Sunday, August 9, 2009

What Happened & Where We Think We Are Today

My apologies to those who have been "following" this blog as I've been lax on content generation. So here's the Reader's Digest version...

Our last day in NY/NJ was Saturday the 25th. Luna and I left the Kohler home in Babylon and headed to LaGuardia to pick up Ed Furtek, who flew up from Ft. Myers to help me with a timely drive home. We made it to Tony & Lois' home just before one and at the same time as Florence Duggan's arrival. I took the timing as a good sign.

Ed opted to stay with the Jeep as I escorted Luna to the Smid backyard to meet up with Lois, Florence & Sunny Boy. After some running around, sniffing and typical dog behavior, Luna and Sunny got down to business. She was highly accepting, did not yelp or whimper on the tying, which last 13 plus minutes. Florence instructed me to put her up in the truck, keep her still and not let her pee until southern Maryland or 3 hours! I did what I was told and after saying our goodbyes, Ed, Luna & I pulled out of the Smid driveway in Oakland New Jersey at 1:30 pm on Saturday, and pulled into Ed's driveway in N. Ft. Myers at 11:05 am Sunday morning. Two alternating drivers is the way to slay a big road trip.

Here I type two weeks later and given behavior changes, enlarging nipples and general consensus of those who know her, we're pretty sure our mission was successsful. We have a visit to our vets on 8/25 to know for sure, and in the interim collecting names of folks who are interested in Vizsla pups. One inquiry came from a gent who lives in northern New Jersey, close to Florence who referred him, who was down here at South Seas on vacation with his family! We met on the Sanibel Causeway so he could see/meet Luna and I shared my South Seas history with him. Small World!!!

And for those who don't know, we've been "V-sitting" Jabal, a 5-month old bitch who lives on Grand Bahama Island with our friends the Alnebecks. Ginny got her the Friday before my & Luna's return, and she goes home this upcoming Saturday. We've very much enjoyed her and the two V experience she's prepared us for. Oh, how we forget what puppies are like!!! Next post...the results of the 8/25 vet visit...stay tuned!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Making Puppies – God Willing

Luna & I left Long Island Thursday morning for the two hour drive to the Smid’s home in northern New Jersey, drafting behind the masses making their morning commute into Manhattan. Because the Throgs Neck Bridge was partially closed along a key northern route, I opted to take the most southern west approach along the Island, crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, always a treat and reminder of my childhood. The Verrazano is a double-decked suspension bridge that connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn and was the largest suspension bridge in the world until 1981. It is the starting point of the New York City Marathon and is the geographic entrance into New York Harbor. And a Long Islander’s preferred route to most of New Jersey and all points south, and how we always drove to Florida.

We made it to Lois & Tony’s just past noon and given Tony was away in Canada, Lois asked Sunny’s breeder, Florence Duggan, to join us. I took Luna into the fenced back yard, letting her off leash and she busied herself checking out the dozens of scents, marking each and every one along the way. Lois and Florence brought Sunny out a few minutes later and it seemed like the only thing these two Vizslas were interested in was in following and then marking each others scents in the yard, not the business of the day. But that ‘pawplay” didn’t last long as Sunny’s interest soon became very, very specific. Florence had me call Luna over to her and held her by the collar while Sunny approached and mounted.

Luna was anything but cooperative and despite Sunny’s effort, the first mount was off target so we separated them, let them run a little bit to burn off any excess energy and then tried again, this time with me holding Luna with Lois and Florence assisting Sunny’s guidance system to target. Florence gave me a firm warning to keep my face and hands away from Luna’ mouth, as it remained obvious she really wasn’t all to accepting of what was happening. This second mount was on target and Luna yelped at the appropriate moment, as I had been warned to expect, but instead of a traditional tying, Sunny somehow slipped out.

We let go of both dogs and due to Luna’s behavior – running about Sunny with not a mean but certainly an alpha bitch growling – we separated them, with Florence taking Luna inside, and then the three of us sitting outside with Sunny during his recovery, assessing what had happened and what to do next. Sunny looked a bit spent and like all he wanted was a nice steak and a cold beer. Florence thought Luna was on the cusp of being ready, that the day’s second attempt may have delivered a decent amount of semen, but given the outside tying, probably not much prospect. After some back and forth dialogue, we decided to proceed with our plan to return Saturday for another shot at a natural mating. Later that evening, Lois called and suggested we try an artificial insemination on Friday and then back it with the planned Saturday breeding. Back to Long Island we went.

