Monday, September 12, 2005

The Puppies are coming! The Puppies are coming!

Before I start – some housekeeping! For those of you that are joining the Blog for the first time from Lithuania (Welcome!) – and you want to read about the trip and maybe see your names on the internet – start with the oldest Archive and work your way back to the current date.

Now, a brief history on Leader Dog and how we are involved; Leader Dogs for the Blind is an organization supported by the International Lion’s Club. Some background from their website (of which you can find a link listed to the right):

“Founded in 1939 by Lions Club members, Charles Nutting, Don Schuur and S.A. Dodge, Leader Dog has successfully matched and graduated over 13,000 person / dog teams since its inception. The dream of these men became vision and independence for thousands.

The dedicated staff at Leader Dog is over 100 strong. The facilities, located on the original 14 acres first purchased by the founders, have morphed from a farm with numerous outbuildings to a superb residence center, a stellar kennel, and well manicured grounds. This complex is home to our students, dogs, all services departments and the support staff that enable Leader Dog to enhance the lives of blind and visually impaired individuals from all over the world.”

Basically – how it all works: A foster family takes in a Leader Dog puppy for one year. During that year – it is the responsibility of the foster family to house break, socialize and generally train the dog (sit, stay, ignore distractions) in preparation for final training as a Guide Dog. After the first year – the Leader Dog puppy is returned to the Rochester Michigan facility to be medically, physically and emotionally tested; once the pup passes all of these tests – it is sent into the training program, where upon graduation, he or she will be rewarded to a disabled person.

Our first dog in this effort was Sable – a beautiful German Shepard. Sable was (is) a great dog – a little on the needy side – but overall she listens well and would have made a great Guide Dog – but after we returned her to Rochester Michigan, she was found to have slight (very slight) hip dysphasia. While under normal circumstances – no vet would worry about this, being a working dog means having to be 100% perfect in all regards. So Sable was retired out of the program and offered back to us.

During Sables initial training, Lisa got to know the woman who hosted Sables’ mother. Through the course of a developing friendship with her, Lisa determined that she wanted to be the host of a German Shepard breeding stock. She applied and was soon accepted! Caring for breeding stock is a huge responsibility – medical bills aside – the dog must always be in tip-top condition and the puppies that are born must be handled with great care. After all, someday they are to help a disabled person become more independent. Bear in mind, Leader Dog spends about $25K per dog once it has gone through the entire process. So you can imagine the scrutiny one must go through to even be selected as a breeder.

Soon after Sable arrived at home – we received the call that we would be home to the next 5 litters or so of German Shepard’s for the Leader Dog program. In this case – we were actually getting Sable’s sister, Kaycee. Kaycee had done so well in the program that she was actually trained for Blind and Deaf use, yes – we have a dog that knows sign language! And not just the hand gestures that one throws at an animal when angry – actual sign language! Pretty incredible!

That was nearly two years ago and two litters already have passed. The first litter was nine puppies and the second, seven (I believe). During her (Kaycee’s) heat – we are to bring her to Rochester for breeding. Generally, the dogs are artificially inseminated to assure positive fertilization and they try two or more times depending on the cycle of the dog. During this time, for about two weeks, Kaycee is housed up in Michigan (which she hates and we hate as well).

This year, her first heat and subsequent trip to Leader Dog failed to result in a pregnancy. Because of this failed attempt, it meant we would have to try again during her next heat – shortly before we were to leave for Lithuania. So another trip up North later (it is a five hour drive) and we return home to find out that she is not, in fact, pregnant. This is after a test performed by our vet – something very similar to the EPT humans would use. Although I would hate to be the person who has to hold the sick while the dog urinates!

So, a little heavy hearted, but feeling OK because now Lisa will not have to worry about the dog – we head to Lithuania. Upon our return, one of the things that I notice right away is the size of Kaycee. She sure looks pregnant! Wasting no time, Lisa blows a call into the Vet and Leader Dog – both of whom say that it could be a false pregnancy caused by the increase in hormones and not to holdout too much luck based on the results of the blood-work. But, just to be safe, if she is till looking heavy in a week – we are to take her in for an X-ray to see just what is happening.

Lisa does not like anticipation nor does she handle it very well. She likes to know what is happening with her dogs and her life for that matter. Waiting a week to take an X-ray is just not in the cards. Luckily, our neighbor and good friend, Scott, is an Ultra-Sound technician with a portable ultra-sound machine. It takes very little cajoling to get Scott to check out Kaycee and as soon as he touches the wand of the Ultra-Sound to her stomach I am able to see puppies! Lisa, who is situated with Kaycee’s head in her lap, cannot see the screen and immediately thinks I am joking – but soon she sees and suddenly we find ourselves with a little more than a week to prepare for puppies! Not a lot of time, I can assure you.

So, we went form no puppies to possibly six or more in no time at al! This brings us to this morning when Kaycee’s temperature finally spiked down, an indication that labor will start soon. Generally about 12 hours later – in the middle of the night of course! Why can’t the temperature drop in the middle of the night and delivery in the light of the day? Our house is happy once again – with puppies on the horizon – all is right with the universe! We will have some special guests over for the delivery and if I can convince Lisa – I will publish the event as it happens – a posting and a picture for every puppy that is born!

Stay tuned!!

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