Under usual circumstances, the Beagle family (Pearl and her pups Percival, Perdita and Peregrin) would have started attending Chicagoland Dog Rescue adoption events by last weekend, or perhaps even the week before. Given the cuteness of these pups, we’d probably be down to only mama Pearl by now. But as we know, life never guarantees “usual.” Pearl, in the running for unluckiest mother of Q4 2012, came to us with fleas, at least 3 different intestinal parasites, and a dreadful itch.
The fleas were the easiest fix: one pill to Pearl and frequent laundering of all bedding in Puppy World (our kitchen—all hard surfaces) took care of those. The Puppy World quarantine ensured that the fleas didn’t pass to Seiki, our shiba, or indeed to our carpeting or upholstered furniture.
The intestinal worms took two rounds of deworming medicines. But by about 6 weeks old, mama and all puppies tested worm-free.
However, the itchiness of Pearl had by this time spread to her pups as well. Testing of the scaly spots confirmed that, yes, they all had mange—and probably secondary bacterial and fungal infections from all the scratching. More meds.
Meanwhile, Percy the black and the two beaglets (the beagle-ish puppies ... and wouldn't Percy and the Beaglets be a great band name?) had grown from barely mobile blind crawlers to rambunctious roistering youngsters. From gumming to nipping in their displays of affection. From full-time nursing to kibble-crunchers.
And then their mum took off.
Poor Pearl. She’d really had it with puppies. And who can blame her? She looks to be five to seven years old, at the age range suggested for retirement of bitches from breeding. Beagles can come into heat as early as four to six months, though waiting until they’re two years old before breeding is recommended. Let’s split the difference and say she’s been having puppies for at least five of her probable six years of life.
With two heats per year and an average of six pups per litter, she could have whelped and raised as many as 60 puppies. Assuming the best case, where she only got bred once a year and never had more than the current litter’s three pups (total of 15), she would still have spent half her adult life being pregnant or nursed from, or having her legs and ears chewed by weanling pups. Given her submissiveness to the pups, I would guess she may have been bred as frequently as possible, although I do not think she was in a classic caged-and-abused puppy mill situation. But still, no wonder she really couldn't be bothered with more than feeding and cleaning up after her squirming nurslings.
As Pearl started weaning her pups, she kept looking more and more harassed. When the puppies played loudly or chewed on each other—or her—she looked at us for rescue rather than growling them away from her. Sadly, because of the mange, we couldn't let her loose in the house even though, unlike her puppies, she was both housetrained and gentle. And Puppy World [our kitchen] wasn't large enough to subdivide without all 4 dogs feeling punished.
The breaking point came a week ago, just before the warm weather ended. As I wrangled three 2-month-old beaglets into their collars-and-leashes, Pearl bolted past me and out the door sans leash. And then spooked and took off through the neighborhood, with Perdita the beaglette running after her.
The ensuing hunt is another story. Suffice it to say that we managed to recapture wee Perdita within the hour, but Mama wandered the neighborhood for a week, probably denning down by the river during the coldest days, before we managed to recapture her. Pearl has now been spayed and microchipped—and will be leashed well before a door is opened from now on!
And with all four of the Beagle family about to be cleared for adoption, I may even reclaim my life from my beagle-induced semi-obsessions: feeding, cleaning, washing bedding, more cleaning, playing with, taking mama out, cuddling puppies, more cleaning … I haven’t cleaned so much since my own children were babies.
It's a good thing they're all so cute.
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