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Technicolor Tibetan Terriers

18 June 2019

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Izzie and James, our foundation dam and stud. 2009.

(For the record, I began writing this blog post over one year ago, after venturing into the study and genetic testing of my personal dogs.  I have learned so much and yet?  There is still boatloads more for me to learn about this topic.  Wait ’til I get my microscope.)

In September 2006, Nina Wagner offered me a choice of puppies with which to begin my breeding program.  I vividly remember the two ‘red’ puppies who danced toward me, as I’d never seen that coat color before!  I asked Nina what it was and she told me that the puppies were red brindles.  Of the two?  One had better movement and so, I chose Izzie to be my foundation bitch.  Then, I had a choice of two black & white males and James was the little man for me.  We drove back to Vermont and introduced the babies to my old geezers Max and Mia – and the rest is history; actually, it is ourstory  ;>).

In March 2009, Alice Smith gave me a book to study: The Inheritance of Coat Color in Dogs by Clarence C. Little.  For many years, this book has been considered the pre-eminent book on the topic of coat color.

Talk about dense!  Little’s book is so technical, in 2009, I was barely able to manage the first 16 pages and I’d been a Neurology major at Mount Holyoke College, dreaming of becoming a neurosurgeon.  I believe Little’s book is written for geneticists – but I did get a couple of truths out of it, even back then:

Sweet little Bianca, not even 24 hours old. 19 March 2019.

White (as in ‘the absence of pigment’) is ultimately dominant genetically and black comes next.  After that?  My, oh my, so many genes and variations . . .  and then, we get down to recessive red brindle, if ‘brindle’ even exists in Tibetan Terriers.

Enter Hanne Mathiasen’s Tibetan Terrers – The Little People.  If you don’t have a copy?  Buy one!  It is a wonderful book that was published in 2006 and is a joy to read and share.  She’s also on FB, if you want to friend her.

In the beginning, I was sure about what to call different coat colors, as I had Nina telling me what they were.  I repeated what she’d taught me about the tri-colored (banded) ‘brindle’ hair and didn’t think anything of it, until after she’d passed and someone else corrected me.  This new person told me that red brindle = sable, not red brindle.  And they also told me that golden sable was the correct term for what I’d always called ‘gold’.  And that brindle didn’t exist in TTs.  And with that one comment?  I took issue and decided to venture into a study of the literature on coat color.

That’s Leo, front left. And Chewie, farthest back right. Two of our red boys. May 2019.

Dr. Helle Friis Proschowsky, DVM writes about the SABLE coat color on page 125 of Matthiasen’s book.  She also writes about the genetic tricolored coat and the ‘greying’ gene.  There are wonderful photos to study and compare how the different coat colors are described.  In the meantime, let me share some of what I have learned.

‘Many TTs have a wrong description of their colour, partly because breeders are uncertain about the colour names, and partly because some colours can only be determined when the puppies are small, while others appear later.’  This is a quote out of Mathiesen’s book from an article written by Proschowsky on page 124.  Many TTs ‘change color’ during their lives, with blacks going charcoal or silver and brindles going blonde.  The fact that a brindle hair is a tri-colored hair is also confusing, as keeping a TT in a ‘puppy cut’ allows only one color of a tri-colored hair to show; hence, a red brindle looking blonde, in a puppy cut.

The lovely AKC CH Copper Goddess. Mum to Billie, Annabel and Ziva. Grandmama to Yogi and Questa. Great grandmama to Piccolo and Leo. Her regal profile and fabulous coloration, courtesy of Oskar and Izzie. 2018.

Melanin is responsible for pigmentation.  It is present or absent in cells at the base of each hair follicle and is either black or red.  Both colors of melanin can be produced in a melanocyte, but only one at a time, according to Proschowsky.  This is what is behind the changing coat color in the TT.  Initially, the cell might have produced black melanin and later, it might switch to red melanin depending upon the genetics that are particular to each dog.  Or it might turn to charcoal or silver and I believe this would be evidence of two copies of the Recessive Black allele.  I have seen it in several of my dogs and their test results declare ‘two copies of the Recessive Black allele’.

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Izzie, CH Shalimar Izzie of Kensington. Our foundation bitch.

Proschowsky calls Izzie’s coat color ‘Sable’.  This is what I was taught to be ‘Red Brindle’.

There is a greying gene and it is a dominant allele.  Animals either get the greying gene or they don’t.  It is less common to NOT have greying in a dark coat.  (I wonder whether this is an expression of Recessive Black, as most of my black TTs turn charcoal and some with silver, at and after maturity.)

Proud mummy dog. Bellie with her puppies on their birthday, 22 September 2018.

Proschowsky discusses a Particoloured coat and this is our classic jet black and bright white coat, with a lot of white.  Not a ‘ticked’ coat, which I have seen and think it is beautiful.  Best described as very finely enmeshed black and white, almost like stippling.

There is also a genetically Tricoloured coat, where versions of black, tan and white comingle on the dog but in a particular pattern.  Genetic tris are most easily identified as young puppies by the tan at the base of the tail and above the anus.  It is quite obvious, when you see it.

And a Grey or Silver or Charcoal coat that is evenly colored was most probably a black coat at birth that greyed later on, sometimes early and sometimes later.  Gryffin was born jet black with some white.  By six months of age, he was thoroughly silver and a surprise to his breeder and his humans!  (I believe this is the phenotype expressing a recessive black genotype.)

Introducing Billie’s three puppies by Oskar!

Now, The Tibetan Terrier Book by Jane Reif uses different language to describe these same coat colors.  And beginning with the black coat, Jane introduces the idea of the ‘Buddha mark’, a touch of white on the head or chest of a black dog – not mentioned at all in Mathiasen’s book.  This mark is thought to bring ‘luck’ to the dog and its owner.  I interpret this as a detail of ‘coat pattern’ and not ‘coat color’.  And what Jane Reif brings to the discussion is the fact that there are several very highly qualified stewards of our breed and they use different language to describe the same thing.

