Tuesday, December 07, 2010

False Pregnancy: No Pups for Kenya (this time)

No pups for Kenya.  :o (

No crow for me (I was right).  :o )

Today is Day 50 counted from the date of Kenya's tie with Tuc, and if she were carrying puppies, their spines and skulls would be visible on an x-ray by now.

I looked at her x-rays tonight (her vet appointment was about 2 hours ago). Dr. Wagner even put the current x-ray side-by-side with the x-ray from her last litter up for me to compare.

Trust me: there are no puppies showing in the x-ray. Her abdominal cavity looks just as it should (no expansion anywhere; no evidence of pups anywhere).


It appears Kenya is going through a "false pregnancy" (a very real condition in canines, and cows, and other mammals). In dogs its technical term is "canine pseudocyesis" (for a brief summary of the clinical condition, click here to view an abstract at the NIH  or this article written by a vet at petmed).

A false pregnancy quite explains both Kenya's psychological and physiological changes as well as my suspicion that she wasn't "with puppy."

Basically, the best way I can describe it is this: Kenya's body and mind are tricking her into thinking she's pregnant. She's already gained weight, she's losing hair around her nipples, and she's acting like she did when she was pregnant last time (psychologically). She may even lactate (develop milk in her mammary glands), develop engorged teats, nest, and try to mother toys or rolled socks (I hope she doesn't do this; that would be really sad to watch).

But she is not pregnant.

Apparently the condition is quite common in in-tact female dogs (though we've never gone through it with one of our girls before). And symptoms should only last a few weeks (might be inconvenient for us, but won't harm her). No worries.

We still have every reason to believe Kenya will be able to have puppies again as we'd planned (in about six months). It's all good.

Am I disappointed. Of course!  How could I not be ? (Puppies are puppies and always a gift, no matter the timing.)

But I have to admit I'm relieved, too.

I get to keep my kitchen for the holidays (whelping and puppy raising take over our kitchen for over two months with each litter).  I get to rest completely when I have to recover from my oral surgery next week (no puppy demands).  I get to sleep every night for the couple of weeks around Christmas (I would normally be doing night-shift on puppy watch if we had a litter).

So it's all good.

Kenya gets to think she's pregnant and pretend she's pregnant without any of the work or mess. And I get to stay human for the holiday season!

Chalk it up to another learning experience compliments of our canine crew.

And instead of chronicling another litter, now I can devote a bit more time to writing about the other doggies and our lives spent with them

That, too, can be quite fun (and quite silly). Just wait and see. Another of  Chessie's antics is up next (this one is sure to make you smile).  You can look for that entry in a day or two.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy Kenya's extra snuggles and our momentary reprieve.

And I'll try really hard to resist saying "I told you so."  Thpppppt!

'Til next time,

Monday, December 06, 2010

Of Kenya and Eating Crow

Call me a holdout. Or blind. Or stubbornly marooned in Denial Land.

I'm just not convinced Kenya is pregnant.

Let me qualify: I'm definitely not convinced she's a lot pregnant.  She might be a little pregnant, but she's definitely not a lot pregnant.

I'll bet Regular Reader didn't realize one could be a little pregnant.

Okay, maybe just in LabTails Land. :)

What I mean is that I really don't think Kenya is carrying several puppies if she's pregnant at all (her last litter, after one tie, had nine puppies).  She's just not that big.

Her size, however, could be deceiving, and size isn't the only indicator of pregnancy in canines.

Kenya is also losing hair, and not like a normal shed; she's losing hair (ack!) around her nipples (a natural process preparing Kenya's body for puppy suckles).

I think I can see visible teats now, too (something we haven't seen since several weeks after we weaned her last litter). I'm not sure, though. What do you think?

Do you see teats above (picture was taken about an hour ago)? Maybe I'm just noticing something that's always there, but not shouting for my attention the way they do now because I'm not normally wondering about her condition. Maybe I'm seeing what I expect to see instead of what's real.

Here are a few other shots from this evening (what do you think?):

Kenya's behavior is changing, too: she sits sidesaddle; she's more snuggly again; she likes sleeping on the couch, she feisty with the rest of the canine crew -- all characteristics of a pregnant Kenya that aren't usually present when her hormones aren't raging.

