Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vet Bashing

A senior dog died following a dental procedure, and apparently the Vet did no blood work before anesthetizing the dog. Very sad indeed, but now there are posts from dozens of people joining in the bashing and vowing never to take their dogs to the Vet again, planning to use home remedies and information they get off the Internet. That's far scarier, as so many dogs who need to be seen by Vets suffer while their owners search for home remedies or inexpensive cures. Many dogs are "treated" at home, and by the time they are taken to the Vet it is too late to save them - THAT is not the Vet's fault . . . There are many things that can be treated at home and with over-the-counter medications, but so many more that require professional treatment. My first Dal died many years ago during a badly botched Caesarian, but over the years I've been blessed with many other capable, concerned and caring Vets. I've shared many tears with my Vets, Vets who truly cared. Vets are not Gods, and Yes they can make mistakes too, but it is an even graver mistake to think we can treat everything at home, and not take our dogs in for professional help until it is too late to save them.

We need to be advocates for our dogs, to educate ourselves, and learn to ask questions. It also helps to have a Vet who explains the various options, so we can make educated decisions. There are good Vets and bad Vets, but there are many of them out there, and if we are not comfortable with one, we can always look for one we like better. I've gone to the same clinic since 1965. Many Vets have come and gone, some were fabulous, some far less.  My all time favorite Vet was beloved by many clients and we all shed tears at his farewell retirement party and still miss him. He was not perfect, and looking back I know he made some mistakes, but I know he was always doing his best, and his decisions were based on his experiences and the information available at the time. Sometimes there is no one right or best answer and Vets have to make judgment calls, a "best guess". It may not always be the right decision, but if it is based on education, experience, and caring it's the best we can hope for or expect.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Five Weeks Old!

The pups are five weeks old, little dogs with razor sharp teeth.  They are eating from a bowl now, either ground turkey, eggs and goats milk, or softened kibble (Pro Plan Select Turkey and Barley) with goats milk.  They are up to three meals a day, plus nursing.  Fern still has LOTS of milk, but is not very eager to visit the pups as she's tired of their sharp little teeth.  She doesn't sleep with them anymore, preferring her bed at the top of the stairs.  She can go down to check on them or feed them, but is not forced to stay with them.  More of a career girl than an earth mother type.  Fern held her weight perfectly and looks great, but it's due to four large meals a day.  Because I want her to start drying up I cut out the bedtime snack and cut back on her other meals.  Hopefully she'll stay in condition and gradually dry up.  I also hope that once they are less demanding about nursing she'll interact with them more, but if not Josie and Max will pick up the slack and play with the pups.
The pups have broadened their horizons and come up to the family room every day, and also spend some time outdoors.  Fortunately the weather is perfect for puppies, so they have a great time exploring the yard.  Some are more adventurous than others, but all are quite confident in both situations.  Last night they had their largest group of visitors, two adults and three teenaged boys in the family room.  Everyone did well, and none of the pups are overly cautious.  If we notice that happening (and pups often go through that for a day or two) we just give them more attention and handling until it passes.
Fern also had her first chance to interact with strangers since the pups were born.  She did fine, other than talking to herself (which she does when stressed).  She came in after the pups had gone back downstairs and could smell the pups on the guests, so it took her a few minutes to relax.  I'm very careful to never have strangers handle young pups while the mother is in the room.  Just not a wise idea as dogs can be overly protective in such circumstances, and I don't want to put the dog in that situation.
The puppy pen looks like an amusement park but it does keep them entertained.  They have all manner of toys and other objects to play with, boxes to climb on, a tunnel to go through (or sleep in), and multiple places to sleep.  They are starting to notice the items on the Activity Box, but are still more likely to play with toys on the floor - or far more often, wrestle with one another.
As is always the case, there are not nearly enough pups for all the wonderful homes that were waiting.  Hopefully some of the people can hang on until next time, either Amery's or Holly's litter planned for this winter.  Although there are a number of responsibly bred litters right now, there are an even larger number of educated buyers, which is a good thing. 
Meg will be paying the pups a visit next week to tentatively select her stud fee puppy.  She'll be picking between the two boys Feeney and McNab.  Right now Feeney is my favorite, but both boys are really promising, just different in type.  Because her pup will be going to an Agility home, the puppy has to have bilateral hearing, but fortunately I think both boys are bilateral.  BAER testing the following week will confirm my initial assessments.  The other liver boy is promised to a good pet home, so they have to wait until we decide which of the boys has more potential for show and performance.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Getting Serious About Socialization

Sleeping Beauty - Dallas 
One of the major differences between responsibly bred puppies and commercially bred puppies is Socialization.  Pups are socialized to people of all ages, including (and especially) children and seniors.  A reasonable goal would be for pups to be handled by and interact with at least 100 different people before they are ready for new homes.  All people sound and smell different to dogs, and it's important that the pups are exposed to and are comfortable with everyone.  Children also act different, with fast jerky movements, much different body language, and shriller voices.  Pups need to have positive experiences with children so they are comfortable in their presence.  
Because there are no small children in our family, I have to "borrow" kids.  Families with pups from our previous litters are often delighted to visit the new puppies, and things can be a real circus around here for awhile.  We have visitors before 4 weeks too, and the pups get lots of handling from the day they are born, but beginning at 4 weeks pups can tell the difference between their regular caregivers and strangers, so the socialization process is important.
Little whitey Baxter meets Grandpa Argus
Not all pups need a heroic amount of socialization, but in general it's very important with Dalmatians.  Some would grow up stable, outgoing, and trusting with very little human interaction, but that would be the exception in this breed.  We do maximum socialization with all pups to be sure they grow up to "be all that they can be".   You can never really make up for lack of socialization later - you can modify some behaviors and make things better, but the dog will never become quite what he might have been if raised properly.
Pups are socialized to people, things, other dogs, places, and experiences.  The pen is full of toys and the pups are starting to explore the rest of the basement.  Today they will come upstairs for the first time, and as the forecast is looking good they will go outdoors this weekend.  They will visit different parts of the house together and individually, will go for rides in the car to visit friends, be BAER tested, and receive their puppy check ups.  They've already been introduced to the other adults dogs here (except for 14 year old Watson who is no longer interested in puppies) and will be interacting with them when they come upstairs. 
So much to get accomplished in the next 4 weeks!  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Weaning Begins

