Archive for March, 2009

Riley Gets Ready for Motherhood

We are down to about 10 days of waiting now for Riley’s labor. Preparations here are on schedule.

For those patient clients of ours, here is the summary of events: After Riley gives birth, we will email the families that are on the list in order of their applications. This will be done as soon as time allows after the births; hopefully, within a few days. We have to wait and see how many boys and girls we are blessed with, along with the health of everyone. If you are offered a puppy, there will be a nonrefundable 100$ deposit that is due immediately. The price of a puppy is 1300.$ plus 6% CT Sales Tax. The balance of the fee is due when you pick up the dog to take home.

Everyone on the final list will be allowed to visit at the three week mark and begin to choose their first three choices by the color of the collar. At seven weeks, temperament testing will be done by one of our breeding friends, and then the assignments will be made. Most families get their top choices unless we are concerned over an overly energetic puppy for instance with an inexperienced golden owner. The litter is usually very uniform in color and size and disposition, as that is what we are selectively breeding for. If we have clients that are left without a puppy, Barb and I will make every attempt to find them a great dog with an upcoming litter from one of our breeding friends. Riley is scheduled for an XRay this Tuesday to get an idea of about how many she is carrying. By Connecticut State law, no puppy can go to their new home until 8 weeks old.

This weekend we started to get Riley ready. First up was a bath. As you can see from the first photo, she wasn’t too thrilled when I called her downstairs and she saw the bathing materials.

She was a good sport however, and managed to climb into the tub without any assistance.

After a little toweling off, it was time for some quiet time in the whelping box. This is her first litter so she wasn’t too interested in  sitting on the linoleum squares with nothing to do.

Then it was upstairs to join the rest of the crew while I sat at the kitchen island and did some paperwork. Of course, I had a few girls at my feet…

And Rocky is never too far away from my side..

Riley was stretched out with the others in the middle of the floor while her coat dried.

You can easily see how much she has filled out when lying near Solo

And her side profile is pretty impressive as well.

Wishing everyone a great upcoming week.

When The Music Stops…

Although the calendar says Spring, on the fields of Farmington in an early hour, the cold still seeps through openings in my clothing, and the grey overcast skies mirror this week’s reflections on events in my life.

A month ago or so, one of my OB/GYN friends on call in the Delivery Room suffered a stroke. He was fine at 11 PM when he spoke to his wife, and at 1 AM when he didn’t respond to the call for a delivery, he wasn’t. A catastrophic clot in his brain has left his dominant side frozen and he remains in a rehab hospital trying to recover the pieces of his life that are still left.    It seems to me that a fit analogy of this random hand of fate is much like the game of musical chairs. There one is suddenly bereft of a seat at the table, and the worst part is that we never can know when the music will stop. In fact, we can’t even hear the music playing most of the time. Add this event to the headline losses of a young life on a way to a mission trip, erased by a drunk driver, and the artistic talent of a Hollywood star snuffed out by an apparently minor fall on a bunny slope from a head injury. It makes one ponder just how fragile our lifeline to this world really is.

So what does one look to for a guiding star in this crazy unpredictable patch of land? The castles that we spend our lives constructing to protect us from the fates are really built on sand.  So we need to carry what is important in our minds and in our hearts. And what is important more than ever is family and those close to you, including your dogs.

Then this morning, the simplest observation gave me back my focus. As I was trying to clean another garden bed of poop, the frozen ground resisted my efforts to give it up even with the use of a metal spade. Next to where I was trying to dig, were the tender shoots of a daffodil. Now how does a plant with shoots that are easily damaged by my foot, manage to push its way through the permafrost that I couldn’t chisel through? This is the miracle of life and the lesson of the universal struggle that all living things must face on a daily basis. Another “Damn” is what I say to that! Followed by an “Amen”.

The rest of this Sunday was spent in much more pleasant pursuits. We bottled a German white wine today and then were able to start the process of converting that part of the basement back into the whelping area. Having Rocky, the puppy, here continues to make life zany and zestful. Here he is playing inside a crate with his older sister Lucy..

