Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Something I thought I'd never see...

Is Lark pick up a duck. And yet, here she is, not too many months after I FINALLY got serious. I was a bit spoiled by her mother June who passed the WC without being force fetched. Lark is more like her great grandmother Gem, whose sensibilities regarding ducks required more “coaching” than June or Rosie. I'm glad I finally buckled down and did the work. Here's hoping a WC is in our future for 2013.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Brothers' play date

In between a lot of conformation shows last weekend we managed to find time for Chiron and Ian to have a playdate. It was challenging to take pictures of them outside because they hardly ever stopped moving. Eventually we all came inside to warm up and they did manage to sit nicely for a few moments. I also got lots of puppy hugs and kisses when I got down on the floor with them for a while. The brothers are from Eta's litter born 5/28/12.


Monday, December 10, 2012

A major accomplishment

No one was more surprised than I when the judge pulled June from the line at the Starved Rock Kennel Club show on December 7th and awarded her BOB (Best of Breed). As I had exhibited June in the Bred By Exhibitor class, this meant the judge put a class bitch up over three MALE SPECIALS!

I had to go to the superintendent's table to find out exactly what that meant in regard to points, as it is incredibly rare for a class entry to go up over Specials, and even more so for a class bitch to go up over male Specials. I was pleased to find out the win gave June a 4pt major. This from a dog I as the breeder nicknamed "scrawny monkey" from an early age and more or less gave up on the idea of ever finishing her a few years ago. Of course we're not quite done yet but this has given me incentive to think about taking her out a few times in 2013.

June was very full of herself both in the ring (which may have helped cement her win) and afterward. Those who show in conformation are familiar with the saying "the dog asked for the win." Knowing her personality, I think perhaps June might have even demanded it, though never in my wildest dreams did I think a judge would acquiesce.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

June in flannel

It was a beautiful fall day but June decided she would rather spend it cocooned in flannel.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Gem - 2/21/95 - 9/22/12

Gem was our foundation bitch and our introduction to the breed. Under Evelyn Williams' mentoring, Gem was the impetus that brought us into the world of Tollers and caused us to become active members of the US Toller club. With her passing so fresh in my mind I'm finding it difficult to write about her, but a few years ago I put down some thoughts regarding our early experiences with her that sum things up pretty well:

Gem earned titles in agility, obedience, rally, conformation and field. She was a recipient of the Rusty Jones award and also earned enough titles to qualify for the NSDTRC USA's Versatility Excellent Award (VCX), as well as one of the US club's first ROM dams. Despite all this, she was often a bit of a curmudgeon, especially in her early days, and really made me work for all of those titles she earned. She leaves behind a beautiful legacy in her pups, grandpups, great grandpups, and as of this year, great great grand pups as well.

Over the years Gem faced a few health issues but always managed to bounce back, outliving her siblings, Toller contemporaries and a number of her offspring as well. Based on recent symptoms of nose bleeds and some neurological abnormalities, our vet suspected we might be dealing with a tumor in her sinuses, though we opted not to perform the invasive procedure that would have confirmed this diagnosis. Her symptoms and behavior guided our decisions on when to fight and when to let go. It is very quiet around the house today with only her granddaughter June and great granddaughter Lark in residence.

Gem - 08/19/12

Gem - 09/19/12

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Who ordered all the extra chrome?

If you read the post about Eta’s litter you might have noted two of her puppies have considerably more white than the average Toller. The male puppy has a wide blaze that extends down the back of his neck. He has one completely white front leg, as well as a generous amount of white on his back legs, chest and belly and a large white tail tip. The female puppy has all that and more as the white extends over her eyes, making her look a bit like a white faced border collie.

Color genetics is complicated at best and not an area I am comfortable expounding on, but it is worth noting that the same gene (the Irish spotting gene) which produces many of the white markings in collie type breeds is also responsible for the flashy white found in our breed. This gene has many possible modifiers, which makes it unpredictable (but interesting!) at best.

Soon after this litter arrived I took some pictures on my iPhone and texted a fellow breeder. Knowing the standard, I couldn't help but wonder if I would have trouble placing these puppies (who are healthy and normal in every other way). As it turns out, almost everyone (including some people "in the breed") were rather infatuated with these pups. These pups have been placed in active agility homes and their owners are prepared for any questions their odd markings might generate.



