Closing the Chapter

 

 

beginning with Ruby

I knew the day would come that my Labrador breeding would come to an end.  I didn’t expect it to be now. I thought I would have a few more years.  My dogs made the decision for me.  In some ways, that made it easier. I’m too long in the tooth to start again after so many years of working on my lines. It has been a living art process to breed for health, temperament, trainability and looks.

I knew this might be coming in the fall after 3 unsucessful breedings with Bling in two years; her reproductive work up showed nothing up until the point of a uterine biopsy revealing an infection. She was spayed at that time. Then, the younger dog, Bangle, did not have a successful pregnancy recently.

I decided enough is enough. It’s been fun. I had some great dogs over twenty-three years of breeding; met wonderful people through dog sports as well as puppy families. I have always loved keeping track of my puppies over the years. Most went as pets. I bred a few champions in the show ring as well. As my

end with Orchid

mentors at Hemlock Ridge Labradors told me, if you breed a good show dog, but the rest can’t make good pets, you have failed.

I started with a great dog from Hemlock Ridge and ended with what is arguably the best dog I have ever had. From CH Hemlock’s Red Sapphire CGC CDX JH WCI  to CH Canterbury’s Pink Orchid Diamond CGC RE BN WC, I  grew in my ability to train as well as my point of view as a breeder.

So now I am left with two loved pet Labradors who share my life.  I have my AKC judge permit for Labradors Retrievers. And I have great memories and friends.

My Schedule Has Cleared

 

 

With the corona virus scare, the Cat Fanciers Association has cancelled all shows through the end of May. Wow. I took a look at my calendar and deleted all the shows I had planned.  No dog judging assignments or cat shows for the next 2.5 months!

I thought about what I will do on the weekends. I have a litter of Labrador puppies due in four weeks. Puppies take a lot of time and energy. It won’t be as big a time crunch to put the effort in. Assembling the whelping box and getting everything else ready can be a leisurely activity now.

This weekend I got my taxes done and did some chores that I had on the back burner. Today I spent time going through some drawers, shredding papers that I haven’t looked at in twenty years. Amazing! The drawers are no longer stuffed full! I plan to do the same thing with my clothes closet in the future.

Going through my laundry room shelves is also on the agenda. That’s my storage for, well, everything. Dog towels, crates, leashes, training dummies, toys and lots of miscellaneous stuff is piled not so neatly. And then there is the cat stuff. I apparently hoard cat carriers. In addition to the carriers, I have all my cat show accessories, stacks of litter boxes that have retired, bags of cat litter, tons of grooming supplies and yes, a bag of outfits for my patient cats. Sporadically in the room, there are non pet related items like a battery charger and a drill.

I may spend extra time in the barn and even saddle up a horse if the weather is nice.

Wish me luck on my endeavors……I think I’ll need it.

 

Living, Breathing, Loving Works of Art

 

As a breeder, I have a great responsibility, no matter what life I am producing.  I have bred Quarter Horses, Labrador Retrievers and RagaMuffin cats. I believe my skills have improved over the years. It’s a learning curve for sure. The most important attribute a breeder can have is a clear goal. Every animal, every litter, should have a goal.

I believe experience has given me a more precise vision. I do believe in competition to force me to take off rose colored glasses and see my animals for what they are. That being stated, it does not mean I think the judge is necessarily always right. Competition gives me a gauge about where I need to go in my breeding program.

Breeding is an art that deals with so much more than looks. It’s complicated. The end result should be healthy, have the desired temperament AND look like the description in the breed standard and, in the case of Labradors, do what the breed was developed to do.

The breed standard is the Bible for every breeder. Each breed has a description of the ideal specimen. The aim is to come as close as possible to the ideal. The interpretation of the breed standard may vary from breeder to breeder. Since no animal is perfect, one breeder may focus on one part of the standard more than another breeder. For example, in RagaMuffins, one breeder may strive for the perfect muzzle, while another emphasizes the eyes.

Take that goal for looks, add to it proper structure and a strong immune system to allow for comfortable longevity. Add to that eliminating or at least reducing genetic diseases through DNA testing and health clearances and then top it off with a temperament that is typical for the breed. That’s a tall order. But, the holy grail of every responsible breeder is to strive for perfection.

 

Bling’s Surgery

Anyone that follows my limited Labrador Retriever breeding program knows I was unsuccessful in producing the much anticipated litter from Bling in 2018. I tried again in spring 2019, again with no luck. After that, I made an appointment with a reproduction veterinarian to check her out.

She had an ultrasound, a culture, and blood work. A treatment plan was formulated and I followed it hoping for a successful pregnancy on the next breeding. Despite following progesterone levels carefully, she was not pregnant.

