, , ,

Well – here we go again. At least here I go again – litter six. No, not Sabina (the dog behind the blog) she has been retired for a few years now. However there is always room for more when the dog is amazing – meet Maura. This is litter one for Maura and litter six for me. Sabina says six for her too, but this way (supervising granddog on duty) is much more fun.

So very much has happened since I last posted. As I made my last post Dave and were in the process of selling our home and overseeing the first few weeks of Sabina’s A  (and final) litter before they found their way to their puppy raisers. Shortly after we moved we had the privilege of handing over Cate’s leash to the most amazing partner. Then as many of you know Dave unexpectedly passed away. During the last few years I have continued to puppy raise with the support of our Canine Companions family and then received the best news ever, my second heart dog became a breeder.

In the time since I first started this blog there is a whole new “generation” of puppy raisers and as social media continues to grow much more connectivity. While I can’t promise this is the start of a whole new chapter of the Aspiring Service Dog Chronicles, I thought a couple new posts would be the perfect vehicle to address so many questions I have personally received lately about being a Breeder Caretaker (BC) for Canine Companions. Today’s edition: The Shopping Trip.

Once you make the plunge to be a BC there is a ton of things to gather. My guess for those of you parents of two-legged beings it is pretty much the same – you buy a ton of stuff (some of it good, some of it stupid), you decorate a nursery, set up a crib, buy some more stuff (but since you don’t have the kid yet you don’t really know what you need), and you collect advice. Brothers and sisters let me tell you – there is no shortage of advice. None. Truly – if advice could fuel cars I would never ever stop at the pumps again. That isn’t to say it is all bad, but well lets leave it at there isn’t a shortage. Here is a list of the things that I buy, that actually work and are needed. Many of these things last litter to litter:

  • Bag of wash cloths. You know that bag of 100 washcloths at Costco you have seen and wonder who on earth would buy that. Um me. I actually started with one and have just supplemented from litter to litter. Mainly we use them in the whelp to catch and dry off the new borns, but as they get more mobile and make more messes then we use them for clean up.
  • Back to Costco for (or Sam’s or whatever) case of baby wipes (lasts two litters hopefully), and a couple of cases of puppy pee pads (way cheaper here than at the pet store). Pretty much everything can be cleaned with a baby wet wipe. Greatest invention ever. We don’t really use the pee pads for potty training. I use them to catch the mess during the whelp (less messy than newspaper) and I line the whelp box, putting them under the mat so the bottom whelp box liner stays fresh and clean.
  • Cleaners – I like this natural spray cleaner from target and then standard clorox wipes. For the things that baby wipes don’t clean.
  • Extra (as in more than you would typically use) kitchen garbage bags, case of paper towels and laundry & dishwasher detergent. Once the puppies start using the potty box, my guess is that we have a full bag of garbage every other day. We are on week seven and have used over five rolls of paper towels. These puppies generate between one to three extra loads of laundry each DAY!
  • Three bottles of hand sanitizer (well buy I many as I have doors into my home, plus one for the puppy room.)
  • Small case of water bottles. I pour out a bit of the water and then freeze them. When the puppies get hot we put them in one of my fuzzy winter socks and they snuggle up next to them.
  • Which means I also, at Costco, pick up fuzzy winter socks just for the puppies from time to time or replace mine.
  • Bags of pine bedding pellets for the potty box. We use about three 40 pound bags a week once they weaning (week 4ish).
  • Tape – scotch tape, blue painters tape, and duct tape. I grew up in a house that fixed everything with either duct tape or JB Weld – I continue to hold on to that tradition. The blue tape is for sealing the linoleum to the wall, and I also tape the colored yarn used as collars to wall without removing the paint. I use the scotch tape seal the ends of the yarn and tape the for the weigh chart I almost always rip, and the duct tape is for everything else.
  • Premium wet food and other things to entice the mama dog for who the novelty of eating 15 cups of food a day has worn off and you need to spice things up a bit.
  • Canned pumpkin and or anti-diarrheal for mama. (hopefully not for the puppies, that has happened but knock on wood the Ts are doing great in that department)
  • Cornstarch! Okay I don’t buy this each time but I keep a little on hand in case I get crazy with the clippers and accidentally knick someone. I would rather use cornstarch than the traditional styptic powder. This idea wasn’t mine, but it works. It was some of that advice stuff I was talking about earlier.

