Welcome to the ATB blog "J & A's Brittanys" where we love to write about, share stories, post videos and pictures featuring our beautiful, well bred Brittany family bird dogs. With their established and recognized hunting heritage our dogs also measure up to the breed standard regarding health, appearance, movement, and temperament. Enjoy the stories of whelping puppies, tips on field training, bragging rights on accomplishments, sharing joys and sorrow, announcements and as the name implies - ALL THINGS BRITTANY! With a love of God, family, friends, and dog we welcome you.

Monday, March 23, 2020

All Things Treasure - A Tribute

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J&A's Dreams Come True of Acton  JH - "TREASURE"

June 16, 2006 - March 20, 2020

Sire: Pride & Joy's White Smoke
Dam: Birch Springs Wish Upon A Star

"She is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.  You are her life, her love, her leader.  She will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of her heart. You owe it to her to be worthy of devotion."  Author Unknown

Wish was in labor. Knowing she possessed strong maternal instincts as a natural whelper I sat nearby, ready to assist as needed.  As Wish pushed to expel the first puppy, still safely encased in it’s ‘sac’, I noticed the teeniest, tiniest little foot pushing hard from the inside. It was as if the puppy was trying to rip the sac from the inside out and sure enough, it succeeded using it’s right paw. This pup’s right leg had a pure white ‘stocking’ that was met by the deep, dark liver color. It seemed this pup was reaching out to me! I responding by carefully grabbing the pup’s little paw and assisted her as she made her memorable, unforgettable entrance into the world and into my heart. 

Did the bonding actually occur in that moment?

Wish quickly nudged this liver and white colored pup with the white sock to her teats and the pup began to nurse. Nursing stimulates the release of her natural oxytocin and sure enough, soon there was another pup about to be born.  Little did I know this was the beginning of a wonderful journey.

The memory of Treasure’s birth will forever be sketched in my memory. As the litter of 7 grew and developed it was Treasure who constantly caught my eye. While I was trying so hard to remain objective, her beauty and her personality made it nearly impossible to do so. Treasure was the first to do everything in that litter. The others all caught up eventually.

People talk about having a heart dog. It is possible to love many, many dogs as I have and will continue to do so. Every dog I’ve ever loved has been appreciated for their unique personality, temperament, intelligence, spunk and more. While they are all different, surely others will agree that there is an unmistakable sweetness about every Brittany. It is what endears all of them to us, what takes up residence in our heart and mind.

What is so special then about a heart dog? It’s not an easy thing to explain at all. A little piece of us dies when we lose a beloved dog. I was 10 years old the first time such a loss was experienced. My parents were breeders of Boston Terriers and I literally grew up in the whelping box with puppies! As a little girl I loved each and every one of them. My puppy, my Lilly Bell, wasn’t ever supposed to be sold. But life happened and Lilly left. That night the little 10 year old girl cried herself to sleep.

So we all probably have a story or stories about the wonderful dogs in our life. And maybe we even believe there has been more than one heart dog. But the connection with Treasure is unlike any I have ever had with another dog in my 65 years of life here on earth. Just her name indicates she is a very special dog. I named her after a Scripture verse “Where your heart is your treasure will be” found in Matthew 6:21. Her name actually refers to my faith in Jesus Christ and keeping my mind set on Him. (Look it up if you’re curious!)

I’m still stumbling around trying to put my feelings down on paper about my Treasure. Honestly, I personally don’t like to anthropomorphize when it comes to our dogs. But with a heart dog it’s next to impossible not to do that. Some would say a heart dog is akin to a soulmate but my husband is my one and only true soulmate. Yet the bond she and I shared surely could be considered the canine equivalent.

Do you want to hear all about Treasure’s accomplishments? Do you want to know of the legacy left behind in her puppies and grand puppies? Would that help you understand the 24/7 relationship I had with my girl? No, it would not other than to testify of the wonderful human/animal bond developed through the many things we did together. Even though Treasure gave us many ‘braggin’ rights’ through the years and all of her ribbons are on display, that is not the true testimony of my precious heart dog. Besides, if you peruse my blog archives there's plenty there about my girl!

They say sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Well I knew what I had because every single day was a reminder of how much we loved each other, how much joy we brought each other, and how happy we were together. Through the years we did all the normal things that dogs and their owners do together. We also did some not so normal things.

When Treasure was feeling spunky, something that happened a lot, she would turn around and kick me in the back of my legs if I was standing at the sink washing dishes. She also would sing for her supper. I will confess that she (and others) were often nearby the dinner table. As John finished his dinner Treasure kept a close watch on him. He would glance at her out of the corner of his eye which would cause Treasure to begin her ‘woo woo dance’. At first she’d spin and sing. The longer he delayed giving her a leftover tidbit the more entertainment Treas’ would provide. A lot of times when alone at home, I would sing the song “My Girl” to her and Pippin. Together we would dance in the living room. Treasure singing harmony of course.

I realize that to give Treasure the tribute she deserves I’d have to write much more than this blog. And if you’ve read this far well hats off to you! But if you have read, then I already know how much a part of the ATB family you are. You are among my dearest friends, all of you. And therein I must give Treasure some credit, along with the Lord of course. Through various dog sports, clubs, events etc. John and I have met so many people within the Brittany community and beyond. Above all it has been through the very special families who have welcomed one of our puppies into their home. I know that it’s been said Treasure always made a wonderful first impression. I hope you’ll always remember her that way.

