t too much work. Just crying, changing and making sure mom feeds them. They couldn’t walk, and their eyes remained closed. Watching them as they crawled around, cried for mom, looked for warmth totally changed my perspective of new life. 

I feel humans always think we provide for animals who are helpless, but really, biology takes over and does the work. Luna was a great super-protective mom, and she showed us that animals know what they’re doing. Luna didn’t let us overstep our boundaries. On several instances she moved her young puppies and hid them away, sometimes ruining our furniture. Not only did our overstepping put our furniture in jeopardy, but one of the boy puppies, who we named Duece, was neglected by Luna because of our handling, and he wasn’t eating. We had to bottle-feed him and give him a lot of space, only checking in on him when we needed to weigh them all and give him more time to eat.

At only three weeks old, Duece is the smallest of the litter. Due to some neglect from too much human-handling, he had trouble gaining weight as he wasn’t eating. After bottle feeding and private feeding sessions with Mama Luna, he felt better and grew bigger.

We learned our lesson, and by giving her space, the puppies started to thrive. Duece and the other nine puppies eventually opened their eyes, walked around and developed a bark. A once quiet, calm situation turned into late-night cries and puppies escaping their pens. But, we also got to watch them develop their individual personalities. 

Once the puppies turned around seven to nine weeks, we introduced them to new experiences. After vaccinations, we took them outside, showed them pools filled with water, and they played with Luna and my mom’s dog, Carli. As they grew, adoption papers slowly trickled in to our home. We forgot all about why we were doing this.

They had to go to forever homes soon.

Ten became nine, and my family had to say goodbye to these puppies that we spent so much time with during the summer. It was tough to see them go. We went into this situation with one dog who we were fostering, and it turned into raising ten puppies, and my dad adopting Luna.

Currently, we still have some puppies — four, to be exact. My family is actually keeping one, a dark, silver-tinted girl, who I got to name Billie, after singer Billie Eilish. We want to watch her grow up after all this time and work that we put into them.

My family could not have known this is what part of our pandemic would look like. But, in the end, it was an amazing experience that we never thought we would have the opportunity to do, and it truly showed us the dedication and work that goes into breeding and raising puppies. If I could walk away from this experience knowing one thing, it’s that life will always throw surprises your way. The best thing you can do, though, is to work with the people closest to you, and take in the experience, through all the ups and downs.