Stupid Phone Calls, Stupider People & Pedigree Dogs in Canada

I had just been gloating a few days ago that this Christmas season had been almost blessedly free of “We need a puppy for Christmas” calls. I should have know better – it doesn’t really get interesting until the last minute callers come out of the woodwork.

This morning’s phone call was an almost text book perfect of the impulse gift giving puppy buyer.

Caller: “Do you have any puppies that will be ready for Christmas?”

Me: “No, I’m sorry, we won’t – and we don’t sell Christmas puppies, or puppies for gifts”.

Caller, in distracted, ‘I’m not really listening to you’ tone of voice : “I want one that’s not too expensive, either. I have a limited budget. Because I looked at some pet store ones? And oh my God. They’re so expensive. Are yours that expensive?”

Me: “Um, yeah. Like I said, we don’t have any Christmas puppies. Also, we don’t sell puppies for Christmas gifts.”

Caller: “Well, that’s stupid. Why not?”

Me, frustrated and really wanting to get off the phone so I can get coffee: “Because all my dogs are Jewish dogs, so they don’t celebrate Christmas”.

Caller, in ‘well, that explains it all’ tone: “Oooooh!”

Seriously, it’s hard not to get snotty with some of these people. I am almost sorry for lying to her (my dogs are actually agnostic), but some callers just make it so tempting.

In less amusing news, a pair of fuckwits idiots calling themselves “veterinarians” harnessed their half starved horse to the (uninsured) car they got stuck in a ditch, then left the poor horse to strain in the harness until it literally gave out from exhaustion.

From the Langley Times Newspaper:

Starving horse in Langley, BC The seven-year-old emaciated gelding used by its owners to pull a sedan out of a muddy ditch on Wednesday has been put down and five other horses seized. The owners, a man and a woman claiming to be veterinarians, face animal cruelty charges, confirm the SPCA.

The Langley residents were arrested after SPCA investigators found out the couple had tethered the horse to the sedan, which had gone off road in front of their property in the 2000 block of 208 Street.

Langley RCMP confirm the car wasn’t insured and the SPCA estimates the horse was labouring in the mud for more than 45 minutes before emergency responders came on the scene.

They were trying to get him to pull the vehicle out of the ditch when the animal simply collapsed and couldn’t get up, said SPCA senior animal protection officer Eileen Drever.

The SPCA determined the young horse to be in critical distress and humanely euthanized it.

“It was terribly upsetting for all the investigators involved,” said Drever.

“We thought he might have a chance when he tried to stand a couple of times but he just couldn’t muster the strength.”

There’s video on the website, if you can bear to watch it. In an update on this story, five more starving horses were found at a barn belonging to the owners of the euthanized horse. Surrey SPCA inspectors are referring to this as “one of the worst cases of alleged horse neglect it has ever seen”.

Up here in Canada, the fur is flying after the CBC aired the BBC Documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed”. Canadian breeders are up in arms, decrying the sensational journalism, and issuing stern (but pointless) letters to the Television Standards Ombudsman’s office.

Personally, I just don’t get it. Cavaliers have an endemic breed health problem, one which they have the ability to test for. How much simpler does it get than “Don’t breed them unless they have tested clear?”. Where is the controversy in this? Where’s the debate? It’s as simple as my choice to not breed from or to French Bulldogs that have had a soft palate re section (aka palate clip – the same surgery that the Peke featured in the documentary had).

It’s not complex – if a dog can’t breathe without surgical intervention, remove it from the gene pool. Ditto hip dysplasia. Elbow dysplasia. Patellar luxation. Heart defects. Eye defects.

What is there in any of this that is controversial to us – and by ‘us’, I mean breeders. It’s not controversial to pet owners, that’s for sure. Ask you average pet owner if they’d rather have a shorter faced dog, or one who lives for an extra seven years, and which one do you think they’d pick?

I also think it’s fairly simple to say that we breeders are being faced with a choice – clean up our own mess, or the CKC and the government will clean it up for us.

Actually, I’m curious about just this subject – if a subtle change to your Brachycephalic dog could improve their health, would you be for it? If so, how far would you be willing to see breeders go to improve the health of your chosen breed?

This poll is intended mainly for pet owners of Brachy breeds (Pugs, Bulldogs, Frenchies), since none of the questions address the changes that would correct problems in other, non brachycephalic breeds. The one exception is the question about out crossing – opening, and then closing the stud book, to allow a controlled breeding to a dog of another breed, similar to what was done in the Dalmatian backcross project. Owners of non brachycephalic breeds can choose this option, or ‘select other’ and leave their suggestions in the comments (or they could always choose ‘none’).

(BTW, sorry about the issue with comments — apparently, when an unusually large number of people attempt to comment at the same time, the database assumes it’s a flooding attempt by spammers, and shuts down comments to everyone but registered users).