When my fuse got lit about the lack of brindle in our breed comment, I decided to get serious and bought a microscope.  Soon, as in sometime this summer, I intend to do a visual exploration of coat color at the microscopic level.  I bought the most interesting microscope that will run off my phone and allow me to take photos of what is under examination.  I am so excited.  Soon, we’ll be able to broaden this discussion with photographs to compare and discuss.

With Billie’s most recent and final litter of brindle, black and black & white puppies, we’ve welcomed Campari into our lives.  She is what I’ve been striving for, as a throwback to our foundation bitch Izzie’s coat color: red brindle or sable, depending upon from whom you learned how to describe it.  She doesn’t have a Buddha mark (not to be confused with the Kiss of Buddha kink in your TT’s tail) – but she does have a big white collar, white blaze, white muzzle and the always entertaining white tip of the tail.

Leo, ne Rocky. Seven months old and stunning. 10 April 2019.

Going forward, I have more of my TTs to test and am about to test my second red brindle/sable boy.  I am lucky that my foundation bitch born in 2006 is still alive & healthy.  My plan is to test Izzie, Coppi, Leo, Campari and our new puppy from Slovakia . . .  all in an effort to better understand the genetic mechanics behind the coat colors I’m breeding.

Thank you for hanging in there with me.  I am developing a spreadsheet with photographs and genetic test results and would love to have more data.  If you have thoughts or breeding experiences to share, please do so by personal email to me at wendyll.behrend@gmail.com.  For the record, I have been using genetic coat color tests from vetdnacenter.com

The difference between buying a puppy and having a puppy bred for you

Well, may I say Happy New Year and Happy Spring to all!  It has been quite a while, since my last post and with good reason.

Oskar x Billie’s litter of three. Shot by Kate Carter. November 2018.

We raised three litters of Kensington Tibetans during the Fall of 2018 and they were my entire life focus – I barely left the house!  Fortunately, we were extremely well organized, the litters were timed each one week apart from the next – and – MOST IMPORTANTLY, I have the most wonderful friends, fans and doggie au pairs who support and help me achieve my goal of exceeding the expectations of both myself and my forever families, with the puppies we breed and raise.  A HUGE thank you goes out to each of them and they know who they are.  ;>)

Now, I wanted to address the above topic, as I don’t know that the world understands the difference between having a breeder raise a puppy for a family vs. buying a puppy from an ad in the paper or a pet store.  And, certainly, sometimes breeders use ads to broadcast the availability of a litter and that option is a bit of a cross between the two options I want to address.

Proud mummy dog. Bellie with her puppies on their birthday, 22 September 2018.

In my experience, my family ‘got puppies’ three times during my childhood.  Two were German Shepherds (both female) and one was a Boxer (also a female).  The Shepherds proved to be reasonably predictable in temperament, although one was a little skittish.  But the Boxer?  She had no consistency in her behavior whatsoever.  And it gave me the opinion that we got ‘lucky’ with one Shepherd – but the other two family dogs were nuts.

Perhaps that is why I searched for a pure bred dog in my adult life and my first was a Lhasa Apso.  He was a puppy out of litter whelped in a horse barn and no one seemed to know who the sire was – but I liked him and took him into my life as my companion.  It was an introduction to that breed and my experience wasn’t ideal.  While I fancied myself to be a fine animal trainer, having worked with other dogs (and parrots), his temperament did not seem to be the least bit flexible.  Had I known better or had the option?  I would have opted for a puppy with what I describe today as a more ‘chill’ temperament; a ‘watcher’ with a self-entertaining orientation.

WB in the kitchen with her girls. 6 August 2017.

‘Benjamin’ was eventually re-homed to a family with a farm and four daughters.  Benji needed lots of humans, as he was a stimulation junkie – and I needed a companion who could self-entertain in his or her crate, while I worked 9-5.

Eventually, I found myself ‘in the market’ for another dog.  I knew I wanted a pure bred but was unsure of the breed.  So, I spent some hours with a dog encyclopedia and determined that the Tibetan Terrier sounded like a great fit for my lifestyle as an athletic married businesswoman.  We had many people in our lives, both professional and amateur athletes, employees and their families, not to mention friends and family!  In 1992, people with litters placed ads in the Boston Sunday Globe and that is how I found the breeder of my new puppies.  She let me pick the puppies out of two available litters – and I sat with the puppies for an hour and chatted with her about what I saw and what I liked.  When I got home, my husband asked me how it went and I told him that I’d found a male puppy I thought would be terrific, as he was a great sleeper.  Can you imagine?  THAT was my most obvious character attribute and the one that swayed my decision.  I figured that if he was a good sleeper, he’d be less demanding as an adult.

My 12 year old Max and Mia, hanging with Max Coleman, their Jack Russell best friend. Hopkinton, MA, 2004.

Amazingly, that turned out to be true.  But unexpectedly?  My husband told me that we needed TWO, as if we had only one?  That single puppy would be ‘lonely’, during the day.  He was used to two dogs in his childhood and so, off I went – back to the breeder.  I chose a white female, as I thought the two puppies looked ‘cute’ together.

Well, many things happened and my life changed dramatically, during my 15 years with those two Tibetans.  They turned out to be THE MOST WONDERFUL ATHLETIC COMPANIONS and they had lovely temperaments, thanks to their breeder and their bloodlines.  I got really lucky, as I had no clue what I was doing.  I thought I did – but really?  I selected the second puppy because they looked ‘cute’ together?  Good God.  What would I say now to that idea?  Let’s not go there.  ;>)  But they do look ‘cute’ together, don’t they?  Mr. Snappy Tux and Ms. White Ball Gown.

When you have a puppy bred for you, you work with someone who has considerably more experience in the breed than you do.  The ideal dog breeder is very careful, honest, responsible and experienced.  Generally speaking?  Folks who breed dogs who are not careful responsible breeders don’t offer the same quality in the puppies they ‘offer for sale’.  Their puppies are usually less expensive and for a reason.  No genetic testing.  No AKC titles.  No understanding or care of whether the sire and dam conform to the Breed Standard.  And often, inconsistently cared for and unclean.

Young Ben, enjoying our CH Oskar x CH Gigi puppies, Memorial Day weekend in Marblehead, 2016.

