Chapter Five

Three Weeks Old

There’s one very big change that occurs right around three weeks.
Up till now, they relied on their mom for nourishment, and the meals were always exactly the same: warm, wet, white.
But now, several times a day, their meals are catered by Judi and Ellis, and arrive in a pan. Wonderful!




At three weeks of age, the puppies’ fur is fluffed out, their legs are strong, and all systems are go. Despite having sharp teeth, the pups nurse without damaging their mother’s tender mammary area. But the pups are so robust, they can’t all fit at once. Like too many grade school kids for the number of lunch tables, the puppies would have to eat in shifts.





A smart mom knows just what to do. Sitting up provides more spots at the table. That way, everyone can be accommodated at one time.




But mother’s milk takes second place this week to a new phenomenon: pan food. Home-cooked meals now arrive in the whelping box, four times a day. Judi and Ellis whip up a tasty gruel, pour it into puppy pans, set the pans in the box, and stand back. Puppies quickly make the switch from suckling to licking. This stuff tastes great!




The puppies’ mom watches each feeding very closely. She can hardly wait for them to be done so she can lick the bowls clean.




Their first few meals consist of liquid Esbilac, a milk substitute for puppies. Then Judi and Ellis add a little Gerber rice (baby) cereal. This thickens it up a bit and provides a little more sustenance in the tummies.




But when softened puppy kibble is added, the puppies really go to town. From here on out, they gain weight and bulk at an astonishing rate.




Full tummy. Messy face. (And ears and legs and chest.) Yum.




After-meal cleanups are part of the fun. The puppies eagerly lick each others’ muzzles. The mother contributes, too, swiping them clean with her big pink tongue.




This week, the puppies remain awake for longer periods. Playtime becomes the high point of their day. All their systems are working together. It’s fun to watch a puppy eye a brother or sister and plot an ambush. He goes on alert, his eyes gleam, he collects up – and then he pounces. Sometimes the puppy misses his target, but with each foray he gains skill and confidence.




Those stretchy colored bands come in handy now that the pups are more active. You’d have to pick one up to find his polish splotch. But thanks to the neck bands, a quick glance at the wall chart shows it’s Darcy in green, Brenna in yellow, and that’s Luca in the red.



Puppy play is all about mock battles. A puppy is either the biter or the bit-ee, and the roles can switch in an instant.




Ellis and Judi still provide a big stuffed toy every day. But the smaller toys that appear in the whelping box are all contributed by the puppies’ mother. She knows better than anyone when they are ready for new games. Every Sweetbay mom has raided the adult dogs’ toy box and delivered her choices to the whelping box for her pups to play with.




This soft ball is a good choice for a three-week-old puppy. He can bite it, gnaw it, hold it steady with a paw, and then roll it around.




The best toy of all, though, is their mom. She serves as both climbing apparatus and tug toy. The pups’ strong legs and sturdy bodies are made for climbing, and no slope is too steep, no hill too high. The mom watches indulgently while the little Landseer sneaks up from behind, then boosts himself up onto his mom’s back. He crawls just far enough...




… to start a graceful slide downward …




… and then lands (with a bonk!) on his nose.




Playtime is exhausting. One by one, the pups fall asleep.




And what about the little guy who always sleeps on his back? Yup, there he is, upside down. Zzzzzzzz …


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