Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to foster a litter of pups

As revealed in a previous post... I'm fostering five German Shepherd mix puppies that are five weeks old.

At this age, all day and all night, they play, eat, sleep, and potty. I'll keep them for three weeks, until they are neutered. Hopefully, they'll all be adopted during the pre-adopt period, and their new families will pick them up immediately after their surgery.

L to R: Buttercup, Lily, Sweet William, and Dandelion. Daisy is not in the shot.
If you've been following the blog for a while, you may remember my last litter of foster puppies. (Read about them here, here, here, here, and here.)

Today I want to answer the question: what does it take to foster a litter of puppies? Short answer: a LOT of time, energy, and money. Yep, even though the foster organization is covering all the medical expenses, it still costs a surprising amount of money to foster! The food, toys, and utilities (mostly, running the washing machine every day) are all on me.

Also, you need a spare room that can be ruined. In my case, the upstairs bathroom will some day be remodeled. Until then, it's a great "nursery." If the puppies gnaw on the cabinets or poop on the wall, it's no big deal. Other benefits to a bathroom: I have a sink in the room—great for filling water bowls and cleaning—and the floor isn't carpet.

The daily work is extensive. The pups constantly need fresh food and water and a clean potty area.

This is what I see every time I check on the puppies (every couple of hours):

The puppies are excited to see me—because they've spilled all their water (no-tip bowls are pointless, they put their paws into the bowl no matter what, then "walk" the water everywhere) and eaten all their food, and they know I'm about to hook them up.

L to R: Dandelion, Sweet William (on bottom), Daisy (on top), Lily
Just outside the bathroom, I have a cleaning station ready: an empty kennel, a pile of newspaper and butcher paper, a bucket and bleach, and a trash can.

Every couple hours, I change the puppies' paper. Even in the middle of the night: I change the paper at 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM. The puppies make the biggest messes during the day when they play on the newspaper. They mostly sleep at night, so I don't have to change the paper as frequently. Four-hour gaps are okay, so I can get some sleep!

Newspaper is worth its weight in gold to a puppy foster! I go through a 1-foot stack of newspaper in a few days. It's a perfect size when spread open, and it's absorbent.

My dogs were more interested in this pile of newspaper than they were interested in the puppies. :-/
I just recently learned that our local newspaper, the Austin American Statesman, has a bin of day-old newspapers destined for recycling and free to take. It's a bit of a drive to go downtown, but totally worth it to get all the newspaper I could possibly need. (Prior to this, I was digging through the paper recycling bins at our local recycling center.)

My dad also donates his and his neighbor's newspaper. The Wall Street Journal that I get from him covers a lot of area and doesn't have a lot of useless ad pages.

I bought a 1000' roll of butcher paper from Sam's Club for $20. This goes under the newspaper. It makes cleanup very quick. Every day, I cut about 15 long pieces off the roll.

Once a day, I do a more thorough cleaning. The puppies all go into the empty kennel so I can pick everything up off the floor, vacuum, and wipe the room down with bleach water.

I run a load of puppy laundry—towels, stuffed toys, blankets—every day, on the "sanitary" setting. I have a LOT of old towels, so I have half of them clean / used in the puppy room while I'm washing the other half in the machine.

Aahh, fresh paper on the floor and in the shower! The puppies go back into the room after everything is clean.

Five seconds in, someone already peed on the paper.
These puppies have decided to use the shower for pooping (most of the time, anyway). I don't know how they figured that out, but it works to my advantage. The shower lip keeps them from romping wildly through the shower, and therefore they don't play in the poop. Much.

Eating kibble.
Hanging out. Already a mess in there.
Buttercup. Teething. On my hand.
Lily. Teething. Also on my hand.
Lily didn't quite make it into the shower, so she's just peeing down the side... ah, puppies...
And that's just the daily work! Weekly, all the puppies get a bath and a nail trim. Also coming up: a three-hour round trip to the medical clinic for their vaccinations, and the pre-adopt work (photos and bios for each pup, scheduling potential adopters to see them).

I can only foster once in a while, and this is only my second litter. Some people foster litters all the time. I have no idea how they do it! I need a LONG break to recover. :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Puppy fever

Something is wrong with me.

Three of five new foster puppies
The other two, sleeping behind the toilet
I was all like, hey, I have an exam and a presentation coming up, I've just gotten over being sick, I'm having trouble getting to the housework and website work, I'm prepping for a garage sale next weekend... Really, how much harder could it be to add some five-week-old puppies? Hahahaha!

Actually, what I really said was, I can totally foster ONE puppy for this ONE WEEK (spring break).

And my foster group was like, cool, we do not have one puppy for one week.

And I was like, but I gotta get me a foster puppy something bad.

And my foster group was like, cool, we have five puppies for three weeks?

And Byrd was all like, NO NO NO no no awwww yes all five please now now now.

And I was like, damn it.