Wednesday, February 25, 2009

a petition to consider

For those of you concerned about dog owners' rights and privileges being curtailed by the aggressive lobbying of animal rights organizations like PETA and HSUS who see the recent change in presidential leadership as a golden opportunity, please consider completing this petition put together by PetPAC.

PetPAC is a California-based pet owners advocacy group that is best-known for its efforts in coordinating resistance to a recurring piece of mandatory spay-neuter legislation most recently known as AB1634 -- and happily retired, at least for now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Report from the field - Georgia quail

My friend Joe Augustine filed a report of his late season hunt in the piney woods of SW Georgia. Joe has a small troop of setters that live with him in his (apparently spacious) apartment in downtown Manhattan. You can keep bird dogs in the City. Joe's setters were bred by Dan Catalano of Bayview Setters. Here is some eye candy:

Bird dogging in the piney woods

Joe's nice female setter, Sugar, points a bird

Ranger - Joe's 'old pro' setter retrieves

Quail in hand. What could be better than this?

A biology lesson on AI breeding

I was recently involved in effort to assist in breeding of a setter bitch bred by my friend Mark Hume of Seattle. The owner is located in Wyoming, and I have no facilities for isolated housing of a female in heat - and quite a number of willing males. It seemed that a chilled semen breeding between Ted and this female was the simplest way to get it done. I have no experience with AI (artificial insemination), but located a clinic to assist us through trainer Sheldon Twer. Unfortunately for the owner of the setter female, one of his male Brittanies covered her in a brief moment of opportunity. This happens. We may try again next year.

While poking around on the subject of AI, I also had a conversation with Solon Rhode who offered this (edited) account of his experience breeding by AI.

One breeder’s experience.

We attempted unsuccessfully to breed our Small Munsterlander bitch Janni last June by natural cover. Both Janni and the stud were inexperienced and we did not get a successful tie until late in her cycle, which was over by day 17. I suspect the reason the mating didn’t take was because we missed the fertile window and this is a common cause of breeding failures.

So we decided on her next cycle to try an AI. There are some advantages to AI, one of the main ones is that it increases the choices of stud dogs. It avoids the expense and stress of shipping the bitch, which may not be possible during times extreme weather conditions. One can also use a stud that is no longer fertile or even still alive, if his semen has been stored frozen.

We selected a young male, Zip, imported from Germany as the stud, for he seemed to be a good complement to Janni. Zip lives 1300 miles away, but shipping semen express by air eliminates the distance factor. Near where Zip lives, we found a vet that was a small animal reproduction specialist to handle the semen collection. Because Zip had not been bred before, a test collection was done prior to Janni’s expected heat cycle to verify his sperm quality and its ability to be preserved. We elected to do a breeding with chilled semen, since Zip is a young dog and insemination with chilled semen does not require a surgical procedure, or even sedation of the bitch. Zip’s semen was high quality and stored well with the extender.

There are many logistical details to be worked out in advance at both ends of the breeding process. The stud owner and vet need to be available on off days for making the collection on sudden notice and I alerted them when Janni went into proestrus. This is important because the optimal time for the insemination is 2 days after ovulation has been determined by progesterone testing (more about that below). Frozen semen has the advantage over chilled semen in that it can be shipped well in advance and stored at the vet until needed. Its disadvantage is it takes a surgical procedure to endoscopically implant it into the uterus. Chilled semen can be put into the uterus trans-cervically using an endoscope too, but that requires some sedation. Our vet says that 90% of the time he can advance a small plastic catheter into the uterus to implant the semen without sedation.

When done by experienced people, AI provides just as high a conception rate and litter size as natural cover, maybe even better. see the Camelot Farms web site, which has a lot of useful information.

The chilled semen is preserved with an extender. We used CaniPro 5 made by Minitube and the Minitube shipping container. The shipping container will maintain the chill for 45 hours or more depending on the temperatures of its environment. The semen was delivered by the vet’s technician to a FedEx office. Be sure that the carrier can deliver overnight – holidays may cause a problem. The semen should be implanted 2 days after ovulation for chilled semen and 3 days after for frozen semen. The sperm has a viability in utero of 24 to 48 hours for chilled semen and only 12 hours for frozen. So with frozen semen, the timing is more critical.