Riley continues to get wider along her backside. She rests a little more often than her siblings now, but still enjoys a walk to the fields. Here are some shots of the crew resting after our walk today.

And our mom to be..

Riley’s due date is just two weeks away now, and our thoughts are starting to anticipate those adventures soon to come.

Closing Chapters

It was a melancholy week for me here in dogville. Emma and Lucy were both spayed on Friday. Both did well with their surgeries, and kudos to Dr. Feldman for once again keeping our animals healthy. But these two events on the same day, heralded major changes in our future breeding activities. For seven year old Emma, it was a well deserved ending to her birthing of three healthy litters. For Lucy it was the end of a potential storied career that never could be. Despite her looks, parentage, and our hard work, the appearance of her eye problem shattered our plans.

My cousin Ron, sent some perceptive comments. After all, he and his Barbara were there, way back at our beginning when we really did not know much about the science of breeding. And they have had three of our dogs over the years. He wrote:

“Sorry to hear the news about Lucy. It sure was a lot simpler in the good old days, i.e., Abby and a sperm donor….what the heck…..didn’t have to worry about all the finer points of breeding….and still got GREAT dogs out of the deal.
The bar has been raised to such a high level in this day and age, that it brings with it so many more challenges to getting to puppy paws on the ground..  I do admire your passion, as you pursue your Golden adventures I wholeheartedly agree with the Mother Nature references….despite all the good intentions, the careful and meticulous planning, it does boil down to having some good fortune on your side.
Like many others at this end of the blog, I am curious as to what your plan will be moving forward.  Again, sorry to hear the news, but glad to hear about Riley’s pending litter.”
So now we have: ten year old Lily, Emma our seven year old, four year old Solo, and now Lucy two, who will have their sole roles being our pets and companions. After this litter of Riley’s, we will regroup and decide what direction our Golden passion will take us. We have also come to realize that our home is not situated for growing our business in a larger fashion. Not only in space, but in time available to meet our other commitments. And having just met with my accountant on the same Friday as Emma and Lucy’s surgery, we can only carry these continued losses of thousands of dollars per year so far. I didn’t quite understand why the government can be in the red all the time, but then expect me as a little business owner to turn a profit once in a while. Sheesh..
Anyway, don’t count us out for the future. There are ways to continue our missionary efforts to put golden retriever puppies into deserving families. For now, Barb and I will regroup and focus on the present.
I am sure part of my reflective mood this week was not helped by THE annual spring chore in our backyard. When you have five to six retrievers doing their business in our backyard for a whole season, well there is quite a lot of poop to scoop. So much so that Barb and I break it down into wheel barrows full, one garden island at a time. Once that chore is accomplished, you can start to enjoy the appearance of the backyard a little more.
There was one more chore this weekend that was somewhat noteworthy. We have had our fish tank for probably over twenty years, and our latest family of fish has been with us for a few years now. In fact our tank is overcrowded because of a number of generations of fish that keep reproducing a little too often. Well our big orange Cichlid got sick this week. For anyone who has ever had guppies or goldfish, a hint of a little illness and they are gone. Fortunately with bigger fish, you have a chance to save their health if you react in time. So this weekend I had to remove all the fish and thoroughly clean the tank and then add medicated water. Our girls had never seen a pail of fish up close. As you can see they were very curious.
Unlike a cat, they had no urge to stick a paw in and try to grab one. This photo of Riley shows her communicating with me about this fishy situation.
She has become much more vocal since she is pregnant. It is probably a good thing we don’t know what she is saying as she keeps repeating herself and her barks over and over!
And now to happier news…
Riley is getting larger everyday.  She is getting more protective of me, as well as with the shared toys and stuffed play animals. Here she is in the kitchen this weekend..
We will be getting the cellar ready again soon. And that means I have to move my wine and beer operation out of the whelping box. So today Andy, my neighbor and co wine maker, came over and we bottled about thirty bottles of a medal winning Austrian wine that we have been working on for the past two months. A few sample glasses helped my spirits considerably!
My son Brian, along with our neighbors Theresa and Ian, have been taking two of our dogs for a river walk in Collinsville when the weather has been nice.
As you can see, a good time was had by all.
Finally, our Golden friend Gayle sent us a warning about using “Cocoa Mulch” in your garden beds.

