A Lesson Rewarded

December 22, 2000 was a very special day for me. I received a special gift (or gifts) from my very special girl, Nikki. She delivered a lovely, and colorful, litter that is my next step in my breeding program. The planning of this litter also provided me with new experiences in areas that I'd been timid about in the past. As I have stated in previous articles, it is my own personal opinion that involvement in dogs, in whatever capacity, be it breeding, conformation events, performance events, is a constant learning experience. No matter if you have been in the breed for 1 year, 5 years or 25 years, I figure you can still learn something.

This newest chapter began in Spring 2000, when I mustered enough courage to email Kelly regarding Remy and any of their requirements. I wished to gather more information about the dog and discuss his compatibility with Danu, a Nikki daughter. I was nervous about how I might appear to her, someone she had never met and most likely never heard of, emailing her regarding using her dog at stud. I had seen his name bantered about on the internet lists, viewed his pictures, videos and pedigree on the web, and the more I had learned, the more I liked him. He had the substance and soundness combined with an elegance that I desired. I also liked the fact that in addition to his conformation championship, he had a field championship as well. I felt that he could add some qualities I desired while adding a bit of new blood, yet also carrying some of the more distant ancestry of my dogs, including Ch. Crescent's Arctic Glacier, Stillwater the Tennessean, Ch. Kristull Ggarland Bandit FC, Ch. Ajjarda Smoked Sage O' Keshari FCh, Ch. Keshari Caballero of Shefaro CD, just to name a few.

I soon received an answer and was delighted at the tone. Kelly and Chris's expectations were reasonable and Kelly was very frank in describing her dog and his abilities. I have in the past seen people come off like a used car salesman when describing their available stud, making it seem like he would correct any and all problems I may have in the prospective bitch. We traded several emails, and I don't think I ever waited more than a day for a response. I sent her the information and the URL where she could view Danu, and she commented on the corrections I was seeking in the next generation. She also sent me a video and a copy of a basic stud contract and a hard copy of Remy's pedigree.

I was very relieved to have received the response I did. I could discuss dogs all I wanted down here with several breeders, and I was very comfortable within this circle. I had become interested in a dog outside this circle, and had been unsure of myself in seeking him out. My previous 2 litters (albeit the first one being accidental) were between dogs that I had within my household. Although my initial contact with a prospective stud's owner may seem a bit trivial to some, it was somewhat of a milestone for me. But there was more yet to come…

A few months after my initial contact, I made the difficult decision to remove Danu from my breeding program. I was upset as I truly had wanted a daughter of Nikki to build upon her virtues, and now I had none. The other two girls from the last litter had been placed into companion homes, and since their new owners were not interested in showing, I had required that they be spayed. Now I was about to learn about never saying "never". I could never foresee breeding a bitch three times. I don't plan on breeding that often, having averaged a litter every 3 years. Nikki was getting ready to turn 8 years old, but she had earned all her health certifications (thyroid, heart, eyes and OFA hips) as a veteran and was very healthy and energetic. But I was concerned about breeding her for a third time. I had the vet look over her for a current health assessment and she received a stamp of approval. Compared to some of the other veterans in the house, she was as spry as a pup. I contacted Kelly again to let her know that the decision had been made not to breed Danu, and then proceeded to inquire about considering Nikki.

I then learned that Chris and co-owner Anne would be at the shows in Wyoming and at the Rocky Mountain Borzoi Club specialty. This was wonderful news since we had planned to attend the specialty ourselves, and had considered adding the Cheyenne cluster to the schedule that weekend as well. This new information just cemented our plans to attend.

Soon the time came for our trip northwest. Nikki was coming with me, along with a son from her previous litter, Merlyn, looking for his last major, and Rugby and Flareon, the newest addition to the family. I was excited and a bit nervous. It's one thing to look at pictures, but would Nikki still be acceptable to them after a personal once-over? And how would her potential mate strike me in the flesh? I had seen some dogs that did not live up to their pictures once I had seen them up close and personal. Victor had voiced his concern to me regarding Remy's height - he tends to go for tall - and I'm sure the "dark" did not help. I am not so worried about height as long as there is substance. I tend to enjoy dark dogs, although I do not intend to breed specifically for it. What I find a bit funny is that I am not all that fond of brindling.

When we got to ringside on Saturday, I admired him from afar while I fidgeted with Merlyn. I finally introduced myself a bit later and was thrilled to finally lay hands on the dog. I was thrilled that he was so solid, sound and elegant, and had such a pleasurable, easygoing temperament. Later on, I introduced them to Nikki. Chris could not believe that Nikki was a veteran, figuring her for a 4 or 5 year old. Anne gave her a once-over and I was both excited and relieved that she liked my old girl. Mention was made of the possibility of another stud, as Anne had been looking for a bitch like Nikki to breed to him. I told her I would be happy to look at his information and consider him.