In any case, Denial Land can only exist until tomorrow evening. Today is Day 49 from the day she tied with Tuc, so if she's got puppies in the oven their skulls and spines should be solidified enough now to show up on an x-ray (they usually recommend any time after 48 days). Tomorrow night, Day 50, is her scheduled x-ray to verify her pregnancy and, if confirmed, to count puppies in utero.

And the craziest part: if she is preggers, we'll be looking at puppies in about 10 days, give or take a couple days either way. Normal gestation is 60 days. (*Gasp* - where did November go?)

Oh, and did I mention that I'm scheduled for oral surgery on December 15th (tooth extraction, bone graft in my jaw, and a post implant)? Kenya could be whelping that day. Ack!

Well, I may as well be doing something while my mouth is full of gauze (hehe...oh my!).

I'm still not convinced, though. Kenya was an absolute hippo last time; she's wide now, but she's not huge and her belly isn't dropping.

She's certainly no hippo.

So maybe she's just a little pregnant. :)  That would be absolutely fine with me.

One way or t'other, we'll know in 24 hours.

And if we find out she is "with puppy," I'm completely prepared to *cough* eat crow.

Stay tuned. :)

Until tomorrow night (yes, I will post tomorrow night),

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday Tickler: Chessie, The Artist

My windows aren't dirty: that's Chessie's nose art:


'Til next time,


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is She or Is She Not?

Here is Kenya as she is today (pictures taken this afternoon).  What do you think?

It's difficult to tell.

I honestly can't see a lot of change in her, but people who haven't seen her in a few weeks who see her now consistently react with "ruh-roh" or "puppies!" or some other version of "yup, she's preggers."

I'm still not convinced. LOL. Maybe it's just that I'm still vacationing in CDL. Or maybe others are seeing what they hope to see.

Who knows?  We sure don't!

We won't know for certain for a couple weeks yet, but you can be sure we'll let you know as soon as we do. :)

In the meantime, we'll wait.  Don'tcha just love waiting?

'Til next time,

Chessie's Coming into her Own

We didn't think it possible, but it appears Pinot no longer reigns as the fastest, most agile canine of our crew.

Yup, Chessie's growing up, and she is now giving Pinot a run for her money.

Like like her half-sister, Chessie has become an athletic, driven, focused retrieving force to reckon with. She may even be faster than Pinot (wow!) and is every bit the Energizer Bunny Pinot ever was. At eight months old, Chessie is now physically mature enough to compete on equal four-legged footing.

Okay, so Chessie is admittedly still puppy klutzy, but she's fast!

She's also fun and playful and eager to please, so she's developing into a lovely retriever.

The downside?  Well, ah..., the little Chessie Squirt has become quite full of herself, complete with an adolescent attitude of entitlement. Everything must belong to her, of course (isn't she special?!).

See that Nylabone over there?  Chessie thinks, mine!

The Kong?  Mine!

The retrieving dummy?  Mine!

The lead? Mine!

The Booda rope?  Mine!

That place on Mom's lap?  Mine!

All the water in the water bowls?  Mine!

Chessie's dinner?  Mine!

Everyone else's dinner? Mine!

Tuc's bone?  Mine!

Ah, but Tuc doesn't let Chessie get away with anything, much less claiming something of his as her own. And she knows it, too:

Heehee, someone has to keep the Little Squirt humble! :)

Chessie, however, doesn't like to be humbled. So when Chessie can't have what she wants, she puts on the pout. When the pout doesn't work, she eye-pleads for human parental intervention:

Silly, growing-up-too-fast Chessie!

Even after all these years it amazes me how like our human children our canine critters can be. It's a good thing the two-legged kidlets are all in their twenties; no more human adolescence to live through.

Canine adolescence, though, is full-steam ahead!


Nah, it won't be so bad; it never has been for us (human or canine). In fact, truth be told, I miss those adolescent years.

I guess we'll just have to keep those puppies coming!

Puppies? Did someone say puppies? It must've been my imagination. Regular Reader will recall that I'm happily vacationing in Complete Denial Land.

I'm not sure how much longer I can hold out there, though. I'll write more about that next time.

Ruh roh, indeed.

