It has taken me far longer to produce the second part of The Dogs in my Life, than I ever imagined it would. Life just gets in the way and as always my good intentions fall by the wayside. I also knew that writing it would stir up a lot of emotion and I have tried to avoid it for as long as possible.
See the first part of the post here : The dogs in my life part one
See the first part of the post here : The dogs in my life part one
Last time I had introduced you to Mollie our oldest Weimaraner who will be 11 in November. She still behaves like a puppy and the vets can never get over how good she looks for a nearly 11 year old dog.
As with all dogs they don't live forever, Travis our first dog as a couple left this world in October 2006. Travis had first become sick at 6 months old which we initially thought was just a stomach upset. Over time he began to have many more stomach upsets and we would find ourselves at the vets at all hours of the day and night with him. When he wasn't sick you would never know that there was anything wrong with him. By the time he was nearly three years old he had, had many investigations performed on him at the major veterinary hospital in the southwest and no one could tell us why he was getting sick. In the end his kidneys started to fail, I believe that this was due to a type of medication he was repeatedly given. My other dog Frankie can not take this medication without passing blood when he urinates. With my own research I have found that susceptible dogs die of kidney failure. I believe Travis actually had lungworm. At the time very little was known about lungworm, his symptoms fit the description even down to the spontaneous nose bleeds and hemorrhaging from his penis.
When we made the very painful decision to let Travis go, just days short of his 3rd birthday, it was the kindest thing that we could do. However when he passed he took a little piece of my heart with him. I will never love another dog in the same way that I loved my boy. My husbands scream of pain as he held Travis's lifeless body in his arms still haunt me, next year it will be ten years since his passing. Writing this brings all the pain of that day back to the surface. As my dad told me today, "all the love you poured into him is equal to the pain you feel with his passing". It is so very true. I have been sobbing my heart out writing this because the pain is still so very intense.
Trav's ashes are still at home with us, they are on a shelf in the lounge along with his collar and the stones he chased on the very last walk my husband took him on. One day, long in the future I hope those ashes will be mixed with my own and spread on Woodbury Common, so we can be together in the place we both loved exploring.
|Travis on Woodbury Common|
When Travis died the timing was bittersweet, it was ten days after Mollie had given birth to her first litter of puppies. Our emotions were all over the place ten days earlier our hearts had been filled with joy and now we were at the depths of despair. Mollie gave birth to a litter consisting of 6 boys and 3 girls. Eight of the pups were large, weighing well over 500g and then the runt of the litter was born, screeching inside the membrane sac. It was love at first sight with this pup and weighing in at just 420g we knew that we would be keeping her. I was terrified that our little runt, named Willow wasn't going to make it. In an attempt to increase her odds of survival I started to bottle feed Willow every two hours day and night. Puppies can die from a condition called fading puppy syndrome, where they can appear healthy one minute and yet within a couple of hours be dead. I have known breeders who have had this happen to them and I have to say it was always my greatest fear when we were dog breeding.
We had decided before Mollie's pups were born that we would be keeping a girl from the litter. We had already been given Travis's devastating prognosis and I was adamant that we would never have another boy dog. I felt that a boy dog would be constantly compared to Travis and would never be able to get out from under his shadow. It is funny how things work out and the universe laughs at all your plans.
We managed to find forever homes for all our pups, well we thought we had. A week after the last pup had been sold we received a distraught phone call from one of the new owners. They would have to return a pup called Frank to us as their daughter had developed a serious allergy to the dog. As a responsible breeder I took the puppy back the following day. I have to say it was an awful experience. The couple arrived visibly distraught, my heart broke for them. The wife had to do all the talking because every time the husband went to speak he couldn't get the words out through his sobs. They brought all the puppy stuff they had bought for Frank with them, a bed, a bowl, a collar, lead you name it they had it. I knew from their reaction that these people had fallen in love with this little guy. I can't imagine having to return a pup back to the breeder and I salute them for doing it and not trying to sell him on (as I have heard about people doing).