Here is a useful link to the canine estrus cycle and other aspects of canine reproduction.

Determining the time of ovulation is done by tracking the blood progesterone level of the bitch - counting days or judging readiness by the bitch’s level of receptiveness is not very reliable. We did the progesterone testing with an ELISA kit obtained by our vet that cost $211 for ten determinations.

The other tricky part is getting the progesterone levels done. You want to do them in the early part of the day so they are ready for that day blood pickup if they are being sent out and also so you have time to act once ovulation has been determined. The ELISA test takes about an hour, but if you send blood out for a radioimmunoassay, you don’t get the result until the next day.

 Janni’s level was done first on day 4 and the result was at the baseline low value of less than 3 ng/ml. The same result was obtained on day 6 of her cycle but then it surprised us and jumped up to greater than 3 and less than 10 on day 8. The threshold of 5 ng/ml indicates that ovulation has occurred. So we were confident she was ovulating on Dec. 31st, day 8-not the best timing for shipping to be sure. Janni has a short cycle, which probably explains why the previous attempt to breed her didn’t work.

I had the blood drawn by the tech at the vet and she ran the tests on days 4,6,and 8. You can do the test every two days until it shows it is increasing and then you should do it daily. Since the day 8 ELISA for progesterone came back greater than 3 and less than 10, it meant ovulation was imminent. So phone calls were made to Zip’s owner and he was able to get the semen collection by that afternoon. Be sure someone involved has a FedEx account well in advance (6 weeks) so the shipment can be done when needed. FedEX has an expedited express service for $180 that will deliver door to door 365 days per year and 24/7. With normal FedEx overnight service the package will not move though on major holidays - as we found out.

The ELISA seems to be an adequate test, but if one is unsure, you can send the blood to an outside lab for a more accurate progesterone measurement. When it rises to 5 or higher, ovulation has occurred. The outside lab tests costs more, about $100 per test and you don't get the result until the next day. More details here.

I drew blood and ran my own progesterone ELISA New Years Day. Because Janni had ovulated so soon, I had plenty of extra sample wells, so I included some additional controls of 5 and 15 ng/ml. The higher the progesterone, the lower the level of color when the reaction is developed. Here is the result:

I read this test as Janni on day 9 was higher than 10 ng/ml and about the same as 15 ng/ml. This confirmed that she had ovulated on day 8.

Insemination: late Friday afternoon Dr. Jeff Meyers in Granville, NY did the first insemination and we repeated it again on Sunday morning. He verified by microscopy that the sperm were in good condition prior to the procedure, although by Sunday they were not quite as good, but adequate.

Dr. Meyers puts one finger into the bitch’s vagina and palpates the cervix while she stands on the examining table. The assistant (me) steadies the dog’s head and pulls her tail to the side. He then slides a long catheter along his finger and passes it well into the uterus, where he delivers the semen sample from a syringe. Afterward, you elevate her rear for a few minutes. That is it and it only takes about 10 minutes.

The total costs not including the stud fee was about $631. This includes $150 for the semen collection, $211 for the progesterone kit, $108 for the vet technician and three blood draws and tests for progesterone levels, $101 for the two inseminations, and $60.66 for the FedEx shipping. It would cost a similar amount to ship a bitch by air to a stud round trip or make a long drive to deliver her. If the breeder bought the Camelot Farms ELISA and did their own assays, that would save about $200 over the costs we incurred.

Unhappily, our effort failed and the breeding did not take. I think we did everything right, but biology is never 100%. The next time I think I will breed Janni by natural cover with a proven fertile male and really see if she is fertile.

Solon Rhode

This concludes our lesson in reproductive biology... it is not nice to fool Mother Nature. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Winner of the National Championship is named

The winner is Lester's Snowatch with a fine performance, given the conditions under which these dogs ran. An outstanding job altogether.

Jim Michaletz provides a view of what it was like for a dedicated owner & trialer to participate...

"What a ride. It started Nov. 1st after Jet won the Inola Open AA. Allen says we're going to Ames. and training starts today. I was so impressed by What Allen was doing, and the response he was getting from the dogs, I had to post some pictures to try and show what all was involved. At this point I felt we could do the 3 hours no problem, it was whether or not Allen could keep him that long. As the training progressed it became apparent that this would not be a problem. Jet was responding perfectly, and the Two of them were on the same page. Now the issue was whether or not the birds would be on that page, or a different one.