Until then,


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Oops Factor

Okay, I wasn't going to write about this.

But after thinking about it now for three weeks, I figure you all may as well nibble your fingernails for the next few weeks, too.

Ruh roh! (said in my best Astro-from-the-Jetsons impersonation).


As in what-you-think-it-is oops?

Yup. The big oops. As in a Tuc-Kenya oops (Kenya, left front, Tuc, right):

Now, before you start raising eyebrows in finger-wagging consternation, oopses happen to the best, most-well-intentioned, most careful of breeders. Testosterone-driven males just have a way of getting at those pheromone-producing-in-heat females.

In case you haven't figured out the oops yet, ah, Master Tuc is no longer an inexperienced studly (he's quite proud of himself, btw)...

and Madam Kenya may well be having puppies six months sooner than we'd planned.

We don't know for sure yet, though.  We'll see.

So, what happened?

We won't mention any names or lay any blame, of course, but an adult-middle-aged-slightly-balding-ever-the-optimist human male who happens to live in our house (and whose legal identification appears with mine on the deed to said house) was completely convinced that Kenya was far enough along in her heat cycle to be past any risk of willing mating.

LOL: After nearly 29 years of marriage, said human male still hasn't figured females out.

So, said human male decided to take all six Labbies outside for retrieving exercise and fun.

At the same time.


In-tact Tuc and fertile-mertile Kenya included.

Kenya was, indeed, far enough along in her heat cycle for both Tuc and Kenya to happily retrieve without distraction. Okay, so (admittedly) said human wasn't too far off in his things-are-settling-down estimation.

Here's where the oops comes in.

Said human, nice guy that he is, decided to leave all six canine kids outside to play on their own.

At the same time.


In-tact Tuc and fertile-mertile Kenya included.

After coming inside, the next thing said human saw was a black pushmi-pullyu standing at the back door (think one long black Lab with heads at each end).

Yup. Kenya and Tuc. Tied.

Ack. On Day 16 for Kenya (by our count), and still well within the conception window.

This is the same Kenya who wouldn't have anything to do with Ridge except for our intervention when she mated last winter, the same Kenya whose ovulation we completely missed the year before because of her complete lack of interest in the boys (even when she was prime). Who'd of thought?  Well, obviously we didn't.


Is this what we'd planned?  LOL, not hardly. But what else is new? Life lately has been filled with things we haven't planned and never dreamed of (good and bad).

It's "the oops factor."

Sure, we wanted a Tuc-Kenya litter next year in late spring or early summer (wanting to give Kenya a longer break between litters).  That much was planned. And we expected to do Tuc's x-rays (which had to be rescheduled because he'd developed a cough right before his appointment, but the cough is long gone now). I guess we'd better get back to it then.

So we'll get Tuc in for hip and elbow x-rays in the next week or two (not expecting a problem; all looks great so far). And we'll get him to the ophthalmologist for an eye check.

And we'll wait to see if Kenya is pregnant.

In the meantime, I'll live quite happily in Complete Denial Land (it's a lovely place). Puppies, nah!  Not yet! No way.

And I'll ignore the fact that Kenya, in the past couple of days (three weeks since her tie), has grown quite want-to-be-in-our-laps oriented.  Hmmmm... she hasn't been that way since... well... last February.  

Ruh roh.

Only time will tell.

And until time informs us one way or the other, my fingernails will see a slow demise, and I'll (*cough*) patiently await the next "oops" life has in store. Maybe I'll even be better prepared (*double cough*) for that one. =o)

Stay tuned!

'Til next time,

P.S.  Oh, and did I mention that the puppies, if they exist, will be due between December 18th and December 23rd???  I'll head back to Complete Denial Land now. =o)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Easing Into New Seasons

So we're easing into Autumn here, and easing back into a semblance of stability (we hope) and routine (if there is such a thing; who really knows?).

I've finally found moments to relax and watch TV, and, don't you know, that's happened just in time for cooler weather. I never need worry, however, about cold toes or a chilly lap (yup, that's the real me with the very real and heavy Elsie and the very real and slobbery Ridge):

Frosty temperatures and warm-each-other-up snuggle times are part of easing into Autumn for us.

