S a m a n t i c shttp://www.potomacvalleysams.com/Samantics.html


by Tamara Somerville 
(aka:  “Gidget’s Mom”)  © 2012

This is a real-time account of breeding, whelping and raising a litter of Samoyed puppies.  It is also a story of puppy love, friendship and club camaraderie.

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Falls Church, Virginia

March-June, 2012

There is much to be said for being a godmother to a litter of puppies rather than their breeder.  My friend and fellow PVSC member, Jan Lynch, is spending thousands of dollars, countless hours and sleepless nights to help her Samoyed, Irish, have a healthy litter of puppies that conform to the Samoyed standard, are a credit to their parents’ pedigrees and advance the breed. 

She will be fortunate if the puppies’ sale prices cover her expenses - let alone compensate for the hundreds of hours she will have to devote to caring for them.  She is going to be content with keeping one of the puppies and finding good homes for the rest. 

At least half the puppies will join PVSC households.

I have decided that, for me, this is going to be a life experience well worth the expenditure of time and energy to behold in person the phenomenal development of a litter from birth to eight weeks.  The only experience that could compare would be hanging out at a panda preserve.      

This is Jan’s and Irish’s first litter so the former has had a lot of stuff to buy and learn and the latter was an inexperienced mama.  The gestation period for a dog (“dam” is the correct term for an expectant female) is about two months. Jan’s preparations took longer as she researched desirable sires, had tests performed - including OFA (hips) and CERF (eyes) - and sought a veterinarian expert in canine reproduction. 

While initial attempts at breedings are not always successful, the breeding of Irish (the dam - Ch. Vanderbilt’s Stroke of Luck) and Harry (the sire - GCH. Mystic Oz’s Prince Harry) was productive the first time around.  An ultrasound thirty days later confirmed at least seven puppies.  On the next day Jan ordered a whelping box and assorted other gear to help ensure that Irish had a successful pregnancy and the puppies got off to a healthy start.  A bedroom was rearranged to accommodate the whelping “box,” the deck was secured and power-washed to give the puppies safe outdoor play space after they reach three weeks of age.  Another friend and PVSC member, Karla, loaned Jan a portable carrier for her SUV to transport the puppies (veterinarian visits).  Experienced breeders provided invaluable advice throughout this period to help Jan prepare for and conduct a successful whelping.

One week before the due date, an X-ray provided another estimate on the litter size (eight puppies were clearly visible) and indicated that the puppies were all about equal size and lined up for a safe delivery. 

Among Jan’s highest priorities for the first ten days after their birth is to keep the puppies in a secure environment -- isolated from infection threats and with one section (“cradle” mat) of the whelping box kept at 80 degrees via a whelping-specific safety ceramic heating “lamp” (it is not a light source).  The #1 cause of death for puppies is being too cold so ensuring that their environment is warm enough is critical. 

An ambient room air temperature of 72 degrees is to be maintained for the benefit of Irish (according to Jan’s vet, non-Arctic breed dams would have a higher temperature tolerance).  Puppies usually open their eyes between 10-15 days, begin solid food around 4 weeks and are weaned around 6 weeks.  They will receive de-worming medicine at 3, 6 and 8 weeks.  Vaccinations start at 6-8 weeks. They will stay with their litter mates at least until they are 8 weeks old. 

And all the while I am taking thousands of photos to chronicle their miraculously rapid development and record their moments of discovery and delight as they play and explore in their expanding world.

The Whelping


The puppies were due on Tuesday, April 3, and with Jan already having received all the supplies, going into the preceding weekend we thought we had ample time to complete preparations (such as the car “go bag” in case of a veterinary emergency).  On Thursday, March 29, Jan and I bathed Irish. assembled the whelping box and planned for Friday evening when our friend Cathy (a Registered Nurse and PVSC president)) would come over to complete organizing of the whelping room to ensure that every item that could conceivably be needed during whelping would be at the ready (such as scissors, alcohol for sterilizing, betadine for the umbilical cords, digital scale to record weights, etc.) when the puppies were born in the next week.

