Canine Information Overload

So far my breeding journey has kind of been for the birds. Not to complain… in fact I want to acknowledge there are things going on in the world right now that are of far more consequence than whether or not I ever add a single puppy to the army of beautiful dogs currently on this planet. But it would be nice. It would be nice to see this dream realized.

There are two adult girls living in my house right now. Zuzu is about to turn five years old and while she is a beautiful example of the breed and completely has my heart, she also apparently shares my own inability to procreate. They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but really Zu? Couldn’t you have settled for imitating my quiet, introverted nature? You had to choose infertility for $1000 and the Daily Double? Anyhow, it’s not uncommon in the breed, but we have soldiered on with Zuzu; three at-bats and a solid .000 batting average as of today.

Zuzu – Show ready, 2019

But I digress. I am writing today because I just dropped off Madi, three-years-old, for her surgical spay. Madi was what we lovingly called our “back-up bitch” when we had to wade through some early orthopedic questions with Zuzu. Now, don’t mistake “back-up” for “less-than”. Madi came to us as an incredible blessing – a pick girl from a litter of eleven, she was certain to not only grow into a beautiful adult (she has) but also likely to carry her mom’s propensity to birth entire football teams. She came ready-fitted with larger than average teats and practically begs us to create a doggy Tinder account for her when she comes into heat every sixth month.

Though I am a complete rookie and Madi has no love for showing, her beautiful dark brown eyes do all the work for her. She earned the AKC title of Champion easily. I was able to put two major wins on her myself and once at a club-sponsored show she was given an Award of Merit along with Best of Winners, a distinction more often reserved for dogs already titled.

See what I mean?? Those eyes! 😍

We made three veterinary visits with Madi for x-rays to certify her hips and elbows for breeding, only to receive the same report three times; her hips have mild subluxation. Madi is completely asymptomatic. She runs like the wind, clocking one of the fastest 100-yard-dash times for the breed last year in only three days of running. It’s the first time I’ve put an AKC title (BCAT) on a dog with no preparation or practice – just turn her loose and let her fly. She jumps, play flops, wrestles, stands up and lays down with zero effort. She has not limped one day in her life. And yet we cannot breed those hips, seemingly perfect to the naked eye.

So today I did one of the scariest things a dog owner gets to experience, dropping my girl off for a (granted, routine…) major surgery. And I’m nervous. Not just about the surgery, but about recovery and hormonal adjustments. The average pet owner is inundated with conflicting reports: Spaying prevents unwanted pregnancy and reduces risk of cancer, not to mention nearly eliminating the risk of pyometra. Rubbish! There is no conclusive evidence that intact dogs suffer a higher instance of cancers, but there IS research proving growth of bone beyond breed standard, an increase in urinary tract infections, and a skyrocketing instance of adrenal disease in spayed and neutered dogs.

Talk about being afraid to take a step in either direction! There are so many differing opinions – too much information, really. Debates exist in nearly every arena of dog ownership. Raw food vs kibble. Positivity training vs aversive conditioning. Collars vs harnesses. Vaccines vs Titers. It could go on and on. Did you know the average literate human in 2023 has more information available at a moment’s notice on any given day than the most broadly educated person could lay hands on in an entire lifetime less than fifty years ago? Information overload is a real malady, and it can be paralyzing.

Today I decided to take a step. I bit the bullet and took my favorite road on the information highway… the one that runs straight up the middle. My sweet Madi is probably under the knife as I write this. She is three years old so I am confident her growth plates are closed. Her hormones have raged increasingly with each heat cycle to the tune of howling for hours on end (if allowed) while outdoors; my neighbors deserve a break. Actually, while in heat she also howls indoors; I, too, deserve a break. We don’t need another litter of “Berne-whatevers” in this world. This past week, Madi was introduced to a toy that barks and cries like a still-whelping puppy. All kinds of hormones were awakened in her little post-seasonal body and, well, we had “a puppy” among us for a few days there. I was fearful she was going to bite the other dogs for getting too close to her baby. Something had to give, no matter how scary that first step was.

My suggestion for fighting Canine Information Overload? Take these steps:

  1. Know that you love your dog. You do. You LOVE that dog, and you want what is best for her.
  2. Decide who you trust. On this list should be your breeder, your mentors, your veterinarian, and maybe one or two voices you can access on the Internet who are proven, published, well-respected, etc.
  3. Seek advice from those you trust.
  4. Cover your bases. I’m adding a supplement to Madi’s food from here on out that will help with endocrine balance. Does she need that? I lean a little holistic, so I cover bases after vaccines and major decisions such as “let’s just remove all of her sex hormones.” She’s my dog. I love her. And so yes, I’ve decided that it is in her best interest.
  5. Let others have their own opinions and don’t let it become a battleground. You. Are. Not. Going. To. Change. Them.
  6. Forgive yourself when you make a decision you wish you hadn’t. You were acting on what you believed was best and you took counsel. Pick yourself and your dog up, dust yourselves off, and head down that new road.
  7. Don’t hang out on line. Shut the computer, blacken the screen, and take your best friend out for a walk.
Blacken that screen and take your best friend out for a walk.

Published by: When Life Goes to the Dogs

It was my youngest daughter who introduced me to the Bernese Mountain Dog. That first boy, Hero, set in motion all kinds of crazy love. And now, at the end of the day, I often find myself asking... what do these dogs have that is so special? I'm raising three Berners now, navigating the world of social media for dogs, holistic health and raw feeding. Sherman has become a therapy dog; Zuzu may soon follow in his footsteps. Madi, as I like to say, is still cooking. I guess we all need something to put our hands to that makes us feel like we've made a difference in this world. Believe it or not, these dogs help me do just that.

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