Ever since we moved into this apartment complex about a year ago, our whole family has been sad about the stray dog situation. It seems like every month or two, a new homeless dog appears in the neighborhood. Most start out cute and friendly, but after a few months of living in rain and mud, rummaging through trash, and getting yelled at by the less-dog-friendly residents, they turn dirty, mangy, and mean. Worse, it seems like every female dog quickly becomes a puppy factory, which only exacerbates the problem.
Because all four of us are dog lovers, this situation bothered us. But we already had a wonderful dog and were not in a position to take in another. We weren’t sure what else to do to try to help. It’s not like there’s a Humane Society here, after all. So, despite wishing we could do something, the extent of our involvement was: to feel bad.
Then one day, a new dog appeared in the xiaoqu. She was super cute, fluffy, and friendly. She seemed to quickly “adopt” our kids. Over the course of a few days, she found them and followed them each time they went outside. It should not have surprised me, then, when one day I sent them to the xiaomaibu to buy milk, they came home with the milk, and this little fluff nugget in tow.
It didn’t take much pleading on our kids’ part to convince their parents to let her stay (see first two paragraphs) at least for one night. And that night, it didn’t take long for us to decide we could shelter her for a few more days. In fact, we decided that this could be our one good deed to help alleviate the stray dog problem: we would find this dog a home. We could feed her, bathe her, and take her to the vet for an exam and maybe some basic shots, and then we’d set about finding a loving family for this sweet pup.
We worked on choosing a name for her, something could call her until she was adopted by another family who would decide her real name. We tried a long list of monikers: Biscuit, Lilly, Roxie, and on and on. The one name that stuck was Pippin. (“Pippin? Like in Lord of the Rings?” “Yes.” “But that’s a boy’s name.” “Well, our boy dog is Maple, which sounds like a girl’s name, so it’s fine.” “Okay.”)
Pippin’s arrival happened right before the start of school and a major spike in busyness. So it wasn’t until a couple weeks later that my husband and I actually had time to take her to the vet.
By then, I had a hunch something was amiss with sweet little Pippin.
Can you guess what it was?
I’ll skip the drama and go straight for the reveal: Pippin was pregnant.
(Never ignore women’s intuition, folks.)
Yes, this little stray dog, whom the vet estimated was between one and two years old, was going to be a mama.
?!?WHAT?!? No, no, and more no. We had taken Pippin in with the thought of getting her ready to be adopted by someone else. Now we would need to find homes for Pippin AND puppies.
We took a deep breath and asked the vet our next question. Just how many little buns did she have in the oven? (Except that we asked in Mandarin and there is no “bun in the oven” metaphor in Chinese.) The vet felt Pippin’s belly and reported that he could only distinctly feel one puppy. He held his hands about 5-6″ apart to indicate how big that puppy was. So, was there only one puppy total? “Not sure.” This gave me a glimmer of hope. From looking at her tiny belly, it was hard to imagine there could be even one 6-inch baby in there, let alone multiple siblings. Maybe we would only need to find two or three families for the coming brood. Please, just two or three. Even just one puppy would be more than we had bargained for!
Next question: When exactly would these darling additions be arriving? “Ten days, at the earliest.” ?!?WHAT?!? Another moment of disbelief. Gulp. That didn’t give us much time to process the news, let alone prepare our home to welcome a litter. Thankfully, unlike preparing for human babies, we wouldn’t need to decide on nursery colors or stock up on organic cotton diapers before the big day.
We went home from the vet pretty shocked, and also a bit downtrodden. We were not exactly happy with this news. We had felt kind and goodhearted simply by agreeing to find Pippin a new home. We had not volunteered to also be a puppy nursery. The situation felt like the poster child for the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished.”
However, after the initial shock wore off, we quickly came to see the silver lining in this situation. Being able to witness the birth of puppies is something our kids will likely never have the chance to see again. Helping raise puppies (only for about eight weeks, Mr. Google informed me) would be a great experience for them. Overall, it was a pretty special opportunity. The situation started to feel more like the poster child for the phrase “难得.”