The Spay Neuter Quandary

Spaying and neutering has recently become a hot topic throughout the dog world once again. The last time I remember this much interest in alteration is when news began to circulate about the success of early (meaning pre 10 weeks of age) spay and neuters. This time, the discussion is whether spaying and neutering should be done at all.

On one of my natural rearing lists, there’s discussion about whether or not it’s ‘holistic’ to alter your puppies. Putting aside the faulty logic in trying to equate reproductive function with holistic medicine, we’re left with the dilemma in question – is it ethical for a breeder to insist that owners spay or neuter their puppies, knowing what we do about the health implications that can result from it?

I’m on the fence when it comes to this topic, which is fraught with a lot of rhetoric and littered with confusing and often contradictory statistics. I do agree that dogs of either sex seem to develop into smarter and more alert adults when either left intact or altered later in life, and it’s almost undeniable that late altered or intact dogs develop signifigantly different phsyiques than their altered young counterparts. In French Bulldogs, puppies altered young retain a more puppyish demeanor, with lighter bone, higher legs, and less ‘blocky’ heads.

There are worrisome statistics which suggest that neutered dogs are more at risk for prostatic cancers, spayed bitches more at risk for spleen tumors, and both altered sexes at greater risk of osteosarcoma. These can balanced with countering statistics showing both sexes to have a reduced risk of mammary tumors when they are altered (and yes, boys get them as well).Obviously testicular and ovarian cancer are no longer a risk when the parts in question have been removed – but then we read that these cancers aren’t common in dogs anyways.

Reading the literature becomes a balancing act – testicular cancer versus prostate cancer, mammary tumors versus osteosarcoma? Read and re read, and still we come to the conclusion that there’s just no easy answer – no blatant scale tipping in one direction or the other, at least when weighing the pure science of the issue. Even the veterinarians and researchers can’t seem to agree on which is more beneficial to over all health.

All of us, however, can agree on at least one fact – that altered animals are unable to reproduce. As a breeder, my reasoning is as simple as this: knowing that my pets are altered gives me one less thing to worry about, on a long list of worrisome things – I know they aren’t out there someplace, pumping out puppies.

There’s an argument to be made there, of course – that we shouldn’t place pets into homes where we can’t trust the owners. The rationale is that if you can’t trust the new owners to care for an intact pet, you shouldn’t be able to trust them at all.

That’s a fallacy, in my opinion. We’re long past the time when the average person knows anything about animal husbandry, much less the myriad ways that two amorous pets can find to mate. Securely fenced yard? Nice try, but intact pets can jump a surprising distance when inspired to do so, and matings have taken place through chain link (just ask the Golden owner who found her bitch tied with a stray dog – with the chain link in between them). Dogs dash out doors, jump over fences, and in general can be more inventive than you’d believe possible when pursuing their biological imperative. The other consideration here is that things change. Today’s ideal and loving home is tomorrow’s home broken by bitter divorce.

Almost ten years ago, Barb placed a lovely little bitch into a very nice pet home. Great couple, cute kids, solid references, and they lived close by, which is always a plus. They sent updates for a few years, which petered off over time. Nothing new there – that’s the typical pattern with new families. The bitch was placed with a contract requiring her to be spayed, but no AKC limited registration. It wasn’t commonly done at the time, and besides which the new owners seemed so nice.

Flash forward a few years later, and we get an inquiry from someone in Northern Europe doing pedigree research on her new puppy. Who’s this dog in her pedigree with our kennel name on it? I’ve only sold three dogs to Europe, and was stunned it wasn’t one of them. It was the little pet bitch I mentioned above, who had been sold, intact, to a breeder in Russia. How did this happen? The usual, route, apparently. Bad break up, angry parties, and a petty bit of revenge involving the family pet, and the next thing you know, she’s on a plane to Russia. Her story has a relatively happy ending – her Russian owner is respectable, showed her extensively, bred her lightly, and kept her forever. It could have been worse – she could have ended up in the midwest, locked in a backyard pen and bred over and over again until she was used up and put to death.

There was no way of knowing this family would self destruct in this manner, but we can be sure that this bitch would never have gone to Russia if she had been spayed.  Oh, she still might have been ditched, but experience has shown that owners are much more likely to offer dogs back to breeders if they can’t see any profit in selling them on themselves.

And so, we balance – peace of mind versus health of puppies. For example, I have a pretty iron tight clause in my contract insisting on alteration, but I also ask that my pups get a chance to develop naturally for as long as possible before being altered. In most cases, six months is minimum, or after their first heat for girls. In a few cases, when dealing with undersized puppies, I’ve suggested waiting until a full year has passed. I also have safegaurds in place for the times when I want to waive my alteration clause. Other breeders might consider that irresponsible – they don’t let any puppy leave their house unless it’s been altered. I just don’t think the health risks of putting a ten week old puppy through surgery can be justified, but I can see the appeal in doing it, from the breeder’s perspective.

