Mother’s Day at Canine Assistants
Around this time every year, the folks at Canine Assistants, a nonprofit that trains dogs to help people with physical disabilities and special needs, get to witness the birth of several litters of cute, cuddly puppies. Gary Arnold, cofounder and photographer at Canine Assistants, shares the story of dog mom Gidget, who shows that a mother’s love knows no bounds.
What can you tell us about Gidget as a dog before she had these puppies?
When we first started Canine Assistants, we rescued all of our dogs from shelters. It seemed a perfect fit — saving a dog from the shelter and helping people who desperately needed the help. But it quickly became obvious that the dogs we wanted from the shelters were the ones that were most adoptable, so we really weren’t saving them. In addition, we didn’t think it was fair to the dogs — who’d been abandoned to a shelter and who surely had trust issues — to make them travel through places such as the Atlanta airport with streams of people coming toward them. It must seem overwhelmingly stressful. So we decided to breed our own dogs, making certain that we looked for the best traits possible for what we were doing.
Gidget is a great example of just that. She is a sweet, very people-oriented, gentle and loving dog with a strong maternal instinct. We knew that she would make a wonderful mom, and she has!
What was she like when she was a puppy?
When Gidget was a puppy, she displayed the kinds of traits we look for in the dogs we keep for our breeding program. Even as a very young puppy she was calm, good-natured and loved to greet people.
Tell us about the day these puppies were born. What is their birth story?
Gidget is good at the birthing process and delivered a new puppy about every 45 minutes. The labor was long, but she was magnificent, from the first puppy to the last.
Where did the birth take place?
Our veterinarian created a special tub for the moms. It keeps the puppies together, while providing a natural nesting place for the mom. It’s comfortable, safe and easy to clean. It’s a perfect place for mom and her puppies. Afterward, mom and puppies can relax somewhere warm and cozy, which is where you see Gidget in that picture.
How do you keep mother dogs calm during labor?
We don’t need to do too much to keep the moms calm, but we do limit the number of people in the room and keep the noise to a minimum. But since each of our mother dogs lives with a volunteer family, the dog’s people are always there during the process.
Will she have puppies again soon?
Our protocol is for moms to have a maximum of four litters — one a year. After that, she is spayed and continues to live with her volunteer family permanently.
Do you think dogs have anything to teach humans about being parents?
Dogs, in general, are very loyal and nurturing. They will give up their own bodies to protect their puppies, staying with them through any perceived danger.
What are the puppies and Gidget doing these days?
They are all happy, healthy and making the lives of the recipients they live with better. It’s fantastic to see the puppies grow up to change the lives of people who need them. All of the dogs that we breed are part of the Canine Assistants family. Even after they’ve been placed with loving volunteer families, we remain — for their entire lives —committed to their care and well being. We don’t have dogs; we have family!
If you’d like to learn more about Gary and Canine Assistants in general check out our interview with him. Here’s to all the moms (furry and otherwise) out there!
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