>Pet Alert- Poisonous Mulch – deadly to dogs and cats
>Please tell every dog or cat owner you know. Even if you don’t have >a pet, please pass this to those who do.
>Over the weekend the doting owner of two young lab mixes purchased Cocoa Mulch from Target to use in their garden. They loved the way it smelled and it was advertised to keep cats away from their garden. Their dog Calypso decided that the mulch smelled good enough to eat and devoured a large helping. She vomited a few times which was typical when she eats something new but wasn’t acting lethargic </SPAN< SPAN>in any way. The next day, Mom woke up and took Calypso out for her >morning walk. Half way through the walk, she had a seizure and died instantly.
> >
>Although the mulch had NO warnings printed on the label, upon further investigation on the company’s website, this product is HIGHLY toxic to dogs and cats.
> >Cocoa Mulch is manufactured by Hershey’s, and they claim that ‘It is true that studies have shown that 50% of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer physical harm to a variety of degrees (depending on each individual dog). However, 98% of all dogs won’t eat it.’
> >This Snopes site gives the following >information:
> >
>Cocoa Mulch, which is sold by Home Depot, Foreman’s Garden Supply and other Garden supply stores, contains a lethal ingredient called ‘Theobromine’. It is lethal to dogs and cats. It smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs. They will ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths already occurred in the last 2-3 weeks. Theobromine is in all chocolate, especially dark or baker’s chocolate which is toxic to dogs. Cocoa bean shells contain potentially toxic quantities of th eobromine, a xanthine compound similar in effects to caffeine and theophylline. A dog that ingested a lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.
> >

Every year here we have at least one dog eat our wood chip mulch, and get sick, and end up with a vet visit for a stomach ache. They don’t have very discriminating tastes for sure! Wishing a good week to all.

Nature Gives Blessings but at a Costly Price

Being a longtime medical professional, I am resigned to the fact that nature and life seem to demand a balance between good news and bad, blue skies and grey, birth and death. In my daily contact with patients, in one room there might be a family celebrating the happy news of a new baby on the way, while in the next a husband and wife are there to discuss the issues involving a return of her breast cancer. This is a sequence that is repeated without end, it seems, whether in the delivery room, the office setting, or on a mission trip. I had just come off a 24 hour call this morning, and it seemed that happy events had won the battle last night with five new healthy babies to celebrate, while only one patient and her family were suffering from the loss of her pregnancy hopes.

We had performed another ultrasound on Riley earlier in the week, and my mood was brightened by the fact that she is carrying a nice size litter of at least eight plus puppies. So hopefully we are going to make a lot of waiting families happy with the arrival of a successful litter around the second week of April. We had an appointment to go to the Southern Berkshire Golden Retriever Clinic this morning at the Suffield Veterinary Hospital. This clinic is held once a year to allow breeders of Goldens to get their dog’s medical clearances done in a timely and cost effective way.  Breeders from all over New England attend and I was told they expected between 90 and 120 dogs to be screened. Here are a few photos..

With the breed being Golden Retrievers, everyone was well behaved and social. Our Riley was first up and needed only her eyes to be rechecked which is a yearly requirement if you are a breeder of quality. I joked with the Veterinary opthamologist and Riley breezed through. Up next was Lucy, our beautiful two year old that we had pinned our future hopes on now that Emma is past her breeding prime. She had passed last year and we expected no problems.

The vet suddenly got quiet and said keep your fingers crossed while he changed instruments and took another look. His next words left me shaken. “I’m sorry she doesn’t pass. Early cataracts are present that have a genetic appearance. Her vision should be fine, but she can’t be bred”. That was it. Without a glimmer of anticipatory worry, our breeding plans had suddenly collapsed. Our ride home was particularly quiet.

