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Our Canine Cradle

I wrote this article in 2004.  Nothing has changed since its writing.  The box has more tooth marks, stains, and new memories.  It continues to cradle new life, expectant mothers, hopes, and dreams that span 36 years now.

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When I was new at breeding, I read an article in the AKC Gazette that I believe was called “The Family Cradle”. It was written by a breeder following a sad outcome of her litter. She spoke of sitting on the edge of her whelping box, wishing for what might have been, rubbing her hands across the edge of the box, and feeling the multitude of tooth marks and nail marks from litters past. She spoke of the delight of feeling those marks from past litters, and that the rough, unfinished, unsightly box was a family treasure — the family cradle for her dogs.

I can no longer find that article, which I kept for many years, but I don’t need it anymore. I have a family cradle of my own, in fact, two of them. They’re rough, unfinished, full of tooth and toenail marks. Some would find them ugly. To me, they are beautiful, and carry the memories, hopes, and dreams that I’ve had for 20+ years.

Of the two whelping boxes I have, one is my favorite, and if I only have one litter, it is the box that is in use. I was given one of my whelping boxs, by a friend of mine, Barbara Davis, owner of Champion Bold Aaron CD, WC (*The* dog who inspired me to get into the breed — the dog who was, in my opinion, the best Labrador on four legs). When Barbara got out of dogs, she gave me the box. It had been used by her for almost ten years and one can only imagine how many of Aaron’s own puppies were born in that box. When she gave me the box, every yellow dog in my kennel, and most of the blacks, had Aaron behind them. It was fitting that the grand, great-grand, and great-great-grandpups of Aaron should continue to be born in that box and each of them leave their mark (quite literally) on the walls of the box.

    

Those little tooth marks, each of them, represent a life that was either a show hopeful, or the life-long pet of a puppy buyer that spans more than 20 years now. Those tooth marks are precious to me. The rough texture of the box is comforting and beautiful.

The box is simple. Just a 6X4 space with a removable divider somewhere around 1/3 of the way across. The smaller side for bitch resting, the larger side being the puppy side. It has no “pig rail” because I am among a few who believes that addition actually contributes to neonatal injury or death. It isn’t fancy, it’s easy to clean, and it serves a purpose, and it’s far more practical than its simplicity would indicate.

As I rub the edges of the box today, I remember large healthy trouble-free litters, and also the sadness that occurred in the box. But during the sadness, the box served its purpose as a cradle for hope, dreams and prayers given up for small lives that sometimes, were never meant to be.

Sometimes the box is a place of comfort for my girls when their labor has gone very wrong, and they suffer the pain of c-section. I wonder if somewhere in their memories, they remember the comfort of the box when they were newborns and growing puppies. Is it possible that the box gives them a sense of home, security and comfort? I will never know. But I do know that sometimes, a bit of magical healing happenes in the box.

I remember Wish when she had an infection, and she permitted the lactating female of a friend to nurse her puppies, while both of these bitches laid in the box and tended their charges. I remember Abby, who came so close to dying after a ruptured uterus, and raised her litter in that box. I remember when I had had two litters, and one mother was exhausted after a c-section, and the other mother jumped in the box to tend the babies until she gained her strength. And I remember a single puppy who only felt the comfort of the box for the short 24 hours of his life, and how his distraught mother slept alone in the box following his death.

   

There have been so many litters born in that box, that I hardly recall them all, but I have memories of wet, firm bodies, and first breaths. Of the anticipation of each delivery. The Joy of looking at healthy litters nursing quietly in front of contented mothers.

When you visit my home when a litter is present, please come rub the rough spots on the whelping box. They are the marks of the past, and the dreams of the future. Each one represents a life that started in this rough, but precious and miraculous family cradle.

 

I anticipate that one day I too will pass a family cradle on to some upcoming wide-eyed new Labrador enthusiast/breeder. It will go to someone who will appreciate its imperfections, its rough texture, its mauled edges–Its promise.

copyright 2004 – D. Welle

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Ashes to Ashes

The pain is still new.  We just spoke in his ear for the last time “Good boy… you’re a good boy”, as the Veterinarian performed the ultimate act of comfort.  The body of this loved creature relaxes and we feel them go, and our hearts go with them.  Then days later the call comes “We have Tank’s remains here for you to pick up”.    The box of cremains is heaver than the small box would indicate.  I pet the outside of the box, as I once did soft fur.  I always look inside the box, and I’m not sure why.  The ashes are white.  Tank was black.  The silly thought goes through my head “the ashes should be black”.   The pain continues to rip through me.  It’s just too soon.