I always chuckle when I read an article on weaning puppies that "explains" how to teach a puppy to lap from a pan.  Teach?  Dalmatians seem to be born knowing what a food pan is for and I've never had a pup who did not immediately begin to eat whatever tasty treat was in the pan.  Some of them do a bit of sneezing when they stick their little noses in too deep but they all chow down from the first meal.
Some breeders wean on cow's milk and baby cereal, but we prefer goat's milk (which is more like the milk they get from mom) and no carbs at first.  We do goat milk the first day, goat milk with egg yolk the second and third days, and then start adding ground turkey.  The meal is mostly milk and very liquid at first, until I know that the pups have started drinking water too. 
We make weaning a gradual process, adding different raw foods as we go along, but always including lots of eggs.  Pups get a variety of meats, and raw meaty bones as well, plus cooked or pureed veggies, and yogurt.  Because not all of my puppy buyers will be feeding a raw diet, the pups also get some meals of well soaked kibble with goat milk.  Although there are many good foods on the market, out preference continues to be Pro Plan Select Turkey & Barley.  We start off with just one meal a day, gradually working up to four meals.  Although Fern will spend less and less time with the puppies, she'll still be with them at night until they are at least 6 weeks old. There is no better food for pups than their mother's milk.
The cute little buy pictured below is Baxter.  For all the Dals with too many spots, there are some with too few - like Baxter.  He's a very handsome pup with a gorgeous face, nice structure, a charming personality, and very distinct markings.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Four Weeks Tomorrow

Tomorrow the pups will be 4 weeks old and are ready for the next phase of socialization.  During the 3-4 week period they explored their limited environment, the whelping box and the puppy pen.  Lots of toys to investigate, tunnels to go through, low boxes to climb on.  They started leaving the whelping box to explore the pen, and with that comes the instinct to "keep the nest clean".  Most peeing is done outside the box now, in a litter box or on the newspapers.  Because the litter tracks, I'm not sure I will continue with that, but the pups often use the box when they pee which keeps the paper drier, so we'll see.  They're quite mobile now and really
into exploring their surrounding, and all of them are comfortable being held and snuggled.  Mira and Baxter were the least good about being held, but Mira is now one of the most social.  Summerset will get the extra handling for the next few days. 
At four weeks their horizons will expand to include exploring outside the pen, and being carried upstairs to experience the sights and sounds of the household.  I'll let Max go into their pen to walk around and sniff them too - Fern makes him lay outside the pen to watch Puppy TV.  AND it's time for more socialization with people outside the family.  Heather and girls will be over this evening, and Laurie is arriving to spend the weekend.  We'll have a few other groups in too.  It's time to play Pass the Puppies - everyone sits on the floor and takes turn snuggling each puppy, and I'll be watching to see how each puppy reacts.  Any puppy that seems at all uncomfortable gets singled out for extra handling.
Pretty Peabody

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Enjoying Puppies

Such a luxury, to have the time to really enjoy a litter of puppies.  Pups are always fun but when I was working there wasn't as much time to enjoy them as I wished.  Now that I'm retired I can spend as much time with them as I want!  They aren't very demanding yet, and they don't stay awake very long, so much of the time is spent just admiring them as they sleep.  Once the adults have been out and fed (mama Fern eats in the kitchen with the others) I'm free to go downstairs and enjoy my puppies.  Sitting in the pen, I watch them interact with one another and explore their surroundings.  It's not long before they run out of energy and fall asleep - on my legs.  All eight managed to squeeze on today.

Fern has plenty of milk, and all the pups are chunky and robust, but tonight we'll start weaning.  It's a gradual process here, and Fern will still be nursing them if she wishes when the pups are 6 or 7 weeks.  There's really nothing better for pups than mother's milk, but as their teeth get bigger and sharper Fern on going to get real tired of nursing pups!

Argh, the html is playing tricks on me.  I normally love this blog site, but every now and again the coding does not work and I can't place the pictures and the text where I want them.  Until tomorrow.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Three Weeks Old Today

Some one is getting tired of puppies
Happy Birthday Puppies, three weeks old today!  Today is the day the babies become puppies and start acting like little dogs.  Many of their instinctive behaviors will become evident over the next few days, particularly their attempts to keep "the nest" clean.  The front comes off the whelping box today, giving them full access to the pen and the newspapers that cover the floor.  It's amazing how quickly pups learn to leave the box and use the papers, rather than peeing on the carpet.
They see and hear more clearly at this age, and if you reach quickly for a puppy it will instinctively duck in an attempt to avoid possible danger.  No Hawks or Eagles to worry about in my basement, but I'll be careful not to startle them when I reach for them.  They also start to recognize people and greet them with wagging tails.  I love being greeted by happy chubby pups with wagging tails.  NOTHING is cuter than that.
The pups are starting to interact with one another too.  Slow motion wrestling and mouthing one another are such fun to watch.  In the picture to the right Dallas and Summerset are mouthing, while Peabody and McNab are practicing their wrestling moves.  They're such fun to watch.  It's like Puppy TV.  If I go down to check on the pups I end up spending an hour just watching them.  They don't stay awake for long, but if they decide they want Fern and she's not there, they do some serious yelling.  Fern is resigned to the feeding on demand, but almost sighs before she heads back to work.