Treasure was almost 14 years old.  A couple of years ago I began to see subtle changes in her. I suspected that she was demonstrating signs of canine cognitive disorder. After researching CCD and conferring with one of our vets my suspicions were confirmed. I began to treat her symptoms with CBD oil and changed her diet to Purina Bright Mind dog food. The decline was slow but steady. I learned to love the dog in front of me while remembering the dog that once was. Like many older dogs, her joints were sometimes stiff but I am confident that the CBD helped her in a variety of ways. 

During one of our fall bird hunting getaways Treasure began to ‘leak’. I noticed it after she had been laying on my sleeping bag.. This progressed to the point that she was prescribed “Proin” to treat her for incontinence. This resolved the problem. Treasure exhibited mild signs of laryngeal paralysis which was treated conservatively. Treasures decline continued. Her depth perception was off. When our couch was black, she couldn’t quite fathom how to jump up on it. At night, she could barely maneuver the steps into the house. I imagine it all looked like a dark chasm to her. There were times that it was difficult for her to walk while some mornings she would take off like lightening with the rest of our crew zipping around the yard. We still continued to bring Treasure to the field to run and find a bird. The last few times though she had to be closely supervised and run with a long check cord. I hated restricting her but I didn’t want her to get lost, something she did even in the house sometimes.

Treasure has always been my shadow. I could always turn my head and catch a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye. She slept by my side every night for all these years. I loved the morning routine, most of the time. I’m not a morning person and thankfully she took after me. But when it was time to rise and shine there was no getting out of it. Treasure began by standing over me. I’d sense her presence but keep my eyes shut tight. Gently she would paw me and offer a soft woof. If I ignored her, the pawing became a bit more demanding and she would playfully pounce on me! Treasure would then gleefully jump off the bed and perform a little victory dance.

Treasure loved our small farm pond. On hot summer days when we brought the entire crew down to cool off, Treasure enjoyed catching frogs. She liked to swim but not as much as some of the others. But she would run around the pond’s edge, back and forth, around and around for as long as it took to catch frogs. There is an art to it. One I thoroughly enjoyed observing.

Treasure was a part of most every aspect of my life. She has been with me when I’ve laughed, when I’ve cried, when I’ve prayed, and when I go into the bathroom. I’m going to miss seeing those paws protruding from underneath the bathroom door. Paws I would playfully put my own bare foot upon from my side of the door. Yes, we even played footsies with each other. Showers were interesting too. Treasure would wait near the shower door for me to step out. When I did I often had to push her back, she would be intent on helping me dry off!

Treasure and I went through many things side by side. I was her constant companion when she had puppies, lying next to her and speaking words of love, praying over her, and gently stroking her body. She was my constant companion through each of of my surgeries. My nurse maid, bringing me smiles and kisses. Treasure was the only dog allowed to be around me following each knee replacement. When I began to take steps with my walker she led the way slowly, turning to be sure I was okay as I made my way through the house. Quite frankly I could go on and on about my girl. The memories are endless and I know that I’ve left out a lot.

I had decided that Treasure’s last day would not be her worse day long before it actually drew near. But I have known it was getting closer. Especially since Christmas. I wrote about this in my prior blogpost. Every moment, every day truly was a gift. On Thursday morning, March 19, Treasure could not stand at all. When she tried to sit up she tipped over. She had to be carried out to go to the bathroom. I stood her up but her legs buckled. I’ve been told dogs don’t have strokes but that is the only way I can describe what happened. It was sudden. She was frustrated and moaning. Our vet guided us through the rest of the day as we offered supportive care. I told our vet I needed that one day with her. It got worse and it was determined then that she was experiencing a vestibular event. 

That evening I carried her into the bedroom and lay next to her. She couldn’t move her head. Her eyes were darting back and forth and I knew she was in pain. She wanted to be with me though no matter what. John said I was her safe place in this scary time. In the past, she and I had ‘the talk’. I told her that when the time came, I would never let her be in discomfort. I told her we would both promise to ‘let go’ of each other. That I’d be okay and that she would be free to soar on the wings of an eagle as God lifted her beautiful spirit away from a broken body. It was an understanding we shared. I didn’t want my girl holding on stoically for me. Even with all the miraculous and wonderful treatments available for senior dogs, my heart told me Treasure was tired. My eyes confirmed it. I burrowed my face into that deep dark liver coat and fell asleep that way. 

On Friday morning her body was trying so hard to work but continued to fail her. When I thought she was sound asleep in another room I tip toed away into the bathroom to take a shower. When I got out I was shocked to see she’d made it as far as the threshold and was lying there trying so hard to look at me. But she couldn’t raise that beautiful head to do that. I walked over to her, dripping wet and stood before her. She gently kissed away droplets of water from my feet. Treasure lay in that spot for several hours, she didn’t move. A call was made. 

I cooked up a sirloin steak and hand fed it to her. She managed to get back up and stumble into the living room. I covered her with her Brittany blanket to keep her warm. And then, later on in the afternoon, Treasure was gently assisted to her place of peace and rest in her home. John and I were  her. Treasure nuzzled her beautiful head against me and I wrapped my hand around that oh so  precious white socked paw which  reached out me as she was born. At 2:45 pm on Friday March 20, 2020 Treasure's spirit left her body for God to raise her up on angel wings, bear her on the breath of dawn, and make her to shine like the sun, and hold her in the palm of His hands.

