Denver - November 20, 2012
OMD, the photo with my DogBlog this week is just too cute! These puppies are younger than I am, and by definition, The Cutest Puppies on the Planet. That's the breaks -- I'm over the whole cute puppy thing. I'm not needy like some other Canine Companions pups I could name. *cough*
But I was reviewing the names (Bean, Buttercup, Widget, Bizzy, Bebe, Barkley, Bravo, Bixby and Waltz) and stopped short. Widget and Waltz? How did two W puppies sneak into the B litter? Mixing letters in a litter is Just Not Done at Canine Companions. Litters always have just one letter for all the puppies' names. So, I called Wendy, the Breeder Caretaker, and Sabina, the mom of the litter, to get the poop….er, scoop.
JEB: Wendy, what gives? Why are Widget and Waltz mixed in with all those B puppies? Did you run out of B names?
SABINA: Hi Jeb. Wendy is busy cleaning up the puppy play yard so I thought I would chat with you. You might like to know that I know your mama, Rumor! We were picked up by our puppy raisers on the very same day from Santa Rosa. We were so excited to meet our new people, we had no idea that we would both be breeders when we grew up.
JEB: Small world (although I'm finding out that with Canine Companions, it really isn't!) Who was your puppy raiser? Where were you raised? How did you end up with your Breeder Caretakers?
SABINA: I am super lucky that my puppy raisers, Wendy and Dave, are also my breeder caretakers, so I have pretty much always lived in Elk Grove, California, which is just south of Sacramento. Elk Grove is a nice place to live, but I am really a city dog. When I was a puppy in training I used to go to work every day with Wendy in downtown Sacramento. I still get to go on special occasions.
JEB: How old are you? How many litters have you had so far?
SABINA: I'll be four years old in January. This is my third litter, and I have had 18 puppies, all full yellow labs like me!
JEB: Wow, that's a lot of kids. So, what's up with the W puppies?
SABINA: About a week before I had the Baby Bean B litter, my half-sister Glade had her very first litter, 12 puppies! She wasn't able to produce enough milk to feed them all (I am sure you know how hungry little puppies are!) so two of her puppies came to stay with me. Even though they live with us, they still are W puppies, and have W names. They will stay with my Baby Beans until it's time to go to their puppy raisers.
JEB: How did you feel about adding more pups to your litter? Seems to me you already had your paws full with seven puppies!
SABINA: When they first came home, I wasn't too sure about adding extra puppies into the mix, but when I realized that I was their Auntie I just knew that we had to keep them! It is fun watching all of the cousins play together.
JEB: Why do you call them "Baby Beans?"
SABINA: Since my nickname is "The Bean" my good friends the Yamadas came up with the idea to name a puppy in each litter after a bean. (The Yamadas, besides being very cool, are a very special CCI family. They are the parents of grad team Jeffrey and Beamer AND puppy raisers!) Each litter so far has had a bean: Garbanzo is being raised in Florida, Chili in Ohio, and now Bean, who is going to live in Virginia.
JEB: That's hilarious! And you have lots of bean names to choose for future litters, too. Let's see, there's Pinto, Fava, Black, White, Green, Kidney, Navy, Great Northern, Lima, Soy, Adzuki, Mung, Broad, Mesquite, Coffee……
SABINA: (Interrupting) I don't think the Naming Fairy will be excited about some of those names, Jeb. Mung? Adzuki? That's just weird.
JEB: Really? I should think anyone would be excited about raising a puppy named Adzuki or Mung. Go figure. Well, how many more litters will you have?
SABINA: I get to have two more litters before I retire in 2014! When I retire I plan on staying with Wendy and Dave so I can help them out with the next breeder they get (I hope it is one of my kids!) and of course they need lots of help training the new Canine Companions puppies.
JEB: Do you like your job?
