In the Beginning There Was Child
My family considers all youngsters “child”. Arriving with naturally built in repellent devices, “child” are to be avoided. They bite, chase and hang on with vigour and ferocity. Childs are much better company when they can have a conversation and play proper games.
Holding puppies produces opioids in my brain. Delicious. The only release from this addictive state is 10 of them for 10 weeks. Nature will deliver you from all desires and dreams of puppies by then. It is five year since Child was part of the group. Life has revolved around a few oldies that had earned a peaceful retirement without Child hanging off their bodies.
It is near 20 years since Gordon child arrived from outside the group.
It was not planned.
I had been flirting with Other Breeds, but I have diligently rinsed my mouth of such ideas. There are only two: Border Collies and Gordon Setters.
Having been propositioned with copious amount of marketing from our Kennel Club to join their accredited breeders scheme I was interested to see who was bothering with the scheme and did they actually have an advantage in registering their puppies with the KC. Until the launch of this scheme there was a well-proven system of directly contacting the breed clubs and asking for the puppy register of their members. This avenue was not well marketed to the incoming public. Breed clubs have always had their own list of breeders who abide by the carefully chosen and rigorous guidelines for their breed. These include recommended health testing, puppy packs and a life time’s advice and support. They will also run and support breed rescue. I am not sure that a global kennel club scheme is better, by its global nature it cannot be tailored to the breed requirements, but it does bear marketing weight.
I viewed the list of breeders with puppies, those that have simply registered puppies with the KC with their accredited breeders at the top of the list. Whoopee, not quite the same kudos as a Google ranking but by implication the “top of the list”.
There are no coincidences. In this list was a friend with a very interesting line of show-working Gordons that succeed in both arenas. Interesting.
Off popped the email.
She arrived some weeks later.
Child was not from the originally advertised litter but a second litter of seven bitches and three dogs. Goodness. If you are thinking “how cute”, let me tell explain the realities of a winter litter and you not to be so gullible. This second litter was born in February, the earlier litter in November. The more familiar name for this period is mud season. Dark short days. Copious amounts of rain, cold and more rain. Nicki must have been nuts to tackle this challenge, but fate deals these challenges and I think both she, the girls and her garden are recovering.
It was a true luxury for me to visit, talk Gordon, cuddle, greet and then drive away! Breeders are a sturdy bunch, but keeping on a home bred puppy means that at the very time you should have energy to build a relationship you are either still juggling puppy pens or recovering from the stress-loaded homing process.
I was fresh and enthusiastic, and in retrospect, able to enjoy every moment, the delightful ones and the not so delightful 4am need-a-pee moments.
Nicki has a “working” set up that allows for the litter to be house reared, and at 6 weeks able to enjoy outdoors in a day kennel with frequent outings to this field. The pups quickly learned that grass represented shedding your litter siblings and running FREE ……
On first contact with my grass the stimulus as the same effect of RUN! This necessitated a collar and Flexi lead – how handy. My garden was full of danger zones for a 7 week old with no sense of “run-to-mummy” in her brain.
Litters of 10 are chaotic. Personalities all jumbled. Even more so when they are all marked identically. Neat little Velcro collars assisted us all in identifying who was who. But standing amidst this flock was no way to select a puppy. One of the boys was eye catching, but spoken for. The girls was all very alike, no one pup shone and no one pup faded.
That’s good news. A strength of genetic compatibility across the litter. I am not always in favour of extremes within a litter. The parents only share a pinch of genetic commonality since papa is from Australia. Usually a wide gene pool will produce a wide range of types of puppies, but this litter is a good product of type to type breeding.
I chose that one. No that one, or was it that one – the brown collar? That’s brown with dirt from the other puppies, well it’s definitely not pink or green.
Her with “a” brown collar made the 4 hour journey from Devon to Gloucestershire. Only vomited twice. Love service stations that appear frequently.
I plan to keep young, bewildered pups near me for much of the early days. Everything of reference, routine and familiarity has disappeared. She slept at the bedside, able to feel a hand touch during the night. She had her own penned off area in the Barn with a queue of sitters.
Baby pups learn through tasting and resisting being tasted. With nine siblings, biting and defending are the agenda for every waking moment. This meant she arrived at seven and a half weeks with a highly developed bite reflex on touch and equally well developed diving bite for all movement.
The collies were appalled. Flink was the only accessible body for Her to test her biting skills on and she spend 99% elevated, safely out of reach. This meant my legs, feet, hands, shoes, fingers were the main targets.
Life began in her own crate with additional pen in the kitchen. safety for the kitchen, safety for the other dogs and safety for the pup.
Added excitement was the introduction of raw food. A body temperature warm chicken wing was welcomed and despatched and over the next few days we converted to a life of raw. I began raw feeding about 18 years ago so planning and managing the food is second nature, although I do have a second fridge for their diets.
The Name By Which She will be Known hadn’t arrived, there was a short list, but I like to get to know the personality before committing to a definite name.
Ten days after she arrived I handed her over to my dog sitter as I set off for the Cruise. Chris was thrilled, eyes alight with anticipation. Puppies were a whole new planet with a new atmosphere and when I arrived back, for once refreshed, Chris looked like she had been oxygen starved on the new world of Child.
To avoid separation depression I made a short video of her first week ….. toys courtesy of IKEA and Waitrose!
Next blog: more thoughts of puppy rearing, What does a name stimulate? Emotion or taste of chicken? Can a puppy do wrong?