They really started noticing toys yesterday and their box is full of colorful items of different shapes and sizes.  Some hanging, some on the rug. A few dog toys, but many household items as well.  Everything is interesting when you are three weeks old. Such fun to watch the pups discover new things and check them out.  By providing them with a variety of toys now, they become accustomed accepting new things quickly. The experiences a pup has as a baby have a great deal of effect on his eventual personality.
Time for company this weekend too.  New people with different laps, new smells and strange voices.  Our goal is always for pups to meet a MINIMUM of 100 new people before going to their forever homes.  It's important that as many of the visitors as possible are children.  Pups need to be socialized to accept and be comfortable with all the different experiences they will encounter in their new homes, and they need to have positive experiences with children.  The next five weeks will be very busy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Eighteen Days Old

Pups are thriving, trim is moving, spots continue to clear, and the pups are starting to play with one another.  I've added toys to their box and they been walking through a short tunnel (actually a large PVC section), climbing on and snuggling with pillows, investigating a large plastic glass, and sniffing at other new items.  I've added decals to the inside of the box, moved the Activity Box downstairs (they are too young for it yet, but it won't be long now), and picked up a few new toys just for them.  A bottle with clanking balls inside, a clean new scrub brush that will feel strange when they sniff it, and some bright colored items to hang over the edge of the box - large wooden beads, and bright red funnels.  Everything is an adventure for pups this age!
Pups are still confined to the 4 x 4 foot whelping box unless I am with them.  They like to explore the pen, but aren't ready to have full access to it yet as they would not necessarily be able to find their way back into the box.  On Friday, when they are three weeks old I'll take the front panel out of the whelping box and give them more space to explore.  (The box is in a wire pen.)_
Fern is very fond of our friend Sue who came over to walk Josie and visit the pups yesterday, so she had another friend visiting her puppies.  Soon Fern will have to adjust to visits from strangers, but seems very sensible about this motherhood business.  The pups were all out of the box exploring, but they quickly found Sue's lap and curled up for a nap - except for little Orange who is now known as Mira.  Right after I took this picture of Sue and pups, Mira took off on another adventure.  She's the smallest puppy and I'm convinced it's because she's too busy doing other things to chow down when the others are eating.
Today I'll pick up Fulton, the liver boy I co-own from last year's litter.  Fulton is almost a year old and I sold him as a companion, but kept show rights - I can show him at my own expense.  He was a lovely puppy, but I was not ready to keep another boy last winter, so he lives locally and may soon be starting his show career.  I'll pick him up this morning and meet up with my daughter Jess for a photo session, and some training.  The goal is to start him at shows in October, if we can get him ready by then.  Fulton's owners have done a great job with him and he is well trained and well socialized, which makes everything easier.
Yes, I am adjusting to retirement - it's easy!  Comes naturally, in fact!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Numbers Are In!

The numbers are in and the news is good!  All eight puppies gave strong hearing responses by Day 15.  Too early to detect unis of course, but I'll get that figured out over the next three weeks.  BAER testing is scheduled for 10/8/2014.  Although I know the hearing status from an early age (pups normally begin to hear sometime between days 12 & 16) it's always confirmed with BAER testing. BAER Testing
The other bit of good news is that there appears to be no blue eyes in the litter.  Although blue eyes are acceptable, and many pet owners really like blue eyed Dalmatians, blue eyes tend to go along with deafness as they are genetically linked. That's not to say the blue eyed dogs necessarily have hearing issues, only that the litters that contain blue eyed pups are more likely to have deafs and unis.  For that reason, most breeders are extremely pleased when there are no blues in a litter.  If I keep one of the girls from the litter to show and breed I want her to have bilateral hearing, so having no blues in the litter increases the odds that the puppy I like best will have bilateral hearing.  Fingers still crossed.  Unilaterally hearing puppies are fine as companions, and some do well in performance or are shown in the breed ring (if they are particularly good) but of course we all prefer to get bilaterally hearing puppies in our litters.  Fern had several blue-eyed and/or uni littermates, so this is extremely good news.
Max got to visit the puppies on Saturday.  He's been dying to see them, and like his dad Argus he loves puppies and small dogs.  Dal boys tend to be very good with puppies, and it's always interesting to watch the interaction.  Fern would not let him in the box, but decided it was OK for him to sniff the pups as long as she could keep an eye on him!  Max is sort of a Doggy Uncle to the puppies, and I expect that he will interact with them a lot when they start coming upstairs.
Socialization has begun, and the pups had their first visitors on Sunday and all got extra handling.  More company scheduled for today.  We're starting off with people that Fern knows well so she won't worry about strangers handling her puppies.  Even so we are careful to not put Fern in a difficult position.  Company is greeted in the family room, and Fern stays upstairs when company visits the pups.  Dogs respond to very basic instincts, and protecting young pups is a strong instinct.  Once the pups are older and are coming up to the family room or going outdoors it will be less of an issue, but we'll still be very careful.  It's never a good idea to put dogs in situations where they might respond in an unfortunate fashion.  However much they are members of our family, they are still dogs and respond to stress like dogs. 
Yesterday I completed the Adventure Box, a large "playground" that will be added to the puppy pen when they are a bit older.  The more positive experiences the pups have before they go to new homes, the better.  This toy will provide both visual and audio experiences and includes items that clink, clang, clunk and jingle.  Because so many dogs are sound sensitive and respond badly to things like fireworks, we try to expose our pups to a large variety of sights and sounds before they go to new homes.  Early socialization makes an enormous difference in how puppies turn out. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Twelve Days Old - Good Dog, Fern

Such a good mama!  Fern is doing a wonderful job with her pups.  She has plenty of milk, keeps them clean and quiet, and has been very sensible about the whole thing.  She joins us upstairs for awhile each day, and come up to eat her meals too.  Because Fern is inclined to bury any "extra" food, she does not get to eat in the puppy pen as I'd rather not find food buried in the corners.  When she eats in her crate in the kitchen, where the dogs covet each other's dinners, she eats everything at once.   Because she's a smallish girl with eight large fat puppies, Fern is getting three meals a day plus a bedtime snack of peanut butter toast.  The other dogs are jealous of her midday meal, but appreciate a token biscuit at noon and share her toast at bedtime.

