As a breeder, there is a colossal responsibility to look at every angle when considering putting a bitch through a whelp. Here at the kennel and over the years I have assisted all my bitches to bring their puppies into the world. However, puppies safely start way before you even consider her as a potential mother because it all begins with health and temperament.
One thing I have gained is a great wealth of knowledge of the needs both physical and mental of Wolfhounds. Living with such a large pack it is vital to watch their every move and know what makes them happy or sad, watch how they view the world and their interactions within the pack, constantly assessing not only their physical form and fitness but their mental attitude and temperament. This I believe is one of the reasons why we have great natural fertility here at Bonaforte because our hounds live very natural lives, from the food they eat to how they live together within the pack.
The heart testing regime is at our core. My belief is because the heart can be tested it is essential and is our baseline. Our girls must be in tip-top condition and get the okay from our cardiologist on the Veterinary Cardiovascular Society Doppler list before we would even consider a mating. Pregnancy puts a strain on them physically and mentally they must also be robust, just sometimes our girls aren't ready until later in life. I will not breed from a bitch that doesn't have strong mental stamina as again it is about looking at the whole picture.
However, we are not immune here at the kennel from stressful times and other blights that affect the breed such as pneumonia.
A few years ago after showing one of our boys, he developed over a matter of hours with no signs or symptoms what was for a short time considered to be Kennel Cough, by the time he reached the vet it had progressed to pneumonia. Fortunately, we acted swiftly to help him, however as these things do it went right through the kennel. Every dog was affected by this strain on some level. At one point we had 7 dogs on drips and more on 24hr watch. We were vigilant and on our toes, taking notes and monitoring any changes, checking hydration, appetite and temperature checks were taken every 4 hours on every single dog, to ensure that any minute sign got seen straight away, and antibiotics started.
It was a highly stressful time but we developed a strong regime alongside our vet, and I am happy to say that we didn't lose one dog in that dreadful time. Every single dog recovered to full health, because not only are we keen and know our dogs but because they have such healthy hearts and such a natural lifestyle it underpinned them for when illness struck.
It is always going to be the case that large kennels gather more information than others. There is still something new to learn all the time. The pneumonia outbreak gave me a tremendous amount of experience but also keeping detailed records tells its own story.
I have always been interested in the health of my Hounds and willing to engage and share information. Recently it has come to light yet again that our breed Health Group don't actually want to work with all within the breed, including me, quite short-sighted really given the information and experiences we have here at the kennel. In a numerically small breed, I would have thought it made sense to encourage participation and not alienate people by ostracising them. I am fortunate that I have some excellent and professional contacts and friends both old and new, who have health as their primary concern.
If Wolfhounds are to survive as a breed well into the 21st century as a robust, healthy stable breed then we all need to look to our reasonings, shortcomings and personal misgivings-and find a way to be proactive and engaging.