The next step to take was a uterine biopsy. I debated back and forth about it. When breeding on a small scale like I have for over twenty years, a lot depends on one dog, rather than if there are several dogs in a kennel.  Bling is my black/yellow Labrador line that I started with from Hemlock Ridge Labradors (retired now).

So, I went ahead with the biopsy. And now, I’m glad I did. At surgery, Bling was found to have a pyometra, a pus filled uterus. Unusual in a young dog, I was not expecting it. The condition is fatal without intervention. Bling was spayed. She recovered from surgery quickly. I am happy my dog will be healthy and have to accept that that line of dogs is now finished.

I still have my chocolate line of Labradors (one dog, anyway). I am hoping for a black/chocolate litter in 2020.

 

The Heated Bed

Petals

 

After Thanksgiving sales were too tempting to ignore. I went Internet shopping for my pets. My oldest cat, Petals, has arthritis. While she is getting medical treatment , I thought a heated pet bed might helpful as well.

I looked at several that were available. One seemed to be just perfect for a kitty. And it was on sale for a very good

Nougat

price. So, I bought it and in a couple of days it arrived. I initially put it on a chair to test it out. It was immediately occupied by Nougat. I let him enjoy it for a bit , but then moved it to Petals favorite resting spot, on top of one of the cat trees in my den. I had to move Petals to put the bed there, plugged it in and replaced Petals. She immediately left.

The next I looked, Puzzles was sitting on the tree enjoying the heat. I was hoping that eventually, she would get down and Petals would return to her spot.

The follwing morning Ganache was lounging in the new bed. He didn’t look anxious to move. Finally, later in the morning, I found Petals enjoying her new found warmth. She was still there when I got

Puzzles

home from work in the evening and only got up for her dinner.

I’d say the bed is a success. And I’m thinking I will have to get more!

 

Ganache

Orchid’s Checkup

 

All my animals get yearly checkups. Yes, I see them at home on a daily basis. But, I make it a point to haul them into the hospital every year for a physical examination. I put on my doctor hat and look at their teeth, check their ears, listen to their heart, etc. I really don’t want to find a single thing wrong on ANY pet, but especially my own.

Orchid has retired from competition now. She is a spayed seven year old dog. In addition to her annual heartworm/Lyme screen, she got a wellness blood panel done. Her weight was evaluated and, yes she had gained a few pounds. That’s a simple fix. A bit less food in the bowl should get her back to fighting weight.

I keep up with her maintenance health care including nail clips every two weeks. The nail care is important to keep her feet healthy and reduce her incidence of joint disease as she ages.

She is fairly active, but enjoys a good nap on the couch. She loves to visit a nursing home on a regular basis. My clients often see her as one of the dogs wandering through the practice.

Orchid is a champion Labrador Retriever with performance titles. But, more than that, she is my companion, my pet. She enjoyed being a show dog; she also enjoys retirement. I want her to stay healthy for a long time to come.

Responsible Breeding

There is more to breeding animals than most people realize. First is starting with top quality animals with health, temperament and breed type being imperative. Then it is providing those animals with the best life possible, meeting social, medical and physical needs. Planning a breeding between two outstanding and complimentary individuals with appropriate health clearances is the ultimate challenge. Birthing the litter, maintaining at risk neonates, providing sanitation, nutrition and socialization are part of the process.

I have been breeding Labradors for over 20 years. Six years ago, I began breeding pedigreed RagaMuffin cats. I have met and made many friends through this avocation. I have provided families with healthy, loving pets. Many have come back to me for a second, third or even fourth pet. One of my tenants of breeding is to always be there if an animal I bred needs me.

Over the years, I have had four Labradors returned. Two were due to divorce, one was due to an owner’s death and the fourth was due to family issues. I am so glad these dogs came back. They were all lovely dogs who were able to go to new homes and live happy lives. More recently I got a call from a person who had adopted two kittens from me. The owner was ill and could not take care of the cats. He asked me to come get them and I did. Those two cats were well loved and cared for. I am so glad the owner cared enough to make sure they were safe. I brought the cats home with me and quickly found a new adoring home for them.

Some people are surprised when I do what I need to do for these animals. It is my duty and I know other breeders that feel the same way and would do the same thing in a heartbeat. We also help each other out. When the Labrador owner passed, a close friend of mine went to pick up the dog and took it to her house and then I went to retrieve the dog from her. Good breeders will do what needs to be done.

AKC Judge

The email came today. It’s an important one for me. I was notified that I am now an American Kennel Club judge of Labrador Retrievers. It’s been an ongoing process for the last two years.

I began showing Labradors in 1996. Since then, I’ve competed in conformation, field, obedience and rally. My dogs have earned well over 50 titles. I have also trained them in agility and tracking. It was a meaningful, enjoyable journey. Learning, making friends, and spending the time with the dogs is something I will always value.

