Nov 20, 1996

The Big Event

For the past 2 weeks, Gambi would leap on a chair or end table, or do her normal balancing act on the back of the couch, craning to see out the window or peer around the corner of the den into the hall into the bathroom where the cat eats his tin of chicken. Sometimes she'd whimper sharply, as if she'd been stepped on. So I would tell whatever child who was beside her to leave her alone. The kids were probably innocent--Gambi's distress was probably due to her own careless movement--but I wasn't taking chances.

Gambi's due date has been approaching. I expected her to make a big fuss over the labor. I expected nesting behavior or some indicator that it was time.

Tuesday she seemed no more stressed or uncomfortable than any other full term mother (human or basenji) would be. Ever since the accident rendered Raffi unable to handle steps and tall furniture, my super king-sized mattress has been on the floor. Benji (11) and Lauren (9) were on my bed, reading and cuddling Raffi and Gambi. Suddenly, Gambi let out this unearthly shriek, and turned her head facing backwards like the vomit scene in the Exorcist.

A good inch of puppy was sticking out of her, but she wasn't having ANY PART of this birthing business! By the time I looked (and this was maybe 15 seconds later) the puppy was crying, and dangling by its umbilical cord as Gambi ran in frantic circles, having no idea what was going on. I tried to settle her, hold the puppy and bring the cord toward her face but as far as she was concerned I was offering her a bouquet of lemons and mentolatum.

Nothing was around to cut the cord, so I used my fingernail, then presented the puppy to Gambi. After the amniotic sac was gone, she was NOT interested. She was too busy alternating between complete hysteria and attending her own posterier. As I rubbed the pup dry with white cotten towels, Raffi came over, gave Gambi a lick on the nose and settled down to lick the puppy clean. Lauren rubbed the pup, "Look Mama! She has a white diamond on her face and her collar. Let's call her Diamonds!"

A big box we'd set up downstairs (for the whelping) was brought up. Gambi wasn't interested in the box either, but between bouts of hysteria and self interest, she settled into the walk-in closet I share with Lauren. While Lauren and Raffi puppy sat, Benji and I jerked down clothes and threw them by the armful into the box to get them out of the way, along with hangers, luggage (it was a BIG box) shoes-- everything on my side of the closet. Finally it was clear, and we hauled the box up into the attic.

We were watching Gambi very closely, and she started running around the house, ignored the closet and finally came back to the bed, where she had the second pup, a B/W boy with a white bandana around his neck, whom Benji immediately christened Cowboy. Again, Gambi was disinterested in the cord and pup, after the sac was disposed of.

We took an old pillow into the closet and lined the floor with several inches of newspaper topped with more shredded newspaper. An old shelf fit (badly) between the doorway and the bedroom, making a barrier that was marginally too high for Gambi to cross in her condition. (She kept getting stuck). About the time Gambi and her 2 pups were settled on the pillow, she had pup number 3, another B/W. She was something of a shock, so tiny I didn't think she'd survive. Teenie was thinner and she was frailer than the others. Even Gambi could see her baby was desperate, and she suddenly turned into a mother.

Seventeen minutes later, Valentine was born, with a heart on her forehead and a J on her neck.

Gambi seemed to have settled in. She was nuzzling and licking and doing mama-dog stuff as we replaced the shelf barring the door, with a cardboard barrier Gambi could easily scale. Then she jumped up and ran downstairs.

Benji and Lauren were in a panic when Gambi couldn't be found, and they wandered around downstairs checking doors and under furniture and inside cabinets, laundry baskets, behind curtains, under desks. Meanwhile, upstairs, I heard a whimper in my oldest son's bedroom. I turned on the light. He was asleep, and Gambi was visibly agitated, crying, pacing back and forth on top of Josh's bed, on top of Josh, who was asleep. I wasn't sure if she was trying to wake Josh up to get him to help her, or if she was looking for something. Whatever her reasons, I had a hunch what was making the little whimpering sound, and where it was coming from. Josh's recliner was flush against the wall. I moved the recliner and found a barely born r/w female on the floor on a pillow. She was kind of mousey, and we weren't expecting a r/w, so we nicknamed her Brindle. Since then her coloring has been more apparent, and we started calling her Lucy because of her red hair and black roots. (And we love Lucy.)

We brought up food and water bowls and organized Gambi's closet comfort station. By now it was after 1 a.m and we were all exhausted, except for Josh, who was asleep. I checked Gambi and found 6 puppies instead of five. The last one, Shadow, was a girl with a hairline white collar Gambi had birthed alone.

It was a schoolnight; Benji and Lauren finally went to bed. Gambi was distressed every time I tried to leave the closet, so I sat with her another hour or so until all the puppies had nursed at least once. Gambi fell asleep and I turned off the light.

Allie, Josh, Benji, Lauren, Kitty, Raffi, Gambi, Diamonds, Cowboy, Teenie, Valentine, Lucy and Shadow.