Before we ever breed a litter we encounter a long list of expenses that are not optional. Along with the showing fees which average about $4000.00 for a finished Champion in just entry fees and minimal travel expenses. The Additional Titles , Herding, Hunting, Therapy, Temperament Testing, Lure Coursing and on and on add easily another $5000.00 for the pair. Then you do the Health Testing, an easy $1000.00 per dog. That would put us with Zion having $7500.00 invested, Dreamer and Caine had about $5500.00 each. (It could have been more or less asbecause of some health issues I'd stopped showing them when they'd singled out on points and only needed majors). So it would be safe to say before breeding the Zion -Caine Litter, we had $13000.00 invested and for the Zion -Dreamer litter, we had about $14500.00. I have never factored in the cost of the supplements, like Folic Acid and others that you put your girls on when you are considering a breeding. Since we normally keep our girls on them from age 1.5 to age 7. Just as a Human woman takes prenatal vitamins, these supplements are belived to reduce the chances of possible birth defects. It is critical to keep in mind the Adventure is worth more than the anticipated litters. If we didn't we would go nuts in a heartbeat!
With these figures to give us a starting off point, Bob and I went ahead with our planned breeding for Caine and Zion. Due to Caine's odd heat cycle we planned to have our vet do a surgical implant. To find the optimal date for breeding most Breeders use Progesterone Testing. Caine was tested 6 times, the blood drawn at our vet, then overnighted to the lab in Kentucky where after testing, they call the numbers in to us. Progesterone Testing runs $80.00 per test. To assure our male had the kind of numbers we would need, he was taken in , collected and his sample sent to Antigen to be evaluated and counted. That initial test ran about $75.00 When we finally had the right numbers with Caine. Both she and Zion returned to the vet , Zion to be collected ( collections are $35.00). And Caine for her procedure. She had to be anesthetised ( $85.00) and with what is considered a minor surgical procedure the sperm is implanted at the opening of the uterus. ( Surgical Implant $300.00) This method skips the sperm swimimng approximately 18 inches in a 2-3 day period. When Dr. Langston,, our Repro Vet, had Caine opened he was shocked to see our very healthy Bitch had the reproductive organs of a 3 month old pup ! The uterus in an adult bitch is about the width and size of an adult male's thumb. Caine's was barely the size of a yellow number 2 pencil! He went ahead with the implant and when we went to pick her up he told us there was really zero chance that she could ever conceive. We were terribly saddened as she is such a beautiful and loving girl. Since we had discussed the crazy idea of having both girls bred we decided to follow through and after another series of Progesterone Testing ( 4 tests ) 10 days later, Dreamer was bred by Artificial Insemination ( $150.00 each insemination, plus the $35.00 each collection from Zion) .She had 2 inseminations. Without any guarantee we would be expecting even a single pup, we now had another $1500.33 invested in the hopes for healthy puppies.
It became obvious that Dreamer was expecting with in 5 weeks. And any comment from me about Caine being pregnant was met with stern warnings to not get my hopes up and reminder's of the vet's findings when he had done her implant. However just watching her I was sure she was indeed pregnant! Dogs take 63 days for their average gestation. On what would have been Caine's 48th day We took both girls in to have them ultra sounded.( 60.00 per dog) By now our hands were automatically reaching for the Debit card every time we heard someone say the girl's names. The vet tried to discourage me from ultra sounding Caine but I just could not let it go. The Tech, Vet and I lifted Caine up on the table where she was laid in a form fitting foam pad upside down. Her eyes widened dramatically as Dr. Langston sprayed her belly to allow the ultra sound wand to "see" . With in a few seconds the 3 of us were staring in amazement at the tiny puppies it revealed! Dr Langston paused for a moment taking measurements, the wand pressed on a puppy with in. The heartbeat was steady and music to our ears and then we heard what all 3 of us swore was a Bark! Caine blinked and stared at first me and then her belly. We have never heard of any one "hearing" any thing other than a puppy's heartbeat in an Ultra Sound but this little puppy bark had been unmistakable! At least 4 maybe 5 pups were spotted. I was giddy with excitement. After bringing her out to Bob who was waiting with Dreamer, the smile on my face broke the news before I ever said a word. Back into the exam room we went and Dreamer was placed in the waiting foam form. She regally accepted the indignity of being sprayed and wanded. My head was literally spinning as we saw 1 very large boy and at least a few others. Bob and I were simply giddy with the results ! Our drive home was a series of questions to each other about how we would work out a second whelping box and the other supplies we would need to whelp not 1 but 2 litters about 2 weeks apart !! Counting on our fingers, double checking with the calendar app on our phones the realization that we may have as little as 15 days before the first litter would arrive made our heads spin!!
