Tuesday, February 16, 2016

When Simple Just Isn't; A Reproductive Adventure. Part 1

     Nothing in life is really simple, is it? Some things sure seem to be. Other things certainly don't seem to be terribly difficult. According to some television commercials there are thousands of unwanted puppies out there, so how difficult could breeding a dog be? Well, it sure isn't simple.

     My wife and I decided a while back that we'd breed our Springer Spaniel, Ginger, at some time. Over the years we'd scouted out potential mates at hunt tests and field trials. After a while we decided on a mate, and approached the owner. He was in agreement that our two dogs had the potential to contribute some nice pups to the spaniel world. All we had to do was wait for the right time. Well, the time had come, or so we thought. Ginger, who usually comes into heat around the end of March, and then again around the end of September, decided she didn't want to wait until March, and came in early, mid-January. This meant I had to do a bit of scrambling. So phone calls were made, and vet appointments scheduled. Straight off we got Ginger checked for Brucellosis. What is Brucella, you ask? In short, its basically a venereal disease a dog can pick up, though not necessarily the same way humans do, and is bad news. There was also Progesterone timing tests to be done. What? I was beginning to realize how little, despite having a seasoned mentor, I knew about dog breeding. Just because a bitch is in  heat does not mean she is ready to be bred. In addition to estrogen, a certain level of progesterone must be achieved to successfully breed. A minimum progesterone level of 5 is needed for a bitch to be bred, and then one has 4-5 days to get it done before she starts to come out of heat.

     Fortunately for us there is a vet which specializes in reproduction somewhat nearby. Fortunate for them I wanted to do this the right way and opened my check book,... several times. So began the testing. Jan 29th, Progesterone level 0.8. Feb 1st, Progesterone level 2.2. We're on the right track. Feb 3rd, Progesterone level 5.3. Showtime!! All I had to do now was fill the gas tank and head north to Wildwind kennel in Maine where Ginger's suitor, Tommy, awaited. But, nope. We had a small unrelated issue. I was scheduled for orthopedic surgery on Feb 4th. That's right, Ginger hits optimal breeding hormone levels the day before I'm scheduled to have a few bones screwed together, and another removed completely from my wrist. Well, theoretically there is a window of a few days to get the breeding done.

     The morning of the 5th, against my surgeons wishes, my wife and I pointed the car north and we were off to Maine. Full disclosure; I was not behind the wheel. I was somewhat sore, and under the effect of a prescription narcotic, and the lingering effect of a nerve block. Did I mention that a snow storm had blown in, and that most of the east coast was getting some pretty heavy snow? Not the best conditions to drive 220 miles. But puppies are important, so off we went, limping slowly north on the Maine Pike, and a few other roads. It was slow going, and we stopped frequently, but we eventually made it almost all the way there, but not without a little help. Unfortunately the snow got the best of us, preventing our passage about a 1/2 mile from the kennel. Mercifully Jim drove down from the kennel in his truck and helped us get unstuck and accompanied us the final stretch. After the long, rather treacherous drive in the snow my wife could barely contain her joy at seeing Jim's familiar face when he pulled along side us on that snowy hillside, and I think we both thought she was going to jump out of the car and give him a big hug. He certainly deserved one.

     Now that neither surgery nor snow had kept us from getting Ginger to her rendezvous with Tommy, we introduced the two to each other and let nature run it's course. Except that it didn't run. Not right away. Anyway, we had the weekend, and could commit even more time if it was needed. Perhaps the two of them just needed more time to get to know each other?

     My wife and I had booked a couple nights at a hotel in Belfast, just a short drive from the kennel. Again Jim took mercy on us and insisted that we stay the night with them, as the snow and the driving conditions really weren't getting any better. We agreed instantly. That evening we enjoyed some great conversation over a bowl of delicious venison chili with Jim and his family. The next morning we carried on right where we had left off over some  eggs and sausage. Of course we intermittently took a break from socializing to put the dogs together, after all, that's why we were there.

     About mid-day the next day, my wife and I began making preparations to depart for Belfast. Unfortunately the dogs hadn't tied yet, though there appeared to be some signs of hope. We would leave Ginger at the kennel with the hope that some magic would happen between her and Tommy. Before we left we were fortunate enough to meet up with Dan, a friend of Jim's we've met on a few occasions field trialing, and his wife, who came by the kennel to see Jim and his family. Some tentative dinner plans were made, and we were off. At the hotel in Belfast we kicked off our shoes, quickly got comfortable with the view of Belfast Harbor, and relaxed a bit, my swollen wrist held aloft on a large pile of pillows. Phone calls were made, dinner plans solidified, and a reservation secured for later that evening.

     Dinner in Belfast was terrific. We managed to put together a bit of a congress of spaniel folk. Jim, Dan, and their families, joined my wife and I, but we were also fortunate enough to be joined by Brad, owner of the Upland Journal Bulletin Board, and his wife Jo Anne. Brad and his wife are also spaniel people, sharing their home with both a Springer and a King Charles Cavalier. I initially met Brad, through the Upland Journal, at an event he'd hosted some years back. Jim also participates occasionally on the UJBB, and prior to meeting Jim for the first time at a trial we had corresponded via the UJBB. And to make the world even smaller, Jim's wife, Denise, and Brad's wife, Jo Anne, had crossed paths, and had mutual acquaintances as a result of working for the same company. The dinner conversations naturally revolved around spaniels, training, and hunting. Of course, me not being able to enjoy a beer due to the pain meds I'd been prescribed, coupled with the fact that I dutifully managed to hold my hand aloft like a student trying to ask a question, I became a bit of a target, rightfully so, when the situation presented itself. We didn't solve any of the worlds problems at dinner, but by the time the evening ended we all were certain that we were all pretty much cut from the same cloth.

     Sunday was scheduled to be our last day in Maine, and the outcome of the weekend would be a deciding factor in what came next. Unfortunately Ginger and Tommy had yet to tie as of dinner the previous night. We'd have to wait a bit longer, and see what happens. We packed our bags, and headed to the kennel once more. Sadly, the two of them had still not managed to tie. It was decision time. Jim was packing, preparing to head down south for a couple of months where the weather was better, and dogs could be trained. This didn't mean the breeding couldn't still happen; we knew we could leave Ginger in Maine with Tommy for a bit longer if needed. We were also given the opportunity to take Tommy home with us, the idea being we take both dogs to the repro-vet, and have them "assist" in making the breeding a reality. Being only the third day after my surgery I wasn't comfortable with having to care for another's dog one handed and sore, so we elected to leave Ginger in Maine for the week and hope that nature would run it's course. And at that, we said our good byes and headed home.

     And,....it must be said again,.......Thank You, Jim, Denise, and Deanna. I can't thank Jim and his family enough for their hospitality. They made us feel truly welcome at a time when we really needed a break.
To Be Continued in Part 2

1 comment:

  1. Breeding is not for the faint of heart (or impatient) - laughed through this article!!!