When you work with a careful, responsible, experienced breeder?  They may hold back the privilege of you selecting your own puppy – but this is a good thing.  They will take into consideration your level of experience in the breed, your lifestyle, the make up of your family, the level of activity in your home lifestyle, whether you have a fenced yard or not, whether you live in an apartment/condo or a standalone house AND your personal philosophy with regard to what is important to you.  Trust me: no breeder wants to take a puppy back who is older and, perhaps, requiring remedial training.

When you work with a careful, responsible, experienced breeder?  They may not have a puppy available to you at that particular time and you might have to wait.  But they will be there to answer your questions, both before and after you’ve brought the new puppy into your home life – because they and we and I am committed to the long term emotional and physical health of every puppy we breed.  We all do our best to raise healthy, well socialized and fine examples of the breed to whom we’ve devoted our time and upon whom our reputations rest.  And we will NOT pair an inappropriate puppy with an ill-prepared human, as it is neither careful nor responsible.

My peeps submit applications that give me a bird’s eye view into their home lifestyles and quite a lot of information about their experience with dogs and what is important to them.  Based upon that application, I decide whether one of my puppies would be a good fit for them – or whether it makes more sense to refer them to a different breeder for any of a number of reasons.  Just because you reach out to a breeder with puppies doesn’t mean that you’ll get one.  However, if you reach out to someone selling puppies who is neither careful nor responsible?  Chances are you’ll get a puppy – and maybe even your ‘pick’ of the litter.

My peer breeders and I spend a lot of careful thought individually evaluating the puppies in a litter.  Pairing a puppy with a human has absolutely nothing to do with whether the puppy is ‘cute’ or not.  Don’t we tell our children that ‘beauty is more than skin deep’?  Well, the same is true in the canine world.

So, should you find yourself in the situation with a friend who might be considering ‘getting a dog’, do encourage that person to do some research, both into the breed and into the breeders of that breed.  Suggest they look at the AKC Breeder Referral page.  Your investment of time will pay off with the best puppy for your personal situation.

Grooming tools for next year’s stocking stuffers and ‘some of my favorite things’

8 January 2018

Rudolf took a break on the porch. ;>) Think he’s going to be late for Christmas!

Now that we’re into the New Year, the pressure is off.  The holidays are behind us, my kitchen is finally clean and it’s time for re-grouping.  I’ve figured out the trophies for our next Bay Colony Tibetan Terrier Club supported entry in Springfield, Massachusetts on April 7, 2018 and, on occasion, ordered ‘one for me’.  That latter part is the fun part.  And, actually, I have been known to buy two or three extra grooming tools to have on hand for visiting friends and new peeps, as a lot of these items are inexpensive and impromptu gifts are just plain fun.

Cheryl and Yogi James. 13 November 2015.

New TT owners might not know where or which grooming tools to buy for their canine companion.  Way back in the beginning?  I was told to buy a pin brush – and a slicker brush – and these are both mandatory things to have.  No one ever told me to buy a comb.  I can’t remember where I even got that idea.

While I’ve been ‘maintaining’ the coats of my TTs for a long time, I have also relied on a weekly professional grooming appointment for many years.  Each of my Tibetan Terriers has been in rotation, but it is not as difficult to maintain the full coat of an adult Tibetan Terrier, as I’ve thought.  Really, all it takes is five or ten minutes daily with the right grooming tools and a bath, every couple of weeks.  Quiet time with your furry sidekick is something you’ll both enjoy, as long as you stay on top of it.  And if you have osteo arthritis in your hands (as I do), just take it slowly.  Gentle, as you go.

In the grooming department, there are lots of tools available.  The essential equipment will fit into your grooming corner.  I can guarantee that any of these tools will make grooming time with your TT easier and more enjoyable.

3 WAY

Three way Greyhound combs come in colors!

Combs:  Greyhound combs are the top of the line and are a name brand.  Available from Ashley Craig in England, they last practically forever and have been manufactured in England for more than 90 years.  My first comb is still in use and was purchased in 1992.  They are electrostatically finished, to reduce static electricity.  greyhoundcomb.com

Specialty rat tail and face combs from Madan.

Another brand I like very much that is available domestically is manufactured by Madan.  They make a variety of specialty combs and brushes, too.  This particular distributor seems to have the best inventory available and ready to ship.  toplinepet.com

Madan brushes come in colors, too.

Brushes:  Madan pin brushes are smaller and come in fun colors.  Trust me, after ten minutes on the table?  A little fun is welcome!  toplinepet.com

A wooden pin brush from Chris Christensen.

Chris Christensen brushes and grooming tools are wonderful, too.  My first Chris Christensen brush was received as a gift from a new puppy owner.  Now, I use both wooden pin and metal pin brushes.  The wooden pin brushes are great for puppies AND for doggies with sensitive bodies.  And I love their Ice on Ice detangling leave-in coat conditioner.

chrissysystems.com

Les Poochs brushes are terrific for mat detangling and finishing.  Yes, they are expensive – but, my gosh, they work beautifully.  I only wish I had known about them 25 years ago.  I am also using their shampoos, these days.  lespoochs.com

Grooming tables: champagnetables.com  This company sells an extra tall table that is great for TTs and tall people.  I love mine.  We use it as a judging table in my basement show ring.  They are expensive – but the durability is worth it to me.  And it keeps unnecessary junk out of landfills.

Bathing tubs:  I use the kitchen sink in the AGA room, when the puppies are young.  It is great year-round – but when the weather is warm?  I use a portable tub in my outdoor shower, where we have hot and cold water.  You could use this portable tub ANYWHERE that you have a threaded spigot with hot and cold water OR in a bathroom where you have a hand held showerhead.  It is sturdy, durable and lightweight.  flyingpiggrooming.com

This is just a smattering of grooming tools I have in my grooming corner.  If you have tips or favorite products that I’ve not mentioned, please submit a comment.  We can all learn from each other.

As for leads and collars, they come in many materials – I have a variety on hand, whether for early leash training, walking to town or the show ring.  My absolute favorites come from Paula Hogan.

www.hoganleather.com

Paula Hogan’s rolled leather collar for coated breeds.

