Saturday, August 30, 2008

So what's it like to have a bitch in heat in the house?

Most of us have been conditioned for years to spay and neuter all animals in our possession (oh excuse me, all animals we are guardians of) by six months old. It's for the best, they are more manageable, better behaved (I've been uncomfortable with the notion of surgically altering animals' behavior for years, even before I got wised up to the fact that early speutering does in fact carry many risks as well as some benefits.) Anyhow, so I was a good, responsible dog owner (excuse me, guardian, blecchh) for years. I vaccinated annually, fed kibble, and had their sexual organs surgically removed while they were still puppies.

So, much has changed. Thanks to the internets and stuff. Cooper wasn't snipped early, and nor will Fiona be. She went through heat - finally - at about 9 months old.

I was watching for signs of her vulva getting larger and blood spotting. Nothing, nothing, nothing...and then one night walking her before agility class I realise her heinie is definitely swollen, and she is also peeing about every 37 seconds. In class, she spotted blood everywhere so I put a towel down for her.

Over the next week, she got more lovey and affectionate with me. Conversely - this may have been my imagination - Daphne got snarkier with her. That may have been because Fiona was getting more social and in your face with everyone. Increased progesterone, I hear. A calming hormone and at least one study actually suggests spayed bitches are more, not less, aggressive. Apart from some extra sniffing, Cooper didn't pay much attention.

I started monitoring her carefully out in the yard - she was barely out there alone - and no walks in the 'hood for three weeks. After the first night, she kept herself very clean and although I had an old sheet on the bed, I noticed no stains on it, and none in the dog bed in her crate. Or maybe she just wasn't bleeding much after the first night. In either case, no noticeable mess. Yay. I wondered if I would end up buying her a pack of those ridiculous looking bloomers.

Week three, she is ovulating. Intensely social and her brain just shut down. She was hysterical in class because she was so utterly clueless. Also by week three, her interest in food was minimal, she had the attention span of a gnat and she desperately wanted to meet every dog she saw. Also her vulva was really large and almost perfectly heart shaped. Cute!

Also somewhere in week three, the dogs did a lot of fussing and growling overnight. I had this image of the house ringed by amorous loose dogs. That didn't quite happen, but I think there probably was a dog or two hanging around outside on at least two nights. My dogs have a different sort of voice when it's a dog outside, as opposed to people walking past or other odd late night noises.

Day 22, she is mostly done but Less the nice big intact Dane at the dogsports agility trial thought she was mighty attractive (and Fiona liked him right back.) I was sitting on the ground and we were making sure their interactions were chaste, when Less took temporary leave of his senses and hiked his leg on my back. Danes don't just tinkle, they piss. Yuck! Good thing I had a spare tee shirt, and he missed my hair. Oy.

So little Fiona is forever changed, her vulva probably won't shrink back completely to its little puppy size and she now has visible nipples, probably forever. I have been warned she may go through a false pregnancy and pretend to nest and carry puppies around about six weeks after. Vet says to wait two months after heat to spay. Which puts her at about a year old in October, about when I planned on spaying her anyhow.