I have five similar boxes here, that contain the ashes of loved dogs.

When we lived in California, we at first buried our dogs on our 2.5 acre property, but as we got older, digging in the granite rock that was our property was just too difficult, and we opted for cremation.  We scattered the ashes on the hilltop that was our front yard, where every litter, and therefore that dog had played on.  That seemed fitting.  Now that we’re in Idaho, digging is easier, and we could bury them, but we had decided to cremate and wait to see where we believed they should go.  We finally decided.  We have a courtyard area, and we plan to pour cement pads within that courtyard.  We’ll add a pad for each dog, which will make a great patio area filled with memories.  I will put a stamped name for each dog on the pad.  It will be our memorial courtyard, where I will grow flowers and vegetables, and be able to reflect on the lives of each of them.  I will remember the day I delivered them from their mother, and the day I delivered them into the hands of God.  It will be a beautiful place to sit and remember, and maybe smile at the memories that flooded my mind in the last moments we held them.

These are a very few of those last moments:

 

  

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Joe’s Story

Nov. 5, 2015

As you can see, he doesn’t look like the other dogs here.  That’s because Joe is a Pointer, and Joe has a story.

Dan’s life-long friend, Bill, died in a motorcycle accident.  He and Dan knew each other from early childhood, and stayed in contact.  Bill’s beloved English Pointers were his pride and joy.  They were highly trained upland game dogs.  When we went to be with Bill’s family, they immediately asked us if we would take Bill’s three dogs.  We already had ten Labradors, and there was no way we could take on three dogs.  …and then they announced that a “rescue” had agreed to take them.   What rescue?  Many rescues are wonderful, but a few are simply folks with a desire to “save” dogs, and amount to little more than dog collectors. None of them ever leave the home of such “rescues”.  The family could not recall the name of the rescue, “she’s a lady who loves and saves dogs”.  No!!  I asked if I could please be responsible for rehoming the dogs to good homes with proper vetting.  They responded in the affirmative.  So, we went to meet them.  Two of the dogs, a 12 1/2 year old female and 6 year old male were moaning, shaking and crying on Bill’s bed, as family members disassembled Bill’s home and tried to clear out his belongings.  The third, a 7 year old female, was in a dogloo, growling at the other dogs and the strangers in the home.  All three were suffering from confusion and absolute grief over the chaos in the home, and their “dad” being gone.   It took a full day to find all the paperwork on the dogs, and I called the breeder of the younger two.  He wanted nothing to do with it.  So, I made a few well-placed posts on Facebook, and a flood of aid started to come in.  Pointer enthusiasts are wonderful, and love their breed. They spoke my language, and we all set about making sure that the dogs ended up in a family/hunting environment.   Immediately, Bill’s girlfriend stepped up to take the old girl, allowing her to live her remaining years with someone she knew.   Within two days, I got a call from a guy who wanted the older bitch, and his friend who wanted the male.  I went into vetting mode.  Both would be good homes.  We agreed on the female, but I could not agree to placing Joe.  Joe wasn’t eating or drinking.  Joe was moaning, crying, and not making eye contact.  He was shaking.  He was in deep grief.  I could not agree to home this dog, until he pulled out of his grief. He had already been passed from family members to us, and we couldn’t justify confusing him further.  We brought Joe home, until we could work through his physical and emotional needs.  For seven days, Joe refused to eat or drink, and did little more than rock and moan.  I took him to the vet during that week, and he told me “this is a Pointer, not a Lab. They’re more sensitive.”  My numerous new Pointer friends advised me likewise. So, we waited him out, and slowly he began to eat, drink and interact.  He immediately began to attach to my husband.  You could see the expression of panic on Joe’s face if Dan was out of the room for a long time.  I started to see the writing on the wall.  Two weeks in, we told the gentleman who was willing to take him, that Joe would be staying with us.

Dan quickly found out that Joe knows more about upland game hunting than most people know.  Joe is funny, a quick learner, stubborn, has hysterical facial expressions, oh, and Joe is not amused by Labradors. He tolerates them, but he’s not happy about their fast, clumsy, body-slamming exuberance.

This is Joe and Dan, the day we told Joe he’d be staying. I think you’ll agree, that Joe understood, and was pleased.

Joe has his own Facebook page, so that he can explain himself properly. He thinks that since the Labs have their own page, he deserves one too: https://www.facebook.com/blueknightpointer/