Two and a half years ago, I decided to retire from competition with my dogs. My mind turned to judging the breed that is so close to my heart. I looked into the requirements to become a judge. I had most of them under my belt already. There were a couple of things that I needed to do in order to complete the judge application. I made the effort to get those things done and sent my application in by the end of May  2019.

I was apprehensive, as I had been told that very often the applicant is told that more needs to be accomplished in order to apply. When the email came telling me I could progress to the online tests, I was relieved. I took several tests about anatomy and judging procedures. I passed them with no problems.

The next step was two more tests: another anatomy and another procedural exam. The anatomy test was not an issue. The procedural test was……..awful. I failed it. I took it a second time and I failed it again! I read online that I was not alone. Many aspiring judges were struggling with it. I had never failed a test in my life. It was even open book. I had three chances to pass; only one incorrect answer was allowed. The third time was the charm. If I had failed that time, I would have had to wait six months to take it again.

The final step was the interview with the AKC field representative and the demonstration that I could properly use the wicket. The wicket is the equipment used for measuring dogs’ height. Again, I heard horror stories about failing that procedure by bumping the dog, holding the wicket improperly, etc.

My interview was scheduled on my birthday. I drove up to Bloomsburg to the dog show at the fairgrounds. I met the field rep at the superintendent’s desk. A good friend of mine works at the shows with the superintendent and she was there to cheer me on. I had to wait around for a while for the interview. It went smoothly. Then, I waited for the wicket test. A Golden Retriever was volunteered for the demonstration. The woman handling it could not have been nicer. She patiently listened to me as I stumbled through telling her about the formal procedure. Her dog stood like a rock, making it simple for me. Whew. It was over.

The results of my in person interview went to the AKC judges committee. When the email came today, I took a deep breath.

 

Pet Transportation Safety

Dog crates for safety

 

Most of us wear seat belts in the car. At least, I know I do. How much thought do you put into the safety of your pets in the car? With any luck, nothing will happen, but what if there is an accident? I’ve heard too many horror stories of pets that survived an accident, only to run and be killed by another vehicle or escape, never to be seen again.

One time, I found a dog on the side of my road that was injured. I assumed it was a run away from a neighbor and been hit by a car, even though I saw no bruises. After careful examination of the dog, it was clear it had a back injury. I initiated treatment along with a search for the owners. No one in the neighborhood claimed the little dog. I expanded the search to local shelters. As it turned out the dog had actually jumped out the rear car window (how it hurt its back, I’m sure) and the owners didn’t even know it was gone until they got home!

Many years ago, I drove very long trips in a small hatchback car. My cat loved to lay in the sun on the items I had packed in the back. So, I would let her out thinking the trip would be better for her that way. Until the day I had to slam on brakes and she became a missile flying into the front windshield. I thought I had killed her. I learned my lesson. She always rode safely restrained in a carrier after that as have all my cats since. As far as type of carriers for the cats, I prefer hard sided ones to the soft sided variety. If there are projectiles in an accident, a good hard sided buckled up carrier stands a better chance of protecting a pet.

Recently I upgraded my dogs’ crates in my SUV. I bought stronger much more impact resistant crates for their safety. I know that the chances are that I won’t need them ( And I surely hope I don’t) , but if I do, it will be too late and I would be devastated.

So how should pets ride in a car? Safely restrained. Always. This web site will give a pet owner information on the testing that has been performed https://www.centerforpetsafety.org/ . Use common sense. Dogs or cats that are loose in the car are at risk. Even more than that, the human passengers can be at risk if the pet interferes with driving. None of us want our pet in a situation like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Sbbx3JQTZk ( and this pup was lucky!)

 

Nice Day With the Dogs

It was my pleasure to be invited to judge at the Berks County Kennel Club match shows today. Once again, I had the opportunity to examine more than just Labradors. I judged the sporting group along with Best in Match in the morning. The afternoon brought with a second match. In this match, I judged the nonsporting dogs.

The nonsporting dogs were out of my comfort zone, so I had to do some homework prior to judging. Each breed has a standard of the ideal dog and as a judge, I have to picture the ideal specimen and look for the dog, that in my opinion, most closely resembles that picture. Included in this is the structural soundness to do the job it was bred to do. For example, a dog with a weak rear end is unlikely to be able to hunt all day, if that was the job it was intended for.

In the nonsporting group, I was able to examine diverse breeds including Chow Chows, Tibetan Spaniels, a Dalmation, a Xoloitzcuintli, a Bulldog and a Keeshond. Comparing one of these breeds to another is impossible. They are very different in looks and purpose. So, my job as the judge was to determine which dog was the best of its breed and then, in the group class to determine which dogs were closest to perfection.

Honestly, I really enjoy the chance to evaluate the dogs. And who doesn’t like to be able to handle puppies? I was even able to make it home early enough to spend time with my dogs and cats and take a ride on the horse.