When Your Lap Feels Empty

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

I have always had a general rule of thumb when it comes to the question of “how many dogs is too many dogs?”, to whit: more dogs than can fit on your lap at any one point in time.

I fully admit, I have less lap that I used to, but even so – two dogs on your lap leave an empty space, both there and in your heart.

It’s been a rough two years when it comes to loss. Delilah, who left a weird, unique, one in a lifetime hole in our hearts. Kelda, who went too young, too soon, and too shockingly to be processed. The puppies I lost, again, too young, so young that they never had names, in such a mysterious way (a virus, so say the expensive and yet frustratingly non specific pathology reports from the University of Guelph, and how can something so mundane as a “flu virus”cause such trauma?).

Penelope, however, leaves us with a hole in our hearts, a space in our laps, and an ache that we are still trying to fill. Our tiny little teddy bear girl, who sat up on her hind legs like an imbalanced Buddha, balancing on her butt like a circus seal. Who loved to randomly bark at the ceiling, apparently for the sheer joy it. Who shrieked to introduce herself to every new person she met (“Here I am! Say hello! hi hi hi hi!”).

I don’t care how old your dog is, a death from cancer is never a good death. We took her home for one full week after her diagnosis, a week filled with ice cream and laps and extra treats, and walks that usually ended up being ‘carries’, not that we minded. Weeks come to an end, however, and when pain outweighs joy, it is time to say goodbye.

I have last photos of her, but I won’t share them, because she is and always will be our small, shining, silly girl, running alongside the lake with her sister, her mother, her grandmother, all of them now – gone, and gone too soon, and the holes they leave in your lap and your heart and your life, are holes that no other dog can fill, even though they in turn will leave their own holes, too, and too soon.

young-Nellie2

Fawn and Brindle Pied French Bulldogs

Pied French Bulldogs – Coat Color Inheritance

There are few things I love more than well marked Brindle Pied French Bulldogs. Among serious breeders, pied is the “Rolls Royce” of French Bulldog color patterns – easy to achieve in theory (just breed two pieds together, and you’ll get more pieds), but nearly impossible to achieve perfectly.

Brindle Pied French Bulldogs, after all, have no camouflage. A solid patterned dog, be it brindle, cream or fawn, has the benefit of a canvas in a single color. A pied needs not to have not just markings, but markings well placed, symmetrically located, and properly pigmented. A badly placed marking on the back can give a structurally correct dog the appearance of a sway back. A lopsided marking on a rear leg can make movement look off gait. A non symmetrical head marking can detract from a dog’s appearance and overall type. Worst of all, lack of pigment, even when unseen, can have serious health ramifications for a pied dog, no matter how pretty they look.

The pied pattern is recessive to that for solid coat (solid coat includes fawn, cream and brindle – and more about brindle later).

A Punnett Square can help you visualize the possible breedings that would result in a pied dog.

Click any images to view full sized.

Pied to pied 

 Predicted outcome per offspring: +Sp/+Sp - 1:1 (100%)

Predicted outcome per offspring: +Sp/+Sp – 1:1 (100%)

Breeding pied to pied will have an outcome of 100% pied offspring.

Pied to a solid marked dog that carries pied

 Predicted outcome per offspring: +S/+Sp - 1:2 (50% Solid Marked offspring that carry pied) +Sp/+Sp - 1:2 (50% pied offspring)

Predicted outcome per offspring:
+S/+Sp – 1:2 (50% Solid Marked offspring that carry pied)
+Sp/+Sp – 1:2 (50% pied offspring)

We could expect 50% of the puppies produced to be pied. The other 50% we would expect to be solid marked dogs that CARRY the recessive pied allele.

Pied to a solid marked dog that does NOT carry pied

Predicted outcome per offspring:<br /> +S/+Sp - 1:1 (100%)<br /> All offspring will carry pied, but be solid marked.

Predicted outcome per offspring:
+S/+Sp – 1:1 (100%)

None of the offspring will be pied, but 100% of the offspring will carry the pied allele. The following Punnett Square will illustrate what could occur when you breed two of these solid marked, pied carrying offspring together:

Solid Marked Pied Carrier to Solid Marked Pied Carrier

Predicted outcome per offspring:

+S/+S – 1:4 (25%)
+S/+sp – 1:2 (50%)
+sp/+sp – 1:4 (25%)
So, 25% would be solid marked offspring that do NOT carry pied.
50% would be solid marked offspring that DO carry a pied allele.
25% would be pied offspring.

Pied Marking Patterns

Pied, as you might know, is a wide spectrum of marking types. A heavily marked pied dog can be referred to as a blanket, boston marked, or mantled pied, while an ‘extreme’ pied can be a dog that appears essentially white.

This is a diagram that I’ve always found really helpful in understanding pied patterning. It’s adapted from a diagram by G. M. Allen, published in 1914, and is considered to be the ‘blueprint’ for how pied markings pattern themselves.

Coat Color Inheritance Brindle Pied French Bulldogs

Coat Color Inheritance Brindle Pied French Bulldogs – Click to view full sized

As you can see, the drawing even in 1914 specified that pied is an ABSENCE of patterned areas, and an increase in white (I mention that only because sometimes people think that a pied dog is a white dog with patterned areas overlaid).

In Frenchies, this drawing would illustrate a brindle pied Frenchie. If you picture all of those same areas as fawn, without a brindle overlay, you can picture a fawn pied with the same markings. The masking allele is separate and separately inherited.

The further you go down this chart, away from patterned areas and towards extreme white, the greater your chances for color linked deafness.

Deafness and Pieds

Color linked deafness is an interesting thing. Its technical name is “pigment-associated hereditary deafness”.

The cochlea is the spiral cavity of the inner ear, and it is lined with cochlear hair cells. These hair cells, when healthy, generates and amplify sound. In pigment-associated hereditary deafness, the death of the hair cells after birth (2-4 weeks, for dogs) leads to deafness.

These hair cells and the underlying structure require a very specific environment to remain healthy – specifically, high K+ and low Na+ levels. Pigment cells – melanocytes – are responsible for maintaining this level.

When the cochlea has no pigment cells, the stria degenerates, and the high K+ levels in the fluids surrounding the hair cells is not maintained. This leads to the eventual death of the cochlear hair cells, and to deafness in the dog.

Anything that increases the chances of less pigmented inner ears, increases the chances of pigment associated deafness. As you can see on the pied inheritance chart above, Mother Nature does everything in her power to retain pigment on the ear, which decreases the chances for deafness (but does not eliminate it – a dog with pigmented or colored hair on the ears, can still have no pigment on the inner ears).

Kefir for Pets - a cure all for digestive upsets

Kefir Benefits for Dogs and Pregnant Bitches

Delilah had an upset stomach last week, so she’s been getting Kefir daily with her food, and she loves it. I’ve now started adding it to everyone’s food, since it is such a rich, healthful and relatively inexpensive way to add nutrition to their diets, and to support immune and digestive function. Similar to yogurt, Kefir is made by fermenting milk (goat, cow, sheep or even coconut) with a bacterial and yeast starter known as ‘kefir grains’. Read more