By Reagin von Lehe for The Island Eye News
One Sunday afternoon in quarantine, the Ross family began readying their pregnant chocolate Lab, Isla, to give birth in their home on Isle of Palms. They bought a birthing pool and waited until the contractions started. They didn’t realize the entire process would last for 13 hours.
After six puppies were out and five were breathing on their own, Shirley and Bobby Ross decided that her labor was over and took the new mom out for fresh air as they hosed down the pool. Isla went inside after a quick break, knowing full well that her labor was far from over; she eventually gave birth to 10 more puppies, with eight of them surviving.
The Rosses consider the whole affair to be their best COVID-19 quarantine surprise.
“We had no idea. That Friday I said to my husband, ‘We’ve got to find out [how many puppies she’s having] because Isla is huge and she was a fit dog,’” Shirley Ross explained. “And he said, ‘If she doesn’t have those babies by Monday, we will take her to the vet for an ultrasound.’ And she had them on Sunday.”
Ross joked that Isla has always been an overachiever.
The process didn’t end with the birth of 13 live puppies.
Once a pup is born, its protective sack needs to be broken and the umbilical cord must be cut off. Newcomers to the world are then given to the mom for cleaning, and, one by one, they’re placed on her stomach to feed, all while she’s continuing to give birth.
The family was happy to be a part of the process. They aren’t breeders, and they weren’t producing pups for financial gain.
“It was not a money thing,” Ross said. “We did this because we just love Isla. … I mean, it’s so funny. She’s the only dog I know that gets dog presents from other dogs.”
A friend once remarked that if there could be a perfect dog, it would be the result of mating George, a dock dog owned by Diedrich Schweers that performs at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, with Isla. Was that statement an omen? Isla went into heat two weeks later, so they introduced her to George.
Following the birth, the Ross family took on the full-time responsibility of bringing up the babies. One litter of six puppies needs to feed every two hours, which means a half-dozen pups were fed every hour of the day.
They tended to the puppies for nearly two months before they were sold to friends and family members. The last baby trotted out of the pen on July 3.
“If there was a crime on Hartnett Boulevard, I’d’a known about it because I was out there at all times of the night,” Ross said.
They kept two puppies in the family, Maggie and Rue, and their daughter, Hailey, is now Palmer’s “mom.” Ross’ husband, Bobby, documented their journey with the bundles of joy on Facebook from their very first day so their friends and family could share in the laughter and happiness it brought them.
“I wouldn’t suggest it for a lot of people,” Ross clarified. “But it was to us, certainly in this time, a beautiful and lovely gift, and we don’t regret one minute of it.”