Monday, June 25, 2012

Rainy day preparations

Eta’s litter was officially due on May 31st but she had other ideas. When I watched her digging at her dog bed on the morning of May 28th I realized she wasn’t going to hold out for another three days. A few hours later I realized whelping was even more imminent and moved her into the puppy room, then made quick trip to the local drug store for KY gel and betadine, a povidone-iodine solution often used in hospital settings. I used the self checkout, feeling a bit conspicuous about my combination of odd purchases. As I bagged them up and headed home I hoped they would provide the same benefit carrying an umbrella does after a forecast of rain. Having them in hand surely meant I would not need to use them.

Overall this whelping went much more smoothly than the previous two. Eta’s first puppy arrived shortly after noon (thank you Eta for a daytime whelping!). I had to feather her a little to encourage the first sac to come out after the puppy was clear, but after that four more puppies followed in intervals of approximately ½ hour. Then things slowed down a bit. Pushing out puppies is hard work, after all. A sixth puppy delivered about an hour after the fifth one was not breathing and our attempts to revive it were unsuccessful. More time passed. I was convinced Eta had a least one more pup in her. A gloved inspection revealed the puppy was stuck in a breach position. In this case it meant head first but shoulder twisted with one front leg forward and one pulled back along the body. In a bit of a panic, I called my vet tech friend Lin, who reminded me about what I should be doing with the ky gel I had purchased earlier (try to shoot some up behind the puppy to help it slide out) and to elevate Eta’s front end so gravity would work for us (which we did by placing her front feet on a chair and having George steady her). We also administered a few ml of Oral Cal Plus to help strengthen her contractions. I reached in again and worked in tandem with Eta’s contractions and suddenly the 7th puppy was out! She was alive, which surprised me as I had expected all the time we lost in attempting to extricate her would have done her in. We worked diligently to remove the fluid from her lungs and nose and keep her warm, but unfortunately within an hour or so she was gone. That was hard, to have worked on her for so long and think we were making progress, and then see her fade away despite all of our efforts.

Eta and her five pups are doing well. Eta is a typical Toller dam, very attentive to her pups but relatively comfortable with my intrusions to check in on her and her brood, clean the whelping pool or weigh her precious pups.

My lesson learned this time around is that carrying an umbrella doesn't always stave off rain. On the plus side, George and I did things to get that last puppy out that I could only stand by and watch Lin do with Lark just a few short months ago. For me, assisting a bitch whelp is by turns an exciting and terrifying experience, and more recently, a tempering one as well.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Navigating the suburban jungle of zombie smart phone users

I’ve had a couple of unusual encounters this spring while walking June and Lark, where people were paying more attention to their smart phone than their surrounding environment. I am old (curmudgeonly) enough to be really irritated by these encounters, so I thought I'd vent a bit here.

A few weeks ago I was walking Lark on our short “downtown and back” loop and we came across a woman in an SUV stopped at a stop sign, busily tapping away on her phone. I stopped, as I’ve taught all my dogs to stop and sit before crossing a street. I stared at the woman for a moment but she was oblivious to our presence. As it happened, her window was down, so I called out to her, “are you going to go or may I cross?” (which was a much more polite inquiry than what I was thinking). Startled, she looked up and said “sorry, go ahead”.  We stepped warily into the crosswalk and made our way across the street.

More recently I was walking June in a different neighborhood and we were gaining ground on a young boy walking two pugs (or pug mixes, I admit I didn't look too closely). June and I gave them a wide birth by stepping into someone's front yard, and then had to step further in as the dogs dragged the boy closer toward us, in large part because he was paying more attention to his phone than the dogs. We did manage to pass without a close encounter but it reminded me of the dangers of dividing your attention from the main task at hand. 

It may be fairly common knowledge now that people are not as efficient at multitasking as they think they are (Multitaskers bad at multitasking). Some information I've read suggests distractions in general are the problem, not smart phones specifically, and I don't disagree with this assessment. It seems the more fast paced our society becomes the more distractions of all types we face, and the more I see people unwilling or unable to simply live in the moment, but engaged elsewhere instead, often to the detriment of themselves and those around them.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

It WAS the tooth!

I finally got June back into the obedience ring for the first time since January when her performances in Open were so markedly different from last November’s I stopped trialing her until I could determine a possible cause. In mid March, during a routine dental, my vet removed the largest molar on June’s upper left side due to a slab fracture with exposed pulp.

At Badger Kennel Club’s obedience trial on May 4th, June proved she was back in fine form, earning her second CDX leg with a  score of 194.5 and first place in Open A. Unfortunately we weren’t entered on Saturday or Sunday as it was time for Lark’s brood to leave for their new homes, so we still need to find time in the next few months to try and pick up a third leg. June’s daughters Image and Zoom were also competing that day and picked up their first Rally Novice legs.