Paula fabricates a rolled leather ‘choke’ collar – I call it a ‘slip’ collar – and it is THE BEST to keep the long hair protected on a TT.  Even if you clip your dog’s coat and keep it short?  I love her rolled leather collars, particularly because they fit multiply sized doggies!  (But that is in my world.)  In your world?  The quality of the bridle leather is beautiful and it comes in a variety of colors.  And her leads?  They are unmatched in quality and ‘hand’.  Plus, they are of good weight and that makes it easier on arthritic fingers and hands.

PictureAnd I’ve recently learned of some wonderful gift items, too, like the Tashi book.  Susanne Roderick is the author, a lovely lady who splits her time between Massachusetts and Florida with her family and her beloved TT.  Susanne has recently published a charming book based on the heritage of the Tibetan Terrier.  It is beautifully illustrated and sensitively written.  Terrific for reading out loud with children.  Please check it out at susanneroderick.com

And now that I’ve finished sharing these thoughts, it is time for Billie, Ziva and Koko to take their turns on the grooming table, as it snows outside.  A quiet afternoon, here at Kensington.  We shall make the most of it.

Happy New Year, all!

The tragedy of breeder rescue situations

9 November 2017

We have them in every breed: situations where things have gotten out of hand, the animals are neglected and somehow, the humans don’t see it; won’t admit it; and resist help.  And there is no need for me to include a photo similar to what we see on the television during the holiday season.  They are terrible photos.

Last week, I got pulled into one of these situations and lost my life for five days.  The tearful frustration that eventually led to my bowing out of the challenge was precipitated by many deep feelings and, ultimately, a sense of powerless anger.

I think I have a better understanding of these rescue situations, now.  One can’t deny that some form of mental illness seems to play a part, as does a ‘hoarding’ orientation.  Surrounding ourselves with the unconditional love of multiple dogs: they don’t judge us and we feel very much loved.  And as for whether there is a monetary component to these rescues?  It’s unclear.  In 2014, our breed had a large US rescue of 31 Tibetan Terriers where money hadn’t been an issue – but we also have rescues where money is a real problem.  The common underlying element I’ve seen is that the human seems to lose the power of discernment and there is a disconnect between true reality and what they ‘see’.

WB loving 14 year old Mia in Hopkinton, MA. 2006.

14 year old Max on the couch. Popponesset, 2006.

Way back in the beginning of my journey in this breed, I fell deeply in love with my first two Tibetans; littermates, one male and one female.  They both lived to 15 and passed, within one month of one another.  It broke my heart but I didn’t lose my way, as I’d already brought the foundation pair for my Kensington breeding program into our lives and these two young TTs helped me through my grieving.  It was right then and there, I realized I didn’t ever want to go through the death experience again.  And the only way I saw to avoid future death experiences would be to re-home my animals, when the time came to retire them from my breeding program.

I took matters further and vowed to myself never to either become a rescue situation or let my pack grow to a size beyond that which I could lovingly manage.  So, instead of grieving at death, I grieve in anticipation of each of my beloved animals moving on and into new forever homes at retirement.  But it is a ‘softer’ grieving period, as the animals live on and their departure allows for the arrival of a new puppy in my pack.

Is it easy?  No.  Is it painful?  Yes.  How do I plan for it?  I leave it up to the universe and inevitably, the universe presents options and I treat each one as a real possibility.  Toward that end, I’ve been sharing these inquiring forever families who are looking for older Tibetan Terriers with peer breeders, as I’ve learned that the practice is healthy for me and we must share our learning with our friends.  Together, this practice of re-homing retiring dogs can help to keep our breeding packs smaller and reduce the number of annual rescues.

Georgie Girl, now retired and splitting her time between Naples, FL and Concord, MA. 2012.

Along the way, too, there are the puppies I choose to breed and raise.  I’ve been asked many times, ‘How do you give them up?’  Well, I look at my forever families and see the joy that these puppies bring them and my circle of peeps widens, with each litter.  So, I’ve come to think of myself as the ultimate ‘foster’ mom.  I try to stay in the moment and enjoy each dog, each day that we’re together.

And I remain committed to keeping only puppies who are better than my best-bred-to-date.  That keeps the bar high, my brain properly focused and some semblance of order in the pack.

GRCHB Billie on the table at Westminster. 2017.

I do not want a large breeding program, as my mental health requires diverse interests and activities.  And I do like to keep control – ha! – over my pack.  Puppies keep you humble, as you just can’t control everything.  And nursing mothers?  They are a joy to care for and to watch.  When I get a puppy who truly speaks to me?  The older animals help to raise the baby and together, the pack swells and shrinks rhythmically over time.

Oliver in Charlestown, enjoying the breeze. 2017.

In about two weeks’ time, my beloved Oliver will be leaving us for his new forever home in New Jersey.  GRCH Kensington’s Oliver Twist is my pick from my first litter and my first Grand Champion.  At 8 1/2, he is no longer in my breeding program and so, it makes the most sense to have him enjoy his mature years with two devoted humans, where he can be pampered, well cared for and no longer bothered by teething young puppies.  And soon?  He will bring joy and share love with his new humans.  We have so many friends who rotate in and out of our house and our lives – some match our breeding cycles and come to help with new puppies – some come up to visit annually during a particular season or for particular events.  Oliver has been the meeter & greeter extraordinaire.  Of course, he will be missed.  But I would rather hear of his future antics while he enjoys good health, than lose the plot and have him suffer from being one of too many in the pack.

Oliver’s new home in NJ, come Thanksgiving. 2017.

Oskar, Izzie, James, Coppi and Georgie Girl have all come and gone, before Oliver.  Each has been very happily re-homed, beginning in 2010 when Oskar left.  I love when each of these animals comes to board with us.  And I love accepting invitations from their humans who live throughout New England.  I get to see my kids again and they always make a big fuss over me.  These dogs enrich my & our lives and I only want the best for each one of them.

Out for a snowshoe with my good friend, Kate. Stowe, 2017.

In the end, we must take care of ourselves, so that we are able to nurture those around us who depend upon us.  Caring for yourself is not selfish in a bad way.  It is selfish in a good way and necessary for being ‘leader of the pack’.  Asking for help does not imply weakness.  Rather, it implies that you know your own limitations.  Asking someone whether they need help?  That’s a demonstration of love.  And knowing one’s limits and being able to identify when you’re getting too close to the edge?  THAT is when we learn to ask for help from our peeps.  Through collaboration, we can make it a better world.  And I have yet to not feel good, after being asked for help.