Then there are the things you buy once unless you have to replace them, because you left something out that you shouldn’t have and an inquisitive 7 week old chews it. Canine Companions permits BCs to pretty much personalize how they keep their litters and what things we use for their time with us. Most of the things listed below I would say are extras and totally up to the BC:

  • Whelp box. Canine Companions gives BCs kiddie pools to whelp in and they are great. I have used one before. However they aren’t my favorite and so, planning to be a BC for many years to come, I splurged and bought a pretty amazing box. Maura was happy and that meant I was too!
  • Something for a potty box. This is sort of a free for all too – some BCs potty train on washable pads so they buy those, others make a frame out of 2x4s and fill with pellets or shavings. I have to tell you I have no idea how puppies get poop in the places that they do and so a few litters ago I was looking for something with sides and stumbled upon a returned walk in tub surround at Home Depot. I haggled a bit with the manager who didn’t quite believe me when I told him why I wanted it but I use a tub surround. A $375 surround for $50 people. I walked out of there with that on my flat cart like I had just been named prom queen.
  • Fleece mats. I like these because they have a rubber backing so they don’t move around. I have five of them and would have 10 if I had room.
  • This is totally frivolous but the puppies have their own vacuum. This isn’t needed but since I use pine pellets for potty training it tracks around and makes a mess, so I vacuum – a lot. I have been advised that I worry about this too much, but I do. For some reason the thought of vacuuming up poop and then using that vacuum in other place of my house freaked me out a little. Now I am not talking about a Dyson. The last one I had was my personal vacuum that had seen better days so I used it for an excuse to buy the Dyson. Well that one died and the one I have now was freebee from a neighbor. I will say that all “my” pups have gone to PRs loving the vacuum – the Sabina C litter in particular.
  • A small space heater. Canine Companions provides us heat lamps if we like, a small space heater is just a personal preference.
  • A flashlight by every door you might take your mama dog out to go to the yard – of course batteries for said flashlight.
  • A baby scale. Canine Companions also provides us with a scale but I seem to have big puppies and like the bigger scale.
  • Baby-cam. Because in the middle of the night after I already haven’t slept I need to see if there is something truly wrong or if someone is just faking it for attention. Gasp – yes they do fake it and if that is the case we let them cry it out. Also it is fun to show off the video to people at work. But the most fun is to freak out your waitress because she only hears part of your conversation at the table and thinks you left your toddler home alone and unattended supervised only by the dog.
  • Garbage can, can to hold the pellets, laundry basket for the gross laundry, and a couple more  or a shelf or something to store the clean stuff.
  • Baby toys. Sabina says you can not have enough toys and that you should buy something new EVERY time you go out.
  • Heating pad and laundry basic for “storing”  =) the baby puppies when you need to move them around during the whelp or cleaning their area. This is a limited time situation, they out grow that plan pretty darn quick.
  • Weird stuff – this is stuff I mainly find at garage sales and thrift stores (well my friend and fellow puppy raiser Barb finds it) like grates to walk on, sit and spins, pot lids, and apparently a whisk. This litter is in love with this huge metal whisk that she found.
  • Large wall clock that also tells the room temp and has the date. Trust me when you start a whelp anytime time after bed time a large clock with large numbers is a necessity!
  • We have hardwood floors so to protect them we use several things. First I put down a layer of that black cloth that people put down in their garden to stop weeds to allow the wood room to breath, next comes a thick layer of painters plastic, and finally on top of that a piece of linoleum that goes up over the base board. This idea too came from that advice stuff. I need to remind myself it isn’t all bad.
  • If you are so inclined to attempt some sort of puppy photo shoot then you will probably want props.
  • There is other miscellaneous stuff that I am sure I am forgetting, but these are the big ticket items.

Then there is a ton of stuff that Canine Companions gives you:

  • To keep track of who is who you start out with yarn collars, t-shirt paint to dab on their very cute puppy bums until they graduate to big boy and girl collars.
  • Various meds for the mama and babies for deworming and other things used you may need during the whelp.
  • Although I use my own they provide heat lamps, crates, whelp pool and xpens. I think you need LOTS of xpens. Since the puppies are whelped then hang out in their own bedroom it is important that they have different areas of the house to hear and learn new things. I have xpens in the whelp room, I use them to set up an outside play area in the good weather, and then set one up in my living room for play time.
  • Water and food bowls.
  • Supplies incase any puppies need to be bottle fed.
  • Food – mama and puppy food.
  • Whelp manual – basically the BC bible.
  • Other small stuff like a thermometer, suction bulb, scissors, soft brush and nail clippers.
  • I am sure I am missing somethings, but they pack it all into a crate for you to take home and you can use the same crate to bring them back very cute puppies. Even though most of it comes in the crate between that stuff, the food, xpens, a puppy pool and your breeder – as they say bring the big car.


There are other things of course – like when I bought this house I wanted a three bedroom just so I had a place for the puppies and their stuff. I did, like almost every puppy raiser I know, take transporting litters into account when I bought my last car. We Canine Companions are the craziest of crazy volunteers I know. They are also some of the finest people I have ever met. We are a special kind of crazy and I am okay with that.