Jan sorted color-coded yarn to identify the puppies.  She bought nine different colors because the x-ray on Monday, March 26, had indicated at least eight puppies, with a possibility for a ninth. 

On Friday morning, March 30, Irish exhibited two hallmark symptoms of impending birth in the next twenty-four hours:  1)  she lost her appetite for any food, and;  2) she frantically dug a hole under the porch.  Cathy and I then altered our plans so that we could get to Jan’s earlier and in route topped off our cars’ fuel tanks, as did Jan, so that if there were any problems during whelping our cars would be ready for an emergency trip to the animal hospital.  Cathy and I also brought overnight bags.  And Jan alerted friends (and fellow PVSC members) Michael and Chris, who are experienced with whelping Samoyeds and had offered to assist with Irish’s birthing process. 

Saturday morning, three days ahead of the due date (which the vet had said  was imprecise) and shortly after Michael and Chris arrived, Irish commenced delivering her puppies. 

Irish’s initial contractions were pronounced and obviously quite uncomfortable for her.  The first three puppies were born in rapid succession:  the first (“Pink Girl”) at 9:55 a.m., the second (“Blue Girl”) at 10:04 and the third (“Green Boy”) at 10:19 a.m.  Michael barely had time to finish rubbing down, aspirating and examining one puppy before the next was born.  The next three were born between 45 minutes and 1 1/2 hours apart - the sixth (“Gold Boy”) being delivered at 1:49 p.m. 

We were all delighted, as was the growing crowd of viewers from around the world who were monitoring the births via a live “webcam” that we set up to share this amazing experience with whoever wanted to watch (see four of the births on Part One of the recorded whelping videos). 

And then a problem arose.  Despite a series of intensive contractions, Irish was not pushing out that seventh puppy.  While the last three puppies had been born increasingly further apart, number seven was becoming a concern.  Upon the advice of experienced breeders (who were monitoring the whelping via the webcam), Irish had been walked twice in this time intervening since the last birth and we thought at one point the puppy was going to be born on the front lawn. 

The veterinarian had advised Jan that if two hours elapsed between births then she should call for assistance and would then perhaps be told to bring Irish and all the puppies into the hospital.  Sure enough, Irish and the six already delivered puppies were hustled into Jan’s SUV and driven to the hospital where Irish underwent a caesarean section to remove the remaining puppies.  Sadly, efforts to save the boy who had become breech at the cervix, were unsuccessful.  And the surgeon discovered the eighth puppy had been dead for a day or two in the furthest reach of one of the “horns” of the uterus.  He never had a chance. 

We were all sad for the two who perished but relieved that Irish was doing well (pregnancies do present peril to the mother) and that the remaining six appeared healthy and strong (see their weight charts).  Irish and the surviving six puppies returned home late that night and settled in for the critical two weeks to follow, during which the puppies would be at maximum vulnerability to infection and to falling victim to congenital deformities that may not be immediately evident.  Jan, Cathy and I took turns standing vigil around-the-clock during the first few days.  Jan limited visitations and posted a sign on the front door:

Puppies are nursing

so please...

  1. do not ring the doorbell

  1. remove shoes inside the front door and wear surgical booties (provided)

  1. Wash hands with anti-bacterial soap

  1. No dogs (newborn puppies are extremely vulnerable to infection)

Thankfully, Irish has turned out to be a terrific, attentive mother with plenty of nourishing milk for her puppies.  She did not need much help from us other than to feed and water her and take her outside, on a leash, for breaks.  She also required antibiotics, temperature checks and periodic inspections of the incision from her c-section.

I am writing this section of the article on Day 14 since the births.   The litter has so far been blessed with great health and every indication that they will grow up to be vibrant, healthy dogs.  Since Day 12,  the door to the whelping box has been in place to prevent them from escaping as they are increasingly able to pile atop one another and a couple have been attempting to climb atop the puppy rails in the whelping box. 

As with all healthy puppies, their growth trajectory is astonishing:  doubling their birth weights by Day 7 and tripling by Day 12 (in the span of a week, Gold Boy tripled, quadrupled and quintupled his birth weight). 

