Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thumper's year, and our year.

'Thumper's issue' of the Aussie Times arrives this week, earned as a result of his being #1 in final standings for the ASCA year in conformation competition. It is a bittersweet celebration after a year of highs and lows.

Beware, this is a self-indulgent read, avert your eyes if you aren't a dog person.

Posting this gives me a sense of finality I would so much prefer not to face, but it is what it is. 

Dogs can break one's heart. Or more accurately, our hopes and dreams involving them can set us up for heartbreak; the dogs don't do anything except continue to be their wonderful selves, but sometimes what we plan with and for them just doesn't work out.

Thumper is  4 years old now, successful in the ring and in my opinion at least, a really good  example of the breed. No dog is perfect  and there are things I’d change to make him better, but nonetheless a good dog.
a week old?
 When I bred Ribbon to Caleb 4 years ago for my only 'own' litter, I knew I wanted to keep pick puppy for myself. At 8 weeks it was clear which puppy was the keeper and so Thumper stayed back with me when the other 6 puppies went forth to their new homes.

Month by month he got better. Test by test he came back normal, or negative/negative, or 'good'; in other words, no issues in areas we traditionally do health screening for. Even color testing came back in favorably (Yes! Red factored! No! NOT yellow Factored!).

Temperament to die for sweet, deferential to other males without being fearful, sweet and goofy if maybe a bit distractable); smart and drivey.
10 months old, in the asca ring

He went into the show ring with me, showed without any reservation from the get-go, finished quickly with me in both AKC and ASCA rings, out of Bred-by classes. Yes, fat ME handled him and won all his championship points. (*Well my friend Raechelle helped wrap up in ASCA when I had a prior obligation one weekend. Thanks Rae!).

Meanwhile he was looking better all the time. So off he went, at age 2.5, to spend a year showing with one of the most talented handlers in our breed (Maria Neff). I wouldn't have sent him out if I didn't think he was going to do well, but he did better than that, and so onward we went (they  went, I sent ) to make #1 in Breed Standings in ASCA for the year. Oh and he was Best of Breed at the Canadian National Specialty in July, as well.

So he came home in June at the end of the ASCA year, back to me, for the next chapter, which was to include training in Competition obedience with occasional forays into the AKC ring (want to get his Silver Grand Championship) and ASCA rings (would love to make top 30 for NEXT year's invitational).  Also to include standing to selected bitches. He has had a lot of inquiries (many casual of course but several nice, serious ones as well). I'd always planned to limit him, be selective about crosses, and therefore be able to see how he was producing gradually. I mean he is young, right? Plenty of time. And some wonderful breeders I'd trust with my own dogs planned to bring girls to him.
Except that he 'missed' two bitches in April/May.   This, along with an observation by a  breeder who judged him in May that raised some questions.
Of to the repro vet we went, to find that he had a very low sperm count and poor motility, +Lymes and a white blood cell load.


 He was treated immediately for Lyme of course, and put on a course of antibiotics for the apparent infection that grew out MRSA by semen culture. A sonogram showed all normal structures   except for a small lesion in a normal-sized prostate, presumed to be the source of the MRSA.
Subsequent followup in September showed all normal chemistry labs, all normal hormone levels, normal thyroid, no more bacterial growth by culture, and now a normal sonogram. In short, nothing whatever wrong with the dog expect for, now,  virtually no sperm production at all.
Yeah, they're pretty. Dammit...
 The conclusion from my repro consultants is an autoimmune response to the Lyme disease. I have to assume I sent him  for his year-long campaign already carrying Lyme since his environment while on the road was pretty hostile to the possibility of picking up ticks.  On the other hand I have plenty of deer in my Maryland property. He probably had Lymes   for over a year, without symptoms.My bad.

At this  point his prognosis is very poor for any return of fertility as there is really not a way to reverse autoimmune attacks like this. I haven't completely given up all hope but I am a realist. I don't have to 'do' anything anyway, no real reason to neuter him at this time and we will continue to evaluate him eery few months for the time being.  But the damage is most likely done at this point.

 A lot of people in the breed already know about this, or have heard talk (almost certainly, LOL) about it, and I have been very open about it from the beginning  to the people who needed to know (mainly breeders inquiring about using him in their breeding programs). But because of the interest in him I felt it time to be sure info was offered that is accurate.
Thumper remains the same dog he has always been,  of course.  He stays here, and down the road when I have room I will add a son or daughter of his to the household. I will continue to work with him in competition obedience and will always  have him with me at AKC and ASCA Nationals. And I did collect him, twice, before his counts crashed. It will be a while before I have room for a Thumper son or daughter but I will, at some point in the future, when the suitable arrangement presents itself.  Meanwhile we'll cheer on his puppies from his 2 litters of last year, a few of which are shown here.

UKC Ch. Milwin Monarch of Dove Creek
ASCA Ch. Ninebark Dancers and Dreamers
Ninebark The Gypsy Run, working on agility, rally and OB titles.
AKC GCH/CKC CH.RBIS Ninebark Cops and Robbers
mini-family portrait from a year ago.
ASCA Ch. Ninebark Cowboys and Indians

I hope if anyone has questions, they will ask me. So much more accurate than asking anyone who doesn't own the dog, about it. Really. Ask ME.