Chapter 16 - Egyptians and Detectives

On the Working trials front, however, Whistle’s visit to Upottery in July proved fruitful, as she qualified CDex, with 86 marks out of a possible 100. She is possessed of a super nose, and has taken extremely well to tracking, so that Elaine feels that the limiting factor in her performance is Elaine’s ability to “read” what Whistle is trying to convey to her.

One thing we have found is that it is very difficult to keep up training levels on more than one dog at a time, consequently Orchid’s competing career was wound down at this point. She will always be the first Hovawart to have gained her UDex, and has set a path for others to follow.

Whistle Scaling at Working Trails

The show year for Hovawarts is largely contained between March and October, Crufts and the Club Show. For us, 2008 ended with somewhat of a whimper, as we didn’t enjoy a lot of success at Oswestry, apart from Orchid being reserve best bitch for the second year. We did indulge in a bit of showing off in the breeders class, when we had some 18 of the 21 Pines dogs and bitches entered at the show gather in the ring. It was so nice to have lasting memento of the event, although I would have to say very much over the top and out of order.

With winter comes the thought of the future, and we considered litters for both Orchid and Whistle. It is never possible to be certain that any mating will happen, or if it does, will be successful, so we decided that we would go for both at their next seasons. Orchid came in at the beginning of February, and we chose this time, rather than a third visit to DJ, to go for Duke (Irish Champion Fasskoleys Sallins Gold), owned by Mick Murphy in Eire, and bred by Anne Stewart out of Mercedes’ sister Solas (Pines Riley) to Ir. Ch. Micona Chieftan, a son of Cricket’s brother Pines Black Beret, thus necessitating a trip to the Emerald Isle once more. Mick is a breeder of racing greyhounds, and a believer in the scientific approach, so daily blood samples were taken, spun and analysed, and the optimum opportunity sought for the mating. Of course, this did not preclude us from trying on other days, and indeed, the confirmation that it was the day was phoned to me at the ferry terminal, as I waited to board the boat for home. Honestly, had the call said we need another day, I would have stayed!

Naturally, Whistle came into season a week or so after Orchid, so no sooner had I returned from Dublin, than I was packing my bags, and Whistle, for France. For her, we decided to go back to the lines we had used for Mercedes’ last litter. On Katerine’s recommendation, we went to Jogi (Ajax Jogi des Leus Altiers), a family dog owned by a British couple who lived in a magnificent house in the middle of France that they had restored themselves to an exceptional standard, having bought it as a wreck some 6 years earlier.

Apart from Hovawarts, we had a common experience, in that their building project had been the subject of a Channel Four reality TV programme, Grand Designs. I was particularly excited to learn that they not only took “paying guests”, but that Deni did gourmet meals, and that I was invited to stay, as it was some distance from anywhere else (true!!). Sadly, there were no other “guests” during my stay, and Doug and Deni liked to take a rest from the excesses of French cuisine at such times….my visit didn’t qualify, obviously.

Jogi was the most genteel dog, and although Whistle was keen enough, nothing quite hackled immediately. At least they can’t have been put off by noise or people, as, during the 4 days we were there, I can only remember seeing 3 cars, despite there being two roads going past the property. The two dogs got on very well, and thankfully, just as I was phoning Elaine to say that I though nothing would happen, they got it together at last. It was a pity that they chose the top step of the staircase leading to the front door, on the first floor, and that they had a tie that lasted just short of an hour. It is not easy holding two large dogs up for that length of time! It was a relieved party driving back to Hereford, I can tell you!

It is amazing how things can follow on from decisions. Elaine had received a Christmas card from a niece she hadn’t heard from in many years last year, only to discover that she lived only 10 minutes from Doug and Deni, and indeed knew them, albeit slightly. John took the opportunity to have a splendid (and cheap) French lunch to renew acquaintance.

Based on the “normal” gestation period of 63 days, there should have been 10 days between the births of the two litters, enough time for us to retrench and recover, and ensure that the first set, Orchid’s, were well established, and even thinking about being weaned, but of course nature likes to be perverse, and Orchid’s six puppies, 2 bitches and four dogs, were only three days old when Whistle went into labour. In her first litter, Whistle had some small puppies, but this time she had eleven, all a week prematurely. Sadly, one was stillborn and one little scrap weighed less than 4 ounces, and wasn’t, in the words of the vet, “viable”, leaving six dogs and three bitches, mirroring the ratio of the first litter. I know one is not supposed to have colour preferences, but we were very pleased that every single puppy was black and gold.

Whistle’s first litter had proved “difficult”, with mother not taking to the task of rearing puppies with any degree of enthusiasm whatsoever. We had hoped that it was just an aberration…we were wrong. Whistle has many lovely qualities and attributes, but being a mother is not one of them, and once again she wanted nothing to do with the babies.

For the third time in our breeding history, we had a situation of a litter without a mother to feed them, and for only the third time also we had a nursing mother on hand…sometimes things just work out, and we have been so terribly fortunate in this regard. Not, of course, a wolfhound this time, but wonderful, bossy Orchid, who treated Whistle’s puppies as her own. They did need a bit of extra sustenance, but between us we got them all through, all, that is, except little Hedgehog, who developed stones in his urethra at about seven weeks, and despite the vet’s best efforts, they could not be dispersed and he could not be saved.

As these were to be the last litters from both mothers, Orchid because of her age and Whistle because of her disapproval, we decided we wanted to keep a bitch puppy from each litter. From Orchid’s, there really was no choice, as one of the two puppies was very noticeably undermarked, but it was rather different from Whistle’s, with all three girls really quite close in merit.

We opted for a theme of “nuts” for Orchid’s litter, and Acorn was chosen to stay. Naming of the other puppies came from the seemingly endless hours of TV detective shows watched whilst bottle-feeding them, so among the Poirots and Marples, we opted to keep Hetty Wainthrop…or rather, we opted to keep control of her, because we didn’t think it would be possible to raise two puppies together and have them both well trained and focused, particularly as working trials were very much a goal for Acorn.

Accordingly, we have made an arrangement whereby we will have puppies back from Hetty’s first litter, assuming she meets the club criteria, both physically and temperamentally, and conceives….no big obstacles there, then !! She lives near the east coast, so we are not able to interfere greatly with her upbringing, which is just as well, judging by how super she was when we saw her a few weeks back.

Luckily, Maggie Spencer opted to take a sixth puppy from us, and has Acorn’s brother, Walnut (known as Isa), so we have a degree of closeness with him, too.