There's not much to be done with pups at this age other than keeping the box clean, keeping mama well fed, cutting puppy toenails, and handling them every day.  And watching the Puppy Show!  Pups are so entertaining to watch, and I can sit there for hours imagining what they will look like as adults.  Hopefully a few will be top show prospects, but each litter is an adventure and as long as the pups are healthy and have good dispositions, I consider it a success. 

I'll start home testing their hearing in a few days and keep my fingers tightly crossed until then.  Deafness is always a possibility in a litter of Dalmatians.  Even if the pups all hear, some of them may only hear in one ear - we call those unis.  Because Dals with one-eared hearing function just fine, we can deal with that.  Fern had several uni littermates, and one of her Grandmas was a uni as well as being a top show dog and fine producer.  Although the litter will be BAER tested when they are older, I like to know their hearing status as early as possible.   Once I know they hear, they will get real names and no longer be referred to as Black Collar Girl, Green Collar Boy, etc.!

The spotting is starting to show through on the three liver pups, but because they have really thick coats it will be another week until their patterns are very clear.  It looks as if all three of them are open marked, but not as lightly spotted as the black boy is.  Hopefully the lightly marked pups have large sized spots like Fern has.

Today I need to go through my puppy list and see who is on, and who is off.  Nothing gets promised this early though.  It's hard for puppy people to wait, but that's just the way it has to be.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ten Days Old

What a lovely weekend!  It included my 90-year old mother, my brother who is visiting from Costa Rica, and me paying a visit to my sister, brother-in-law and nephew in rural Wisconsin.  There are so few opportunities for my brother, sister, and me to get together with my mom, and given her age every get together is special.   Al flew back to Costa Rica early Sunday morning.  He was eager to get back to his wife, farm, dogs, and gardens.  Hopefully he'll be able to come up for Christmas as he did last year, and perhaps I'll be able to visit him in Costa Rica once I'm retired.

Retirement officially begins on Wednesday!  Tuesday is my last working day, and will include going to lunch with the people in my unit, perhaps for the last time.  I've already gone to lunch with the folks from Land Management and there was an office party last week as well.  Happy Hour with friends who worked in the Attorney Generals' Office is on my agenda too.  I'll sure miss everyone  but may be able to go back part time  in another month or so - things are looking promising for that, and it would give me some money for the projects I have planned around here.  We shall see how this all plays out as there are no guarantees.

Pups are all doing well and growing like crazy.  Fern was certainly a slow starter, but has settled in to being a great mother, as calm and sensible as I could ask.  Spotting and trim are looking nice, with only one of the pups (a liver boy) missing any eye trim that I can see.  The trim on the blacks is all complete, and the liver noses are moving quickly. 

It's such fun to watch the spots come in.  The three black-spotted girls and the patched black boy have shorter coats so their spotting is quite distinct already.  The black-spotted male and the three livers all have thicker coats, so the markings are not as distinct yet.

Dew claws were removed a week ago and all the little scars are healing nicely.  The black-spotted boy has been dealing with a staph infection on his back.  He had a bruise on his back that probably happened when Fern was picking up the pups all the time, and he developed staph in that area.  I just noticed it the day the dew claws were removed, so had the vet check it out then and prescribe antibiotics.  It's drying up now and the hair is coming out in little tufts, but the new coat is growing in already.  Obviously it causes him no trouble since he is the largest fattest pup in the litter.

One of today's projects is cutting nails, lots of sharp little puppy nails!  If they aren't kept trimmed they can do serious damage to Fern's breasts and leave big scratches on their littermates' heads.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Six Days

Six days old and growing fast.  All pups are now very chubby and active - and vocal if something or someone gets between them and a nipple!  Fern is eating well, maintaining her weight, and is very calm about everything.  Hard to believe this is the same wild-eyed dog I saw last weekend.  She's all settled in to her routine now and a very attentive mother, but after she takes a trip outdoors she lingers in the family room for awhile.  Max of course tries to engage her in play but she just brushes him off.  Poor guy.
Spots are starting to show as shadows now.  In another few days the pups will begin spotting up, which is an amazing process to watch.  The chubby pups also have fat little necks and needed to have their collars lengthened last night.  So far I am satisfied with the adjustable Velcro puppy collars.  There was some concern the collars would rub, but the tender puppy skin looks just fine.  Green boy continues to get his antibiotics twice a day for the little scabby area on his back.   

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Five Days

On Monday the pups took their first road trip, visiting the Vet to have their dew claws removed and get a little checkup.  One of the pups had a small scab and a bruise on his back, probably thanks to his Fern's insistence on carrying her pups around the first few days. He's on antibiotics as a precaution.  You can see the little scab on the boy with the Green color.
Pups are growing like crazy, and are all strong and active.  Tonight I nee to nip off the ends of their pointy little toenails to keep them from scratching Fern and each other as they scrabble for nipples.  Trim is excellent on all, with most of the blacks showing complete rims and noses already.  The livers are not far behind.  Almost all the pups have spotted faces like their sire Duncan, and I'd say most have his shorter ears as well.  Fern had Dumbo ears as a puppy, although they turned out to be very attractive when she grew into them.
Fern had to be coaxed to eat for the first couple of days, as she was making milk but not eating very well.  Suddenly yesterday she was ravenous.  It takes a lot of food to make enough milk to feed 8 hungry pups. She's really settled in to this Motherhood thing now, and seems to have resigned herself to keeping them in the whelping box rather than constantly looking for someplace to move her new family.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Settling Down

Things have settled down a lot since yesterday.  Fern appears to be eating normally, and we have a routine that works for both of us.  She still picks the pups up a lot which makes me uncomfortable, but she's given up the idea of moving them to a "safe place" and seems resigned to remain in the whelping box, at least until someone forgets to latch the pen!