Going forward?  Know that you can ask me for help and I might just ask you for the same.  ;>)

There’s more to life than dogs. Really!

10 September 2017

This post has been inspired by the imminent change in season up here in Vermont.  And it has been equally inspired by a visit to the Stowe Farmer’s Market today.

Mac, Teddi and a young Aza. Princeton, 2014.

When temperatures shift and the early morning weather requires Patagonia, Arcteryx or the like, our faces wear smiles in Vermont.  We do not dread the upcoming winter.  Rather?  We look forward to it, as do my Tibetan Terriers.  A cold weather breed at heart, they’ll soon be greeted by snow and smells of winter.

What to do with duck eggs on a Friday afternoon. 8 September 2017.

I move from outdoor grilling on the porch and into the baking kitchen.  This past Friday, Lizzie called me, as she had six fresh duck eggs and asked, ‘What shall we do today?’  I have a great recipe for a cardamom pound cake and that is exactly what we baked.  And we invited friends over for a great piece of beef, baby Brussels and a lively salad.  Soon, we’ll be drying sweet potato chips and beef liver in the AGA for the doggies . . .  and my Pete’s Greens deliveries will resume, along with my osteo arthritis.

So, this is where the story really begins.

This morning, I started my medical marijuana treatment with 1/4 lozenge of the Merry Widow or whichever variety I’m on to keep my hands pain free.  I didn’t think much of it, other than to notice that I felt some side effects that I know will fall by the wayside, within a few days of consecutive use.

So, my hands were hardly even on my radar, when I got to the Farmer’s Market.  Rather, the bounty of the summer season controlled my attention and I tried so hard to buy selectively, knowing that I’d end up in the kitchen this afternoon as a prep cook with all I found in my bag upon my return.

September bounty from the Stowe Farmer’s Market. 10 September 2017.

I always start on the right at the exotic vegetable lady’s stand.  Today?  I bought pineapple tomatillos.  They’ll be terrific in a pork or ham glaze.  Then, continuing down the right, I bought some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, patty pan squash, kale, fresh basil and an Hermes coloured winter squash.  Beautifully coloured!  I think it was a Kuri squash.  We got them last fall in our Pete’s shares.

Google this farm! Buy his treats! BEST LIVER TREATS EVER! 10 September 2017.

Next stall was the Sage Hill goat farm lady and her cheeses.  Soon after?  The man who dries the most amazing beef and pork liver treats that have my doggies learning ANY new tricks.  And around the circle of vendors I continued, until I bumped into my rental clients who arrived yesterday and had their nine year old neutered apricot mini Poodle with them.  I know they love Farmer’s Markets and I’d told them about the man with his liver treats, yesterday.

He said, ‘We found the liver treats.’  She said, ‘It is the farm from whom we’ve been buying our beef mail order for the last couple of years.’ (Mary’s a retired professional chef.  Used to run one of Lydia Shire’s restaurants in Boston.)  Then, he said: ARE YOU INTO PASTA?  MARY’S BEEN ON A MISSION FOR THE BEST EGG PASTA IN THE WORLD AND SHE THINKS SHE’S FOUND IT.

Wouldn’t you know, it would have been my last stop, as it was on the left end, at the beginning of the circle of vendors.

Yet another way to ingest cannabinols. Suffer from anxiety? Eat this. ;>)

So, I made my way over and as another egg pasta fan, I notice that there are three offerings: Egg (as in plain), Tri colour (obviously coloured with veggies) and CBP.

Well, in MY world, CBP = Clear by Parentage.  It is a phrase we use when both sire and dam have tested clear of a genetic mutation.  CBP.  And I test every other generation, JUST TO BE CLEAR.  Pun intended.

So, this beautiful young woman with her two Tomgirl daughters is offering me a taste of the plain cooked pasta with Reggiano cheese and butter, and sharing her enthusiasm for the CBP pasta as a natural remedy for people with anxiety.

Pasta for people with anxiety and other issues?  Hmm.

I’m listening and I’m processing and I ask whether exposure to the high heat of boiling water might not undermine the effectiveness of the natural remedy.  ‘Oh, no’, I’m told.  ‘The CBP doesn’t deteriorate, when exposed to heat.’

And then, I hear this guy – cute guy, too – behind me with a lady friend saying, ‘Cool.  They’re using CBP’.  DEFINITELY NOT Clear by Parentage.  Is it the next rage, now that so many are practicing gluten free?

So, I turn around and ask him how he has come to be familiar with this, thinking that I’m really pretty well exposed to all new sorts of natural remedies . . .  and he says, ‘I’m a licensed grower in Massachusetts.’  And it all clicks.

CBP is a cannabinoid.  It is a marijuana product and marijuana needs to be cooked, in order for the cannabinoids to release their medicinal properties.  That’s why it is smoked and baked.  Butter confit of marijuana.  That, I’ve made.  But it has been IMPOSSIBLE to control the dose, until the introduction of medical marijuana.  Whether you’re on one side or the other side of this political fence?  Know that being able to control the dosage is vital, whether it’s Advil or THC.

So, I turn around again.  This time, the beautiful woman is smiling at me.  She asks whether I would like to buy any pasta?  And I’m smiling back at her.  She tells me that she adds 40mcg of CBP to each pound of flour.  I tell her that I’ve had my first lozenge this morning, in anticipation of the change of season and increase in my osteo symptoms – and, yes, I’d LOVE some of her plain egg pasta – but none of the CBP, thank you.  I bought a half pound and laughed & talked to myself, all of the way back to the car.

Never did I think I’d see the day when THC laced pasta would be for sale at the Stowe Farmer’s Market.  Cracked me up!  Lynne’s laughing and suggesting that when the officer pulls us over to ask why we’re driving funny – we say, ‘Oh, officer, we just had pasta.  Our special pasta!’  Too funny.

