Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Go Xan, go! -- Joy in the Work

Blackthorn's Xanthippe
(Django vh Jurjim x Blackthorn's Jubilee)


Thank you to April Attai for these pictures from training at Schutzhund Village!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chasing Dreams - Blackthorn's Z Litter

A few months ago, I started trying to get puppies using frozen semen from Coal. I didn't try to collect him until he was an older dog, so I was only able to get about 2 breedings' worth stored before he became infertile.

I have seen more frozen AI breedings fail than survive, so I tried very, very hard not to get my hopes up, but inside my head, I was jumping up and down and crossing my fingers and feeling very superstitious. I didn't want to jinx it, anything could go wrong at any time.
Oda--"lightly" pregnant
I chose Oda for this attempt, a breeding I had planned since Oda was a young dog--only to find that Coal became infertile as he got older. The breeding of Coal's brother Jedi with Oda showed me that I had good reason to believe that I would get what I wanted from this combination--sound, drivey, intelligent, useful, beautiful dogs. Getting feedback from the owners of these puppies was invaluable in being able to make an informed decision.

First picture of the Coal x Oda pups!
But breeding via frozen (even with semen I own) is, in addition to being a very uncertain venture with a success rate generally lower than 80%, an expensive and time-consuming adventure. It involved three vets, multiple progesterone tests, 4 trips to Richmond over the course of 5 days, and a plethora of vet expenses over the course of the breeding and pregnancy--every step of the way cost money. Picking up the semen from the storage facility involved renting a container ($150), paying the "prep" fee for the storage facility to load the container ($75), and then a variety of expenses from progesterone testing (5 or 6 tests), semen quality analysis, surgical AI, DNA testing of the semen (to get Coal's DNA on record), and ultrasound (one more trip to Richmond) to check for the developing pups, and an xray (another trip to Richmond) to get a final count.

And, then, on January 17, Oda had four beautiful babies. Every cent and every second were suddenly worth it.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Blackthorn's Coal

September 25, 2002 - May 31, 2014 

Goodbye my friend. 
You were always a good boy.
Blackthorn's Coal, May 31, 2014

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Oda and her W puppies

I suppose I should do an updated post talking about the V litter out of Xita and Lord (6 pups born Jan 30), and the recently arrived W litter out of Oda and Sumo and the even more recent puppies out of Jubilee and Django (3 girls, 1 boy; May 2), but instead, I'm going to go the easy route and share some adorbs.

Oda did not think that the Squarepants toy was appropriate for puppies, apparently. Here's the 9 "Soda" pups (for Sumo + Oda), born April 23 (5 boys, 4 girls)--getting their ruckus on.

p.s.: At this time, all pups are reserved.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

OK Again

On the day Nike was dying, I had just begun to realize that this was not just a case of an upset digestive system when I had to call my father about another matter.
Nike on her 14th birthday

As I got on the phone with him, I lost control of my voice and started crying on the phone. He was at his office and understandably confused. I told him that Nike was sick and I was scared she wasn't going to make it. "But," I said, "she could be fine, she could be OK--I might be wrong."

His reply is something that has stuck with me: "Christine, she's not OK. She'll never be OK again." It took my breath away, because we dog people will lie to ourselves and to each other rather than admit this.

Thorn and Frost
But that is not my dad--he will not lie to you to let you keep lying to yourself. He had seen Nike the month before, at Thanksgiving--she was full of joy and happy to be surrounded by her family, but she was not "OK." She was having balance issues and her body wouldn't respond to her. She would fall while turning and fall down the porch steps if I wasn't there to help her. She was happy, she was alive, but she was not OK.

I know that when my dad said this, he was not just thinking of my Nike, my dog. He was thinking of his wife, my mother, whose body no longer obeys her like it once did. He was thinking of his parents and his friends. He was thinking of himself, his aging body that would never go back to being "all OK."

And he was telling me the truth, the hard, painful, undeniable reality--they will never be "OK" again. There is no undoing old age. There is no taking back or fixing the failings of an old body.

And yet... and yet, we go on. We must go on. We love the ones we love, we make them as OK as possible. And we make ourselves as OK as possible with the losing of them.

We fall in love again with the ones who are just entering this world, who are just now becoming part of our lives. With dogs and humans--and all the other living things we end up loving. We must not let these realities shut us down, close our hearts--or let us deny that they are the truth.

We who love dogs with their short lives enter into these relationships that we know will end in grief. We choose this grief for the sake of the joy that will come along the way.
The dogs who have broken my heart--Knight, Frost, Thorn, Enni, Ashen, Nike--I regret none of them. I am richer for the part they played in my life. And there will be others, will be more.

I have surrounded myself with their lives, so I must watch each of them eventually become Not OK, watch them unbecome, just as I watched them come into being.

Mjolnir (Hammer)

And I am falling in love right now with two puppies. They are unfolding into complex, funny, intelligent, joyful beings, and with every new unfolding of their personalities, I gain in joy and love for them.

And one day, it will be me who will be not OK. And that's a truth too that I am facing more and more. But we go on. Because we must. Because there is no other acceptable option.