The next day we had a late ring time. I was completely exhausted after Gerda Kennedy practically killed me having me run around the ring over and over and over. I can barely keep up a good run at sea level, much less at 6,000 feet! But it was worth it, as Merlyn earned the major and finished his championship. But more excitement was to come for the day. We ended up staying for the group since the Hound Group was to begin fairly soon. I chatted more with Anne as I watched Chris and his charge work in the ring, and then earn a Group 1. Since Hounds had been the last group, I figured staying for BIS would be worth it, and what a rush it turned out to be! I had never personally witnessed a Borzoi go Best in Show - how exciting to have seen it happen, and to Nikki's prospective mate to boot! I must have deafened anyone standing within arm's reach, cheering and squealing.

A few weeks later, I received a video and some information on the other stud that had been suggested. I found him to be a very striking male and he also exhibited lovely movement, and also seemed to possess the substance I desired. I showed the materials to Victor as well and we discussed the dog further. I even spoke to Sara, my friend and mentor, regarding this other prospect. In the end, I went with my initial decision, and decided it was time to start making more concrete arrangements.

I realized that due to the distance involved (Texas to Ohio - ouch!), Nikki would be staying a while. I was not looking forward to this, as I am extremely attached to "the Queen", and the idea of her being away for any length of time is difficult for me. Then there were the stories I had heard through different mediums - frightening stories about sending bitches off to be bred. Another mental barrier. That is one reason for this article. We tend to hear more often the negative experiences that people have had in dogs. I could have based a decision that I would have regretted because of hearing such negative narratives. My communications between the trio of co-owners had been very pleasant. I felt secure. Perhaps those involved in the "horror stories" had started out similarly. I was lucky that a friend of mine had bred a bitch to the same dog, though, and I felt more confident knowing that. Besides, once I got there - if I felt uncomfortable, I could always decide otherwise.

Which brings me to the subject of getting there. I am completely paranoid about flying dogs. Gives me grey hair, and I really don't want more. I figured I would attempt a weekend "road-trip" to get Nikki up to her "hot date" when the time came. And when the time came, it was a month earlier than estimated! After contacting Kelly again, we made arrangements for the next weekend. My father decided to accompany me, which was wonderful so I could have some relief on the road, although he considered his only daughter to be somewhat mental in trying to get up to Ohio and back between Friday and Sunday nights! I was even more relieved when he offered the use of his Suburban instead of having to take my van, which was on its last leg.

We arrived in Ohio Saturday evening. Kelly showed me the room where Nikki would be staying, with a large ex-pen set up with lots of bedding. Windows on two sides which would allow Nikki to see what was going on in the front or the back yards. Kelly assured me that Nikki would still get plenty of attention as Chris would be in the room reading the paper in the morning. I told them that Nikki could be pretty demanding as far as attention and that I hoped she would not be too insistent with them. Since the boys there (3 of them) had the run of the house, it was necessary for Nikki to be isolated. Once we got Nikki settled in, my father and I were treated to a wonderful dinner (which reminds me that I need to get the mushroom sauce recipe).

They told me that Anne would be at the show in Dayton the next morning, and since ring time was early, would I be interested in going? It would give me the opportunity not only to visit with Anne, but to see another Remy son. I talked Dad into it and the next morning we drove with Kelly out to the showground. When we returned back to their house, it was time to take care of some details and head home. I had been surprised at how reasonable their contract was and Kelly pointed out particular parts to me, unsure if they had been included in a previous copy that she had sent me. But they had. She also gave me a fancier version of his pedigree and showed me some pictures of some more of his recent progeny. I could have stayed all day and chatted, but Dad was rarin' to go. Although I felt comfortable leaving Nikki in their care, it was still difficult for me. She is so much a part of my life and my daily routine. After saying my goodbyes, we headed back to Texas.

I received regular updates on how Nikki was doing and when she came into standing heat, and when she was bred, etc. I was told about Chris reading the paper to her and asked if she could have "cookies". I would ask if she was behaving herself - "yes". She got more freedom after coming out of heat, and then it was time to make arrangements to bring her home. The prospect of driving up there again was daunting, and I still could not consider flying - what if she became upset and miscarried? She was almost 8 ½ years old - I would not attempt another breeding if this one did not take. Then there was a discussion about building a major at a Mississippi show. Chris could bring Nikki down, could we contribute dogs to the major? Heck yeah! Victor had been looking to put the final major on his boy, as had another friend of ours for her bitch. We made our entries and waited.

The weekend of the show came, and Victor drove with our friend to the show. He met Chris and Anne on Saturday and picked up a happy Miss Nikki. The next day, Victor called me to let me know that not only were they bringing home my favorite girl, but 2 new champions! When Nikki arrived back home she looked great - it even looked as though she had gained weight!! We then began the "hurry up and wait" process. I took her into the vet for an x-ray in the time frame they gave me. She was definitely pregnant, but we could not get an exact count. I emailed the good news and got back "hurrahs".

Suffice it to say, I am thankful for this learning experience. I would have regretted not carrying out this breeding based upon hearing about the bad experiences of others in their various encounters within the dog world. I will learn more as these pups grow. I also hope that others learn to share more of their positive experiences with us, as they can be just as enlightening as the negative ones. I will be reminded of this lesson each day that I look upon my next generation.