Once home I began breaking down our bedroom, removing the recliner and adjusting the space that we normally would whelp a litter. Bob began making calls to get qoutes on building a whelping box. The Adventure had begun!
True to the way things happen, Caine went into labor only 11 days later. Bob had worked with a dear Friend and together they knocked out a great 4X4 Whelping Box. ( $75.00) the day before Caine went into labor. She had 5 puppies beginning on the 28th at 11:32 pm and ending at 9:25 am on the 29th. 3 girls and 2 boys. The pups were gorgeous, 2 were ridgeless... our first in over 30 years but conformationally lovely. No dermoids, no kinks and no excessive white and 3 Show Prospect Ridges. The only set back was their size, they were sooooo small. Ridgeback pups average about a pound each when born. Zion and Caine's biggest puppy was a ridgeless male , he was the second born, weighing in at 11.5 ounces. Her teeny tiny pup was their other male , 4th born weighing only 5.7 ounces. On top of the worry over the pups, Caine began showing signs of distress and we took her to the vet to assure us that she had indeed whelped all the pups. The vet was very concerned that the stress she was experiencing could become something much worse So he put her on a very strong antibiotic and then forbid her from nursing the pups. That meant I had to supplement them every 2 hours, around the clock. The pups were doing well until 4 days later when we lost 2 pups with in 9 hours. They just quietly seemed to give up. Caine was desperate in her attempts to help them and get them to nurse. Keeping her close enough to love on her babies but preventing her from feeding them began to add to the stress we all were dealing with. We lost puppy number 3 on 12/4 and yet another on the 12/6. In 40+ years I have never lost a live born pup and this was horrible for all of us. I was holding the last little boy constantly. He was not going to go if I could prevent it! Once the other pups were gone he became very sad and lost. It was just too quiet for him and his Mom. There were no other heartbeats to echo his own, no bodies to share warmth. I kept him near my heart in between feedings and tried my best to comfort Caine. Bob did his best to keep me from spiralling into a depression of my own from the exhaustion and lack of sleep. When the grandkid's asked me what his name was I said I was hoping his registered name would be Bwana's Against the Odds. Our youngest grandchild, Alex thought I'd said Angus the Dog so from that point on we called the wee man, Angus.