I’ve lifted my insistance on spaying and neutering for obedience, agility and other sport dog owners, if I feel they have enough experience and dedication to follow through. I can’t deny that intact dogs just seem to make better competitors, and who doesn’t want to see their dogs become succesful? I’ve waived it when I thought altering wasn’t in the best health interest of the dog, like Nell’s brother Pete, who was undersized and temperamentally timid and immature, and in need of all the testosterone he could get. In each of these cases, I’ve put checks and balances into place that help to ensure that, intact or not, this dog won’t be bred (or if it does happen, it won’t be without penalties). Again, some breeder’s do not lift their restriction for any dog, at any time, for any reason – a position I can also sympathise with, even if I don’t share it. Yes, I’m gambling on my obedience homes, but sometimes you have to take a risk if it seems it might be for the greater good.

Weighing the pros and cons of what’s right for our dogs is never easy, no matter how much rhetoric gets tossed around (like the exchange where one anti altering breeder called another pro altering breeder “Dr. Mengele with a kennel licence”). There’s no simple answer to the question of ‘what is the best thing to do?’. In the end, we have to do what makes us, as dog breeders, feel that we’ve done what is in the best interest for our individual dogs, their new families, and our integrity as breeders as a whole.

Still here…

Sorry, I just haven’t felt much like writing anything since Ellie’s death. I guess sometimes words just don’t seem to matter, and this was one of those times.

 At any rate, we’re here, we’re fine, there are no puppies (because apparently, we’re under some sort of catastrophic, puppy disappearing cloud of doom), but we’re still hanging in.

Maybe a second try for pups later this summer, when I can stand the idea.

Oh, and I’m at Charlotte’s, re discovering how much fun pugs are. They’re like valium on four legs.

Timing is a Bitch, and the Romanov French Bulldog on Film

Girlish Good Looks

I had been hoping for a nice, long break between litters, but as usual my girls have decided that they’d prefer to take my best laid plans and toss them out the window. To whit, Paris and Journey, the only two girls I had solid plans to breed this year, have both decided to come into season. Since they might not come in again for another 18 months, it’s now or never, in which case I choose ‘now’, of course.

So, I’m skipping Wiarton today to haul Paris in for progesterone, LH and draminski testing. Since we are breeding her via frozen semen (Rebel’s frozen semen, in case you were wondering), timing is of the absolute essence. We’ll only inseminate her once, surgically. And yes, it’s expensive, thanks for asking. Like the oh so funny quote says –

Want to know how to make a small fortune breeding dogs? Start with a large fortune.

I’ll start hauling Journey in on Monday, when her blood flow is heavier – she’s in the very first days of her cycle, so we have time still. I’m still on the fence about who I’m breeding her to, although the list is narrowed down to two dogs. In both cases, we’ll be shipping in fresh semen via overnight express, and crossing our fingers that no one at customs delays the packages ‘for inspection’. Yes, it’s happened, thanks for asking.

That’s probably more than anyone wanted to know, isn’t it? In case it isn’t, and you want to know more about the fertility cycle of the canine, try this link.

The Romanov French Bulldog on Film

Excerpted from today’s Toronto Star –

At the Galleries

Any newcomer to the short, succinct and silent film collages by T. J. Wilcox might assume they’re all about film editing finesse and technique….

…Yet even more central to Wilcox’s practice is the understanding of the varied ways in which each different film form reinvents the narrative….

Garlands 1-6 (2003-2005) consists of six film mini-collections, each with a number of different vignettes explored in a variety of ways that seamlessly relate to one another.

One of the Garlands includes a visit to three favourite sites where a woman named Ann – one of the narrator’s “four parents” – wants her ashes scattered; the morbid story of Ortino, a Romanov daughter’s pet French bulldog buried along with members of the Russian royal family following their July 16, 1917, assassination by revolutionaries; and, last, a snippet of crude animation.

Years back, I wrote an article for the French Bullytin detailing the story of Anastasia Romanov and her French Bulldog, Ortino. I’ve reprinted the article in its entirety below.

Tatiana and Ortino

Anyone with a small child has probably seen the animated Disney© film “Anastasia”, a retelling of the tale of the youngest daughter of the Russian Imperial family. While highly fictionalized (to say the least), the cartoon has fueled new interest in the true stories of Tsar Nicholas Romanov and Empress Aleksandra. A recurring theme in stories of the lives of the royal family is their love for pets of all types. Historical records show that they owned a virtual menagerie of dogs of assorted breeds, as well as numerous cats, parrots and fish.