Pups are growing like crazy, and everyone is doing well.  Big, strong, chubby pups, all vigorous nursers.  Today we pack them up and take them in to have their dew claws done.  Fern will not be happy, but the bitches all seem to survive having their pups removed for a couple of hours. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Bit Of A Scare

Everything seems to be back to normal today, but Fern gave us a bit of a scare yesterday!  She's producing plenty of milk and the pups are gaining weigh quickly, but Fern hasn't been eating very well.  A little deli chicken, some ground turkey, but no regular meals. She just wasn't interested. Some bitches have upset stomachs after whelping, and allowing them to eat the placentas is often blamed.  Eating placentas is natural behavior and I try to intervene as little as possible during whelping, leaving the bitch to rip open the sack, clean up the pup, and cut the cord.  Most Dal girls have good instincts, and Fern was no exception.  She did most of the work while I tried very hard to keep my hands out (as much as possible).
Late yesterday afternoon I heard a pup screaming and raced down to see Fern standing in the box, wild-eyed and panting, with a pup in her mouth.  She leaped from the box and tried to get out of the pen with the pup - trying to move it to another (in her mind, safer) location.  We've encountered this occasionally in the past, where the bitch gets restless and wants to move the pups somewhere/anywhere.  It makes me nervous when bitches carry pups in their mouths, and Fern made me very nervous as she was determined to move the pups.  We started her on oral calcium (I have it on hand for whelping), Tums (calcium carbonate) and spoon fed her vanilla ice cream.  Her temperature was normal but her ears felt hot and she was panting heavily, so I wiped her face and ears down with a wet towel.  The next two hours were stressful for all of us as Fern was restless, Kept trying to dig up her rug, and whenever we were not watching carefully, she'd pick up pups and move them around - interestingly, she picked up the black-collared pup about 90% of the time.  Her favorite?
We gave Fern additional calcium, and more ice cream, and things finally settled down.  We also added some small towels to her box so she could do some "nesting" without digging up the rug and run the risk of burying her pups and accidentally laying on them.  She ate her first regular meal later in the evening, and had an uneventful night.  Ron and I took turns keeping an eye on things, but Fern seemed to be back to normal.  No more wild-eyed looks, or frantic behavior.  She's fine this morning, and the pups look wonderful.   Hopefully it will stay that way, but we'll keep a close eye on things today! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pups Are Here!

I was hoping for weekend pups arriving on day 61, but Fern had other ideas and the pups arrived Thursday night on day 59.  Although I love raising pups, I really dislike whelping litters, and it's a chore I never look forward to.  I particularly dislike dealing with stillborn pups, cords that are cut too short and bleed when mom continues to fuss with them, and wondering if everything is OK or if I need to put a call in for veterinary advice.  You'd think that after 45 years I'd be immune to the pain of losing a pup and have all the answers to whelping difficulties, but that's never the case.  Fortunately we had none of those this time around.  Thank you Fern!
Eight pups, all delivered healthy, only one requiring some extra work (he was "juicy" and took some massaging before his breathing was normal).  Fern cut the cords perfectly, tore the sacks off the puppy heads in a timely fashion, and accepted the pups right away.  She got a bit nervy between pups four and five and had some trouble staying organized.  Dal girls don't like their pups taken away for safe keeping and insist on having them in the whelping box, so I had to keep them out of her way when each new pup arrived.  Some bitches lay quietly on their sides when the new pups arrive, but Fern was up and about, pushing hard and rearranging blankets.  Although I missed whole night's sleep, pups were delivered promptly with no long gaps in between.  Whew.
4 boys and 4 girls, 5 blacks and 3 livers.  Originally thought there were only 2 livers, but the boy I was unsure of ended up being liver.  P:ups are a day old now, and all are doing well.  Several pups were rather thin at birth, but all have plumped up a bit already.  Fern is doing a good job, and keeping them clean.  She doesn't tolerate the heat lamp though and get stressed when it is on.  I've used heat lamps for 40+ years, and this is the only time its been a problem.  She wins, of course, and I'll just keep the basement warmer.  Good thing most of my fish are TROPICAL fish.
Still haven't checked back on my list of "puppy people".  Guess I'd better do that this weekend.  Have a number of inquiries I still need to respond to as well.
Fern's cousin "Gemma" also has 8 new pups, 2 boys and 6 girls.  They live with my daughter Jessica and are co-owned by Gemma's "other mother" Heather.
Both Fern and Gemma are show dogs as well as beloved family members.  Both are Champions in the breed ring, were bred to top quality Champion males, and all four adults have their CHIC #s because they have had all of their appropriate health testing (hips, elbows, eyes, hearing, thyroid).  Both litters will be raised in our respective homes, properly socialized, be BAER hearing tested, will have thorough Vet check ups and first shots, and will be sold with comprehensive written guarantees.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Won't Be Long Now

Whew, we're finally ready for puppies.  The basement whelping area is cleaned, rearranged, and the flooring has been redone.  Our pups are raised in the house of course, and the basement gives Fern some privacy at first.  Because my fish room is in the basement, as well as the laundry room, we are up and down a lot but it's easy to keep the other dogs from checking in on all the activity.  Max obviously wants to be a part of all the excitement.  He'll be a great puppy sitter eventually. 
Today is the 58th day, the earliest a litter is likely to be whelped, but earlier than I want pups to arrive.  61 days is more typical, and weekend pups would be nice since our Repro Vets have someone on call for whelping problems on weekends and at night. 
Tonight I'll start taking Fern's temperature as there is normally a drop in temperature before the pups arrive.  It doesn't tell you when, but a normal temperature generally means that pups will not be arriving in the next 24 hours - assuming you are taking the temperature regularly and didn't miss the drop.  Some bitches stop eating before whelping, but that does NOT include most Dal girls!
For now, Fern is back in her favorite spot, behind the family room chair.  She'll eat breakfast in the pen, and spend part of the day there.  This evening she will move to the pen and start sleeping there as well.  Won't be long now!

