From ShowSight Magazine, October 2018 Issue.
Breeding is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the truly committed. I mean really, really committed as much as the pig is truly committed in the making of a ham and egg sandwich. Truly committed. The chicken is just involved. Don’t even think you can “dabble” in breeding. Not even once. You’re in or you’re out. Once you’ve bred your bitch there’s no going back.
And the work it takes just to breed your bitch. Yikes. I live in New Hampshire. I’ve traveled to California, North Carolina, Montana and Winnipeg Canada. If a three or four hour drive (one way) was possible, I did it. I’ve been to New York, Maine, Pennsylvania (actually that one was seven hours), Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts for two to three breedings. Each breeding requires another round trip. I’ve driven through tornadoes, floods, blizzards and, in one instance, I found myself and my bitch alone on a major interstate highway that had been closed due to statewide weather emergencies. None of these trips were easy or inexpensive.
Getting the bitch to the right location is actually the easiest part. Upon arrival The Deed has to be done. I’ve had to restrain some girls who just want to rip the face off their future husband. Some want no part and will not, absolutely no way, cooperate. Other times I have had very, very willing girls and a boy who won’t look twice at her. One boy kept snapping at the girl as if to say “You’re not my type. At all.”
Plan B has to kick in here. AI, or artificial insemination, or “assist the idiots” as I have been known to refer to the process. I am so blessed to have had the most expert advice in the art of this method. And let me just tell you, don’t think you can just “figure it out” on your own. You cannot. These are dogs, not people, and things are just a teensy bit different. Back to my mentors, did I mention that they happen to be two very gentlemanly and patient gay guys? They were awesome. I now consider myself to be an expert in the process and, to date, have had only one miss. That was due to the bitch having a medical problem (read: expensive, expensive and time consuming to cure). Oh, and the male who suddenly
became sterile. There’s a topic for a whole new article.
With this Plan B I have to carry with me all the necessary tools (customs in Canada can be brutal). I’ve used kitchen tables, kitchen counter tops, bureaus in hotels, bathroom floors, hotel beds, RV beds, living room sofas and chairs and once I actually got to use a grooming table. And there are stories to be told about every “adventure”. But not now.
Getting back on topic—If I can’t travel there I have the semen shipped. I have had semen shipped from places as far away as New Mexico and Alabama, to name just two. Shipping semen is no bargain. The stud dog vets charge me for collection, preparation, and the actual FedEx shipping. I also have to pay for the very very large carton that contains a small vial, packed in newspapers and surrounded by styrofoam. It looks really cheap. It isn’t. One time I actually laughed out loud when the cardboard box was delivered. It was decorated with a picture of a big stork carrying a baby printed on the side. Nothing like letting the neighbors think they know what you’re doing. One time I cried when I opened the box. The vet had not added any extender and there was nothing, absolutely nothing inside the vial.
Those of you who have been unfortunate enough to use this method also realize that there’s a serious time factor involved and a shipment that is useless can set a breeder back by six months. The only other time I cried over a shipment was when the shipment never arrived. Some how, some way, someone at the vet office had addressed this precious (read: expensive) shipment to themselves only to find it on their own doorstep in the morning. While my bitch and I sat waiting at a reproduction vet office 3,000 miles away.
That was the first and only time I used a repro vet by the way. And a good thing it was. Due to severe snow storms which even I couldn’t navigate, a holiday which FedEx didn’t navigate on, and a slow rise in progesterone/LH counts (are you confused, those who wisely don’t breed? Read: expensive blood tests, letting science take out the guess work of the perfect day)—we were down to the last possible day.
Plan B for shipped kicked in. A second shipment was sent to the correct address and my bitch was implanted surgically. (Read here: Huge expense. this operation is the same as a C-section in reverse). Success! Two puppies. (read: expensive c-section as these pups were huge on the expensive ultrasound and expensive x-ray). Oh, and now that puppies are “on the ground”—time to pay the stud fee.
I could go on and on but won’t. I’ll save all the rest of the breeding things for another time. Right now I’ll cut to the chase and the topic of this
Yes, puppies are cute and fuzzy and smell delightful. Yes they are so much fun to cuddle and kiss. But the best part about puppies? They need names and the breeder gets to pick them. This is the best part. Seriously. The next time you read the names and I mean all of the “official AKC registered name”—stop and think for a moment. Someone, a breeder 99.9% of the time, had to think of that name. And they thought of it with a purpose, a reason, a definite goal in mind. And a drink in hand, I’m thinking. Believe me—these names are carefully worked on. Sometimes for days, months and in a few cases of folks who collect names, years.
I was almost overwhelmed and ready to throw in the towel the first time we had a litter. It took me weeks. I finally settled on using the alphabet as a helpful tool (crutch). We simply started with A and after we got to to Z we started all over again. Simple, you say? Think about it. Think about U, X, Y and Z. Dwell on Q, for a while. Staying away from the expected is not easy. We chose Una, Xanthippe, Yardley and Zucca. And the Q pup became a gorgeous belge dog named “Q”.
The most recent litter we whelped (went into debt over) landed back on the letter “E”.
Easy. My parents have both recently left this Earth but their middle names began with E. So…we’ve got an Evangeline and a Eugene. Stunning babies with super special names. I won’t go so far as to say choosing names makes breeding all worthwhile, but I will say it can make part of it a lot of fun.