Belle. Belle is definitely pregnant, just...not very much pregnant. Four artificial inseminations by a canine fertility specialist and she's got...two, maybe three buns in the oven? Which honestly is a bit of a relief--raising two from the four-month old stage has been plenty of work. I can't imagine raising a litter of twelve or thirteen from birth on up. I think at this point I'd rather hammer my tongue to a thin strip and staple it to a major intersection with a croquet hoop. Hopefully we'll know by the end of the week how many she's cooking up.
Speaking of hellions, the hounds of Zorya Borzoi have gotten huge, can I tell you? Just over five months old and already they can bowl me over if they manage to run into me when I'm not looking. Or, if I have a camera held in front of my face and can't properly defend myself.
This past weekend was a nice change of pace for the Irrelephant household. Two months ago we joined the very small local branch of the AKC, and have been slowly working up to full membership. As part of their charter they have to do certain events to raise public awareness about the sport and joys of purebred dogs, and in conjunction with one of the main member's job they put on what's called a "Meet The Breed" show. In essence it killed several birds with one stone--it combined bringing in puppies to an Assisted Living Facility for some variety and fun for the residents with having a mock dog show for the number of new puppies the members had and also helping to socialize dogs that didn't have much exposure to strangers, both two- and four-legged.
The funniest thing about it was that everyone ELSE in the club has and brought little dogs--Chinese Cresteds, Shelties and Corgies to be specific; dogs, in short, that mature very fast. We on the other hand raise a breed that takes almost two years to gain full maturity, as well as being a breed whose heady days of popularity and exposure to the public eye occurred some eighty years ago. Sheba and Remy balked at first, naturally. They stood still. They pulled back against the gentle tugs on leashes, and mostly just refused to walk, no matter how much we cajoled and offered treats if they'd just take a step forward!
It's almost comical now, looking back on it, but overall I have to say that I'm proud of my pups--watching all these show dogs trotting around in perfect step, each doing what they're supposed to do best, and the two of us having to entice our lunking huge hounds around with bits of hotdog and string cheese. With patience and soft words and tons of praise for the simplest act of taking a few steps forward we finally won them over. The funny looks we kept getting from the other breeders finally stopped when I explained to these folks that our dogs had been wearing collars and leashes for less than a handful of hours and that Borzoi breeders don't even THINK about putting collars on until five to six months of age because they simply aren't READY for them, developmentally speaking.
THEN the enlightenment came and they started to share in the joy of watching how fast the two of them learned over the course of maybe two hours that it was actually FUN to run around in a circle with us, that the leash wasn't going to kill them, and as Cesar Milan preaches, there is great reward for a dog in being part of a pack. Even if that pack did include a number of toy breeds and some sweating and overworked owners. We ended the day by taking a pack walk around the building, and our pair were trotting along in the mix like it was the most natural thing in the world. Talk about a proud papa.
While the kids are all lovely in their puppy curls we're thinking about easing them into showing in the puppy classes. Standard fare in those rings is the balking, the refusal to walk, the skittering, coltish bolts and so forth, and we've been told by our mentor that if Remy can hold on to his white coat of silky locks and at least make the effort to run around in a circle with one of us he might well clinch his first ring win, so everyone start thinking positive for us.
While you're at it, start thinking positive for ME. I too am about to venture into the show ring for the first time, as an owner-handler. With three dogs in the house and probably keeping one of Belle's puppies Mrs. I can't go it alone anymore. So, soon to be gone are my halcyon days of lifting heavy objects and standing ringside cheering. I figure now is the time to start, though. What's to lose, right? Most Borzoi breeders don't even bother to seriously show a dog until age two or better, so at worst we get some exposure for the puppies and for me too, and at best we win a few ribbons for our gangly, long-legged pups. If I make a fool of myself for doing the wrong thing then no loss, as it's just puppy trials, we're not fighting for a Group win.
At least not yet. *wink*