Frank (now named Frankie) was never supposed to stay with us. I was resolute that he was being sold and had an advert in the newspaper the following day. He fitted back in with the girls like he had never been gone. They seemed genuinely attached to him and within four days I was in love. I never thought I would ever be able to give my heart away again to a boy dog (it is not the same love I had for Travis). Hubby was as determined as I was that we were not having three dogs. So I hatched a plan to ensure I could keep him, I wrote a letter from Mollie and Willow and left it for him to find when he came home from work. It went a little like this.
Please can we keep Frankie? We love him very much and we know it would break mummy's heart if she had to part with him. We are sure you love him as well but are scared mummy will say no. Please let us keep him.
Lots of love
Mollie and Willow
When Hubby returned to work after his lunch break he came and found me (we used to work together and could work our hours around the mutts). He simply kissed me on the cheek and said of course we can. This was met by a massive cheer from my staff who had been nearby watching as I had confessed my plan to them. Quite romantic really, so that is how Frankie came to be part of the family. I wrote to his previous owners to let them know that we had kept Frankie and to say thank you to them for returning him to us. I never heard from them ever again, I like to believe that having to return him was just too painful for them. I hope that they were pleased with our decision.
|Frankie and Willow approx 10 weeks old|
My illness began in January 2007, just a few months after the first litter of pups were born. We bred again later in 2007 but the stresses and strains of working full-time and raising a litter were exhausting. We didn't know it but that would be the last litter of puppies we would ever raise.
The second litter consisted of 6 girls and 3 boys, in a complete reversal of the first one. This time I helped Mollie birth her pups alone (with the first Litter I had help from J & K - thank goodness), it was both exhilarating and terrifying all in one. The first pup was born without a hitch but the second pup was very slow in coming and I nearly had to rush Mollie to the vets for help. The puppies were enormous all around 550g and were born on day 57 (a dogs pregnancy is approx 63 days). All the books I had read on whelping had said puppies born on or before day 57 die, well in this litters case it just wasn't true. They were absolutely enormous and there was only a 20g difference between the biggest and smallest pup. As with the first litter they were born on a Saturday (an odd coincidence).
However when the pups were ready to sell the world financial crisis was just beginning to bite. People didn't want big dogs that ate lots of food and had big vets bills. We had an absolute nightmare time getting rid of the puppies, were messed around by potential buyers on numerous occasions. If our second litter experience had been our first litter experience we would never have done it a second time. Eventually after much stress and selling a couple much cheaper than we imagined we would, all the puppies were found forever homes. Well what we thought were forever homes.
A few months after all the pups were sold I had a distressing phone call from a woman who had bought one of my pups through a newspaper advert. The pup had been sold on from its original owners without my knowledge and what was worth in its short time with them it had been abused. The lady informed me that the puppy now 6 months old was extremely nervous and had bite mark shaped scars all over its head and ears. It broke my heart that one of our pups had fallen into the hands of such awful people. We had met them, talked to them for hours to be sure that they were the right people to take one of our precious pups on. I hated the fact we had been unable to protect this pup once it had left our care and we had been fooled by these people into parting with it. At least the puppy now had a good home, how do I know that? Because the lady that took her on rang me as when she bought her she came with her original puppy pack which included my telephone number. Someone who didn't care about the puppy would never have rung me to check out if she had any health problems, what food she should be fed etc.
Breeding is fun but is also incredibly hard work. People always used to ask me "do you get upset when they leave you?" The answer is yes and no, yes I miss their individual characters and cuddles. I don't miss 9 piles of dog poo or puppy presents as we used to call them, 9 pups trying to chew your shoe laces off or the general mischief they cause. However if I thought 9 Weimaraners could cause damage I had no idea what utter home wreckers my three would be. That is material for another blog post!
|Willow snuggling on my bed|
|Mollie drooling waiting for a Bonio|