The skunky smell of puppy breath, the warm firmly packed bodies voicing low squeaking that will so soon turn into barks and growls and so determined to get to mommy dog‘s belly. Me sleeping next to the whelping box making sure the process was going right. I do miss it sometimes. All the planning and preparing, the right sire, the time frames, the travel and marketing to make sure there were the buyers for the babies. And the fun of developing puppies, the handling, playing and evaluating.
I raised and showed Airedale Terriers. Had at most one litter per year, but usually that was a doozie, 12 pups at a time. The average litter size for airedales is supposed to be 7 -9, we only hit that once. That was back in the 80s, when the AKC was the only breed registry that counted and there weren’t ‘designer’ aka mixed breeds being sold. That was when adopting a dog from a shelter was, well, not done by anyone who wanted a ‘good’ dog. Getting a dog was a combination of researching pedigrees, checking titles of parents and evaluating pups at seven weeks for conformation and temperament. Then getting the pup from eight to 12-weeks-old and starting the process of training – for general manners and for showing. I showed in obedience and conformation both, and hunted my dogs on birds. Airedales are very versatile dogs, hardy, athletic and we always found them to be quite willing, but persistent (some people call that stubborn).
Our last home-bred Airedale puppy, died at the age of 14 in 2006. He was my husband’s dog. He had been part of a pair of pups I was keeping, the female I planned to show. Just before they were a year old on a snowy winter day my husband let them out to play and then got distracted. They were running about the yard with plastic milk bottle toys, I was inside and saw them out the window and I almost called out the door to say I’d take them out for a walk later. But I didn’t, and only 15 minutes later my husband was running back down our long driveway with my female puppy draped over his arms. I did CPR, but it was no use. She’d been hit a glancing blow by a car (which never stopped), there were no apparent injuries. She was following the male pup who was the more adventuresome one, I couldn’t ever quite forgive him so he became my husband’s dog. My husband spent a rough next 2 weeks too, I wasn’t feeling the love – he let them out and then forgot about them.
During the 20 or so years that we had airedales life was pretty spunky. They were characters; funny, serious, good problem solvers, indomitable and sometimes just shake-your-head terriers. One time two of our males got into a pretty serious tussle over a large zucchini they both, obviously wanted, which was on the other side of the fence in the garden.
We got airedales because my husband, who had never had a dog, liked the way they looked. I had always had dogs and wanted to raise them, I liked shepherds and dobermans, but was willing to compromise. I studied the breed and the standard and went to see a litter. Spent hours watching the pups, went away, came back the next day and watched some more and picked a male that I liked the best. This was to be my husband’s dog, I still had a female German Shepherd from my college days. Dan had lots to learn, but so did I.
Just think of this crew coming to greet you!
Do you have a fond memory of a dog from bygone days?