Then came the drawing. The Setter Hype. . Then, the most exhilarating 3 hours of my life. I never dreamed Allen and Jet would perform so great. Was it just me? No, it was confirmed, right when we finished Larry Huffman told me that is a job you can be proud of. Also Robin and Hunter Gates, and the Furney's acknowledged a superb performance. The gallery was buzzing the entire 3 hours, some applauding after birdwork. A lot of support for us. Big time.

Next is the long week. Some dogs have good runs, but word from the inside is most had hiccups. The announcement of the winner was not a let down for us, as we were just grateful to be there. The performance became elation, that was not expected, as well as the support from all our friends and others whom wished us the best. Never knew we had so many in the trial world."

What a great sport!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New blog on bird dog conditioning, medical issues

Blogger Shawn Wayment, DVM has started a new blog - Tattered Collars and Covey Dogs -  dealing with conditioning, nutrition and veterinary issues especially for bird dogs. Shawn also frequents this blog. His insights are well worth following, so bookmark his site. It's also in the LWBD blog roll. 

Thanks, Shawn!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Report form the National Championship

Jetsetter at the start of the National Championship - from the Ames Plantation website.

Jetsettter running - Photo from Jim Michaletz

OK, I am going to drop all pretense and admit that I am a huge fan of Jetsetter. 

I have been exchanging e-mail with Jet's owner, Jim Michaletz, who has been attending the National Championship. He allowed me to post some of his comments regarding Jetsetter's performance and the possibility of a 'call back' to determine the National Champion...

...Some are thinking they will need the same kind of race, with more birds. The reason for the call back would be if things were similar for another dog. It is not the dogs fault if the birds turn off. He flash pointed and corrected 4 times in the last ½. These were areas where they had been finding birds. They had probably been there earlier and moved in deep into the cover. He hunted every step of the 3 hours with birds only on his mind. He filled the country, and handled on a string. Finished well to the front. Gallery was clapping and applauding after each find. Never heard anything like it. All were cheering him on, even the Elliots (ed note: John and Jack Elliot are owners of Hytest Skyhawk, Jetsetter's bracemate, and the only other setter nominated to run at the National Championship). After Jet's 2nd find Jack Elliot said, "I quit, you win".  

After the 3rd very dug up find, he said, " I’m impressed." 

You could tell the birds were done feeding and leaving the edge and heading for deep cover. Herb Anderson was riding next to me and asked if I were handling would I let the dog dig in deep and risk losing him on point, or try and keep the dog out on the edges. I said go for broke. Allan tried to keep him on the edges but the dog was digging in whenever he could. He knew the birds were movin into cover. His 1st 2 finds the birds were runnin' for cover.

I really wish I been able to see Jet run on Saturday morning. There were dogs with more finds under different conditions (maybe lacking the race and intense ground application of Jet), but Jim said that Larry Huffman, who has scouted a lot of National Championships, told Allen Vincent (Jet's trainer/handler) to be ready for a call back. A call back happens when the judges feel that two dogs are very close in performance, and would like to see them run head to head. If no other dog has a great performance and produces more birds, say 6 or 8 finds, there might be an opportunity for Jetsetter to run in a call back and be the first setter to win the National Championship since 1970, when his great-great grandfather, Hall or Famer Johnny Crockett, won the event. And that would make field trial history.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hunting and field trialing - compatible?

A hunter can try out field trials in walking stakes - informal, inexpensive and a lot of fun... 

It is probable that the first field trials were the result of a bet between two or more hunters on who had the best dog. It seems almost inevitable that such a thing would happen. While hunting is not (or at least shouldn't be) a competitive sport, it is certain that field trialing is competitive. Even those who 'just want to run my dog' like the recognition that comes with winning.

But sportsmanship is alive and well... field trialers it seems are always ready to help a fellow in need with loan of a horse, a loan of equipment, help in scouting or looking for a a lost dog. And field trialers know that if they do not come to trials and run their dogs, or help by marshalling, or judging or just driving the dogs truck, there would be no field trials.

