Ladies and Gentlemen………
Some of you may have notice a cute little fur ball in the background of some of my latest posts on FaceBook (in fact someone did comment!). We have a new addition to our team – (Princess) Nutmeg, our crazy labradoodle.
Photo 1 - Some early photos of Nutmeg
After bidding an all too early farewell to both of our beautiful Labradors - Holly and Tilly (mother and daughter – yes we bred a litter!) - the house was not the same.
Photo 2 - Holly and Tilly (mother and daughter - amazing dogs that loved eating, people, swimming and training - in that order!)
Holly was 13 (brown), had suffered with mast cell tumours, recovered for 3-4 years and then it came back, or at least something did. She gradually got worse over a 6 month period – she looked at me as though she was ready to go. The decision was easy.
Fast forward 9 months, Tilly at 11 was still fighting fit. She had an amazing coat, still fast and full of beans (but oh so obedient and gentle around children). She appeared to slip jumping from the car in the ice in January and became lame. Turns out the slip had nothing to do with it. Her condition worsened and mobility reduced to virtual paralysis. From an MRI scan we found out she had a growth at the top of her spine, pushing down on the spinal cord and it was this causing the motor-neurological symptoms. This one was a more painful (and unexpected) decision, but nevertheless the right one. I truly believe it is the one last good deed that can be done for a lifetime’s service, and if you can draw on the goodness of this act, it helps so much with the grieving.
It just couldn’t be another Labrador!
We knew another Labrador would be unfairly disadvantaged from the start – and we didn’t want that. We love dogs. We knew we wanted the Labrador traits – to be able to trust implicitly around children. We also knew we did not want another pedigree dog as we have grown fed up with the bred-associated diseases inherent in almost all ‘purebred’ dogs. Furthermore we’d grown tired of emptying the vacuum cleaner of dog hair, hence we wondered about a Labradoodle. A chance search whilst on the train and I’d found a local lady (literally less than 2 miles away) that had 2 puppies out of a litter of 9 remaining. I was sent solo by Joanne to make an informed assessment (I am a self-confessed dog geek) - more on that in a moment…
Photo 3 - The litter as advertised, Nutmeg is to the right of the two black puppies
Pedigree dogs – ‘painting with genetics’…..
To develop the current breeds of dogs that we know as pedigree dogs, and that are recognized by the Kennel Club, involves the breeding of desired traits and like-with-like. Unfortunately, most of these desirable traits are determined (by the Kennel Club) to be based upon appearance. And the breeding of like-with-like whilst now does not occur so much, represents the act of inbreeding (or linebreeding) e.g. mother with son etc. to closely retain these traits. The problem is that this approach does not distinguish good and bad traits, so undesirable traits proliferate too, and hence each breed has it’s own associated health problems. For Labradors it’s hips, elbows and eyes mainly.
There is no doubt that most pedigree dogs are very inbred. The chances of two human family members will show a genetic difference at any given gene on the genome (complete set of DNA) are 71%. Among cross-breed dogs it is 57%, among pedigree dogs it is 27% and amongst the most rare (and therefore inbred dogs) it is 4%!!!
What's a Toyota Prius got to do with dogs? Nothing as it turns out(!)
Hybrid Vigour, or outbreeding, is the intended mixing of genes to give improved or increased biological functionality. It’s a term well-used by popular cross-breed breeders to help justify the cost of their dogs and make the buyer feel better about spending so much money on a mongrel.
Strictly speaking, to demonstrate hybrid vigour, the off-spring should exhibit traits that are enhanced as a result of the genetic contributions of its parents. Whilst not having to hoover up dog hair as much is a bonus, I would not classify this as an enhanced trait or biological function. Neither is looking cute. Both of which seem to be the main driving forces for the choice of a cross-doodle. There is conflicting evidence (isn’t there always) for whether cross-bed dogs are in fact fitter or ‘genetically supreme’.
Indeed by definition, if it’s not a pedigree or ‘purebreed’ – then the dog is a mongrel. So you might understand my surprise when I started to look into getting us a Labradoodle. Backyard breeders are looking for £600-800 and the commercial kennels upwards of £1000. The thing is – they have waiting lists!
Life is like a box of chocolates…….
….you never know what you’re going to get.
Lets face it, most of us select our dog based on looks. Be it cute, furry, small, big, short hair, etc. Other reasoning typically plays a smaller role such as the original ‘purpose’ of the breed (seriously – how many Labradors ‘work’ in the shooting field?). The limitation of crossing breeds is that you cannot be 100% sure what you will get! From one perspective that could be a nice surprise, however, if you’ve a list of people waiting to buy a dog from you and they expect it to look a certain way, well you might be in trouble and end up with an extra addition to you house.
No skin (hairs) off my back!......
Many people like the idea of crossing with a poodle. Mainly under the premise that they won’t shed their coat, will have that teddy-bear look and a cute little beard.
How wrong can they be!
Ours has no beard and sheds her hair! The cool thing is you’ll never see another dog like her, and she is super-cute, but therein lies the limitation, you just don’t know what you’re going to get.
So back to Princess Nutmeg……
The breeder was local, the price was lower than the others £450 (which made me suspicious but she was then 12 weeks old) - the game was on. One particular pup had caught my eye from the photos, call it chance if you like, but she was there (yes it was Nutmeg). Furthermore when I approached the mother, the pup calmly approached me and sat down. All good then I tried to remain sensible, however I knew within 5 seconds that that dog was coming to live with us! I gave her the once over, and her mother too, a bit like buying a car and just to reassure myself (though in reality the moment I’d stepped in the house there was no going back). The next day I brought the whole of Team Bear-Foot along for one last look before we ‘officially’ said yes.
So that’s how Nutmeg came to stay. We’ll chart more on her exploits in the coming weeks and months.
Oh, what about her name I hear you say? We gave Haddie (our eldest) the choice. Her shortlist was Elsa, Rapunzel or her doll - Princess Nutmeg. Our neighbour's dog is called Pepper - which we thought was cool....and to be honest - given that I am chief walker/trainer - I couldn't see myself shouting Elsa or Rapunzel round the Rivington area.
For now, that’s all.
Thanks for reading.