SABINA: I really like being a breeder. I love spending time at Santa Rosa with the great kennel staff, I love to get to see my professional trainer Angie and playing in the big play yard. And here's something you'll like: When I am busy nursing and caring for my puppies, depending on how many I have, I can get to eat up to FIFTEEN cups of food a day. It's great! I also really love caring for my puppies, I am always very careful not to step on anyone. I think that I like weeks 6, 7, and 8 the best because I get to play with my babies and start teaching them stuff! Oh, here's Wendy. I'd better get back to the pups. Bye, Jeb!
WENDY: Hi! Sabina can be a little bossy, so I am surprised she let me horn in on your conversation.
JEB: I think she was eager to get back to her kids. Were you and Dave been Breeder Caretakers before you raised Sabina?
WENDY: Nope, she's the first breeder for Dave and me, and the first puppy we raised for CCI. We are very lucky to live close to the Canine Companions Northwest Campus, so when she was selected to be a breeder we jumped at the chance to be her BC. We also have such a strong network of Canine Companions volunteers in the general area, including breeder caretakers, that we knew we would have the support we needed to take on this awesome endeavor.
JEB: What do you like best about being a BC? What's the hardest part?
WENDY: The best part of the job is what I call the "Queen of the Universe" phase the puppies go through. That is when I go in the play yard and everyone runs over to see me! They all sit and look up at me like I'm the most important thing ever. I know that they are just hoping that I brought in some kibble, but after a tough day it sure makes me feel like a million bucks. The hardest part is when a little puppy is sick or just doesn't make it.
JEB: (vigorously shaking head) I don't want to talk about that. Hey, Sabina said she got to go to work with you when she was in training. Where do you work? How do you manage to do that and be a BC, too? That's a lot of work by itself!
WENDY: I work for the City of Sacramento in the Office of the City Clerk. My job requires me to work some pretty crazy hours, but at the same time can be very flexible. I generally take my vacation time when the puppies come and when it is time to go back to work we rely on the "litter sitters" and "lunch ladies."
JEB: Wait, ladies with hair nets come to your house to feed the puppies?
WENDY: (laughing) No, this is a core group of local puppy raisers, breeder caretakers, and friends who will drop in to feed the puppies and let Sabina out. I think everyone in Elk Grove must have a key to our house! We couldn't do it without the help of our local Canine Companions Gold Rush Champions Chapter. This is a certainly team effort; Dave and I pretty much split puppy duty 50/50.
JEB: Do you have any other animals or humans in the house?
WENDY: Yes, we have Max the Cat (a twenty pound Maine Coon) and Cate, Sabina's daughter. She is our current pup in training.
JEB: Oooh, Marianne and John have a good friend named Cate! She'll be pleased to hear she has an accidental namesake. What else should I know about the life of a Canine Companions BC?
WENDY: Three things. First, I have heard that some puppy raisers worry that their hard work went to waste once the pup is selected to be a breeder - not true! I want puppy raisers to know that the commands that they taught their puppies are absolutely essential and used by breeder caretakers. We use lots of the commands every day, but most importantly during the whelping process. Second. the socialization that the breeder dogs receive during their puppy raising is also essential. There are often people on hand during the whelping and lots of visitors to help, so proper socialization early on is very important. Last, the breeders are well loved and cared for. In fact of all the different types of Canine Companions dogs, breeders tend to have the longest life span, probably due to all of the health screening and attention we pay to their weight and nutrition.
JEB: Gee, I almost wish I was going to be a breeder dog, but Marianne tells me that is not a job option for me. Anything else I should know?
WENDY: While I absolutely love puppy raising, I do have to say that having and caring for a litter of pups is truly one of the most amazing things I have ever been a part of. When I look at a new litter the first night after they are all settled in, I always remember that these puppies come into the world with puppy raisers and graduates already waiting for them. It is truly humbling and a privilege to be part of this wonderful journey of aspiring service dogs.
JEB: AWESOME. In so many ways.!
CHOW FOR NOW!