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My neighbour’s Border terrier bitch recently had pups, seven of them.

They are cuter than cute, but I resisted the urge to buy one. At nearly two months old, they are at their most endearing stage, charging about the garden, making everything their business.

Their mother Cassie had all the attributes one might expect to be a top mum. Young, fit, gentle, affectionate, fun and so on. I’m no expert, but she seemed to have the maternal edge. So it has been something of a surprise to everyone because let’s face it, a new litter of pups involves anyone within earshot that Cassie has taken to motherhood like a duck to Nordic skiing.

With great difficulty.

The pregnancy was bad enough, with terrible morning sickness which left her sprawled on the carpet for hours, her face mixed with confusion and loathing, or so it seemed to her owner Rhona, who had organised the initial union. When the pups arrived, Cassie did the necessary feeding and barked at anyone who set foot on the block; but as soon as Rhona returned from work in the evening, Cassie collapsed in a heap and relinquished responsibility.

Any opportunity to be away from the pups was gladly accepted. There was no fun or maternal pride in her eyes, and she moped through the evening, lying on the sofa with her head on her paws. She never reacted when her name was called. Her condition worsened too, losing weight and hair. A dog that used to run round in circles for hours, jumping into her mistress’ arms when beckoned, had become a lost soul in an empty jar.

Do dogs get post-natal depression?

Was it just the shock of the unknown?

I don’t know, but now the pups are becoming more independent (indeed, the first one has already been taken off to a new home), the old Cassie is returning. After two months of shell-shocked fatigue, that spark is returning and she is jumping about again. The hair is growing back. She even had a play fight with the cat yesterday.

“The pups are so gorgeous,” said Rhona, who will keep the best bitch from the litter. “But we aren’t having any more, are we, Cassie? I couldn’t put you through that again. You can’t wait to be rid of them!”

Ian Valentine
Features editor