Cooler weather also means the start-up of our wood stove and of Elsie giving me heart failure every time she naps near the fire. I'd swear, with how close she gets to the cast iron, her fur or whiskers would singe, but the closeness doesn't appear to bother her. Maybe it's that slow metabolism of hers (she's our girl who loves napping in the sunshine even when it's 90s F and humid outside):

Maybe it's age (she's 6.5-ish now). Maybe it's maturity (very likely).  Maybe it's just a further emergence of her gentle, easy-going, unusually-calm-for-a-Labrador disposition.

Whatever it is, she's quite content to wile away the hours in her clearly claimed happy spot of glowing embers and radiating warmth.

Just as we're easing into Autumn, Elsie seems to be easing into a slower season.

 And we're quite happy to walk through this season with her just as she is.

Silly doggy. Sweet waddle butt wide load. Superb snuggler extraordinaire.

Our aging Elsie Bear.

May you know peace at the hearth stone, sweet Elsie girl. May you rest easy, free of all cares. May you find warmth and contentment in your place by the fire.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll join you there.

Here's to calmer, gentler seasons to come!

'Til next time,

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chessie's Great Water Adventure

Because of this summer's life lemons (you know, the ones were supposed to make lemonade with -- hehe, thanks, Mary!), the poor Chessie pup never got her introduction-to-the-water trip to the cottage.

You will recall, Tuc had one such trip as a pup during which we taught him to swim (well, we only helped him develop confidence -- he already knew how). We've done the same with all the dogs over the years. But none of the doggies made it to the cottage in 2010. How sad!

When we saw that the forecast for Sunday included sun and 70-degree-plus temperatures (F), we knew we had to take advantage of the beautiful weather for an expose-Chessie-to-water trip. The cottage was closed for the winter, though, and it's a bit too far for a day trip anyway. Hmmm... what to do. 

Ah ha! Lake Nockamixon (Nockamixon State Park) is only a 25-minute drive, and doggies are allowed there (on lead or actively working). Chessie could learn to swim at Nockamixon!

So we loaded Chessie and Momma Kenya into the van, planning to leave the rest of the canine crew behind because we didn't want Chessie to be overwhelmed by the others in the water.

The crew was not happy.

Oh my, such betrayal!  Take only two of the six swimming, how could we? Heresy! We had eight accusing, pleading eyes following our every move as we prepared to go. Though it took some steely resolve, go (without them) we did.

Kenya and Chessie rode in the car fabulously, staying close to our seats for the trip. Both were incredibly focused on us (nervousness? anticipation? excitement?), so much so that they wouldn't even let Don fill up the car with gas without keeping an eye on him (that's Don's green sweatshirt in the center outside the window, Kenya's wide girth on the seat, and Chessie's planted bottom in the way-back where she's watching Don's every move):

We arrived at the lake, walked to the shore, and took Kenya off lead. She, of course, bee-lined for the water. Chessie wanted to follow, but we kept her on lead to give her a moment to get used to her new environment:

As we expected, Kenya kicked right in (without distraction or hesitation ) with her solid, focused, water-retrieving skills. We hoped that her ease and efficiency in the water would help Chessie acclimate quickly.

We needn't have worried. Chessie is Kenya's and Ridge's pup, after all, and both are strongly water-oriented and solid with their visual tracking. Chessie took to water retrieving quite naturally.

For just a moment or two she paced and whimpered in the shallows, not quite knowing how to get to Kenya...

then she jumped right in:

When it came to actually retrieving, however, Chessie preferred to let Momma Kenya do the work.  Kenya would spot the dummy and bring it part way in, then Chessie would sneak up on Kenya and claim the dummy as her own:

Her quick acclimation didn't mean (hehe) that Chessie demonstrated the epitome of style and grace.  Poor pup.  Sometimes she was less-than-fluid in her movement:

And sometimes she forgot to keep her gangly legs paddling (ooops... yup... she sank):

But for the most part Chessie took to lake-retrieving like a duck....no...more like a Lab takes to water. :)

And she did eventually figure out how to spot and swim out to a dummy, grab it, and bring it back all on her own.

Smart girl.  Silly imp girl.  Oh, but delightful, make-me-giggle girl.