We are not big-time breeders with a large stable of animals. We have five females, but now only Riley is breed-able, and she hasn’t had a proven litter yet. Most of our breeding mentors don’t keep their dogs when they can no longer reproduce. Instead, they give them to families that want such an older dog that is better behaved and better trained than a puppy. Barb and I haven’t been able to do that. Our dogs are family for better or worse. So.. we now have a dilemma that will require thoughtful reflection on what our future efforts will be. Our Solo didn’t pass her test due to mild hip issues, and now Lucy didn’t either because of eye issues. There had been no occurrences of either of these issues in our line before, so they probably represent spontaneous mutations as they are called. But that is precisely why you test all your dogs.

We actually co-own Riley with two of our breeding friends. One of them, Donna, has Riley’s sister and also our Emma’s sister. She expects to breed “Ebby” with her next heat this spring. Ebby had a litter of twelve last year, so we hope there will be no issues. I spoke to Donna, who lives in Hebron, at the clinic today and she may be able to handle the needs of the people who don’t get one of Riley’s puppies because of their place on the list. Genetically and in appearance, the puppies would be the same as ours if she decides to use champion Mulder at the Cape.

So there you have our good news with the bad. We intend to make the greatest effort to enjoy Riley’s upcoming litter, as there may not be another for some time. We are grateful that Lucy’s health won’t be seriously affected by the eye issue that was found today.

There are so many people suffering more serious disappointments than what we have dealt with today. And we will move on. But pardon if I let out one tiny sound of frustration after another two years of planning and hopes have been wiped out… Damn!

Question, Pre Mud Season Adventures, And Riley News :)

I thought to start this week’s tales with a question for our readers. When I went to the Fields this week, the dogs were particularly interested in something on the ground.

Usually obedient, the girls did not want to leave the area of interest. On further investigation, this is what I found..

Then it occurred to me, another weather season was about to begin. And along with the change of season come repetitive behaviors of nature. Any ideas? Maybe this photo will give you some help.

And the answer is:

There is a large migration of geese that use the fields as a stopover both in the fall on their way South, and in the Spring on their way North again. Evidence of their resting here was very evident in the number of footprints and droppings. Since some of us view goose livers as a much desired delicacy, I could understand why a retriever might find the taste of their pooh to their liking..

This past week we have been vacillating between warmer touches of mother nature and some chilly days. While it is refreshing not to be cold, the arrival of the sun and blue skies means wet dogs and mud. Some parts of the run were snow covered, but much not.

And that means our kitchen floors get extra dirty. One day this week the dogs were so matted with dirt that I had to fill the small pool in the garage. They didn’t mind the water, and look how much dirt almost made it into our home on this one run.

Everyone’s moods were much calmer at the change of weather and the appearance of greenscape underfoot. If you are a regular reader of this site, you might be able to identify everyone by name here..

As you can see from the first photo, not all of the mud is easy to get off their feet, and you just have to sweep or vacuum when they are finally dry.

And now the news that we, and many of you have been so anxious for.. Riley is pregnant! We brought her to have an ultrasound today. She was very well behaved. Look for the small circle on the ultrasound picture. That is a gestational sac with a puppy embryo in it.

We were able to identify three to four sacs on one side of her uterine horn. It is still early from when she was inseminated, so we will repeat the scan over next weekend .  A dog usually carries its puppies in each horn of the uterus. The other horn was not well seen, but that is due to my lack of knowing how to do the ultrasound properly on a dog. I am sitting here with a smile on my face.. a great moment to sit back and reflect on the efforts of so many that made this possible. We hope that God will bless Riley with good health for the remainder of her pregnancy.

And finally for this week, Gayle sent us some photos of puppy Cooper playing with her two goldens: Emmy and Swimmer. Gayle is happy to dog sit for Cooper when her sister Gwen goes away. And Cooper is a puppy from our last litter, and brother to Rocky. As you can see from these photos, Mulder and Emma should be very proud of their efforts.

What a hunk he is going to be.

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