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  • April 27th, 2011

Romeo and Juliet…Dog Version

Joel and Would-Be Lover

By Joel M. Vance

I grew up with the stories of Albert Payson Terhune, whose noble collies approached canine romance as if it were a royal wedding.  Prince William and Kate Middleton are pikers when compared to Terhune’s four-legged lovebirds.
And then I matured (somewhat) and got into bird dogs and found that the reality of dog breeding is somewhat less enchanting than Romeo and Juliet.  Before our first experiment I still had fresh in my mind the hot ovulatory odyssey of a friend who spent $2,800 for a puppy with half a tail.
My friend had a pointer bitch that came of age.  The friend and her husband discussed transporting the lascivious lady to a nationally famous male, winner of top field trials.  Her veterinarian (who, it might be said, had nothing to lose and, as it turned out, a whole lot to gain) urged the couple to go for it.
The going involved a 2,000-mile round trip to Georgia.  The vet had taken vaginal smears and declared that the bitch was ripe for defiling.  The virgin had other ideas.  Dogs don’t really seem to enjoy procreation.  I’ve watched slugs mate on public television and they enjoy a languorous, positively lascivious courtship.  The frantic, often painful encounter between a pair of horny dogs seems more like a gang rumble than a moment of bliss.
When the couple arrived at the male’s kennel their female was outraged at the indecent proposal.  She snarled and snapped at the lusting male.  It took two strong men to hold her while the stud had his way with her.  “It was a rape,” my friend reported.
It also was unsuccessful.  The breeder allowed only one mating, with no guarantee of a pup (He was a breeder who needed to take up another line of work).  The couple had expected a second mating as insurance.  But the only thing in writing was the $500 check for the stud fee.
The investment included travel, motel and a novelette-sized sheaf of vet bills.  The worst was yet to come.  When the female failed to conceive the owner of the stud agreed to provide nine drops of frozen semen for a shipping charge.

The tiny pipette of semen came in a container the size of a fraternity party beer keg.  Shipping bill?  Seventy-five dollars.
Frozen semen can only be implanted surgically and the surgery is tricky and major.  It took four hours and the bill was commensurate with the delicate nature of the operation.  This time the female was pregnant, but during hunting season, meaning they lost her services in the field.
Possibly as an in-your-face reaction to all the indignities perpetrated on her, the female produced only one puppy….which had to be delivered by cesarean section—basically a repeat of the operation that had put him there in the first place.  Understandably the groggy bitch blamed everything on the tiny stranger at her bosom and tried to kill it.  For the next nine nights my friend dosed the mother with tranquilizers to send her to dreamland so the puppy could nurse.
During the day, while my friend struggled to earn enough to pay the horrific bills, the pup and bitch went to the vet for in-house care.  On the tenth day the bitch finally accepted her son…but some time in the first week she had bitten its tail which became infected.  About 25 percent of the tail fell off, a serious cosmetic defect for a pointer.
And, adding insult to multiple injury, a neighborhood mutt bred their stay-at-home dog through a fence.  The couple no longer is married which may or may not be a result of the dog breeding nightmare, but it certainly didn’t help.
Despite the warning signs from this story we decided to enter the arcane world of canine concupiscence.  Traditionally the bitch is brought to the male.  That seems like a bit of chauvinistic animal husbandry, but there is logic behind it.  Presumably the owner of the female will sell puppies and realize great revenue while the dog owner gains either pick of the litter or a stud fee—relatively small potatoes.  Those who reason this way also frequent Las Vegas, optimistically planning to beat the house.
Pepper was our first potential momma.  She was two.  Our son, Andy, who was owned by Pepper, and I drove her to Minneapolis for her assignation with a stocky French Brittany named Baron.  We were so new to dog transport that we didn’t have a portable kennel—the car was our PortaPet and it began to reek like a barnyard.
Pepper wore black panties that my wife Marty had designed to keep the dog from dripping on the upholstery.  Females in heat do much self-maintenance and Pepper’s breath would have dropped buzzards from the sky.  She roamed the back seat, often plopping her paws on my shoulder to look through the windshield.  She panted in my face and I tried not to run off the road.
Each time we stopped for gas I’d strip Pepper’s lacy underthings off so she could pee, hoping to God that some burly redneck wasn’t at the next pump peering into our car to see what was going on.  Once I forgot and paraded Pepper in her Victoria’s Secret ripoff across the parking lot of a Quik-Stop where a bevy of customers gawked and snickered.
Pepper positively flounced as if she were proud of the damn things.  I trailed at the other end of the leash, looking as comfortable as the featured guest at a hanging.
The family who owned the male were strangers and we stood awkwardly in their garage as Pepper was introduced to her Dream Lover.  Baron looked bewildered (it was his first time also).  Pepper danced around him, tapping him with a coy paw.  She was as brazen as Madonna and he was still in his L’il Abner stage.  Pepper backed up to him, peering over her shoulder like a long haul truck driver jockeying a rig into a narrow alley.
Baron, after looking to his owners for guidance and finding only embarrassed faces and averted eyes, finally let genetics rule and he and Pepper scattered their virginity all over the garage.  But dog passion is short-lived and then comes the uncomfortable part.  The dogs “tie” and remain so until the male’s penis shrinks enough to set them free.  At this time both dogs want nothing more than to go their separate ways, caught up in a whirlwind of second thoughts.
Baron seemed to fear the connection was permanent.  Pepper glared at me as if it were my fault.  “Just hang loose,” I told Baron in a spectacularly inappropriate choice of words.  “I mean, take it easy—it’ll all be over soon.”   We stood around making small talk, trying to ignore the discomfited dogs.  Pepper subsequently had eight puppies and totaled another 20 or so before we retired her from motherhood, by which time I’d gotten pretty blasé about dog sex.
Marty is not quite as relaxed about as I am which probably is because she was forced to become a sexual facilitator for Ginger, one of our resident females.  This was before Pepper and even before our friend’s unhappy experience with the short-tailed pointer puppy.
At that time we knew nothing about breeding dogs.  Popular written material ignored the grimy mechanics and made dog romance more like Beethoven and his Dearly Beloved rather than Chip and Ginger.  We couldn’t find any gut level how-to-do-it.
Our vet rubbed his hands eagerly when he saw our old car clatter into his driveway.  He and I have had a vacation relationship for years.  He takes them and I pay for them.  “She’s in heat,” he announced after a series of tests worthy of the Brothers Mayo.  I could have told him that since Chip, our male dog, was busy climbing the ceiling and howling like a timber wolf with his naughty bits caught in a food processor.
Ginger, like my friend’s bitch, was highly uninterested in consummating this romance.  “We’ll have to help her out,” the vet declared, mentally adding a couple of days’ beach time in Belize.  “Helping out” was a euphemism for assisted assault.
I quickly arranged to be far out of town when the event occurred, so Marty inherited the task of vet’s assistant.  Without going into graphic detail, Marty was delegated to hold Ginger’s head and comfort her with soothing words while the vet worked at the other end like a crap shooter going for a lucky seven.
When I came home I was confronted by two females, both bristling and snarling.  The mildest comment was “Never again!”
And that was from Ginger.
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