The grief is immense. And I know these details may very well bring tears to the eyes of those who read. But this is one way I handle things in my life. I write about them and I pray about them. This is raw. This is therapy. This is the reality of saying goodbye to the best dog I’ve ever known. Her best friend Pippin and daughter Holly Beth are also grieving along with the rest of our crew. She was an understated, unassuming leader of the pack, beloved to both humans and dogs.

In the midst of this crazy world crisis and pandemic I am in mourning. My heart has been ripped in two but there is no guilt or regret about letting Treasure go. It was her time and I did not wait for her to tell me because I knew that, out of her love for me, she would not. There is a time for heroic measures and there is a time to make the most humane, loving decision possible. I loved her (still love her) so much that I could not allow the quality of her life to diminish any further. She’s no longer struggling and I believe she’s in a much better place right now. I have seen signs that this is true.

Treasure was part of who I am and who I became.  I know my heart will go on. I know John and I will heal in time. Hopefully so. And because we have more senior dogs now, at some point we’ll be facing this again. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world even knowing one day Treasure’s journey would come to an end. I know indeed she’s not only somewhere out there, but she’s in my heart, she’s all around us and lives in her puppies and grand puppies. 

The outpouring of love, support, and encouragement extended to John and I are very much appreciated. I know we’re not the only ones to ever go through this. I know many of you completely understand. The other night we sat down to the dinner table and both of us burst into tears at the thought of her. Our grief catches us off guard. The pain is very real.

That’s it for now. I’ve spent most of the afternoon sitting here at the computer. It is time to cook dinner. 

Thank you for your interest in All Things Brittany, take care and God bless you and yours. Stay safe and keep us in your prayers. John & Ann

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Isn't She Beautiful?

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Treasure will be 14 years old this June. Several years ago I began to notice subtle changes in her behavior. As the changes became more obvious I contemplated writing a new blog to share and document what was taking place.  Because life happens and time passes by too quickly that just never did happen. 

I know beyond a shadow of doubt that my time with this beautiful Brittany is winding down. She still sleeps with me and sometimes I check to see if she is all right and if I can feel her breathing. As I reach I am aware of the primal scream of denial residing deep in my soul. When I try to squelch the anguish my stomach rolls slightly and I realize I am close to succumbing to silent, powerful, waves of wailing and grief despite relief that she is fine. I truly hope and pray that we have many more days together yet I am preparing my heart well in advance.

Treasure is aging rapidly. The canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD or doggy dementia) progresses. She has good days and bad days.  Mornings are her happiest time of day.  Towards the end of the day Treasure often becomes confused, paces, and appears to be lost. Not every day and not all the time. But more often than not. Senior dogs have unique needs, require much patience, gentleness, kindness and above all love.  They deserve also to be loved for the dog that is in front of us at the moment, not only for the dog they once were. Such as it is with Treasure.

I have known loss in my life. I have experienced the deep grief and loss that results from the death of both parents.  My dad died when I was 11. My mom when I was an adult. Other beloved family and friends have passed on through the years, deaths that had to be accepted regardless of age or reason, tragic or naturally. (Just a little over a year ago I was faced with the possibility of losing my husband due to a heart attack. I thank God he has fully recovered.)  

There have also been animals who were part of my life too that I have grieved over. I know that the Bible teaches in Psalm 30 that weeping may last for a night but joy comes in the morning. I know that the day will come when the Lord will wash every tear away. And I know because of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection that death has been swallowed up in victory. These things I know, trust, believe and confidently consider them regarding my family, friends, and All Things Brittany as well.

Multiple opinions are expressed through articles about the human animal bond. Sometimes the relationships are mocked. Other times  exaggerated to the point of humanizing beloved animals. I'm no fan of extreme anthropomorphizing but I am confident of the unique connection, the understanding, and the deep love that exists between my husband and our Brittany dogs. I'm not a dog mom and they are not my kids. But oh, my dogs most definitely ARE family! 

And as much as I love the uniqueness of each individual Brittany dog we're blessed to share our life with, there are those who for one reason or another I connect with more. This is not to say one dog is better than the other or loved more.  I love absolutely everything about Brittanys because they are so highly intelligent, funny, personable, loving, agile and easy to train to name a very few.  They have shared my heart and my home since 1986. (Many of you are familiar with our story.) They can at times be challenging, stubborn, disobedient, frustrating and difficult. But the most difficult part of all of owning a Brittany is the day your journey together comes to an end and you have to say goodbye. But I am not ready to say goodbye to Treasure, my beautiful liver and white heart dog.

I'm not sure a dog will 'tell you' anything about when they are ready.  Indeed my experience has been anything but.  Because they love us so much, they are so tuned into us and very aware of how much we love and cherish their companionship. I have seen dogs in pain that were so stoic, still wagging their tail and acting so happy simply because it pleased us.  Yet these same dogs could hardly physically move, had lost control of bowels and bladder. They absolutely do NOT tell us when they are ready. In fact they are very good at faking it. No. We have to know and we need to be the one to decide when. (I understand there are unique situations)

I leave you with this link to THE GOOD DEATH. My friend Karra posted this to her Facebook page the other day.  A timely read, easy to relate to and one that has totally blessed me. Treasure and I will cherish each precious day that God gives us to be together. His love and guidance will help me with the hard decision. And I will pray for many, many more happy and healthy days together with my beautiful Treasure!