On Day 10, some of the puppies’ eyes were opening.  By week three, their whelping box was augmented with a weaning annex situated near a sliding glass door to the deck which was power-washed (by PVSC members Karla and Doug Perez), puppy-proofed and outfitted for their playing pleasure in the next phases of their puppyhood.   

My primary contributions to the effort at this point are to relieve Jan for periods of time so that she can run errands while I puppy-sit.  She could charge me for this quality time with the puppies but I prefer the pretense that I am doing her a favor.

Developing at Warp Speed

During the first couple of weeks of the puppies lives, merely turning over in their sleep or rolling off a nipple constituted an “action” photo.  That begins to change as the puppies commence their third week of life.

Day 16:  Pink Girl, Blue Girl and Gold Boy begin expressing significant interest in what is beyond the opening to their whelping box.  They are photographed with their heads resting on the puppy rail, peering outside of their little white world.

Day 17: Gold Boy and Green Boy climb out through the doorway of the whelping box, onto a pad that is at the same level as the opening.  This entails pulling himself up and over a ledge that is several inches off the floor of the whelping box.  Irish is right there to welcome them - and was their major inducement for the feat.

Day 19Blue Girl is noticing the thermometer sitting on the puppy rail in one corner of the whelping box. 

Day 20: they are significantly engaging with one another and with the few people they are being exposed to.  By “significantly” I mean sniffing our hands or face, looking at us, responding to sounds, vocalizing in response and starting to play with their litter mates.  The most commented-upon behavior they are engaging in at this stage is “biting” or “suck-face” (gumming, really, their teeth are just beginning to be detectable) and licking each other’s faces.  We speculate that the primary motivation is to consume the milk residue after their nursing sessions end. 

Whatever the reason, it is adorable.  With puppies at this stage, everything is adorable.  We even oooh and awwww at their clumsy efforts to pee.     

Day 22:  a rainy Sunday afternoon during which Michael, Chris and I helped Jan move the whelping box into the family room and assembled an attached “weaning box” adjacent to the sliding glass door to the deck.  The weather forecast shows unusually cool weather for the next few days so the puppies may not be getting out onto the deck as planned.  But the weaning box doubles their accommodation so they should be content in the interim.  Jan also welcomes the change of venue so that she can be active in the rest of her home and still keep a close eye on the puppies.  She can now see them from the kitchen.  And the puppies are listening to the “Downton Abbey” television series. 

The Downton Abbey theme music may be soothing to the puppies.  The servant dynamic certainly will be familiar, with these puppies having upstairs status and Jan the rest of us humans in servant mode.

Day 23:  When the puppies were born they collectively weighed 4.2 lbs.  On this day, their 23rd, they weigh - collectively - 24 pounds.  That is a six-fold increase and a tribute, in no small part, to the quality food Jan has always fed Irish.

During their third week, we are struck by the dramatic escalation in the puppies’ play activity, interest in observing and interacting with people, vocalizing and mobility.  

They are now regularly attacking the “Samcam” (Flip video camera sitting atop a tiny tripod) when it is placed in their whelping box. 


Puppy Chores Escalate

During the third week, we are seeing a notable uptick in the number of piddle pads needing to be replaced and with ever-greater frequency.  Those of us who are assisting Jan in this puppy endeavor are very grateful that she has been willing to spend the money on piddle pads, rather than the more common method of lining a whelping box with newspapers.  The piddle pads cost something like a quarter each but a friend said that the laundry load during their litter experience killed their washing machine so perhaps the piddle pads are a relative bargain.  In any event, at least they are not as messy as newspaper and are far more absorbent.  And they photograph well (I spend hours viewing puppies through a Nikon camera lens so the photographic benefit of piddle pads has also been a big plus). 

Experienced breeders have informed us that even the piddle pads will be overwhelmed soon, especially after Irish has weaned the puppies off of her and they begin eating kibble.  They will become veritable food processors - gobbling it in one end and delivering it back out the other.  And they will be taking in a lot of water so Jan will become proficient at swiftly opening the sliding door to the deck and hustling the puppies out, accompanied by cheerful exhortations to:  “Hurry!  Hurry!”

