Well, many of you have asked when Lorna will be due to have her next (first) litter. I must confess that I have withheld information in hopes of not getting everyone's hopes dashed if we were not successful. What a saga this has been and totally unexpected!
We are happy to say that Lorna has passed our requirements for becoming a breeding dog here at the East side of Shepherd's Hearth (our kennel shared with the knowledgable and wonderful Kendy Sawyer!) Lorna is a wonderful farm worker, hunts vermin, watches the sky, even points and alerts to sick stock in the field!!! We've had Lorna's hips tested (PENN hip (Right DI = 0.38, Left DI = 0.36)) and she was also genetically tested per Embark panel (n/m CEA, n/m MDR1) to confirm that we will be hopefully creating healthy and helpful working and companion dogs. Lorna will be two years old this coming February and has already previously cycled.
Needless to say, this cycle around, Benji - our stud (PENN hip (Right DI = 0.34, Left DI = 0.33) and Embark n/n for entire panel) was eager to finally have an opportunity to do his job. Lorna, however, had different ideas. Some of you may recall that Benji sacrificed his studly appeal to a skunk in the grand gesture of saving our chickens last time Lorna was in heat. This time through, there was no excuse so far as we were aware. The most important window in the heat cycle is short, and we knew that now was not the time to just "wait and see." After chatting online and on the phone with a few other OTSC breeders (Thank you so much everyone!!!!!), we decided to go ahead and take more drastic measures to assure the best chance of this pairing taking place. Though it is slimly possible that a short tie took place without our intervention, holding for a breeding was clearly not going to happen, as Lorna was not in favor of the matchmakers' choice or perhaps desired to remain a maiden. Benji, though eager, is also very considerate and wanting to schmooze the relationship along. If Lorna would yelp at all, Benji would stop and come to check Lorna's face sniffing with big concerned eyes. Who could resist that face? Well, we know who!
And so, our new adventure involved driving 1.5 hours one way to the closest Reproductive Veterinarian Specialist which happened to be at Virginia Tech. We can claim that we drove uphill both directions in the snow a few times, but that is beside the point and perhaps, though true, a wee bit dramatic. Several questions and appointments later, we are left with a solemn figure of 80% success rate and with the knowledge that both Lorna and Benji were both more than accommodating for the vets to perform the side-by-side AI that had to happen. Apparently AI (at VT who seem to have better than the norm of success rates per their staff) with dogs is far more successful than it would be with sheep or cows. Can I get excited yet?
Needless to say, there is a lot of watchfulness of Lorna around here. How much is Lorna eating? Is she still hungry? (Don't worry... we know not to increase her intake at this point.) Should we measure her belly? Has her attitude changed? Lorna is always a hugging dog. So humbly sweet, ducking her head and hugging her body around your legs while she crawls into your heart with her most beguiling eyes. Is she becoming more intense in anyway or even more bossy? All these answers I hesitate to say aloud for fear of creating false hopes. But we can't help but hope!!!
Lorna's projected due date per VT and blood work tracking her progesterone levels would be February 15th - Just around Valentine's Day! It appears that Shepherd's Hearth may have another set of holiday pups... "may" I reaffirm to myself. And so, we wait together. Lambing will come first with plenty to distract us. When the exhaustion and main suspense of this is finally complete, we will have more solid answers about what Lorna may be hiding. In the meantime, hope but don't, wait but don't, pick names but don't, plan a puppy birth room but don't - We are so excitedly not getting our hopes up!
This blog chronicles our very full life here on WoodSong Farm. We will share everything from dog to sheep stories, unique wooly works, to animal husbandry tips we pick up along the way. I hope this helps to give you an idea of what our extended farm family and wooly projects are like, and that we may somehow benefit everyone who reads about our journey.