Written By: Amie Chapman
On Saturday May 15, 2021 at 8:50pm our dream to produce a litter of puppies to become service dog prospects came true, Pixie’s first puppy came into the world. Our journey to start this project started over 3 years ago after we donated 3 rescue puppies to Brigadoon Service Dogs. This sparked a desire to help more smaller service dog organizations by gifting puppies. But at the time we did not have the means to make it happen.
Poodles were never on my list of favorite breeds. It was never our intention to keep Pixie, let alone breed her, when we first started raising her. But funny thing, Pixie had other ideas on what her destiny was. First Pixie completely changed my mind on poodles, they are actually a really fun breed, and super smart. Second, Pixie made me more aware of my limitations, and was pretty adamant that she was supposed to stay with me.
I have always dreamed of having golden retriever puppies. I have always been drawn to goldens. But because of some of the amazing traits Pixie has, and the success of her entire litter, 7 of 9 doing service dog work, we decided to give this project a try with her.
The last two months have been like a whirlwind. Pixie was bred with a very handsome boy named Rio. We got a chance to get to know him over the holidays, he came and stayed with us for about three weeks. We were very impressed with his temperament and felt that he was a good match for Pixie. It didn’t hurt that Pixie absolutely adored him. Even before her heat cycle, she was extremely flirtatious with him.
Once the mating occurred it seemed a long 3 weeks before we could confirm the pregnancy via an ultrasound. Once the pregnancy was confirmed, Pixie went on maternity leave, and stopped doing any balance assistance work and momentum pull for me. I stopped taking her out in public as well as limiting her going to work with me since exposing her to sick and potentially contagious animals was not in her best interest. I missed having her with me and there were times that I had a chance to see what a difference she made for me, but I had to do what was best for her and her puppies.
We also began prepping the house for the arrival of puppies. We cleared out the same room we used for Pixie’s litter, and got the whelping box set up. Over the following weeks we spent time with Pixie in the whelping room to get her comfortable with being in the box so it would hopefully be an easier transition for her.
Pixie is a very social dog with us and the other 3 dogs we have in our house. We had no idea how she would adjust to being separated from them once she had the puppies. This is why we spent extra time getting her used to being in the room. At first we let the other dogs in the room with us, but it was actually Pixie who told us, and them… that this was her whelping box. She got a little testy and protective if the other dogs got into the box with us. I took that as a good sign that she was ready to have these puppies.
Pixie’s pregnancy went really well with exception of some morning sickness, and food aversions. A couple of weeks into her pregnancy she stopped eating her normal food. She just didn’t want it. Especially in the mornings. She did vomit a few times early in the morning as well. We tried all different types of foods to see what Pixie wanted. Each day was different. Things she would eat one day, she wouldn’t eat the next. It wasn’t always easy getting her to eat, but understanding that some foods seemed to make her nauseous on different days helped us help her. She was hungry, just not for certain foods. We would offer her small amounts of different foods. What she turned her head away from we removed, and what she took… we offered her more of. We weighed her every week to make sure she was gaining an appropriate amount of weight, and also measured her belly to see how much she grew.
Pixie went into labor on her exact due date. From the time we could visibly see a little push from her, it was only about an hour until the first baby was born. Pixie was very confused about what was happening to her. The first puppy was born and she sorta ran from it in a panic. I had to be the one to remove the sac from around the puppy, dry it off and tie off the umbilical cord. We tried to reassure her, and show the puppy to her, but she wasn’t very into it. After the second and third puppy arrived, it was a repeat of the first. She was very unsure of what to do, so we helped her again. We again tried to show her the puppy and told her it was her baby. Her response was to pick up her favorite pink stuffed poodle toy and bring it to us, almost to say…no this is my baby. I have no idea what that thing is!
Then Puppy number 4 came only 10 minutes after puppy number 3. I knew right away that there wasn’t something right about it. Pixie barely had to push to get her out, and didn’t even really seem to be aware that it was another puppy. I quickly grabbed it as it came out and saw that it was very tiny and under developed. I knew right away that the puppy was not alive, and whisked it away from Pixie’s view as quickly as possible so she didn’t see it. While Pixie seemed unphased and unaware of this puppy, Matt and I were heartbroken that this little puppy didn’t make it. I know this is always a possibility, especially with larger litters. But it still hurt that we lost a puppy that we were so looking forward to having.
By the time puppy #5 arrived, she started to get dialed in. The remaining four puppies were born without any complications. With each puppy arrival Pixie got more comfortable. She took to nursing them right away. After the last puppy was born, we could see her physically relax, and the caring instinct started to kick in. She was very gentle, nurturing, and seemed very content.
The first night was a little rough for her and I. We had set up an air mattress next to the whelping box so I could sleep in the same room. I wanted to be with Pixie and the puppies if she needed help. Since she was a first time mother I had a feeling she would need some help. I was right. Pixie had a hard time figuring out how to lay down without sitting on the puppies. She also got very stressed out if they cried. She would get up and try to reposition which made them cry more. She would then start whining, jump out of the box, come to me, and give me a look that simply said, “Mom they are crying and I don’t know how to make them stop. HELP!” I would have to get up and tell her to lay down. Then bring the puppies to her. Then all was well for a few minutes. Unfortunately this happened multiple times until I grabbed my pillow, a blanket, and got into the whelping box with her. Pixie immediately laid down with her head on my pillow. As soon as I layed down next to her, she let out a sigh, and finally fell asleep. She didn’t move for four hours thereafter.
Each day she is getting better about repositioning herself around the puppies. They are also getting better about finding her if they are not right next to her. The puppies are getting bigger, and stronger every day. Motherhood is coming to Pixie very naturally, and she seems to be enjoying it. The first couple of days she refused to leave the puppies, even to eat, drink, or go out to potty. We had to hold food and water bowls up to her to get her to take care of herself, and coax her to go out to the bathroom. She is now asking to come downstairs to hang out with the other dogs, getting up to eat and drink, and even going for short walks. She has learned that she can still be herself, and have a break from being a mom for short periods. She lets us know when she wants back in with the puppies, and I am very pleased that she will take time out for herself and take a break. She has been very trusting with us handling the puppies, and we have been able to weigh the puppies daily and start “Early Neurological Stimulation” and “Early Scent Introduction” exercises with them.
We are so blessed to have 7 active, healthy, and thriving puppies. The goal of this project is to get puppies into the hands of service dog organizations that need help acquiring puppies for their programs. We currently have confirmed placement for 5 of the puppies and we have great placement options for the other two. We are very excited for the future of these little miracles and can’t wait to spend the next two months preparing them for their future. Our dream of finding a dam, a sire, breeding, and whelping our own litter has finally come true! We look forward to expanding the Service Dog Litter Project into the future and providing this needed service dog solutions to organizations across North America.