Non, thank you, RASTA PASTA. I’d like a nice Chianti, please. ;>)

At the end of the day?  I prefer a nice glass of red wine with my pasta.  Maybe a rose, if we’re doing a seafood dish.  Something I may well do this evening, when I cook my Rasta Pasta for supper.  It just cracked me up.  Thought I was so hip, back in 1974.  Now?  Holy moly; feeling anxious?  Eat RASTA pasta!  We’re still laughing and we haven’t even tried it.  ;>)

Let’s talk AIs (Artificial inseminations)

9 July 2017

Last night I brought my new friend Lynne Fardell to a gallery opening at West Branch in Stowe.  I’ve enjoyed and supported this gallery, since they opened.  It’s Chris and Tari’s and I’ve brought sculpture, paintings and stone into my home from their wonderful gallery.

Chris Curtis cut the stones and Tari Swenson sandblasted the caligraphic 1846

The boys (it took five) mounting the ‘other’ stone about the AGA alcove

I love living with art.  My art, these days, are my Kensington Tibetan Terriers.  Each is art-like in its physical form and movement.  My breeding program is an art form that uses both sides of my brain.  There are technical, intuitive, analytical and suggestive sides to what we do as breeders.

And toward that end?  That, which we’ve come to take in stride . . .  remains fascinating to others.  And I do understand just how weird it is to even think about doggie sex, nevermind ‘collecting’ a male dog.

The art form of my breeding program starts with sex.  Doggie sex.  You want to know about doggie sex?  I know you do; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this.  ;>)  Here, we’re going to talk about AIs.  Soon, I’ll write about classic copulation and the famous ‘tie’.  In the meantime: AI stands for ‘Artificial Insemination’.  There are several types.  We’re going to stay focused on manual collection and insemination by tube and syringe.

The first time I ever witnessed a dog being ‘collected’ for an AI, Doc Truesdale wore his tennis whites.  Never in my wildest dreams, never! did I ever think that THIS MHC girl would be on her knees cheering ‘Get the girl!  Get the girl!  Come on, big boy; get the girl!’  Doc told me to do it and I would have done anything for him.  Still would.  ;>)

Doc was and remains amazing.  There HE was on HIS knees, doing the unthinkable and in his tennis whites.  Just off the court.  He did it successfully and I felt traumatized.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I WOULD BE THERE TO PARTICIPATE.  I figured that I’d hand over the money and someone would take care of it.

Oh, those were the early days.  I’ve since become rather laissez-faire about it all.

Today, I’ve got a new partner in crime.  Doc’s still down in Seekonk, Massachusetts.  He is a breeder vet and breeds Westminster quality Affenpinschers and Boxers.  Lynne Fardell’s a former Golden Retriever breeder and has been in TTs, for the last fifteen years.  Her hands are just as good as Doc’s; because she’s a clever girl – and she’s got history.  ;>)

My friend, Lynne Fardell

We laugh about our ‘times on the floor’.  But we’re also extremely serious.  We each take our breeding programs very seriously and study pedigrees back more than nine generations.  We put our puppies and dogs on the table and she runs handling classes out of my basement.  I welcome the help of live-in doggie au pairs and even more, the help of my dear friend Mary.  Mary is not a dog person.  But Mary has responded to my midnight calls and dashed over in her nightie to help me whelp puppies in the middle of the night.  She’s always said, ‘But I didn’t DO anything’.  Just taking the notes, as I call them out, is wonderful help.

But last night?  We were hungry and decided to hit the 4 Corners barbeque place for supper, after we left the gallery opening.

Mary wanted to know something.  She wanted to know EXACTLY what Lynne meant, when she said that Henrik had a huge penis.  And she wanted to know why I said that I didn’t want any of my girls near it for a natural.  She wanted to know why I said, AIs ONLY!  She didn’t fully understand and wanted to get clear.

So, Lynne told her.  Lynne said (and I concurred) that Henrik’s member was akin to that of a small pony and that Ziva’d had a reproductive wellness exam and was deemed to have a small vagina.  Her anatomy had rejected Charlie’s penis in 2016 and back then, I didn’t know why.  I didn’t know whether it was a tough hymen, a vaginal stricture or something else.  So, I took Ziva to the wonderful Dr. Michael Norris of Broadview Animal Hospital in Rochester, NH for a digital exam.  With humans?  The gynos use a metal or plastic speculum.  With dogs?  Up goes the finger.  Seriously.  It’s called a ‘digital exam’, for lack of a term more chic.  And it is very serious business.

Dr. Norris was clear: no stricture, no tough hymen – but a small diameter vagina.  He prescribed a stud dog with a small penis or an AI.

With a small vagina?  Norris told me that I needed a dog with a small penis.  Yogi’s small, his penis is small and perfectly sized for Ziva and the two of them actually seemed to have fun doing the nasty.  Five ties in 36 hours.  Five.  Unbelievable and not just seminal fluid.  I collected some of it myself to examine.  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10209335147966274&set=pcb.10211194576593873&type=3

Yes, I did.  Me.  Next step?  Lynne’s going to teach me how to collect Henrik, as he was ready to rock, right out of the gate – but gynormous.  I believe that I can do it and it will be great on several counts:

  1. My skill set will be broader;
  2. I will be more versatile, when confronted with the next stud dog with a large member and
  3.  It will be that much more comfortable for my girls.

Just call me madame.

Thank you, Ms. Fardelle.  ;>)

The value of hope

13 June 2017

Happy birthday to me! (Billie’s bro Whit, granddaddy to these new puppies).

It’s not anyone’s birthday, today.  It was our latest litter of Tibetan Terrier puppies’ birthday, yesterday.  Happy birthday, little ones!  And boy, did these puppies take their own sweet time making their way into the world.  ;>)

Time is a gift.

To have spare time, to share time with a friend; both are wonderfully valuable.  To remain hopeful when the going gets tough?  That is challenging.

To sit for 18 hours watching and waiting?  That is the opposite of having spare time.  It feels frustrating and value-less.  Feels a bit like you’re wasting time – but you are not.  And you think about giving up hope.

Watching a pregnant dam live through contractions and the repositioning of the puppies inside her?  It’s a longsuffering act of love.  An important part of the bonding that happens, when a human helps an animal.  A part not to be missed and an important part of the whelping process.