God bless you,

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

J&A's Brittanys: January 2020 Already?

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Looks like writer's block hit!  Not that I am a full time writer or anything like that. But I usually enjoy keeping this blog up, something which I obviously have not done now for three months.

It's already the middle of January 2020. Fall came and went along with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. And although a blur at this point, it was all good. 

I love being a great-grandmother.  She is going on 5 months old already and I love every moment I get to spend with her.  Last Sunday at church for instance. 

Our son is lead pastor at Maine Life Gate Church in Limerick, Maine. Two of my granddaughters are on the worship team, a team which rotates from week to week. They are gifted musicians vocally and musically! (I'm on the team too as a vocalist).  Anyway, when John and I arrived at church Sunday I was so happy my grandson in law handed the baby to me.  'Mom' was on the platform.  I asked John if he could bring the rocking chair from the nursery out to me. So there I sat during worship service rocking my great granddaughter - what joy. As her mom was singing and I was rocking the baby during the worship service was perfect.

I've always tried to give each of my children and all of my grandchildren equal time.  Even when it comes to writing about them. But I find I just can't do that because everyone is busy with their own life now, they are older, changing and have a myriad of interests! We have 7 grandchildren, 1 grandson in law, and 1 significant other (boyfriend). Imagine trying to write something special about every one! 

Not to mention, our son and daughter in law as well as our daughter and son in law.  Suffice to say they ALL make our lives full and through the years we have made many happy memories together. Although not physically all a part of my daily life, they are each definitely a daily part of my life through thoughts, prayers, and thanks to technology -  a lot of texts and photos!  The best times are though when we're all gathered together in one place. We are blessed. I'm so proud of the accomplishments of all of our family. Our son and family involved with a church he founded.  Our daughter and family founded a karate school in Eliot by the name of  New Day Karate. They are all doing so well!  Alana (who I usually show dogs with, has been busy and aspires to eventually compete in the Olympics.

One cool thing John just found recently which we have yet to share with the rest of the family.  There was a VCR tape that was recorded in Chibougamou, Canada during the summer of 2000.  The whole family at the time enjoyed a week long vacation at our fishing camp on Lake Chibougamou. (We no longer have the camp but had some great times there.) What a hoot to watch this.  Our daughter, son, daughter in law, and granddaughter had such a memorable and fun time.  Looking forward to a family movie night soon and I'm sure this will bring laughter and tears. But still - 20 years ago?! 

Thanksgiving and Christmas both were very special this year for certain reasons. There were joys, blessings, and sorrows throughout 2019.  We walked through some storms but we also danced in the rain and rejoiced with great happiness.  God is faithful.  No matter what. 
Unless you just stumbled across us by pure accident, you're probably familiar with our breeding program.  You would know all about our frozen semen/surgical insemination breeding (Jack and Holly). You'd know about Ginger and Flint.  You would know about Revere.   In other words, you know about All Things Brittany. We lost our dear Rosie in 2019 at the age of 14.  And the year before we said goodbye to Jack, Molly, and Wish.  I joke about our geriatric ward. But it's true. The majority of our dogs are beloved seniors now. Treasure turns 14 this year.  She has canine cognitive
dysfunction meaning some days are better than others. Love her.
I hope 2020 brings for me a continued healing of my torn hamstring!  At a dog show with Revere in October I injured it severely while in the ring. I had to stay in the hotel for 2 days because I couldn't move. The good thing is though Revere picked up another championship point, won Best of Breed, and a Bred By Exhibitor Group 4.  Even after my injury. I go to physical therapy twice a week.  I want to finish this boy as a champion! We know he's a great bird dog, we have 4 generations of our own breeding behind him that testify of that.  (Nothing I like better than looking at a pedigree and seeing line after line of J&A, especially those with CH in front of it.  Just saying I don't want to ever lose that.)

Speaking of which. Thank you for your ongoing interest in All Things Brittany and for the serious inquiries about future puppies. Stay tuned!

Take care and God bless, 
John, Ann and All Things Brittanys

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Jack of Hearts Parting Shots (Photos)

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"...I hope life treats you kind
And I hope you have all you've dreamed of
And I wish to you joy and happiness
But above all this, I wish you love..."

We love these puppies in a special way. You all know why.  Of course we can't 'bring Jack back' and it's not like he hasn't sired many, many litters through the years.  But here he is again. 2 years after his passing at the age of 12 and 5 years after he was "collected, frozen, and stored".  These will be the sweetest Brittanys who are deserving not only of being loved and well cared for, but are deserving of every opportunity to live out the purpose for their very existence - the joy of being a family's bird dog.  I will treasure in my heart always the memories of how John and Jack worked together flawlessly in the woods and in the fields. Walking down by York River on a warm autumn day just watching the two and the only shooting I did was with my camera.  I will always remember my own first day in the woods with Jack as a puppy in the fall of 2005.  The moment he detected scent his entire body froze.  No training, that was to come when he was older. Just reaction.  There were so many birds that I always believed he was intoxicated by it!  We happened to notice the direction his head was turned and where his eyes were focused.  John slowly walked in to what was to be a huge covey of grouse (partridge). As surely as Jack's mother taught me the behavior of woodcock my first time out, so did Jack show me the excitement and challenge of grouse hunting. Indeed.  Jack lives on.