Translated, this means:  Pee!  Quickly!  And not in the house! 

This is a proven effective potty training method.  My Gidget is ten years old and she still pees upon the command of “Hurry!  Hurry!”   (many thanks to longtime PVSC member Celinda Cheskawich for this instruction). 

Day 27: three puppies (Pink, Orange, Red) scale the weaning box door, so a bigger door is installed, making it more difficult for Irish to enter and exit. 

A Very Big Day:  #29

(Deck Debut + Weaning Begins)

Cold weather delayed the puppies debut on the deck for a few days - until Sunday, April 29.  The “Samcam” was set up to record this momentous occasion and friends assembled to assist with puppy wrangling and savor the spectacle of the puppies exploring their new, expanded territory.  After a couple hours in this vast new landscape, the puppies received another sensory delight in the form of their first taste of puppy gruel (kibble blended to dust and then mixed with puppy formula).  As photos reveal, the puppies acclimated well to the food, space and fresh air.  

Within a couple days, the puppies adapted to their new regimen of waking up in the morning and being released onto the deck to the accompaniment of “Hurry! Hurry!” and they usually urinated with dispatch.  There were still many piddle pads to be disposed of after spending the night in the whelping-weaning boxes but piddle pad usage in the daytime dwindled dramatically as - weather permitting - the puppies spent increasing amounts of time outside on the deck.


Day 31: Pink Girl is photographed running at a full gallop.  She is the first of the puppies to exhibit the coordination and zeal to run full-speed and does so with gusto.  The deck measures 20’ x 12’ and she now covers the distance about as fast as we do in our foot races with them.  Soon the rest of the pack picked up on the joy of running and all it takes is a quick sprint across and a spirited cheer of “Puppy! Puppy!” to spur the thundering herd into following suit. 

Day 35:  A new favorite passion of the puppies is to dump the water out of their water bowl and pick it up with their teeth to circumnavigate the deck with it dangling from their mouths.  This requires frequent vigilance to maintain water in the bowl for drinking and frequent mopping up of the overflow. 

Day 36:  People are the puppies‘ new favorite play-things -- especially when we lay down on the deck and they can look onto our faces and arf and growl at us.  This probably is not conducive to seeing people as alphas but we do not care - it is so much fun to be playing and cuddling with the puppies on their level.  To make this more comfortable, I have been keeping at Jan’s some “closed-cell” camp sleeping pads that I normally use on camping trips.  To protect the pads from inquisitive razor-sharp puppy teeth, I wrap each pad in a beach towel.

The puppies soon decide that the pads are much more comfy than the hard surface of the deck flooring and are also a great place to pee.  Jan is doing a lot of laundry.  I drive home at night feeling I’ve been marinated in puppy urine.  

Day 37:  At birth, the puppies weighed - collectively - 4.2 pounds.  On this day they weigh, collectively, 41 pounds.  That is a ten-fold increase!

The fifth and sixth weeks have been astonishing to behold.  The puppies are fully engaged with people and their toys, in addition to cavorting with one another.  Their play is not only exuberant but downright brutal at times as they chomp on one another with no mercy - tails and all other body parts are fair game.  The cries of pain can cause one to wince with sympathy. 

Going into their eighth week, we are seeing a lot more bite than inhibition - especially in regard to one another.  They are somewhat less harsh on human flesh, with the exception of Pink Girl who on Day 47 was dubbed:  Countess Pinkula - The Toe Slayer

Only a couple of us peops still brave going onto the deck barefoot. 

The Eighth Week

Going into the final week before the puppies would be picked up by their new families, it is evident that each puppy will soon need the attention of their own, individually dedicated caregivers.   We have only so much time and energy to give, only two arms each for petting and playing and doing all the chores required to maintain a sanitary, secure and stimulating environment for them.  And they are in the critical “imprinting” period in which they need to be socialized not just to one another and our circle of friends but to the outside world. 