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Week To Go

"Please feed me", says poor Fern.  She's ravenous right now.  Hasn't taken to stealing from people, but she'd certainly steal from the other dogs if given a chance.  Fortunately the dogs eat in their crates, so the slowest eater Argus can finish his dinner in peace.  She just stands and stares at his bowl.  Although Fern gets twice as much as any of the other dogs, she finishes her meal first.  She's normally a bit fussy and takes her time to eat - 3 minutes, instead of the 30 seconds that is typical of this pack of chowhounds.  Now she starts eating and the bowl is instantly empty.  Amazing!
Fern follows me around and sits in front when I stop so she can make eye contact and send me thought waves.  "Feed me, feed me".  If she catches my attention she may fling herself on her back for a belly rub.  I always take a bit of extra time to feel the puppies kicking.  Never get over the excitement of feeling the pups kick for the first time.
Fern standing at a crate, waiting to check it for crumbs.
Fern is still getting her evening walk, but because it was so warm and humid yesterday evening, we cut it short.  She's been lagging back on her walks recently, except of course when she sees a rabbit - then she's all business!
My weekend was spent redoing the basement.  My hundred year old house is not really optimal for a litter of pups, as there's no extra room on the main floor, and it's too wild and crazy anyway.  The basement is NOT totally finished, although it is divided into rooms and the front room is normally used for pups.  Up until recently it also contained seven fish tanks, but now contains only one that actually has fish.  I sold/gave away a number of aquariums last week as I am trying to cut back on my fish addiction.  Removing the tanks, including a 55 gallon, gave me the chance to replace the floor tiles and rearrange the other items.  Tonight I will just finish putting things away, and get the whelping box set up so Fern gets used to it.
I need to touch base with the people on my list too, to see who is still interested.  Several of them are keeping in touch, and I know they are interested.  It's not a good idea to promise too many puppies at least until after they are born, and we know on color and sex.  Later of course there's the issue of which (if any) will go to show homes, and which will be companions or performance dogs.  Hearing is also a big issue that affects puppy placements, as are the individual temperaments and personalities.   Busy times ahead!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Two Weeks To Go

Not enough room for Max to share Fern's chair.
Poor Max is used to being able to share the chair with Fern, but she's decided that pregnant ladies do not have to share - anything.  Bed, toys, or treats.  She's always had a soft mouth, taking her treats gently, but not anymore.  Now she has to be warned to take it easy.  She's ravenous, but at least she hasn't started stealing.  We often joke that one of the signs of pregnancy is when normally well mannered ladies start stealing off the counter.   Fern hasn't done that, but there's no question that she's pregnant!
Time to start getting the whelping area done, but first I have to move out/give away/sell some of the aquariums on that side of the basement.  I'm trying to close down some of my fish tanks and keep most of the tanks in the fish room, rather than spread throughout the basement.  Too many tanks are still set up and running, but are fishless as their inhabitants died from old age and have never been replaced.  I love setting up new tanks, but hate taking them down.  I could add more fish of course, but 40+ tanks was a lot of work!  Hope to keep it at about 20.  Have been redoing some of the tanks I'm keeping, and have added some new fish.  Clown Loaches, some gorgeous Black Lace Angelfish, and some more Bolivian Rams.
Time to start the guessing game on how many puppies Fern will have.  I'm guessing somewhere between 5 and 8.  Hopefully not 12 like her cousin Mariah just had!  At least 5 should give us something to pick from.  I'll keep a pup if one strikes my fancy, and another will go as an Agility Dog, but hopefully good enough to show in the breed ring as well.  And of course we need companion pups!  Happy, healthy, attractive, good natured companions.  It would be nice to have more than one or two show potential pups, but I'd be perfectly happy with two.  Fern and Ramsay were the two show pups from Pauli's litter, and both had nice show careers.  Hopefully Fern Louise can produce a couple of them too.
Two weeks to go!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

When To See The Vet

I am often impatient with dog owners who seem to over-react to situations concerning their beloved dogs.  A dog that throws up his breakfast, a dog with a torn toe nail, a dog that limps for a few days, a small cut on the foot, a pup with loose stools.  Small things that are probably meaningless, things that will be back to normal in a day or two or will respond to crate rest, a few skipped meals, an Epson salt soak, or possibly a quick trip to the vet.  Nothing serious, nothing to panic about.  Things happen and everything will be fine.  Easy for me to say when it's someone else's dog!
Perhaps it's just because I am living with a very old dog, and another with health issues, or maybe it's because I'm also dealing with two elderly people with health issues, and my mother just took a fall.  Maybe I'm just a little "unsettled" now as I prepare for retirement myself and am inclined to over-react to situations that normally would not faze me at all.  Who knows.
On Sunday morning I took Max and Josie to the dog park where Max swam for sticks and his retrieving bumper - and later buried the bumper in slimy black mud.  Because we were doing Paws On Grand later in the day we kept it short, but I always worry a bit about swimming this time of the year.  No sign of blue-green algae in the dog park lake, and there's no fertilizer run off to fuel it, but there's always that concern.
Later in the day we did Paws On Grand, walking a couple of miles in the heat, through crowds of people and dogs. We stopped to let the dogs take a drink or cool their feet in one of the small swimming pools along the route.  Max stepped in, flopped down, and rolled around, much to the crowd's delight and to Meribel's obvious astonishment.  Why would he do that she seemed to say. How tacky to wallow in the dog bowl.  The walk was great fun and the dogs did wonderfully well.

