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.
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.
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