Pups at 8 days, 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 8 weeks.

ARROW - now Auggie

BEAUTY - now Shaye


DUDE now Rusty






Friday, September 27, 2019

J&A's Brittanys - Hanging With Puppies

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Hanging out with Beauty, Hawkeye and all the pups.
Tomorrow is opening day for Maine's bird hunting season.  This morning John is helping with the state's pheasant stocking program in Southern Maine, something he thoroughly has enjoyed doing for many years now.  The email arrived from IF&W last week indicating the date, time, and locations.  I was going to go with him but as everyone knows I am NOT a morning person. This is especially so when we have puppies.  Last night I hung out with the Jack of Hearts litter of 9 until midnight. This morning I am working through my pumpkin spice coffee and relaxing briefly while trying to catch up here!

Evenings are a special time when there are puppies. At 8pm I turn the lights down in the puppy area and make sure that the music is set to something relaxing.  During the day when pups are not outside there is always something playing.  They have listened to westerns, situation comedies, talk radio, sound effects, and of course lots of music. Yesterday I actually turned the t.v. to face the puppies because a couple of them were sitting there looking up at the television! As their energy dwindles and their playful, typical mouthing and biting comes to an end they will crawl up into my lap. I will cuddle each pup one by one and gently place them back into their box. Timing is critical as I don't want them to wake up for another round of puppy playtime! At least not at midnight.

Pretty soon photographs and memories will replace the reality of 8 weeks of loving, nurturing, and caring for Arrow, Beauty, Carly, Dude, Eclipse, Flint, Ginger, Hawkeye, and Ike.  As surely as every planned breeding we have ever done is special in it's own right, the Jack of Hearts puppies is even more so.  John and I remain in awe. While Jack was alive, he was a frequently used stud dog not only for us but for other breeders who are focused on a close working gundog.  Everyone always knew what to expect and that was especially so with this pairing with Holly.  Yet even at 7 weeks old we felt these puppies exceeded our greatest expectations. I don't believe there was ever a happier litter.

For starters there was only to be 4-5 pups born according to the ultrasound. We know ultrasounds are just to confirm the pregnancy in most cases.  And because this was an artificial surgical insemination using semen frozen 5 years ago, we didn't expect 9 and our reproductive veterinarian were as surprised as we were. Good job JackDog!

We looked for and identified the desired traits in these pups from the very beginning.  Many were obvious such as natural retrieving instincts at 7 weeks of age. ( I believe in crediting the dogs that are behind these pups.  Birch Springs Wish Upon a Star, their great, great grandmother had incredible natural instincts, strong prey drive and more. This paring doubles up on our Wish.)  As the pups grew and matured they just kept getting happier and happier!  All pups get excited and are happy, that shouldn't be unusual at all.  But it was the wiggly butts with waggin tails that got me.  One of Jack's many memorable traits all hunting ability aside was how joyful he always was and how he made others happy. I see this in the pups. With Jack, all you had to do was gently scratch the base of his tail over his butt and he would immediately turn into a gleeful, happy boy!
Note  Miss Beauty's wet left ear as she sits next to Ginger.
Another thing that Jack always did was to suck on the ears of other dogs. Not just get them a little wet, but get them absolutely soaking wet!  It took me awhile to figure out why the hair on the ears of these pups were often drenched but last night the light went on.  I watched in amazement as a couple of the pups gently mouthed the ears of their sleeping littermates.

From the time they are born up until when they go home our puppies benefit from specific  'extra curricular activities'.  For many years we have used the Volhardt's Puppy Aptitude Testing for evaluation of a litter. I have also used the "Super Dog" (early neurological stimulation) which begins at 3 days old for newborn pups. If you're not familiar with this one here's a great article on it I also implement many suggestions found in the book "Another Piece of the Puppy Puzzle" by Pat Hastings as well as use her DVD called The Puppy Puzzle." The greatest benefit?  Well, while this utilizes the best possible use of time spent with each and every puppy it also allows for the human/animal bond to become solid. And above all - what could be more fun than hanging with puppies with a purpose?! Oh how I love these baby dogs.

Carly's reaction to a suspended bird wing for visual response.
We wait until after the P.A.T.s to determine puppy selection. From the start we ask puppy families to fall in love with the entire litter, wait until they  meet them in person to give us their top 3 choices.  Following the evaluations and based on what we know about each family we determine the best possible fit.  While it's true any puppy would be a good choice there are also subtle differences in each personality which a breeder is aware of.  We rarely guarantee a specific color or gender but do try very hard to honor someone's preference. This was a busy week. Microchips, PAT's and well puppy exam and first puppy shots. As of yesterday, everyone now knows which puppy they will be bringing home.  No one was disappointed. For the time being, I will enjoy hanging with the puppies and making sure to make the days count while we count down to the first day of the rest of their lives.

As always, take care, God bless, and thank you for your interest in All Things Brittanys.
John, Ann, and our amazing crew

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Joy of Becoming a Great-grandmother

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Updates about puppies and life here at ATB are frequently the subject and focus of my little blog here. As the Jack of Hearts litter is now 5 weeks old though there is something so much more exciting, so much more awesome, and yes even more important than anything I could share here about the puppies although I do share a bit about them at the end.