Experienced breeders warned us that a litter only becomes more demanding on the people raising it.  In the first month of their life, Irish did nearly all the work -- feeding, cleaning (including consuming fecal matter) and ensuring they were all present and accounted for (it was obvious from the outset that dogs can count and Irish took inventory whenever she returned from an absence).  

We are also mindful that while we are excited to know they have great families lined up and it will soon be in their best interest to have their own individual homes, we are going to miss them.  But puppies do not stay puppies for long so puppyhood leaves, even if puppies do not.  And that is why this time in their lives is recorded in several thousand photographs and dozens of hours of video. 

Despite Jan’s meticulous planning, the final week’s must-do list suddenly seems hectic.  The puppies still have to be evaluated by experts in conformation so Jan can determine which puppy should go to which prospective home -- some are more interested than others in having a “show dog.”  Jan wants to keep one of the girls.  And the first series of vaccinations must be performed by the veterinarian and Jan has to prepare all the puppy kits for the new owner -- including contracts, pedigrees and the gigantic goody bag of stuff she plans on sending home with the puppies. 

She even bought enormous tote bags from Land’s End for this purpose (see photos).  This go-home goody bag is above and beyond but that’s Jan....


Kathy and Lois

vaccination reaction meds



from 4.2 lbs to 73 lbs

Pick up day

Beyond 8 weeks...

SaraBlue Goes To Camp Mantz


potty training

OFA - Orthopedic Foundation for Animalshttp://www.offa.org/
Dwarfism  (Retinal Dysplasia-linked)http://www.samoyedhealthfoundation.org/optigen-dna-test-for-retinal-dysplasia-dwarfism-in-the-samoyed
CERF - Canine Eye Registration Foundationhttp://www.vmdb.org/cerf.html

Health Tests

SCA:  “Breeding Your Samoyed”   (circa 1997)http://www.samoyedclubofamerica.org/sca/docs/publications/scabreedingyoursamoyed.pdf
SCA:  “Living With Your Samoyed”http://www.samoyedclubofamerica.org/sca/docs/publications/scalivingwithyoursamoyed.pdf
SCA:  “Selecting a Samoyed”  http://www.samoyedclubofamerica.org/sca/docs/publications/scaselectasam.pdf


AKC:  The Puppy Contracthttp://www.akc.org/enewsletter/akc_breeder/2007/spring/contract.cfm
AKC:  Samoyed Standardhttp://www.akc.org/breeds/samoyed/index.cfm
Estrus and matinghttp://www.vcahospitals.com/alexandria/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/breeding-for-pet-owners-estrus-and-mating-in-dogs/484
Problems at Birthhttp://www.vcahospitals.com/alexandria/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/breeding-for-dog-owners-problems-at-birth/487
Caring for newborn puppieshttp://www.vcahospitals.com/alexandria/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/breeding-for-dog-owners-caring-for-newborn-puppies/488
From birth to weaninghttp://www.vcahospitals.com/alexandria/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/breeding-for-dog-owners-caring-from-birth-to-weaning/489
Caring for mother & puppies after weaninghttp://www.vcahospitals.com/alexandria/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/breeding-for-dog-owners-caring-for-mother-and-puppies-after-weaning/490
Preparing for whelpinghttp://www.vcahospitals.com/alexandria/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/breeding-for-pet-owners-whelping-in-dogs/486
Caesarean Sections in Dogs:  post-ophttp://www.vcahospitals.com/alexandria/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/caesarean-sections-in-dogs-post-operative-instructions/494

1/31:    Irish & Harry bred

2/15:    morning sickness

3/1:      sonogram

3/26:      x-ray

3/31:      3 girls + 3 boys born

4/3:        due date

5/31:      puppies go to their new families



  1. Whelping box

  2. Thermometer -air/humidity

  3. Rectal thermometer

  4. Newborn Nasal aspirator

  5. Betadine (umbilical cords)

  6. X-pens (portable fencing)

  7. Lots and lots of towels

  8. Scale & Weight Chart

** veterinarians and breeders have differing opinions on what is “essential” or optional.

PVSC does not endorse or guarantee any specific litter, puppy, dog, pedigree or breeder.