Monday morning when I fed the dogs Max ate slowly which is NOT typical for him, and later threw up a bit of his breakfast.  I didn't think much about it, as he acted fine.  Later that morning Ron called to tell me that Max had thrown up his entire breakfast.  Max does not have a touchy stomach and never does that.  Panic!  What did he do or eat on Sunday?  Lots of culprits, but the first one that came to mind was blue-green algae.  A Google search mentioned liver involvement, so I called the vet clinic and made an appointment.  No, not an actual emergency (yet), just a concern about blue-green algae.

I took an early lunch to check out my dog.  He seemed fine, but kind of quiet.  Not typical Max. When I took him out he had a bowel movement, a mixture of solid and soft, but at least I knew it probably was not a blockage.  He didn't take the biscuit I offered.  Again, not like Max.  I "knew" it was probably nothing, but still I was concerned.  Normally I would have just kept an eye on him and waited until the next day.  Like humans, dogs can have upset stomachs for a day or two.  If he hadn't gone swimming and done the dog walk with many other dogs and lots of proffered  treats, I wouldn't have thought anything about it. 

We arrived early for our Vet appointment as I was hoping to catch a urine sample.  As suspected, it was not easy and every time Max wanted to lift his leg and I moved the small container into place he stopped and stared at me.  "You want to do what?",  he seemed to say.  It was a no go.  My Vet had prepared herself on the blue-green algae question, and agreed that we should do a physical and blood work.  We opted for the in house test since it was faster.  I took Max home and ran some errands trying to stay busy so I wouldn't worry while waiting for the test results. 

A call two hours later informed me that everything looked totally normal, including the liver values.  Whew!   I felt SO much better!   I could breathe again!  Max didn't get any supper that night and did not pester for it.  It's always best to fast a dog with a stomach upset, although I normally feel guilty.  We did a short walk and he acted fine, and by the time the dogs got their bedtime biscuits Max was demanding one too.  He ate his breakfast the next morning, and has been fine ever since. 

Do I regret spending the money for the blood work?  Absolutely not!   Don't know how I would have survived the day otherwise.  It's probably stupid to worry so much, but it's definitely stupid to take a chance. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Personality Change

This picture was taken last week as I get such a kick out of Fern's "woe is me" expression.  Fern's personality is very much affected by hormones, and she's always quieter after she's been in season, but that's nothing compared to the behavior of pregnant Fern.  Although she'll play with Max for a minute or two, gone is the non-stop wrestling and the mad rushes out the door.  Everything is slow motion now, as she climbs slowly off the chair and walks sedately out to the dog yard.  Poor Max does not understand the change in his best friend and is learning to amuse himself.
Fern is still pretty lively when friend Sue or daughter Jess stop by, but when it's time for dog walking she wanders over and says, "Why yes, I'll go with you if you really think I should".  No more wild rushes through the living room to the front door, and she walks calmly on a leash with few reminders to STOP PULLING.  Even when she sees rabbits and squirrels she does not attempt to rip my arm off, just makes a short half-hearted move in their direction, then settles back into walking sedately at my side.  This is NOT the Fern I am use to.  The Mad Woman is anything but.
She's plumping up nicely, looks on target for 5-7 pups, although guesstimates are invariably wrong.  I'll change that to say "normally pregnant", neither huge nor small for 6 weeks.  Just 3 weeks to go and so much to get done.  First I need to go through my puppy list and see how many people are actually still on board for a puppy from Fern's litter.  I also need to discuss with them that Fern's pups are likely to be pretty lively, although you sure wouldn't know it from her current behavior!

Friday, August 1, 2014

No Dog Parks For Puppies

No time to write this morning, so I borrowed a post that my daughter Jess made for a Dalmatian Group on Facebook.  Although I do run my dogs at a dog park, dog parks are not for every dog, and are certainly NOT for puppies.

Food for thought -

I would never take a puppy to a dog park.... Dog parks can be big scary places and puppies have enough trouble understanding dog language with one or two dogs, much less a bunch of dogs. And not all other dogs understand your dog's body language either.

Please do your puppy a favor and keep him out of the dog park for his safety, both physically and emotionally.

If you feel the need to introduce your dog to other dogs, sign up for an obedience class - much better experience and much safer and your puppy is learning things along the way. And for socializing - a walk on a 6 foot leash in neighborhoods or in town is a much better option..

And last but not least.... Not all dogs are dog park dogs. Many dogs don't want to "share" their space with other dogs - don't force them...

Off the soapbox

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Are Dalmatians Laid Back?

