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.

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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.

img_2266On 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

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Illiteracy Strikes Again

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