Billie with her 2016 puppies

Billie’s previous two litters were unusual, in that we lost just about half of the puppies each time and there was no early stage of labor.  Lovely, perfectly formed sable puppies.  Strong, apparently well developed and with good body fat – but they didn’t even make it being born.  Billie loves the cold and whelped the first puppies in her crate without a sound and without any apparent early stage symptoms.  Both times, I found myself surprised – but ready with a warm whelping box.  Both times, we had problems; problems I did NOT want to repeat.  And the continued challenge of these problems is that I cannot understand why they happened.  So, my new strategy was going to have to be all encompassing, in order to avoid them.

Organic sweet potato chips for snacks

Nutrition was an area where I thought I might improve my strategy.  This time during Billie’s last tri-mester, we fed freeze dried and frozen raw – something I’d not done with previous dams – and supplemented with puppy kibble & yogurt for the additional calcium & phosphorous, both mothers and developing puppies need for health and strength.  We even added canned Fromm’s to the puppy kibble and presented food every two hours, during the last week.  And of course, I made lots of organic sweet potato chips in the AGA.  If Billie was the least bit hungry?  There was going to be quality nutrition with probiotics in her face.  ;>)

We de-wormed with Panacure, three weeks PRIOR to whelping and on Days 1, 2 and 3 of life – both the dam and the puppies.  Had it been a parasite infestation?  It wasn’t going to happen again.  These things called ‘worms’ are often missed, as they are so common in the environment, a re-infestation can happen with exposure to leftover dog droppings in a field.  The eggs can live for up to two years – even in VT, with our extremes of temperature.  Between monthly doses of Interceptor and an aggressive de-worming protocol during pregnancy, we eliminated the possibility of parasites in this 2017 litter.

And we changed the sire.

Billie’s sire, Michael, with Nina, Mark and the Judge. BCTTC Specialty 2013.

As I racked my brain trying to think of any and all contributing factors?  Changing the genetic mix came to mind and I chose one of my bred bys whose genetic heritage was closer to Billie’s, both on her father’s and mother’s sides.  This, was going to be a breeding designed to maximize the heritage on her father’s side; an effort to produce a closer version of her father, Michael (RinChen’s Blazing Black Icon).  And we did it by breeding Billie to Yogi, a male sired by her brother and out of Georgie Girl.  Tempered with the best of my mentor’s breeding program and with my influence on her mother’s side, I thought this might just produce some magic.

He can sire, but he can’t drive. ;>)

And when the time came for me to begin my watch?  I had help.  And Billie had help.  She had three human hand maidens who studied her every move and kept vigilant watch.  Those first contractions at 9:15am on Sunday, June 11th?  They were the beginning of a true early stage labor and Billie didn’t go fast; she went s l o w.  Slowly, through the first 18 hours of discomfort and panting, as the puppies arranged themselves for their trip down the birth canal.  And at a moderate pace of seven puppies in six hours during her active labor, the puppies arrived.  Each was perfect, each was alive and each was male.

Billie and her seven boys, 12 June 2017

Thank you, Mother Nature, for sharing your humor with us.  I get it.  Everything in balance, at the end of the day.  But out of balance along the way?  It happens.  ;>)

And huge thanks to Lynne Fardell of Sunsi Tibetan Terriers and Cheryl Mattiace, chef extraordinaire and wonderful friend.  Your help to me and Billie was invaluable!

Now?  Welcome Mario, Bravo, Luigi, Rumor, Boca, Baci and Nero!  Our sweet angels who are vigorous, of sturdy size and bone – and alive!  All of them!  It is so exciting and a reason to hold onto that hope, especially when you feel like it’s slipping away.

We will be welcoming visitors again, later in July.  These seven puppies have already been reserved by deposit.  Our next breeding is expected to take place next week, with puppies available to their humans in October 2017.

 

 

We didn’t have to wait terribly long . . .

9 January 2017

Last night, the night began as expected, but did not end as we had thought it would.

Mark Desrosiers with Ziva, Best of Breed win. 2015

The lovely Ziva went from general discomfort and confusion to all out labor in about half an hour.  Of course, it was minutes after our most wonderful midwife extraordinaire left for her home – and I realized that we were going to have puppies very soon and just before midnight.

Fortunately, the house was prepared with two whelping areas and everything had been washed, sterilized and set up for exactly what was about to take place – but you can’t ever take anything for granted, in times like these.  So, I texted my thoughts and soon thereafter, placed the phone call asking for help.

Ziva’s puppies. 9 January 2017, 2:30am.

Things happened so fast that I barely remember Jen’s arrival, as Ziva was pushing on the first puppy and #1 and #2 popped into the world within minutes of one another and before the strike of midnight!

As things happen, we had an hour gap to collect our thoughts and then, six more puppies came, faster and faster, with less and less time between one and the next.  Shortly after 2am, we had the eight puppies who’d been seen and counted on the ultrasound in December and Jen gratefully returned to her bed, while I stayed up, setting newborns up in rotation to nurse and guide their new mother through the ropes.

Ziva nursing her new babies.

Well, after an hour or so of nursing puppies on her teets, Ziva began a new round of full on contractions at 3:30am and the next thing I knew, we had a ninth puppy!  A beautiful black male: healthy, with an easily recognized shoulder collar of white and four little white paws.  At that point?  I was devoid of clever ideas and named him Number Nine, thinking of the Beatles song, for inspiration.

Last time I remember pulling an all nighter?  It was similar circumstances.  In fact, it was June 2016, when Billie whelped her second litter.  Why is it that the girls so often ‘go’ in the middle of the night?  It is such a privilege, when they go during daylight.

We would like to introduce:

Zsa Zsa! Watchful, intelligent, quick as lightning and ready for action. March 2017.

The three boys and four girls of Kensington’s 1st litter of 2017; also, Ziva’s first litter with Yogi James.  At left is the lovely Zsa Zsa, with a favorite toy.

