Puppy Plans

All breeders have gone through this once: the first litter! But maybe it feels even more exciting to me, since my “dog life” is altogether very recent history.

One is never too old to learn

I used to be very allergic to dogs and never dreamed of owning one until we moved away from the city and our first rescue beagle Steffi moved in. This was sixteen years ago and I had just celebrated my 50th birthday.

The children had grown up and left us with an empty nest. My husband wanted a hunting companion and Steffi needed a home. She was eighteen months old and not house-trained at first. But what a lovely dog she was! She taught me all the basics about loving a dog and living with it. The hardest lesson was letting her go, when at 13 she developed intestinal cancer and needed to be free of pain for good.

Every dog needs a job

In Finnish we have a saying “it’s a dog’s job” which always refers to jobs and tasks people hate. But in my experience a dog needs a job of its own to be happy. Working in companionship with the owner just makes the dog light up.

After my husband gave up hunting we felt it would be wrong to have any more hunting dogs. So, by the time our second hare hunter, Essi, was aging, I had already introduced two “mushroom hunters” of the lagotto romagnolo breed to the pack and started a new and exciting culinary adventure with them.

This Italian breed was originally a water dog, but after the vast wetlands around river Po were dried over 100 years ago, the lagotto romagnolo with its unerring nose turned out to be an excellent help in the search for the precious truffles. That is a very good basis for sharing and working with one’s dog.

How my lagotto love story started

I had totally fallen in love with the lagotto romagnolo breed in 2005 when a friend asked me to fly to Italy with her in order to pick up a puppy from Bologna.

I had lived in Italy for several years and learned the language. Now my friend needed an interpreter and some psychological backup with the details of the puppy’s ownership contract. We had a wonderful trip, and before we landed back in Finland I had become little Siiri’s “auntie”. It was inevitable that I had to have a puppy from her first litter.

Toto, the cute little male I then picked is now 7,5 years old. Despite his lovely character I had him neutered when he was 3, because he had developed allergies and his hips were not the best possible, either. Although he never had a chance to reproduce, he had already become a valued and much loved family member as well as a real pro in his “dog job”. His perfect nose and working line genes drive him to passionate truffle searching whenever possible.

Rita, Toto’s niece, joined the family two years after him and immediately learned the truffle skills from uncle Toto. Originally I co-owned Rita with her breeder, but after Rita’s first litter I became her sole owner. All eight of Rita’s puppies have inherited her friendly, sociable character. One of them, the lovely Lola, is now living with us in the same kind of co-ownership we had with Rita. I decided to let Rita have a second litter under my own kennel name.

The excitement starts from the preparations

I have taken all the theoretical courses available for breeders in Finland. I have helped in mating situations and deliveries. I have friends who have already volunteered to help me. But I am still doing this for the first time as a breeder myself… I am both excited and anxious: each birth is different, anything can happen. Luckily this will not be the first time around for Rita.

Rita’s next heat is expected to start sometime in December. I have found her a perfect match from the MyDogDNA breeder database. The sire does not live in Finland, so I am due to make a honeymoon trip with Rita to spend some time with her groom. The flight box is already sitting in our entrance hall for her to get used to it. I am making all kinds of to-do lists: vaccinations CHECK, eye examination CHECK, copies of the sire’s pedigree and health documents CHECK, flight options and prices CHECK…

I guess for the next weeks I will be driving my husband crazy by going on and on about all the “puppy equipment” we’ll need IF the mating is successful. (I have not told him that I already bought some hot water bottles, a set of pink metal fencing to close off the “puppy quarters”, a disinfecting steam vacuum cleaner and… Oh, well, perhaps I should not even tell you until later.)

Photo: Jaana Lamppu-Blick