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Alls Whelp That Ends Whelp


Usually by this time in the summer, we’re either on vacation or preparing to leave for vacation. It’s normally a harried time, when I swear I would prefer staying home to the logistical planning required to get nine people and two dogs to one beach cottage and have everyone still talking to each other.
The fact that the gender mix includes only three females, one of which is a dog, further adds to the chaos. The male members of the party don’t do much more than watch from the sidelines whining, “You’re bringing too much junk,” only to arrive at our destination whining, “Didn’t you bring my. . .”
Yet here I find myself this summer, pining for the circus show that is my family on vacation. Because this summer there will be no Ocracoke Island, no clam business, no riding bicycles into trees.
This summer we’re all sitting around staring at Zsa Zsa.
Zsa Zsa is our Australian Shepherd bitch – Thornapple’s Gitchy Gitchy Ya Ya, officially – and this year she is having a Royal Litter. She was bred in May to Bayshore’s National Enquirer (“Que”). If you are in any way involved with Aussies or even with the dog world at large, you would know that a Thornapple Kennel in a dog’s bloodline is nothing to sneeze at and a breeding with a Bayshore Kennel dog is a mere step beneath the spawning of William and Harry. With all due respect to the Windsors, this offspring promises to be ten times cuter and a better investment.
Like most breeders we know, Dirtman and I don’t have huge outdoor kennels and this litter will be whelped in our dining room. Zsa Zsa is, first and foremost, our pet. I say this only because the mention of breeding purebred dogs is misinterpreted by some as being a sport for snobs who only want the glory of ribbons and trophies while the dog spends most of its time in a concrete kennel. PETA (People for the “Ethical” Treatment of Animals – I put this in quotes deliberately) would love for everyone to think that.
I wouldn’t be the first and certainly not the most eloquent in defending the responsible breeding of purebred dogs. Most breeders are staunch supporters of spay/neuter clinics for this precise reason. If a potential dog owner knows up front the physical and emotional aspects of the dog being adopted, that dog is less likely to end up back in the adoption cycle. The only way to do that is to encourage only purebred breeding. As an Australian Shepherd breeder, I can guarantee you won’t end up with a 150-lb. slobber factory – unless you want one, in which case I would direct you to a St. Bernard breeder.
Since this is the first litter Dirtman and I have ever whelped and certainly the first purebred litter we were ever involved with, we weren’t prepared for the amount of fuss surrounding the anticipated arrival of the offspring from these two famous pedigrees. Poor Zsa Zsa would have to churn out a multitude to satisfy the demand, but since she’s only canine, will only be able to manage six, one of which will stay with us.
Fortunately for Zsa Zsa, a dog’s pregnancy lasts a mere 60 days or so. She tries every night to fit into one of the Parson Russell Terriers’ beds, which is her favorite place to sleep if only because it evicts the smaller dogs to sleep under the bed with the cat. Now she’s too big, but handles with patience the terriers’ smug expressions as they curl up into tiny little balls in her favorite snoozing spot.
At our local kennel club’s annual show, she was evaluated, prodded, probed and generally fair game for anyone wanting to rub her tummy for luck. Because if there is one thing dog people love to do, it’s talk about whelping litters. It’s almost worse than when women gather and begin discussing their labor stories – you’d swear there was no such thing as a normal, uneventful pregnancy. Fortunately we were among friends who, knowing we were novices, kept the horror stories to a minimum. I wish women would learn to do the same thing.
I must admit, she is handling her condition a lot more gracefully than I ever did. She has yet to demand midnight runs for ice cream and she hasn’t once complained about weight gain or lack of fashionable clothing for the pregnant.
All she asks for are Snausages and a cool space on the tile. Pretty humble expectations for a Queen Mother.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 8:47 AM | Permalink

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