We returned Friday and I left Luna in her truck crate and visited briefly with Lois and Sunny inside. His attention to me was incredible…like I had been dipped in pheasant and quail stew and rolled in tripe. Jumping, barking, sniffing and following me everywhere! I asked Lois if it was because he smelled Luna on me, which she confirmed but also added that was how he greeted her and Tony. He’s a high energy V, even for an 11 year old! Lois put Sunny up in his travel crate in their van and we followed them to the home of a woman named Diane, breeder/owner of the number one Lab in the ring and number two in the country in field, who was going to do the AI.

We entered Diane’ dog room, placed Luna in a kennel then positioned Sunny for the “collection”…an incredible experience to witness in person for the uninitiated. I held Luna’s panty at Sunny’s nose while Lois held him by his collar, while Diane did the collection and Luna stared at us from the kennel. All the time the three of us were encouraging and soothing Sunny by telling him what a good boy he was, and I tried to keep my gentlemanly composure and hide my smirk – but almost lost it when Diane changed her tune from “good boy Sunny” to a “oh, good man Sunny – good man!” After Sunny did his part, Lois took him out to their van and returned to assist with Luna. Diane took a non-needled syringe, pulling Sunny’s semen from the collection bag (a good amount – 2-3 plus tablespoons).

We then positioned Luna over Diane’s right knee to elevate her hind quarters, massaged Luna’s vulva and then inserted a good 8-10 inches of a thin plastic tube, connected the syringe, plunged and delivered the “liquid sunshine” into Luna. While we talked about the multiple progesterone tests with results all over the board, Diane’s encouraging assessment was Luna was ready given her swollenness and softness. We kept Luna in the elevated position for a good five minutes, then put her panty back on and I was given firm instructions to not let her urinate or do anything else for the next 3 hours. As we had 2 plus on our drive, that wasn’t going to be a problem. Along the way back to Alan & Amy’s home in Babylon, I drove through Floral Park, my old home town, past the house I grew up in and the street where I saw my first Vizsla 40+ years ago.

We’ll be returning to New Jersey later this morning for the last time on this trip…ideally for au natural puppy making, but Diane offered her able assist on doing another AI if Luna wasn’t receptive. Thoughts of what is hopefully to come given this mission’s success will occupy much of the drive, as will my best wishes and prayers for Jennie & Chris O’Brien of Chimera Vizslas, for their beautiful Mimi is due to give birth to her litter any time now.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been…

The climactic refrain of the Grateful Dead’s Truckin’ has been rumbling in my mind for the past two weeks. I was not able to make a blog entry for more than a week as I had no internet access once Luna and I arrived in Mount Airy Maryland on Sunday the 12th (we obviously did not make Philly) and very poor internet connectivity at the Holiday Inn in Orangeburg New York. So sorry for the length of this posting that will bring you up to date.

On the drive north on Sunday the 12th we experienced some of the worst stop and go highway traffic between Richmond, Virginia and Washington, D.C., easily loosing more than an hour of drive time. I called my old friend and former South Seas coworker Earl Raven who had recently taken a general manager position at a hotel in Silver Springs, Maryland, thinking his hotel might make for a great resting place. Earl trumped that concept one better by extending an invitation for Luna and me to stay at his home in Mount Airy, which I readily accepted.
Earl and his wife Nina have a wonderful home on 3-acres for themselves, youngest daughter Tess, their sweet, mature golden retriever Toby,
three horses (including a “full grown” mini smaller than some dogs I’ve seen) and five cats. While I thoroughly enjoyed Earl & Nina’s company, getting caught up on each other’s family and mutual friends, Luna was in her element being able to stretch her legs running off leash, meeting a bunch of new animal friends and taking in tons of new scents.

Monday morning’s walk included spotting three deer on the edge of the Raven property that Luna looked at and snorted to catch a whiff of, but fortunately did not take off after them. I think the Raven's mini horse who was territorial during a carrot treat the evening prior gave my red girl pause when looking at the deer. Besides, there were so many scents, from animals to barn and numerous flower beds Nina had planted, Luna’s attention remained “local” so to speak. The barn swallows nesting on a beam near the peak of the barn, and the big Maine Coon like cat, gave Luna plenty to consider during our first casual morning. We left Earl & Nina’s at 10 am that morning and began the final leg of our journey north to New Jersey.