We recently became great-grandparents!! Our oldest granddaughter delivered the most beautiful little baby girl and we had the pleasure of meeting her for the first time when she was just a few days old. As surely as I can remember the joy of becoming a parent when my son was born, and then the incredible experience of holding my first grandchild when she was born now I have known an even deeper joy and love as I held her daughter!  To see my grandaughter and her husband so full of happiness, their eyes aglow with pride and love about being parents is truly beyond my ability to describe. Their baby, my great-granddaughter, is absolutely gorgeous. She's so pretty! And our entire family just rejoices at her birth, a family that has really gone through some 'serious stuff' over the past year. I'm so thankful to God for his faithfulness that extends from generation to generation. My heart is so full and it's overflowing by the pure joy of it.  John and I are blessed with two awesome kids, our son and our daughter and their families.  Between them we have 7 grandchildren who mean the world to me.  Time goes on and we realize how precious each moment spent together is.  Those moments are many in the beginning but then life happens and the times with each other are not as frequent as they once were. Schedules, work, obligations, and the whole cats in the cradle syndrome affects even the best intentioned family members.  My happiest moments are when the entire family is gathered together in one place and this happens on most holidays and birthdays.  I'm blessed that our sons family and our daughter's family are close in relationship. That is the same for my sister's adult children and theirs. We all experienced the reality of our immortality last December when John almost died from a massive heart attack. But God!

We have had puppy families come to visit and that has gone so well. I have so many pictures to share! Speaking of pictures though you won't see any of our great-granddaughter here on this public blog so you will have to be happy with those of the puppies many which I post on Facebook. In the meantime you may enjoy revisiting The Art of Raising a Litter which I wrote last year

There is also good news from recent dog shows in Union, Maine! Toph (who is loved and owned by our daughter and family) won a 3 Point Major, her first major every and was handled by our granddaughter Alana. I'm so proud of this team!  Toph has had very limited showing so it is exciting that this brings her more than halfway to winning her AKC Bench Championship.  (Three of her littermates have also recently finished their championship as well!)  We're especially proud because Hemi is her father. You may remember that Revere earned his first major back in July at the Vermont shows we went to.  That was only his second time out and he too will have limited showing.

I really don't have much down time to sit and write as much as I'd like to.  Quite frankly I am exhausted!  Weaning is just about complete and the pups are eating 3 meals of puppy food daily. I am getting them outside in the fresh air as often as I can.  They have had many visitors this past week including most of their soon to be new owners.  Keeping the pups as clean as possible is a 24/7 job as Miss Holly has turned the reigns over to us.  Up until 4 weeks of age momma will keep the nest clean and still nurse them.  Then at 5 weeks of age she only wants to be with them for minimal amounts of time. The pups have not only been introduced to a lot of new people but also to new sounds and activities. They love their new puppy toys!  I am using a clicker with them on an informal basis in hopes of teaching them to sit.  One day soon they will also be exposed to a game bird wing and eventually a real live bird before they go home.  I look in the mirror and the exhaustion I feel shows. But it's all good, a true labor of love as far as I'm concerned!

Thanks for your interest in J&A's Brittanys.  And yes, there is limited puppy availability but I do not know for how much longer.  Please contact us via our website if you are interested. Take care and God bless, John & Ann

Saturday, August 24, 2019

J&A's Brittanys Awestruck

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These are but fleeting moments in the overall life of these puppies
I find myself capable of spending hours gazing at them in awe
What words can I use to describe what my eyes are blessed to see
There are none.  So I simply offer glimpses.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

J&A's Jack of Hearts - 2 Weeks Old

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Wow it is hard to believe these beautiful puppies are 2 weeks old already!  Our overall average weight per each puppy is 2 lbs. Of course there are those who a little less and those who are a little more. They are up on their feet and trying out their 'sea legs' staggering around like a drunken sailor!  I love watching the wobbly legged young puppies learn how to balance their bodies on their newly discovered legs. 

The stage up until the pup's eyes open is considered the neo-natal stage. If you are reading the books we have recommended you'll be familiar with  this developmental period as noted in "The Art of Raising a Puppy" by the Monks of New Skete.  There are a couple of pups whose eyes are completely open already! There are others whose little eyes can be seen peeking out through the little halfmoon slits where there eye openings are developing.  I almost missed one of them because it was a liver and white puppy whose eyes opened first. Those pups just remind me so much of little baby panda bears in the beginning. For now I keep the curtains drawn for a few days shielding the pups from the bright morning sun. Just think of what it feels like to come from a darkened movie theater and walk out into the sunlight.  That's what it must be like for the puppies.  Speaking of light I have started to reduce the amount of time they are under the infrared heat lamp.  That too is part of their acclimating to the world they will live in. John created a great way years ago to safely use overhead heat lamps.  Ironically, even though it is summertime the pups area I like to keep their area above 90 degrees in the beginning. This is not only to prevent them from becoming chilled but because they cannot generate their own body heat but it also helps to prevent certain viruses from thriving. The puppies behavior in the whelping box indicate to us when the heat lamp needs to be adjusted. 
Holly is such a meticulous mother!  Her 'nest' is spotless.  This will definitely change in the coming weeks.  Holly does not like to be away from her puppies for long at this point in time. It did take her a few days before she'd even lay out onto her dog bed. She would lay under the heat lamp despite her own discomfort. Lately she simply stays within earshot of her puppies. Our whelping area is uniquely set up away from the hustle and bustle of a multiple dog household so she does not have to deal with the curiosity of others in our pack. 
It's been fun to watch these very young puppies respond to the daily specific and intentional handling exercises of the Bio-Sensor puppy program. They are so accustomed to having their paws gently touched that the first time I clipped their toenails there was very little struggling involved.  I begin clipping toenails at about 4 days old and will do it a couple of times a week. Part of this is because I believe it helps desensitize them to the inevitable regular nail clipping throughout their lifetime.  I also do it with Holly's abdomen in mind.  