Hunters often say that field trials 'are not like hunting'. I agree, further, they should not be like hunting. They are tests for dogs, not hunters. But field trialers and hunters share the goal for producing and running good bird dogs, so the ambivalence (or even hostility) that some hunters have towards field trials is puzzling to me. Being a hunter and a field trialer both, I enjoy a good bird dog whether it is out by myself on a hunt or watching a polished performer laying down a solid heat in a trial.

I would encourage all who have not been to a trial to at least go and have a look, you'll likely find a bunch of nice folks who share your interest and welcome your questions. You might like it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tommy travels for training

Mike McGinnis with 4X CH Tekoa Mountain Patriot. Patriot won two championships with Mike, and went on to run in the National Championship, and to win other championships for his owner, Erik Mauck.

Sunday I drove up to Baker City, Oregon to McGinnis Ranch Kennels - Mike and Nicky McGinnis' ranch and kennel operation, where Tommy will be worked on johnny house chukars and wild birds over the next few months. I also had in tow two promising pups from my friend, Tom Griffin, who asked me to take them to Mike and Nicky.

Tommy was whelped in August, and was not old enough for work in the Fall - being just a couple of months old. So he got no bird work. The following Summer I sent him to Randy Anderson and Tony Falley for their Summer camp in North Dakota, where he was run on wild birds from horseback. This did great deal for him, and I was able to hunt him a bit last Fall in Montana. When we returned to California, I ran him in one open derby event, and he placed second, and is thus qualified to run in AF championships. But he has not yet gotten enough bird work to be considered 'developed' and I am hoping that bird work this Spring with Mike will make a bold young dog  that is ready for breaking. 

Weather in Eastern Oregon in February is pretty variable, beautiful on Sunday during the drive up, snow on Sunday night, and cold and windy on Monday. Still we were able to work Tommy on some pigeons and he showed his usual enthusiasm and composure.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The National Bird Dog Championship

The National Bird Dog Championship begins on Monday. Braces will be drawn on Saturday evening. Forty-one dogs will compete in three hour braces for the bragging rights of the most prestigious field trial event in North America.

Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, Tennessee has been the home of this event for many years. The Ames Plantation website lists nominated dogs and will cover the action with brace by brace reporting and photos of each day's running.

These dogs are amazing athletes. They run for three hours in weather that is often freezing cold and rainy, and are called upon to handle a twisting course across the Ames Plantation's six thousand acres. Half of the dogs will not finish the three hours - they will be picked up by their handlers for infractions of bird dog manners, or voluntarily if they simply aren't getting it done on that day. But every dog there is a tremendous bird dog who won at least two qualifying trials to be nominated.

The best dog will be named National Champion. I am rooting for Tommy's sire and Ted's half brother, Jetsetter, who has had some major wins in the past two years, and is one of only two setters nominated to compete this year. The last time a setter won the National Championship was 1970, when Johnny Crockett walked away with the top spot. There is a substantial jackpot established to reward the next winning effort at the National by a setter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A quick note

This is from Tom Nygard in Montana...
There is a bill proposed in North Dakota that would dramatically alter the way pro trainers operate in North Dakota. It would change the date that pros can let dogs go on wild birds. I've created a blog that is in opposition to it and it needs to be signed and posted to all that can see it. We only have until tomorrow to gather names.

Tom Nygard

Click here and sign the petition

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This is it... I promise.

Not wanting to go overboard on the abundant opportunities to poke holes in the sails of the animal rights movement, but browsing Steve Bodio's blog I found an interesting link to the Washington Post website reporting...

"But as with other shifts in our collective tastes in pets, the growing popularity of shelter animals has had an unanticipated side effect -- there is a mismatch between the number of people who want to rescue a dog and the number of dogs needing to be rescued.

In 1970, 24 million dogs and cats were put to death in animal shelters in the United States. By 2007, the number had fallen to 4 million..."

Why? I suggest that the education of people and the availability of low cost, voluntary spay and neuter programs are a big part of the reason, but so is the increase in the number of people who consider adoption when they think of acquiring a dog. Also contributing to this decrease in unwanted pets is the fact that there are far fewer dogs running loose (at least that has been my observation).