Welcome Zsa Zsa, Prince, Rio, Pinky, Phelps, Harper and Number Nine, with forever homes in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Colorado.  Tonight, we hope to sleep.  Tomorrow, the party resumes.  All puppies will stay with us for the next nine or ten weeks.  Whoo hoo!  Let the show begin.  ;>)

Progesterone Testing, at the other end of the cycle

23 January 2017

Newborn Tibetan Terriers; January 9, 2017.

The pace of Ziva x Yogi’s puppies’ growth has been steady, since they were born.  We have seven two week old puppies, averaging just a little over a pound in body weight.  Mr. Phelps is the biggest at 20 ounces and Rio is the smallest, at just under one pound.  Their coats are thick and glisten shiny black with accents of white, at their necks, on their forelegs and chests.  This litter is healthy and active, with a lot of bone.  They will be gorgeous Tibetan Terriers.  Eyes should be opening in a couple of days and with that comes full development of their senses of sight and hearing.  A whole new world looms ahead!

Still image from an ultrasound; March 21, 2016.

Some years’ back, we learned that the rise and fall of progesterone levels can identify specific biological happenings in female dogs.  With this information in mind, we’ve been using progesterone levels to identify ovulation and the theoretical ‘best’ times to breed.  With this next litter, we will see whether we can catch the dramatic fall in progesterone levels that will tell us how soon whelping will begin.  It would be wonderfully helpful to have a biological indication, in addition to the behavioral indications we watch for.  We are looking for a level of 2ng/ml of blood, which will tell us that we are 36-48 hours from whelping.  At 1ng/ml, whelping happens.

Image result for progesterone graph for ovulation in dogs

The AKC has recently developed a ‘Canine College’, through which anyone can take online classes and learn about many dog-related topics.  I’ve taken two of the beginning breeding classes and think it’s terrific to have experienced breeders sharing their experiences, along with the science that goes along with the stories.  These online classes can serve as that ‘second set of eyes’ we all want to have, when confronted by an unusual situation in the whelping box.

Jenifer Wagner was at my right side, this last litter.  She has been a great emotional support to me, in addition to her veterinary experience that always gives me the sense that we are ready for just about anything Mother Nature might throw at us.  I can’t thank her enough, except to say that without her help, it’s always much more stressful for me.

In the next three or four weeks, friends of ours will be expecting litters, too, and we look forward to being able to report on our experience with these new progesterone whelping indicators.  Every responsible breeder wants to be prepared and the more information you have, (I think) the better.

 

Waiting for the inevitable . . .

8 January 2017

So, here we sit.  It’s 4pm and I am in the AGA room in the antique end of the house with the lovely Ziva and her rotund belly, sweet Kodi, our rambunctious Lily Rose and ‘ever ready for a nose dive into the couch’ Oliver.

Ziva winning the Breed, under Becky

Ziva winning the Breed, under Becky

We await the arrival of Ziva’s first contractions.  And I am always nervous about such things, as I don’t want anything to go wrong.

This whelping will be a little different, as we’re utilizing a baby monitor at night to get used to Ziva’s normal nighttime sounds, so that I won’t miss a trick, as I did last time with Billie Jean.  I have been on 24/7 duty for 2 days and everything else is on hold.  Ziva is my focus, even with Billie out on the circuit this weekend.  She took the Breed yesterday but didn’t place in the Group.  I was disappointed – but someone else got to win.  Whoo hoo, for them!  ;>)

Since our last litter, we’ve switched repro vets, as I sold my Princeton, Massachusetts project last year – so now?  I’m way too far from Dr. William C. Truesdale in Seekonk, MA – and still too far from Broadview Animal Hospital in Rochester, NH and their WONDERFUL Dr. Michael Norris with his terrific repro vet techs – so, we’re working with LVVS in Hyde Park, Vermont for the first time and without any corroborating progesterone tests or gestational opinions from either Doc Truesdale or Broadview.  We’ve switched machines – from a Mini Vidas and two hour T/A – to sending blood out to an Antech lab and getting results 24 hours later, assuming that FedEx picks up.  And I’ve had that experience, too: ‘What do you mean, FedEx didn’t pick up the blood?  And I have to wait until Tuesday?  You didn’t know they weren’t going to pick up, the Friday after Thanksgiving?  So, I have to WAIT FOUR DAYS???  ARE YOU CHARGING ME???’

Seriously, caramelizing onions at a time like this?!

Seriously, caramelizing onions at a time like this?!

Not ideal – but, our new norm and we will get used to it and learn to work with the 24 hour delay.  And I’ve since told my evil twin to take a chill pill and so, she’s carmelizing onions and baking bread, to keep busy.  Better that, than, run her mouth.  ;>)

Once you’ve become accustomed to a 24 hour T/A, it becomes acceptable – even though I don’t think I’ll ever lose interest in the fastest T/A possible.  And progesterone levels are great determinants for determining both breeding windows and whelping immediacy.  However, with a 24 hour lag time?  I’ll be watching and listening to Ziva’s behavior like a hawk, nevermind hauling her off to have blood drawn tomorrow morning and schlepping the lovely through sub zero temps.

What, you worried?  I was fine!

What, you worried? I was fine!

So, here, we sit.

For the last three nights, I slept on the doggie couch, as Ziva was beginning to ‘stick like glue’ and I am also finessing house training the lovely Lily Rose.  So, if Lily barks the right way, I let her out, so that I can praise her for doing her business outside.  Now, the flip side of that is also true: if she barks because she simply wants out?  I holler back (as though she understands me), ‘Stop it!  Go back to sleep!’  Nine times out of ten?  I am right and my strategy works.

So, I continue to sit, practicing with the finely tuned ear I inherited from my mother and doing my best to discern the nuances among the many barks that come from a crate confined puppy in the night.  Honestly?  Every day, I question my sanity.

Tonight is another night.  Our favorite vet tech in the world comes for dinner and we will order out and have PieCasso deliver.  I don’t think we have puppies in the immediate future – so, I should probably run out to do an errand NOW.  Jen and I will practice with the baby monitor.  The heating pads are on and in position in the new baby nest & in the whelping box, should Ziva decide that the couch is better.  I do not believe the puppies will come tonight.  But Monday or Tuesday?  Maybe!

We will hope for a gentle and uneventful whelping, sometime soon.  Keep you posted.