When I was a kid, we lived in the Braeswood apartment complex in Houston, TX, right next to the A & P grocery store. There were no leash laws back then, and everyone in the complex let their dogs run loose. I have one distinct memory of dog breeding from “back in the day”—I went outside to play in the central courtyard and saw a beautifully groomed white standard poodle who appeared to be stuck to a large black and tan shepherd mix breed male. They were back to back, and neither seemed to be able to get away. All I could think of was the “pushmi—pullyu” in the Doctor Dolittle books. I asked my mother, “Why are those dogs stuck together like that?” I was eight and she did not care to elaborate. The strange conjoined creature finally broke apart, and approximately two months later we heard the poodle owner crying pitifully as her beautiful girl gave birth to eight brown nondescript puppies down in the laundry room. And that was all I knew for the next forty or so years.
Although I’ve had dogs since I was ten, in 1994 I got my first “show dog,” a Scottish deerhound bitch (yes folks, get used to it—that’s what dog people call them!) I took handling classes, learned to “stack” and “gait” her, and with the help of some very patient friends, she attained her AKC championship by the time she was two years old, and I decided to become a “breeder”. I followed advice, bred “the best to the best” by sending her all the way back to New York to breed to a proven sire of champions, and managed to get only four puppies, two of which had short tails which did not conform to the “standard.” At that point I came to my senses and realized that it is much easier to BUY a well-bred, healthy, beautiful dog than it is to breed one. I returned to my regular dual careers of raising three children and working as a full time radiation oncologist and was never again tempted to breed another litter until….recently.
Many of you have read stories on this blog of my two Q’s, Scottish deerhound sisters, now AKC Grand Champions Jaraluv Queen and Jaraluv Quicksilver. They are both characters—Queen for her trick of “going through”—when she is extremely happy she celebrates by dashing between my legs, first from the front, then from the back, laughing at me all the while. Quicksilver has different tricks—she adores her food, and when she hears her dinner being prepared, she dashes into her crate where she is fed, then pops her head in and out until the meal appears. Queen is probably best remembered for her interview with local news after the famous deerhound Hickory Wind won Best in Show at Westminster—as the newscaster interviewed me, Queen sat like a human being on my couch, calmly picking her toenails while her sister hid behind the stereo speakers. As I said, they are characters.
Since there were no genetically or phenotypically compatible gentlemen callers within a thousand mile radius, we decided to go with frozen semen/artificial insemination. And I will give a shout out to Carol Bardwick at www.caninecryobank.com for trying her very best. A visit to her place deserves a separate blog all on its own—later, for sure. We tested progesterone levels, we made sure the “stuff” was shipped in from out of state on time, we made sure to dim the lights and we did our best to create a romantic mood for the “installation.” Our timing was perfect and once released from their cryogenically sealed containers, those little swimmers were SWIMMING! I saw them under the microscope with my own eyes.
So convinced I was that the girls were pregnant, that I failed to recognize their typical signs of post season depression. It was morning sickness—I knew it. I fed them Wheat Thins with cream cheese to stimulate their appetites. I made omelets with Havarti cheese and heavy cream. I cooked filet mignon and wild salmon. I gained seven pounds in four weeks. Finally, the suspense was too much. Favoring expense over stress, I arranged for a board certified veterinary radiologist to come to my home with her ultrasound machine (after nearly buying a used veterinary ultrasound unit myself, thinking that whether they were pregnant or not, I could always check myself for gallstones!) I watched with dismay as we went from cervix, to body of uterus, to uterine horns, to ovaries—both sides, both girls. And saw nothing. Nada. Not a single puppy.
If I ever try this again, I’ll go with what a fellow deerhounder called YPF, which stands for “young, proven and fertile.” In other words, a dog that can do what that old shepherd mix did to that poodle back in 1963—climb on and get the job done. In the meantime, I’ll open my home to another rescue, preferably an old dog that no one else wants, to keep my ten year old Magic and 2 year old tiny Chihuahua mix rescue Yoda company. After all, a little good karma goes a long way, and who cares about that new white carpet anyway?