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!