Buttons came home on July 13th, 2014. He had no problem coming to me or, a few minutes later, exploring his new surroundings. A tiny thing, hardly bigger than the palm of my hand, and he wanted to bite and chew everything he could get his teeth on.
That’s normal, in case you’ve never raised a pup and are wondering. In a lot of cases, they are just like human kids – when they start teething, anything and everything is fair game. The towel that was his bed? Bite. My toes? Bite. The Jeans (recommended wear when you are dealing with a pup in this phase)? You guessed it. BITE. And I mean that in caps, ‘cos when Buttons gets his teeth on mine, he doesn’t want to let go. It’s harmless enough for the time being, but we will have to wean him away from the habit as soon as we can.
I remember Brownie, our Doberman-Indian cross back home, who would often jump up on top of a washing-stone to avoid her (5!) pups when they wanted to nurse even after starting to grow teeth. It was a funny sight, this proud mom looking at her kids and hoping that I’d distract them long enough for her to get some much-needed exercise outside.
Buttons seems to be fastidious about his cleanliness – he might piss all over the place, but that doesn’t mean he has to like it. He doesn’t wallow in it, and often avoids that area until he gets too excited to remember. Thankfully, we had a cloth leash that Seema had made for him, and it was just the right size – loose enough (in fact, he could slip out of it if he walked backwards against your tug), yet smaller than his face so that it doesn’t slip off as a matter of course.
When he takes a dump, however, it’s not the same. Although it would be another 36 hours (and a little dose of de-constipating medicine) before he graced our balcony with his load, we knew what to expect. Seema told us that he’d scream bloody murder until it was cleared, and that’s an awesome sense of cleanliness for a pup his age. We are chalking it down to genetic memory from a parent who was probably house-trained.
He walks around and we don’t raise our voice or make any sudden moves or noises. It’s a new place and he shouldn’t be scared of it or us – well, not more than is necessary (for obedience, obviously). Seema’s daughter had named him Hero, but we call him Buttons, since he’s still at a stage where it’s the voice, and not the word, he’s responding to.
His diet until then consisted of milk and biscuit (broken up into very small pieces and softened by the milk). Now there are websites that advise very strongly against cow’s milk for pups (and even dogs, as a matter of general principle) because it’s tougher to digest. At the same time, there are few things that can be as safe and nutritious for a pup this small – so it’s a tradeoff you have to make. The vet who came to see Buttons the next day (more on that later) didn’t seem to be worried about milk, although he did recommend that it be diluted a little.
Since he had already been fed by that time, we gave him a Marie (without Arrowroot) biscuit for the night, and he gobbled it up eagerly – ah, so we wouldn’t need to spoon-feed him anymore. When Brownie was brought home, we’d assumed the same. Our search for an ink-dropper for the milk had been interrupted by my aunt shouting out, “No need… he’s (we didn’t know Brownie was a lady until much later!) already lapping it up!” So a pup at least around 4 weeks old should be able to feed himself, and if he doesn’t, it could be either because he doesn’t know, or because he’s scared.
If a pup has teeth (which means, by nature’s laws, he should be able to feed himself) and yet doesn’t know how to, you can scoop up some semi-solid food (dissolved biscuits, little one?) and let him lick it; then lead him to the meal and encourage him to lick it off your finger even as it is dipped in; as he starts licking, maneuver so that he is actually licking off the bowl itself, and then slowly remove your finger. A couple of times, and he might pick up the tricks.
If he’s scared, you have to encourage him. If he keeps looking at you instead of the food, remove yourself from the line of sight. If he does not move towards the food, nudge him gently towards it, and even if he tries to pull away, make sure you stop him (gently! I can’t emphasize that enough!). If he’s still scared, let him back up to a safe spot (near your legs is ideal) and then while calming him down, slowly bring the plate closer. He’ll eventually catch a whiff and decide he’s hungry after all.
Thankfully, we didn’t need to coddle Buttons into eating.
Sleep-time was something we were concerned about. From everything we’d heard, he needed to see people around him. How would he react to the dark? The cage was a recent and unfamiliar place – would he panic? It wouldn’t be safe to leave him in the cardboard box they had brought him in, because he could tip it over by accident.
A happy accident that night was that we allowed him to play until he grew tired, and he didn’t make any fuss as we placed him inside the cage. A hand-towel was commissioned into service as a blanket, given the cold, and he curled up and went to sleep at around 1.00 AM.