Savanah and Nicholas have always wanted Akira to have puppies, as they imagined (rightly so) that she would make a noble alpha dog matriarch. Over the years, however, finding the right mate, and the right mate at the right timing, had not proven easy. This past Autumn a much loved and handsome stud, Bear, who was born at the Standing Rock Reservation became available for courting. Bear courted Akira for five days until they locked, with all parents present, by the river.
Every week she got hungrier, lazier, and…well, hungrier. She would rip through the trash can, eat whole tennis balls, toilet paper rolls, and had an interesting habit of taking a lightbulb out of the cabinet and napping with it. The first puppy heartbeats were heard at day 49, and a good friend of ours noticed a first “puppy kick” at day 52.
Akira began her labor process on the evening of Thursday, October 25th. She began to pant heavily, went into her den and whined the whole night. I did’t sleep that evening, as I wanted to be prepared for anything since I’ve never seen dog labor. Around 11am the next day, she began contracting. A dog contraction is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. The dog begins by panting, then lays back, sucks her tummy into her back in a curve, and lets out a low grunt. Akira continued in this way until around 2:30pm when her first puppies were born. They slid out so smoothly while she tugged on their sacs to help pull them out, and immediately ate their placentas. She licked their faces dry to stimulate their breathing. She had her first four within an hour, and was done contracting by 3:20pm. She relaxed and bonded, and we took naps. One hour passed, two, three, and then four. I remember the vet and internet advice, but we as a team decide to hold off after finding a few references on dog forums stating that they can take up to six hours between pushing. Around 8:30 pm her contractions started again, and she birthed two more pups by 10pm. I hear heartbeats and can palpate more puppies, so I know she is not done. We go to bed and sleep restlessly on and off all night.
Nicholas discovered an online article written by a breeder the next morning, who had found that 75% of breeders she had met have experienced long, safe pauses between puppies being born (upwards of 24 hours). The author relayed her thoughts on how it’s a shame that vets push intervention and unnecessary surgery on healthy and normal lengthy dog labors. Her argument is similar to an ongoing discussion on long labor in human birth, and I set my heart on being smart and aware rather than scared and uninformed.
By the time we arrived I had broken down, crying about the bigness of it all. We did all we knew how to do, but because we didn’t know enough, we had to seek higher care. As a midwife assistant, any hospital transfer that is not an emergency brings me to a deep, softly sad and angry place. I feel so helpless knowing how knowledge and skills have been lost to homebirth practitioners over the past hundreds of years. I deeply feel that had I known what my ancestors knew, I could have helped. Whereas because of the forgetting of ancestral birth wisdom, my hands, head, and heart didn’t remember what to do. Feelings of helplessness and upset drives me to keep learning about birth. I let out a torrent of tears sitting on the vet room floor, but I knew that our team just didn’t know enough to keep her safe at home.
We accomplished what we came for at the vet, and did not need to resort to surgery. An X-Ray revealed 4 more puppies, so the vet administered three mini-doses of pitocin and Akira subsequently delivered four healthy puppies. By the time the last puppy was delivered at 7:30am Sunday morning, Akira had been in her labor process for 60 hours and had delivered 11 healthy and beautiful puppies!
May we all be brave enough to find ourselves in situations that push our comfort zones and expands the collective reservoir of birth wisdom for all our Earth family, human and animal alike. May you be blessed to experience an animal labor, and may you be wise enough to pay attention with all your heart to the messages Nature whispers to you.
© Birth Love Family 2018