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.