Those vigorous little nursing puppies use their feet to knead and hold onto Holly's abdomen which inevitable becomes tender as their demand for food increases. It may seem early to be talking about weaning but Holly will cue me as to the best time to start. Weaning is teaching the puppies about a whole new way of eating. Our method is to introduce them to a puppy saucer pan containing a combination of Gerber baby rice cereal mixed with warm water and Goats Milk Esbilac. It's messy but it is fun!  They climb in and get covered head to toe. And then it begins. 

The next day they are offered Purina Pro Plan Puppy food that has been pulverized in the food processor and moistened with warm water. It doesn't take them very long to become accustomed to the solid food and as this is going on Holly will be nursing them less and less. But for right now she is being fed a special diet and allowed to eat as much and as frequently she desires.  The demands the puppies place on her are great and quickly deplete her.  As of late Holly enjoys the supplementation of her meals with steak, chicken, or hamburg. Not bad, HB!

We're truly experiencing the calm before the storm right now!  By this I mean to say things are fairly uneventful with the pups. This will change and very, very soon.  I'm sitting here next to the whelping box and watching as one of the pups is raising themselves up onto the pig-rail.  A pig-rail is a board that goes around the inside of the perimeter designed to prevent a puppy from being crushed by it's mother. It's just a matter of time before one of the pups is strong enough to raise themselves up and over the side of the box.  Consequently, John will attach higher side panels to prevent this.  Holly will still be able to get in and out with ease but pups will stay inside until they are old enough to handle the expanse of the entire whelping area.  Eventually, the whelping box will be removed entirely and the room will once again be transformed.  The puppies will have free access to the entire gated area and they will love it!  This will be where they explore, climb, run, play, and have a ball just being puppies. We will add a litter box filled with alfalfa pellets and they will learn to use it to eliminate, making clean up in aisle 7 much much easier!  Sometimes we also use shavings in the area which keeps pups clean and smelling fresh. That's when they are much older! As the pups grow and mature they will be taken outside and allowed to explore under close supervision.  We have eagles here so it is not possible to just let them out and run free as we once did. But that's okay. There is also a really nice outdoor pen where they can be in covered shade.  As they get older they'll get to have a kiddie pool, toys, and an activity center.

I'll start to put the pups on a grooming table daily as soon as their legs support their bodies fully.  This is a great way to get them ready for vet visits and also for the necessary grooming of the Brittany.  No formal 'stacking' is attempted until they are older.  A breeder can gain a lot of information about the structure of a puppy by observing it closely, especially the way it stands on the table.  Structure, conformation, and a thorough understanding of the breed standard should be important to every breeder.  Knowing why a Brittany possesses this or possesses that goes way beyond the show ring.  

Sometime, when the pups are around 4 -5 weeks old they will be briefly visited by their new families. We really never want to know which particular puppy someone may be interested in until they visit and meet the pups. It's not fair to anyone to make that decision prematurely. We take puppy selection very seriously and ask everyone to simply fall in love with the entire litter! There's always going to be that one puppy that stands out to everyone but that one puppy may not be the best fit for everyone.   We do ask people to let us know their top 3 picks AFTER they've met the pups. At 7 weeks we perform a formal Puppy Aptitude Test, the results of which narrow down the best puppy for each family. John and I review the results of the PAT's as well as the information we know about each family and within a few days, everyone knows what puppy they are getting and are always happy with the results.    

Last but not least, pups will be introduced to bird scent while still in the whelping area.  Then just before they go home we will put a pigeon out to observe their instinct. We know that we will see glimpses of instinctive pointing, instinctive honoring, instinctive retrieving, and strong natural desire surface. 

The 8 weeks truly do fly by.  Right now it may not seem that way especially if you are one of the families waiting for that day when pup goes home!  Speaking of which, if you peruse this blog you'll note that there are pages here specifically geared to bringing a new puppy home. Additionally we have amazing handouts for our new puppy owners to bring home with them. 

Guess that's about all I have for now. That's enough!  Now... back to that delicious puppy breath ... AHHHH....

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

J&A's Jack of Hearts - 1 Week Old

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"If I could make days last forever, if words could make wishes come true. I'd save every day like a treasure and then, again I would spend them with you..." 