Of all the family’s dogs, few are as frequently mentioned as “Ortino”, Princess Tatiana’s French Bulldog. Tatiana was the second oldest of the Tsar’s daughters, and was seventeen years old at the time Ortino came into her life. Excerpts from Tatiana’s diary detail how she obtained him, and how very fond she was of her pet –

1914 October 12

“Anya brought me from Malama a small French Bulldog (Ortino). It is a very cute little thing – I am so happy.”

1914 October 15

“We had dinner with father, mother and NP (Sablin, a family friend). The dog was sitting with me… he is adorable.”


Tatiana, Anastasia and Ortino on the grounds of Alexandar Palace

In the strict confines of the palace, the royal pets were allowed amazing freedom to behave just as Frenchies in the most casual households still do today. Ortino and Olga’s cat Vaska were special favorites of the family, and had free run of the palace. In a scene familiar to all owners of French Bulldogs, Ortino and Vaska would chase one another across furniture and table tops, knocking over priceless objects and scattering papers in the process. Rather than being scolded, these antics proved the royal family with a great deal of amusement.

Tatiana mentions Ortino’s playful nature in letters to her father, saying “My doggy Ortino was running about the room and playing during the teatime. It is so funny and sweet”, and “We are sitting in Mother’s room after dinner. Olga and Mother are playing “Colorito” and Ortino is running about the room like a mad dog”. Hardly a letter or diary entry fails to make some little mention of Ortino, and her words convey eloquently how much she treasured him. She describes Ortino as snoring gently at her feet, and even indulgently describes his occasional “accident”.

Ortino was Tatiana’s constant companion and she was rarely seen without him at her side. Like most Frenchies, Ortino insisted he be allowed to sleep with Tatiana at the foot of her bed every night. Apparently, some things about French Bulldogs never change – Ortino snored quite loudly, which disturbed Tatiana’s sister Olga, with whom she shared a room. Anastasia complained about it in her journal, writing “When we are asleep at night, all of us sisters are kept awake by Ortino, Tatiana’s French Bulldog, who snores. We have tried everything, but nothing works!” Ortino and Vaska would also disturb the sisters sleep with the occasional game of tag, but Tatiana could not be persuaded to have Ortino sleep with the other family dogs.

It seems even royalty are not immune to “Frenchie Fever” – the feeling that “If one is fun, more will be marvelous!” The Romanov’s owned at least two French Bulldogs, as this excerpt from Grand Duchess Anastasia’s diary details.

1914 November 30

Faberge Ortino

Faberge Rock Crystal
Satue of Ortino
From the Hermitage
Museum Collection

“Now we’ve got another charming French (Bull) puppy, Bille. She is so sweet. She is so charming when she plays with (Tsarevitch) Aleksey’s dog. They are quite mad and race across the floor so fast they tumble into walls and furniture. We cannot stop laughing at them.”

As pampered imperial pets, simple leather collars would simply not do. Both Olga’s cat Vaska and Ortino wore custom collars encrusted with semi precious stones, hand crafted with Faberge, the Royal jeweler. Tatiana also had a collection of figures of Ortino carved by Faberge in semi precious stones and rock crystal. These reminders of a Princess’ love for her pet have been dispersed around the world, and one may be found in the collection of the Cleveland Museum.

The placid life of the Romanov’s came to and end after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, when they were forced into exile by the new communist regime. Even during this most difficult time in her life, Tatiana refused to part with Ortino. He is last mentioned in first hand accounts of family’s flight, which detail Tatiana “struggling to carry Ortino while dragging a suitcase through ankle deep mud and a howling crowd at the Yekaterinaburg train station”. Just two months later, at midnight on June 16th 1918, Tatiana and her entire family were executed.

In the late ’90’s, excavations were done to recover the remains of the royal family from the mine shaft where they had been flung after their executions. There, among their bones, were found the remains of what was described as a ‘small terrier type dog’ and which are assumed to be those of Ortino. His bones were taken along with those of the Royal family, and interred with due ceremony and respect in the family crypt in Moscow. Even in death, Ortino and Tatiana have not been separated.

A long night.. with more to come

I’m starting to think I must be cursed. This boy isn’t gaining ANY weight – in fact, he’s lost weight. I was up all night trying to get him to nurse, but he just drops off the nipple as soon as I let go of him.

Some nutracal perked him up a little bit, and he’s since nursed this morning, but he wears out in no time flat and drops off. Mae seems to have milk, albeit not a ton, so I don’t know what the problem is.

Sean’s going to go out and get some goats milk and yogurt, and if he doesn’t perk up by this afternoon I might try to bottle feed him. The last pup I bottle fed, I lost, so this isn’t the best day of my life.

I have a whole house full of kids + assorted boyfriends/girlfriend due to show up this afternoon, and I am not feeling the holidays, that’s for sure.