After June's big day in the ring she crashed early on the couch.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Getting to the root of the matter

Since the holidays, at least, June has not been quite herself, though to look at her glossy coat and bright eyes you wouldn’t know it. The difference has been more subtle, most obvious when we have been training or trialing. Last November she earned her first Open A obedience leg with a first place and would have had a second leg that same weekend if I could be trusted to throw a dumbbell over a jump without it bouncing into a severe left hook when it hit the ground. In early January I took her out again, hoping to earn a second and possibly even our third leg. Instead, June was very uncertain in her heeling, anticipated the drop to such an extent she stopped and sat before I even asked her to drop and seemed somewhat reluctant to pick up her dumbbell. 

As June had come in season in early December, one week before her daughter, I put it down to hormones; and as Lark had been bred right before the New Year I thought June might still be processing the additional hormonal changes of Lark’s impending litter. But over the next few months things didn’t improve, and she did not show her usual enthusiasm in either her obedience or agility classes. Then in early March I noticed one of her lower incisors was missing, and started to wonder if maybe June scratched at her muzzle more than was normal and remembered that occasionally, but not always, her breath was not so sweet. I thought maybe it was time to get her in for a dental, even though June’s teeth look pretty good for a dog who will be turning seven this year.

As it turned out, in addition to digging out the root of the broken off incisor, my vet also removed the largest molar on the upper left side of her mouth because she found a slab fracture with exposed pulp. Poor girl! No wonder June had been “off”. 

June seemed better from the moment I brought her home from the vet. Despite some normal lingering effects from anesthesia she bounded up all four of our back stairs into the kitchen and demanded her supper, though I did make her wait another hour as my vet had recommended. Less than a week after her bad tooth was extracted, we competed in our first agility trial since the end of January. She did not disappoint. On Friday she finally picked up the last Excellent A Standard leg we’d been trying for and came through with an Ex B JWW leg as well. On Saturday and Sunday she got her first two Double Qs towards her MACH, and managed to pick up 71 MACH points over the weekend.

I’ve been beating myself up a bit over June’s issue and how long it took me to determine the cause. But I’m going to stop now as it’s interfering with getting June out to run and jump and retrieve as she so wants to do again!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hard lessons from the whelping box

I had so hoped to report that Lark’s first litter was a breeze, reminiscent of her great grandmother’s litters and her mother’s first litter, where I became quite spoiled by a common pattern of 6 or 7 puppies arriving healthy and viable within a two hour period. Instead Lark labored over 3 hours on the evening of March 3rd before she delivered her first puppy and no amount of rubbing or attempts to remove fluid from nose and lungs could revive the puppy. We lost two more in a similar fashion, the 3rd and 6th puppies whelped. There was nothing obviously wrong with any of these pups; to the best of our understanding they simply spent too much time “in transit” and their sacks opened before they were out of the birth canal. However, we are fortunate to have three very robust males which we are temporarily calling Crosby, Stills and Nash. Walking Lark in between deliveries and judicious administration of Oral Cal Plus before the first, second, fourth and sixth puppies appeared to help move things along. In addition, I’m extremely grateful my friend Lin (with vet tech experience) was on hand to assist. Without her help we very likely would have been headed to the emergency vet for assistance.

Lark has turned out to be an incredible mother, much like her mother and grandmother. She is extremely attentive to her pups and they are gaining weight rapidly. Their skin is a healthy pink and they always feel warm and full to the touch, which is exactly how a healthy puppy should feel. Lark is very concerned when we take them away for a few moments to weigh them or perform the early neurological stimulation exercises we started on day three, though she is beginning to relax a bit more as she realizes we return them to her after only a few moments of separation.

About 2.5 days after she gave birth, I noticed Lark’s rearmost teats seemed enlarged and somewhat hardened. Even though this is the first time I have had a bitch develop mastitis (, I was pretty certain that’s what Lark was experiencing so I started applying warm compresses right away. Later that day my vet confirmed the diagnosis. Lark was already on antibiotics as a precaution due to our invasive efforts during whelping so I continued to apply warm compresses and drain the affected glands. Things were pretty well back to normal within three days.

"Larkie's boyz" all hit the 2lb mark or above on day 8. They are the most roly poly bunch of pups we have whelped to date. I'm looking forward to watching how they interact with their environment and seeing their personalities emerge.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy 17th birthday, Gem!

I'm a bit in awe that Gem is 17 today. We are so happy she is still with us and doing so well for her age. She does need help up and down stairs but otherwise is pretty mobile for her age. Per her usual birthday requests, she was not groomed today, so please excuse the scruffy picture below. Gem had lots of great treats today and a nice chew on a dried tendon.