What Is a Breeder?

Once again, I sit on the edge of the whelping box eagerly awaiting the new arrivals. How many boys? How many girls? What color will they be? Will Carrie be a good mother? I am curious, I am excited, I am soothing Carrie -- who has no idea that she is about to embark on the most important event in her life. I say to myself that this is indeed what it's all about.

The puppies arrive, one by one, round and pink and blind and helpless, and immediately Carrie nominates herself as Mother of the Year. I have played this scene so many times over the past 30 years, but for Carrie it is her first starring role, and yet, within minutes, she is older and wiser and far more capable than I. Yet again, I marvel at the miracle that nature has wrought, and I admire the perfection of each tiny little body. But most of all, I know that now their future is in my hands, and I am sobered by the responsibility and commitment that I feel.

Four weeks later I am sitting on my kitchen floor, which doubles as a puppy room, and I am getting my hair chewed and my nose bitten and my face licked and my shoelaces untied. I am soothing the bumps of the tumbling and tripping puppies, and I'm the referee of the Baby Whippet Wars. Their little legs carry them farther and faster each day, and their individual personalities blossom. Their minds develop just as their bodies grow. Carrie is still an amazing caring, compassionate, and capable mom, but she is now content to let me handle more of the mundane and boring nursery chores.

Soon the phone will be ringing and interviews will be given and families will visit, and each individual spirit will grace the lives of people who, although they may be strangers now, I hope will become my friends through the common bond we will share throughout each little canine life.

--November 2002, "What Is a Breeder?

Excerpted from Our Dogs by American Kennel Club. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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