The puppies of Jack and Holly are doing exceptionally well as we now begin their second week of life. Their well being at this early neo-natal stage is primarily measured by their daily weight. I like to see at least an increase of one ounce or more per day and the Jack of Hearts puppies has been very consistent in their weight this first week. A good rule of thumb for our puppies is to see an average weight gain of one pound per week and these babies are spot on! Holly is an exceptional mother and keeps her puppies and their 'nest' very clean.  That's how it will be for the first 3 - 4 weeks but after that, she hands the full responsibility over to us so there is much to be done between now and then.  The puppies are under our watchful eye 24/7 as we stay right with Holly Beth.  Our life goes on hold when puppies are involved.  I feel if you can't dedicate the time it takes to raise a  litter of puppies, then you probably ought not to be breeding. It's a lifestyle choice which requires dedication and sacrifice.  It is always a labor of love and all for the love of the dog, both given and received.  Besides, in those first few nights of sleeping next to Holly and her puppies for me, there is also a sense of reverence and of the Presence of God.

The boys.
 A lot of development and growth are occurring already in the puppies.  Their movements become more deliberate with each passing day.  In the beginning they literally crawl and drag their little bodies across the area seemingly without purpose.  Then suddenly one morning you look at see that one puppy is beginning to use their legs to lift their little body up instead of dragging it.  For a few brief seconds they are actually walking until plop!  Down they go again. I was watching one of the pups treat the inside perimeter of the box as a race track.  Guided by the four sides the puppy seemed quite determined to  navigate the entire circumference. The times of being active are short lived as the puppies sleep most of the time. But when they are wide awake they are very busy.

The girls.
Puppy Love
This is the neo-natal stage where eyes are still shut tight.  They are aware of very little and their greatest needs are to be fed, warm, and kept clean. All of the pups are strong nursers.  I observe the puppies closely when they are nursing to be sure everyone is getting something to eat.  When there is a puppy that I feel isn't getting as much time as the others I simply take Holly aside and put that one puppy with her. Speaking of Miss Holly Beth she's always been somewhat of a fussy eater and more so now that she has puppies.  It is of utmost importance that she doubles or even triples her usual food intake because of the demands the puppies place on her. She is being fed Purina Pro Plan for puppies that is served up with either steak, hamburg, or chicken. I'm also feeding her cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and nursing mother pudding.

The rest of our crew here are all doing well.  They are not allowed anywhere near Holly or the puppies. I think actually it is the hardest on Revere because he is accustomed to me being with him.  It is good for him though to spend more time with John. Even so, Revere is still just a puppy whose training needs to be ongoing and not hit or miss. When I've been away from him for any length of time he greets me by running towards me with his pig-pig toy insisting we engage in a game together! If I am with Holly and the puppies John always has the other dogs out and about enjoying the day simply being dogs. They are a very content pack and from the oldest to the youngest, they are all very very happy.

Well I think that's about all that I have in me to write tonight!  I have fallen asleep at the keyboard here and when I woke myself back up another hour had passed. I also had no idea what day it was! Sleep is a precious commodity right now and I am thankful when I can have several successive hours of it throughout the night.  But it's all worth it for this is such a short period of time in the overall life of a Brittany puppy. Take care and God bless!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

J&A's Brittanys: Can't Help Falling

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Wise men say only fools fall in love
But I can't help falling in love with you!

Holly lays nearby with her beautiful Brittany puppies. There is the most amazing suckling sound coming from one of the nursing puppies. That pup's obviously not going to miss out on lunch! Holly is going over each puppy fastidiously. She stimulates each of her babies to go to the bathroom and cleaning up any evidence that they went. Lovingly Holly Beth ever so gently checks their  tails and dewclaws following her exam with a kiss. The quiet whelping box indicates a contented, warm, fully fed litter. If the puppies erupt one by one into a chorus of protests or some kind we are anxious to find out why. Of course there is always one that is a little whinier than the rest and who seems to be 'crying wolf' a lot. Most pups are overall quiet at this neonatal age. That changes in a couple of weeks! Once in awhile something seems to please a puppy who will respond with one single joyous sound. It is when the intermittent solo debut develops into a full glee club chorus group that we investigate further. The only sounds of the current moment is music by Kevin Kern playing in the background, the hum of a ceiling fan, and the precious sound of nursing puppies smacking away. The pups surrounding temperature needs to be at least 86 degrees so we monitor that closely and have a supplemental heat source just for them. On the other hand we also use an air conditioner to control Holly's comfort. At this age their bodies lack the ability to regulate their own temperature.

Today the pups are introduced to the "Bio-Sensor Neo-Natal Puppy Training." Years ago I learned about the S.M.A.R.T puppy training program and started to use it with our Brittany puppies. Since we always handle our puppies from the first day it made sense to begin to help them awaken to the world around them in preparation for spending the rest of their life with humans who will love them. Holly is mindful in the beginning of the length of time one of her pups is out of her whelping box. That can be challenging when it comes to weighing the puppies or holding them so I make sure she is right there with them. I think she was curious about some of my handling techniques today but I reminder her we'd done this to her and she turned out quite well!

The puppies are  3 days old. The crucial
first 72 hours are behind us and have been uneventful. So thankful. And yes. "Can't help falling in love..." with what will in all likelihood be the very best litter of close working gundogs we have ever purposely bred. I don't mean maybe! In the meantime, John and I remain dedicated to laying the best foundation possible for these puppies as we have done for generations behind them. The inherent influence of both Jack and Holly will be strong of course. I can't wait to see those attributes surface that clearly are Jack Dogs!

Take care and God bless you and yours always.
John, Ann, and All Things Brittany

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