Chessie's Great Water Adventure was a grand one indeed. She survived; Kenya thrived, and we all came home a little better, and wetter, for the wear!

Next up: my favorite pics from the day! :)

'Til next time,

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wow: Four Months! Where have we been???

Oh my.  I can't believe it's been four months since I last posted.  I think that's a record in the history of LabTails, and it's honestly a record I never intended, nor wanted, to set.

So, where have we been?

First, no worries: the canine crew is fine.  Yup, that's the gang above, as of yesterday morning. :)  From left to right it's Elsie (now 6 yo), Pinot (now 3 yo), Chessie (now 7 mos old, in front), Ridge (now 9 yo, behind Chessie), Tuc (in front right, now 2.5 yo), and Kenya (now 4 yo, in rear right behind Tuc).

All are healthy, thriving, and superbly Lab-ish (hehe...as they should be!). :) 

Here's the Pinot girl (Ridge and Elsie's daughter). She's maturing nicely and is actually beginning to look like a grown-up!  Can you believe it?

Pinot is every bit as driven to retrieve as she's ever been (more on that another time), but she's incredibly soft-mouthed and gentle, and she's finally becoming a snuggler.

That is, when Momma Elsie gives Pinot a chance.  Elsie tends to be a lap hog:

As it's always been, Mamma Elsie's focus is reserved for her humans alone (above retrieving and playing and romping with the pack). Nothing has changed there. She's our snuggle bear. :)

Elsie's people-orientation, however, is nothing compared to Baxter's (remember the Boos?).  Yes, Baxter belongs heart and soul to daughter Sarah and her hubby Chris now, but he occasionally comes to visit us.  And, indeed, he is still every bit the couch potato and a lap hog he was when he was ours (even moreso!). Silly Boos.

Chessie, on the other hand, is still very busy.  At seven months old, she's moving head-on into canine adolescence and forgetting (typically for this age) everything she's learned about manners. LOL...oh, but the older-wiser-higher-in-the-pecking-order doggies don't let her forget!  Tuc, Elsie, Pinot, and Ridge keep her in line (unlike the ever easy-going Kenya, Chessie's mom).  As do we.

And so far it looks likes she might have two different colored eyes: one more a gold hue; the other more green.  I guess time will tell.

When it comes to needing to have something in her mouth, Kenya is Queen.  Hands down.  

Sweet, faithful, gentle, attentive Kenya always carries something (usually a bone or nylabone), and she's quite proud of herself when she does.  She calmly follows us around letting us know she holds something quite special in that soft mouth of hers.

Though she's very calm, she still wags that tail a mile-a-minute. And because she bottom-wiggles so very much, it's next-to-impossible to get a clearly focused picture of her when she's on the move.

Then there's Tuc: sweet, smart, focused, people-oriented, and quite the handsome fella these days.  Unlike Kenya, "calm" is not an adjective I'd use to describe Tuc.  Boisterous, enthusiastic, full of life-is-good-and-let-me-show-you-just-how-good-it-is optimism--these are more Tuc's style.. He's goofy. He loves to be an imp (and he knows when he's being an imp). He's my Tuc Buddy. And he makes me smile. 

We mustn't forget the Old Man:  Mr. Ridge. Since his retirement (as studly) and his corresponding anatomical change (hehe... will he ever forgive us?), Ridge has become far less doggy-interested and is far more people-interested. He's giving Elsie a run for her money as Lap Hogger Extraordinaire!  

The poor old boy doesn't much like competing anymore with the youngsters for retrieves (though he still loves to 1:1 with us). And he can't quite run as fast or leap as far as he once did. Ahh... but the others still seem to respect and mind him (except when a girl's in heat; that's another story).


He's a fine old chap.  And he seems to enjoy this new role of his. 

So... the gang is all here, and the gang is thriving.  All is well on the canine front.

In fact, Puppy Chessie learned to water retrieve yesterday!!! (That's our next post.). :)

The answer to "where have we been" is a little less happy: the human front has been rough still. Suffice it to say the human side of our life with Labs has kept me from writing about them. But I hope, no more.

I'm excited about some of the tales we have to tell you (we've been accumulating stories for a while now), and am looking forward to writing about them.

Next up is Chessie's Great Water Adventure. :)

Until then,