Ten days passed very quickly, especially since our schedules had already been filled before we knew about Pippin or her puppies. Somewhere in there, we managed to get a few supplies for the coming delivery, and to lifehack a “whelping box” out of a drawer. I tried to read up on dog breeding sites about delivering puppies, which assured me that 90% of dogs don’t need any human help in birthing their babies. I prayed that Pippin would not be in the 10%.
Suddenly, we were in the window of time for delivery. Ten days, then eleven days, then twelve days passed with Pippin’s belly getting bigger and bigger until I had to admit there was probably more than one pooch growing inside of her. Maybe just two? Please? We wondered how much bigger she could possibly get, but we didn’t have to wonder for long.
On day 13, Pippin went into labor. Thanks to my Google crash course on canine gestation and my own personal experience with labor and delivery, I was pretty sure of the signs. The moment of truth had come. We were about to find out just how many puppies would be arriving, and just how much help our new mama would need to bring them into the world.
And right on the edge of that nail-biting cliff is where I will leave you, dear reader. Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion of our questionable decision to help an adorable stray dog!
Pippin’s Real-Life Puppy Surprise
Sorry, Americans. No Fruit Mooncakes for You
September 17, 2016 at 11:30 pm
I’m with you in the ” no good deed goes unpunished” category but also, apparently, in the silver linings. I loved Evan’s drawing of the dogs and, Lord willing, good people will fall in love with them soon.
September 18, 2016 at 7:31 am
Thank you! Yes, we are hopeful that the puppies will go to great homes.
September 18, 2016 at 5:22 am
What? You are just going to leave us hanging? Come on, I want the rest of the story! 🙂
September 18, 2016 at 7:30 am
I will post Part 2 as soon as possible! 🙂
September 18, 2016 at 9:34 am
Oh my gosh, I wish we were friends. We had friends who were about to leave for Singapore, a week away, still trying to find a home for their dog, when she suddenly had puppies! Six of them! And no one would take all of them until they were old enough to be adopted, so they came to our house, which already had 6 cats and a free range rabbit :). It was pretty amazing, actually. What an amazing experience to watch puppies grow up, and get to snuggle so many furry little bundles. And even more amazing when they all went to their new homes (cats may be hard to get rid of in China, but we had waiting lists for the puppies, even though their mom’s and dad’s breeds were unknown, especially the white puppies). I was so glad to say goodbye, once they started wanting to play at 5am, but the whole process was so amazing. It will be easier than you think to find them homes. I think people in China care most that the puppies were born in a home and well-cared for with no diseases. And it looks like there’s a good chance they’ll be white! You should have no trouble at all. I can’t wait to see all the puppy photos to come. You’ll have to do weekly updates until they’re all gone. BTW, I even bought their Chinese families a book on how to treat dogs for 17 kuai a piece on Chinese Amazon :-D. Just to make myself feel better. And Pippin is the name of the dog in the sweetest little kids show on earth – Come Outside. You’ve got to check it out.
September 19, 2016 at 10:59 am
I think we are living twin lives, April! I am grateful for your encouragement because this feels like we are in over our heads! We’ve had some people express interest, but nothing terribly definite yet, but I’m hopeful they will all go to great homes. I love your idea of giving a puppy care book to the new owners. I will keep posting photos and updates. The puppies are adorable and the kids are doing great holding and snuggling them.
September 18, 2016 at 1:41 pm
Love reading your blogs – can’t wait to read more about the pups and see some pics. Bless you for taking in Pippin! Bless you as a family!
September 19, 2016 at 10:53 am
Thank you very much, Bernice!
September 21, 2016 at 6:50 pm
Oh, my! That would be exciting! In Congo, we had cats, but I would only have males, because I didn’t want to deal with the babies. It’s hard to have a safe place to keep them alive, etc. Now in Mali, we got a dog that is a female. We are going to try to keep her in our walled compound, but I’m sure at some point that will fail. We could have puppies in our future, too. The good thing here is that caring for the dogs is part of the guard’s responsibilities. The dog is part guardian, so he/she is like the guard’s assistant in keeping things safe. That cuts down on the care we have to do, but newborn puppies would be all us.
September 21, 2016 at 7:31 pm
It will be very interesting to see what your dog future holds, Anna! If puppies come along, there is heaps of information online to help, and hopefully the mama dog will do most of the work. But, of course, the easiest thing would be to not have puppies. Enjoy your new dog, even if she is part guard.