We arrived at my Cousin Marie’s home in Old Tappan New Jersey at 3:30 Monday afternoon. You know you have great relatives and friends when they open up their home to you and your menstruating dog! My Aunt Mary (Marie’s mom) also happened to be up from Florida visiting, so we all got to enjoy some bonus family time, and Marie and husband Joe’s great hospitality. The Northern Jersey weather was magnificent with temps in the high 60’s, so we dined on their porch deck overlooking their spacious backyard. Luna enjoyed her first time chasing lightening bugs, but not catching them (they must taste really, really bad). Marie grilled delicious boneless pork chops and then surprised me with an early, impromptu birthday brownie for dessert. After dinner Luna I rolled my stuffed self and Luna to the truck as we headed to the Holiday Inn just 5 minutes away. As she’s a “hotel pup” Luna gladly curled up on two of the down pillows, dead center of the king bed, making some room for me to catch some sleep as well.

The next morning we headed to Oakland New Jersey to meet Tony and Lois Smid…and Luna’s betrothed, Arsla & Auburn's Sunny Boy. We arrived at their vets for our 11 am appointment and just minutes before being called to an exam room, Tony and Lois walked in the door. As Luna was the only “V” of the 5 dogs in the lobby, Tony & Lois quickly figured out who we were, as we only knew each other by phone and email, and the only photos exchanged were of our dogs, not ourselves. We enjoyed a brief getting to know you session which included a lot of Luna kisses, especially on Tony. She and I slipped into the exam room for her vaginal smear and blood draw to get a progesterone reading (it was 1.5 on the prior Friday).

After the exam, we waited in the lobby for the smear results and Tony went to get Sunny Boy from their van for the big intro. As other Vizsla owners can appreciate, when Sunny Boy walked into the room, he and Luna locked their attention on one another and acted like there wasn’t another dog in the room (there was), with full attention, furious tail wagging and lots of head and bottom sniffing. Sunny immediately recognized Luna as a bitch in heat - this is his 21st time at studding - and as Tony told me to expect, his tail was going around in a circular “screwing” motion instead of the typical side-to-side wag (a special "I smell a bitch in heat!!!"). Needless to say, these two Vizslas were getting excited and all amped up, so Tony took Sunny outside.

You would have thought someone had had taken away a bunch of quail or pheasant the way Luna whined and scratched at the door with Sunny no longer in the room! I was happy in that the two of them had an obvious “animal attraction” and was looking forward to both my and Luna’s additional time with Sunny as well as Tony & Lois. While anxiously waiting we got the word that Luna’s cellular discharge was still showing nuclei and just a slight cornification of the cells’ walls (as a bitch gets ready for breeding the cells loose their roundness and the wall of the cells form corners). As we’d have to wait until the morning for the progesterone results, we all left to spend more time with the dogs and then enjoyed a nice 2 hour getting to know you lunch. Unfortunately, when the vet called the next morning, Luna’s progesterone was only 0.3…it had actually gone down 1.2 points! Adele Neupert had warned me of her similar experience with Carter, Luna’s full sister from a prior litter of their parent dogs Ike and Elle.

Determining the dog to mate Luna to had been a somewhat tortuous experience I alone put myself through. I first approached the owners of three outstanding dogs in Florida, all members of our breed club, the TBVC. My breeding objective is to produce pups just like or ideally better than Luna in temperament, natural hunting ability and conformity to standard. The one “improvement” I wanted was in size, as Luna is a BIG BITCH measuring at the very top of the AKC Vizsla standard. I also considered dogs in Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well as frozen sperm from a dual champion that had passed away 15 years earlier. Throughout this “exploration” I greatly benefited from the advice of many other Vizsla owners with breeding experience and knowledge of the bloodlines. Especially Luna’s breeder Mary Rathbun of Egri Vizslas, Adele Neupert of Vermilion Vizslas and owner of Luna’s sire Ike and sister Carter (both of Mary’s Egri kennel), and Jean Matmor of Valley Hunter Vizslas who opened the door to the V world for me. I was relieved and pleased when the 7th dog considered, Sunny Boy, offered everything I wanted and Luna achieved “approved bitch” number 21 for this "Sultan Vizsla”, an exceptional gentleman of 11 years.

Sunny is a moderately sized male and has Luna's same physical appearance, especially the head and face. He is a dual champ...field champion, amateur field champion and master hunter (there are no higher AKC hunting titles a dog can earn). Sunny rocked in the show ring, earning both American and Canadian champion titles, as well as a best in specialty show title (best overall dog competing against other Vizsla champions). And he welcomed me with lots of quintessential red dog loving (aka wet face) and the stories shared by Lois & Tony confirmed Luna like loving, loyalty and sometimes goofy like personality (we don’t at times call her Lunatic for nothing!). I’m very excited over the prospect of these two making some very special pups…a “heavenly litter of future stars” as after all, their parents are the Sun & Moon! How’s that for expectations?!

