I’m a planner, and I like to have my breedings planned out as far in advance as possible. Of course, most planned breedings don’t work out, as I typically change my mind about 1000 times. Sometimes, though, I just know from the start — I picked Valley for Serena when she was 3 months old and he was 2 months. On the other hand, I cycled through many a stud dog, and was turned down quite a few times, when I was looking for Cece’s mate. She wasn’t even two, but like I said, I do like to plan ahead! People often retire or neuter their stud dogs, and I wanted to make sure they knew I was interested. One of them declined due to the stud having produced oversize, and I’ll never know if that was the real story, or if they just weren’t sure about Cece, but that comes with the territory when you have a pedigree people are not familiar with. I got incredibly lucky that the stud dog I ultimately chose for Cece was not only available but was a near-perfect fit for her.
Now, a generation down from that breeding, I’m thrilled with how much progress we’ve made in just two breedings. Unlike in Serena’s case, I really struggled with picking a stud for Lillie. Lillie had quite a few faults that I wanted to fix, and I was greedy in wanting to fix them all, while not ruining her many strengths. She is also a top of the standard bitch, and I didn’t want to risk producing oversized pups. Blaze was actually the first dog I had my eye on, from the time I saw him around six months or so. I absolutely loved his pedigree, and I thought that it would be very complementary to Lillie’s pedigree. But I was also hesitant, because he was young and I wanted to wait to see how he matured, as well as how he produced. Lillie had a good amount of bone, and I didn’t want to get anything overdone. While Blaze was on the taller side, he had a lot of smaller relatives and quite moderate ones as well, so I was definitely still interested in him. Over the next year or so until Lillie turned two, I went through a long list of other studs. There were two in particular that I really might have used if not for various obstacles — one was in the middle of nowhere in Canada, and one had a heavy family history of hemangiosarcoma. Both were older (one was dead, in fact!) so they did have that going for them, and I liked what they had previously produced. Alas, I decided to pass on them.
So, process of elimination brought me back to Blaze. Then, when I inquired about him, I learned he would soon be going overseas! So that sealed the deal, since I knew I wanted the chance to use him live cover. At first, it seemed that Lillie was going to be amazingly cooperative and go into heat just in time to do the breeding when she and Blaze were both going to be at the September National. Nope, no such luck. She decides to go into heat super late, so late that we had to drive out to a dog show to meet Blaze, three days before he was scheduled to board his flight to the Philippines. We had to leave after only registering 2 point something in progesterone, since it was a weekend and we wouldn’t have results back until Monday. The 2 reading was a Thursday, and we left Saturday morning to hopefully get a tie that evening and maybe one more Sunday. Well, we couldn’t get the deed done on Saturday, despite walking them all around the romantic Finger Lakes. I was left wondering that night if perhaps my instincts were wrong and Lillie had not yet ovulated or was stalling.
The following day, I was more hopeful, but it became clear that it still wasn’t happening. But we had a backup plan. At the end of the show day, we whisked the lovers away for the type of clandestine rendezvous that only dog people will understand, involving plastic bags and skilled hands. The person who “helped” us out, so to speak, who shall remain unnamed, boasted a 95% success rate.
That weekend, we felt relaxed enough to continue with our original planned detour at a nice resort, where we hung out with the pups and went horseback riding in the Hudson Valley. On Monday, we got the call from our repro vet. Lillie’s progesterone on Saturday morning had been a 5. We all breathed a sigh of relief and crossed our fingers. I noticed immediately, literally hours after she’d been bred, that Lillie was acting differently. She was noticeably quieter, more protective of herself. This obviously doesn’t make sense from a biological perspective, but there are plenty of things we don’t understand — it’s possible her body knew. Next thing we knew, she was sleeping like a baby, starving to death, and had gained several inches around her ribcage (the lungs expand in early pregnancy to increase blood oxygen).
About a month after Blaze arrived in the Philippines, we hopped in the car with Lillie to our repro vet and found six beautiful fetal sacs. Those were the same six babies she had another month later, although one of them wasn’t meant to be. Looking at those pups now, at four months old, I feel so incredibly lucky that it all worked out. And so incredibly fortunate that yet again, we nailed the stud dog search. This is our nicest litter so far, one that completely exceeded my expectations and initial goals with the breeding. They are not perfect, but they are an improvement on their parents in almost every way. These puppies have retained the best qualities of Cece and her working line traits, kept the type and structure that made Lillie easily a top 20 dog in limited showing, and added the showiness, angulation, and balance that made the sire line consistent group and BIS winners. We are dreaming big dreams for them, and we feel that the sky is the limit.