On the 8th , about 10:00am Dreamer came to where I was sitting with the baby boy and settling next to me asked for the pup. I was exhausted. But there was no mistaking the meaning of her cocked head and intense stares. She laid down on the bed where she waited for me to lay the puppy close to her. After nosing him over from the tip of his nose to his perfect tail she pushed him into nursing position and then settled in, washing him and givng him the comfort only a mother could. Caine laid down about 6 feet away and watched as her sister fed and encouraged her son. By 11:00 am it was obvious Dreamer was in early labor. She had her first born son at 12:40pm. He was 1 pound 3 ounces. Caine's son was placed in a box while Dreamer delievered her boy and after he was weighed and checked both boys were returned to the holding box. The relief in Angus' body was apparent when he felt the echo'ing heart beat of another Ridgeback. By 4:43 am on the 9th Dreamer and Zion's last son was born. He was the smallest of the litter at 12.4 ounces ( still bigger than any single pup in Caine's litter). I swore I would not lose another pup and began the marathon sessions of sitting with them, awake everytime Dreamer fed them. Watching when she stood , left the box to potty or get a drink of water. I could not risk her accidentally stepping on a pup or a pup being pushed away in the whelping bedding and becoming cold. I'd catch 15 minutes to half an hour inbetween the feedings for the next 18 days. Supplementing the pups by tube feeding ( inserting a special tube about 7 inches down their throat into their stomachs to deliver 12 to 24 ccs of Lion's Milk straight into their stomachs.) When the pups were 5 days old we had their dew claws removed. The vet's praise was music to both Bob's and my ears. The 5 pups were all thriving and looking wonderful! Bob bought me several boxes of my favorite dark chocolates since I was not leaving the puppies even for meals. I stayed on the makeshift bed next to the whelping box with only the light of the TV to illuminate our space. I would put the TV on close captioning in the hope Bob might catch some sleep. As long as the pups were continuing to thrive we knew we were doing our very best!. By the time I began making our Final Cut from the nearly 30 folks on our Short List I felt as if I'd known them all forever! With only 4 boys to place it allowed me to eliminate the folks who had wanted girls. Then I began carefully watching the little personalities developingf in front of me. The out going pup vs the cuddle bug. The talker vs the very quiet baby. Bob and I spoke of the folks on our Short List over and over. I put a call out to other Ethical Breeders who may have or be having a litter soon so I would have alternatives to offer the folks we would not be able to make happy and place a pup with. Slowly but surely, one at a time the pups and the Forever homes began to show themselves. So many great families, I was now looking at the personalities they had shared with me in their applications and in the emails we'd exchanged. By the morning of the 27th we knew all 4 families for our Boys. And I'd sent out our Breeder's Referral List to the folks we truly wish we could have placed with. I know I'll be proud when they select a puppy from a Breeder we reccommended. It always feels great when good people come together and great puppies find a wonderful home.
Oh and the Money we were discussing at the start of this page? Add the $1500.33 for collections, tests and proceadures. Good thing we get a great discount from our vet don't you think? Then the money for the materials to build the second whelping box, and the price of a great scale to weigh everyone on, ( $210.00). Thankfully a very Dear Friend sent us a gift card with which I bought a puppy yard and 5 Mr Bill Toys. ( another $100.00). When the pups go home they will have some of their shots , we vaccinate pups according to the Dr J. Dodds protocals ( $70.00) , Their Dew claws removed another ($50.00), Health certificates at ($20.00 per pup ),Microchipping for another ($75.00 each) and a Go Home bag with bowl, collar, leash, toys, puppy book, premium dog food among many important items. Each Go home bag runs about ($120.00. ) We have not raised the placement fees for our puppies in nearly a decade. We breed when we wish to add a pup to our family. It truly is all about the entire adventure for us. Sharing the moments, earing the trust. Watching our grandkids learn what is important in caring for someone so much smaller than yourself. How to love with your whole heart then let them go to their special family gracefully. About how being physically stronger is never as important as being connected and loving. The lessons only a good dog can truly teach you. Bob and I discussed repeating the breeding of Zion and Dreamer. They've already had 2 litters of stunning puppies. So late in 2012 we will call on Dr Langston and see how many more perfect little pups we can bring into the world. We have done the math. IF Dreamer and Zion have 28 perfect Show Prospect puppies we should break even! So sure , you can make money breeding dogs.... if you do it right it will only take you a winning lottery ticket and a small miracle. However along the way you will meet some incredible folks, make some wonderful new friends and have stories to share that create the legend of who you and your kennel are to a breed of odd brown dogs with funny hair dos. Most importantly at the end of the day as you cuddle with the dogs in your pack you can look them in the eye and know you have done no harm to the Breed. You honored and respected the work and qualities the breed deserves. Taking no short cuts, cutting no corners. And you have made it clear everyone of the souls you bring into the world will always have a place in your home. They will never find themselves adrift. Ethical Breeding is never about making Money. It is about making Dreams come true.