Regrettably the vet’s advice was Luna wouldn’t be ready until Thursday to Saturday at best and I made the decision to kennel her and return to Florida for my 50th birthday weekend at Palm Island and an important meeting for my Vacation Auction business that Monday. I flew out of JFK on Thursday with a non-refundable return flight for Tuesday the 21st. My hope was Luna timing would play out as forecasted and two breeding sessions would have occurred so I could just pick her up and head home. As they say, timing is everything.

The news on my return was Luna progesterone didn’t start to ramp up until Monday (4.5) and the vet now projects this Thursday and Saturday will be days 3 & 5 of estrus, prime puppy making time. So here I type very late on Wednesday night (ok Thursday morning) getting ready to take Luna to Sunny tomorrow morning for their first red dog rendezvous of love. We’ll go back Saturday late morning for the final “Klimt moment” before we begin our drive home to Florida with my great friend Ed Furtek, who is flying up from Fort Myers that morning to help me drive. She’s chillin’ on her bed in the living room of my other great friends Alan & Amy Kohler, while my anxiety is beginning to escalate. Never been there or done that before. Have done the research and spoken to Mary today who prepped me on what to expect and do when tying occurs. Yikes! Tomorrow will be, in a word, exciting and I’ll try to post an update late Thursday. As the announcer says just before a commercial break “stay tuned for more highlights are to come”. From Babylon New York I remain the Traveling Vizsla’s driver…Sal.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Luna Time

When I awoke this morning little did I know what road would lie before me. We came to the realization this past Thursday even that Luna had come into heat. In retrospect, she began spotting Tuesday evening, but after a boat run to Picnic Island with our friends Steve & Sooz Johnson and their handsome schnauzer Zack, there was a major V8 moment when Ginny had Luna sit on one of our white beach towels. We headed to our vets Friday morning right after breakfast and Luna had a vaginal smear and progesterone test. The smear, where a q-tip is used to transfer Luna’s discharge along her vaginal wall to a couple of slides indicated she was proestrus and the progesterone test results weren’t received until this morning. Our vet, Dr. Kirk Andazola of Coral Veterinary called to report Luna’s progesterone was 1.2 and he forecasted her going into ovulation in 2, maybe 3 days. “You might want to start your drive to the stud dog.”
Luna’s betrothed is an 11-year old extremely accomplished gent named DC Can. CH AFC BISS Arsla And Auburn's Sunny Boy MH owned by Anthony & Lois Smid of Oakland, New Jersey. That’s were we are headed with the intent of meeting for the very first time on Tuesday morning at their vets. Having never done this before, adding a 1,200 plus mile journey into the mix, is making this quite an adventure. Thank God Luna is a wonderful traveler!
Ginny got us all packed to go while I did one last run to my office and then to the airport to pick up an Avis Jeep Liberty, as I figured out the value of putting a couple thousand miles on a rental versus adding to my Mountaineer’s 185,000 after our South Dakota & Louisiana road trip last November.Throughout our get ready, Luna repeatedly stood at the laundry room door to our garage, or laid by the truck in the garage, as if she understood, or at minimum, wanted to make sure she wasn’t about to miss this road trip. We rolled out of our driveway just before 3:30 and headed north, thinking Oakland NJ was our final, but not sure as I had not been able to reach with the Smids and wasn’t sure where they or Sunny Boy was. Fortunately, Lois and I finally connected by phone and I learned they were in at a dog show including a Vizsla specialty in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, just west of Niagara. They would be returning to Oakland on Monday when Luna and I should arrive. Having left my home without knowing their status, I was glad they weren’t west of the Mississippi, like in Colorado or California!!!
The remaining part of the day’s drive was more comforting. Our first stop was a rest area in Sumter County just south of Ocala. Luna and I had a nice walk, stretched out legs and she enjoyed her lamb dinner. We drove a little further north into southern Ocala and jumped off I-75 and took 301 north until we hit I-10 east towards Jacksonville, with one bathroom and gas stop in Lawtey along the way. At 9:55 we crossed the Florida – Georgia border and at 11:50 checked in to the Holiday Inn in Pooler, Georgia. Luna loves getting settled in nice, big king bedded hotel rooms and after a good nights rest, we going to try and make it to Philadelphia tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll be able to connect with my friend Nick Dominijanni who is the DOSM at The Penn’s View Hotel, one of my favorites and offers a great Italian restaurant with the largest wine bar in America…hope they’re dog friendly! Until my next posting…

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Friday, March 13, 2009