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A true Gem

I’m writing this at 2.30am, Tuesday the 13th, sat on the floor in the pantry where our Jack Russell bitch, Gemmy is giving birth to her third litter of beautiful little puppies.

She was acting differently yesterday and last night, so we knew they wouldn’t be too long. I set my alarm for 1am to check on her, sleepily pulled my dressing gown on and my slippers on the wrong feet! What I wally I must have looked, walking double funny downstairs – swollen knees and wrong sided slippers!

I usually would turn my alarm off and wake up with the snooze 10 or 20 minutes later, but tonight, I was wide awake. I think due to being in a flare I haven’t been in my usual deep sleep. When my sister was going into labour last year and my brother-in-law called me to go babysit, I slept through the first call! Probably why she gave birth as soon as she got into hospital. Sorry, sis!

As I got to the bottom few steps tonight, I heard a teeny tiny squeak. My heart just filled up as I looked over at Gem all curled up with the little one; like a dream.

I stayed with her for a couple of minutes, turned the kettle on and went up to tell Dan (this time with my slippers on the right feet!) When I came back down just a couple of minutes later, she was pushing out the next one. Its bag was still on its head, so I helped out a little by piercing it, pulling it off and then letting Gem lick it up.

I have to say, it was much more of a delicate procedure than when I’ve done the same with a lamb! That’s usually an elbow-deep, fishing around to pull the lamb out the right way and then making sure the bag’s not on its head, messy sort of job. Of course, it’s always best to leave an animal to it where possible, but sometimes intervention is needed. Often, we need to poke a blade of grass up a new-born lamb’s nose to kick start the breathing, or swing it in the air a little bit to clear the airway of ‘gunk’, and then hand it back to mum quick sharp, hoping she’s not wanting to make a run for it!

Anyway, by now it’s about 3.30am and there are 5 pups so far. Such a variety of colours, so tiny and so delicate. Gem being such a good mother to each and every one.

She’s still moving around as if there’s more to come, but we don’t know for sure yet. Due to COVID, we never got her scanned, but of course, we did place puppy bets in the family. My Dad and my 6-year-old niece won - 3 boys and 3 girls!

When Dan and I first came down, he offered me the chair (being the gentleman he is) but I opted for the floor – an old pillow to sit on and my back resting against the warm boiler pipes. There is no way I could’ve sat on a chair for this long; uncomfortable and gravity adding to the knee swelling – no thank you! So, instead, I have my legs out in front of me, cryocuff on and ibuprofen taken. Onto my third brew, thinking I should invest in some decaf tea bags, Yorkshire Tea only though, of course!

I was thinking, I am so impressed that my knee pain does not usually wake me up in the night – TRUE skill. With this feeling of a dull ache and sheer pain in my left knee, I don’t know how on earth it doesn’t wake me? However, I AM NOT COMPLAINING!

I remember when all the swelling first started (around the time of my diagnosis) it felt like I was in a dream, my leg was kind of above me and it felt like my knee was a potato being peeled; turning, twisting and peeling - that’s what I could see. If I could draw I would love to show you, but my artistic skills are lacking! I can see it in my head now - I’ll never forget it, but I can’t explain it!

It’s now just after 4am and about 10/20 minutes ago, the 6th pup was born. I knew she was going to have a 6th by the way she was behaving and we thought we could feel another after the 5th. She’s done now though!

I ordered Dan back up to bed earlier, there’s no point both of us losing sleep, and he has to do a full day’s work tomorrow, whereas I can have a nap in the day if I want to. He did take some convincing though!

Gem kept looking at me funny before the 6th one was born, so I kept leaving the room to do little jobs. Who knew 4am was such a good time for housework?! I haven’t dragged myself to do any washing for a few days now, but knowing Gem wanted some space made me do it – perhaps that’s the trick?! By the time I came back to see her, she’d just had number 6. She clearly just wanted a little privacy. These last 3 have been much smaller than the first 3, it’s easy to guess who’s been taking all the food in there!

What an absolute star Gem is, creating growing such strong little babies. It’s clear to see how knackered she is now, but she hasn’t stopped nurturing them for one second over these past 4 hours. Even though this is her third time, it still makes me so proud.

Obviously, dogs and people are very different, but sitting here thinking and writing, I want to shout out to all Mothers.

As much as she probably won’t appreciate me comparing her to a dog, I think Gem is just like my Mum!

Doesn’t stop caring, doesn’t stop loving. She’s stroppy at times, but always understandable. She’s snappy with Gus, and always lets him know who’s boss (Dad = Gus). She always wants to know what’s going on, but for the best reasons.

So Mum, when you read this, I want you to know I am forever grateful. I’m sorry for being moody or short with you sometimes. I’m sorry I have been closed off, and I don’t always tell you how I’m feeling and how my arthritis is affecting me. It’s not because I don’t want to talk to you about it (I actually feel like you’re the one who understands the most), it’s because I don’t want to worry you, I don’t want to upset you, I don’t want my problems getting into your head and taking over your life, even though you say that’s your job. I know I probably won’t understand until I have kids of my own. As much as we all joke about me being your ‘baby’, I really do love how much you care and the way that, no matter what you’re doing, you will stop and do anything for me if I ask (or even if I don’t)!

You’ve spent your life devoted to us, and as Dad says, I’m apparently Dan’s responsibility now, and you deserve to have a break, not always worrying or thinking you need to be doing something. Your love (and sometimes your money 😉) will always be more than enough. Having you as a mother will always make me feel better, there is nothing you need to do on top of that. The same goes for you too, Dad.

Anyway, enough of the mush and back to the puppies! They’re doing great and so is Gem. I’m exhausted, so I can only imagine how tired she feels, bless her. On another note, I think having the midnight munchies during the overnight puppy fest has rebooted my appetite – I’ve been snacky all day! Good news as my new medication has suppressed it a bit lately, and I don’t want to lose any more weight ideally. As previously promised, once things have settled down with the Meth(otrexate), I’ll do a more detailed post about how things are going since the change.

Stay tuned and follow me on Instagram (@alidaggett) for upcoming posts, ‘pupdates’ and, of course, pictures of our adorable new additions.

Thanks for reading,

Ali x

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