This question certainly caught me by surprise last night as it's one thing I have NEVER been asked about Dals.  Max and I had just started off on our walk when we stopped to chat with a couple of neighbors down the block.  With Max practically vibrating in place in anticipation of his much-needed walk, the question struck me as funny, and I responded that although it varied a lot from dog to dog, Dals were generally lively and enthusiastic rather than laid back.  In retrospect, my neighbor probably thought it was more diplomatic to ask if they were laid back, rather than to ask if the breed was hyper like most people do.
I've had quite a few laid back Dalmatians over the years, including sweet old Watson who has always been very calm and mild mannered.  His niece Josie is also a very calm dog - except when her friend Sue comes to take her for a walk.  My Rob would have been considered laid back, and he produced a lot of puppies that were also very calm and easy going.  Dogs that made very easy-to-raise companions, and a personality type that is exceptionally nice for companion dogs.
Argus on the other hand has always been lively and enthusiastic.  He's been an excellent house dog, great in the car, perfect in motel rooms on dog show weekends, friendly with people, perfect with all other dogs, and is totally non-destructive, but he IS much livelier than Watson and Rob were.  He's very easily stimulated by the activities around him, which made him a good show dog, and a lot of fun.  Most of my dogs have tended to be more this way, and have been endlessly entertaining, but sometimes challenging.  Watson has always been just a bit "boring", but oh so easy to manage.
Max and Fern are both enthusiastic, high energy dogs.  They've always been that way. Max is an Argus son, Fern an Argus granddaughter.  Fern is very intense and determined, and very reactive to the things around her.  She was more work to raise and train, but turned out to be a very good companion, a good show dog, and an excellent house pet.  Max is just HAPPY, like Argus is happy.  Very enthusiastic like Fern, easily stimulated, but a bit softer and not quite so determined as either Argus or Fern.  I also raised Max with the realization that I'd be in my 70s when he was still in the prime of life, and I needed more control!   He's turning out exactly as I had hoped, and although he is still a work in progress, my efforts have paid off.  I'll continue to work with him, teach him tricks and obedience, take him swimming and for long walks, and see that he gets plenty of attention and exercise.  The investment in time is well worth it.
Several of the people on my puppy list have expressed an interest in having an easy going puppy from Fern's litter.  My educated guess is that most of Fern's pups will not be easy going.  She herself is not, and she was bred to a Coral grandson Duncan, who is a lively and enthusiastic dog himself, as were his parents.  Grandma Coral was extremely sweet tempered but incredibly happy, with a non-stop tail and a huge grin for everyone.
If Holly is bred to Ellsworth this winter, I may get some laid back puppies.  Holly is only moderate in activity level and Ellsworth is very mild-mannered.  BUT, so much of what a dog turns out to be depends on how he is raised.  Although a puppy's basic temperament is what he is born with, training can modify a lot of behaviors.  Raising a puppy correctly is a lot of work and a big responsibility, but a wonderful investment.  It takes a lot of time, patience, and a sense of humor, but the results are so worth it.  Some dogs require very little training to be good companions, while others require a great deal more.  It's always wise to assume your new pup will be the latter!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Count Down Begins

Fern enjoys sleeping on her back.
Although I palpated Fern on Day 25 and “knew” she was pregnant, it’s always a relief when it starts to show too.  My old vet taught me how to determine pregnancy (in dogs, just dogs!) many years ago, and so far I’ve always been correct.  Although our girls normally ARE pregnant when I palpate, we’ve had a few misses over the years, and I called those correctly too.  With a perfect record at stake, I get a bit nervous each time I do it, and of course a pregnant bitch can re-absorb per puppies too (dogs rarely miscarry, they just reabsorb).  And considering all the time, money and effort that goes into doing a litter, a “miss” is such a disappointment.
Gemma was palpated on Day 25 and was obviously pregnant.  I tried Fern on Day 24 and couldn’t be sure, but on Day 25 she felt pregnant – though not as “full” as Gemma felt.  Although both girls were bred the same day, Gemma down in Kansas City and Fern to a dog in Minneapolis that I co-bred, we’re guessing that Gemma will come a day or two sooner as she probably ovulated a day or two before Fern did.  Because we did progesterone testing, we knew the approximate days they ovulated, and knew that the eggs had to ripen from 48 to 72 hours before they could be fertilized.  We shall see how this all plays out!  Fern finally LOOKED pregnant on Day 35.  Whew.
Many breeders use ultrasound to determine pregnancy, but I’m not real keen on taking dogs to the Vet clinic for something unnecessary.  Why take a chance on exposing them to something? They either are or are not pregnant, and it’s too late to do anything about it, so why spend the money?  The numbers from ultra sounds are never correct anyway.  When I palpate I don’t attempt to count, I just want a Yay or a Nay on pregnancy.  Once I know they are pregnant, I can start the necessary preparations.  (Tomorrow's topic perhaps.)
Gemma lives with Heather, and my daughter Jess & I are her co-owners.  Jess will be raising the litter and the pups belong to Jess and Heather (unless I steal one!).  Fern is my dog, but Jess will sign on as a “lessee” so she will be a co-breeder on Fern’s litter.  The advantage of that is we will both be able to show Fern’s pups in Bred By Exhibitor Class, as long as we are both co-owners as well.  I plan to keep one if the right pup is in this litter, but if not I can wait.   I have a frozen semen breeding planned for Fern next year (if she is a good mother and has quality pups this time) and would really like a pup from THAT litter if it works out.
The co-ownership option worked nicely on Holly’s litter two years ago.  Jana, Jess and I co-bred the litter.  I kept Max, and Mellie went to Jana, but the three of us stayed on as co-owners.  I put the first 10 points on Max, but it was working to Fern’s disadvantage for me to show both dogs in Bred By Exhibitor Classes.  If I won with Max, it made it less likely I would win with Fern (depends on the judge of course) and I would have to hand her off at ringside while I was showing Max rather than giving her my full attention at ringside.  We decided to try Jess on Max, since she still co-owned him and could therefore show him in the class.  It worked nicely.  Fern showed better when I could concentrate on her, and finished quickly and with a nice record.   Jess finished Max with several nice wins – and they both finished from Bred By.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Loss Of A Good Friend

I lost a good friend yesterday.  Her death was quick, and hopefully it was painless, but she's gone and I will miss her.  She was my constant companion for the last three years, with me in good times and bad.  She asked little from me and performed her duties flawlessly and with no complaint.  We didn't talk much, but she always provided guidance when I needed it.  She never forgot to remind me of important events, kept track of my walks, and read me many books.  She checked out the forecast, answered my questions, took excellent pictures, and kept me current on events.  What more could I ask of a good friend.
Yesterday my good friend suffered death by drowning when she and I fell into the St. Croix River when we hit a drop off.   Although I tried to resuscitate her my efforts were in vain.  A trip to the Apple Store Hospital confirmed my suspicions.
RIP iPhone 4S.  You were a true and trusted friend.