January 22, 1995 is a day that will long live in my memory. On that day one year ago, my first (and last!) litter of Kerry puppies was born. I've been told by a very active Wheaten breeder that what happened to me with this litter is statistically impossible! So if any of you are thinking of breeding, please read on!
With the encouragement, knowledge, and experience of two well-known and successful Kerry breeders (Barbara Wright-Calkerry, and Ellen Smith-Wexler-Kehalen), I bred Jazz. Calkerry"s All that Jazz Please picture a bitch as healthy as a horse, strong as an ox, and, eventually, as big as a house.
Jazz got the best vet care around (her vet was President of the California Veterinary Association a few years ago) and had an over-anxious mother who bundled her off to the vet for every hiccup. She went through every test imaginable before and during pregnancy, and if the results weren't normal, they were better than normal. The ulta-sound 3 weeks before whelping indicated 5 wriggling pups (I saw them myself!)-same size, proper location. Great. (I wasn't sure I could handle more than 5.) On the advice of my vet and breeder-mentors, I did not have the x-ray that's often done a week or so before the big event. Radiation didn't seem to be a good idea.
On the morning of the first due date, Barbara (Jazz's breeder) arrived from Arkansas, midwife to many Kerries with nerves of steel, a heart of gold, and a wonderful optimism that could rub off on even me (who by this time was dying of anxiety). One look at Jazz and Barbara claimed there were more than 5 puppies in there. Then we waited, and waited, and waited. Days went by. We checked and rechecked the nursery supplies. Jazz still demanded her 1+ mile walk a day (which Barbara disapproved of), but I wanted her in top condition. We took her temperature twice a day (looking for the drop which precedes whelping) and stayed in close touch with the vet. I knew Jazz would have those puppies when the vet might be least available (Jazz is the one who dislocated her toe on Memorial Day, got her first tapeworm on Labor Day, and ate a rat's head on Christmas Day). So labor started shortly before 1 am on Sunday-5 days after the first due date.
The first puppy was born at 8 am-a healthy bouncing girl of 13 ounces (good size). Every hour until noon, Jazz presented a puppy-5 in all, none smaller than 10 ounces, and all happy and healthy and normal in every way. Whew! Jazz settled down then to nurse, and we settled down with our bottle of champagne.
By late afternoon, Jazz got her wish: a bowl of food bigger than she'd ever seen! (I'd promised!) She ate with relish, did her duties, and trotted back to her puppies. She was going to be a great mother! By early evening, though, Jazz didn't seem comfortable-her breathing was labored, she was restless and whimpering. I called the vet, described the symptoms, and got reassured. Then at 9:30 pm, lo and behold, Jazz delivered a 6th pup-13 1/2 hours after the first! This latecomer-a healthy 11-ounce boy-we called "Special Delivery." Another call to the vet assured me this sometimes happened. (Oh?)
By this time, Jazz was exhausted, and still uncomfortable. We agreed that I would stay with her through the night-I wasn't about to leave her! Around 4 AM she started crying and fidgeting. I woke Barbara, and guess what? A 7th puppy arrived-a healthy 10-ounce boy endowed, we were sure, with plenty of good Irish humor! This one we called Guinness-he broke the world's record! (He later broke it again for size, but that's another story!)
At this point, it's difficult to describe how we felt. I know I was freaking out. We looked with wonder at all these puppies in the whelping box. Seven! I can't count that high! When was this thing going to be over?
Jazz was now miserable. Very miserable. Her vital signs looked fine, however, and nothing indicated her life was threatened. We waited anxiously for our early morning appointment with the vet. By now Jazz couldn't stand up. She would need to be carried. As we got ready to take her, she began screaming in pain. Then, literally on her knees, she delivered her 8th and last pup, a stillborn girl. Yes, Barbara did all the heroics. Yes, I called the vet and relayed her advice. And yes, we rushed to the vet, but the pup (also a good size) didn't really have a chance. The fact that the other two latecomers lived at all is a miracle in itself.
So, this remarkable whelping lasted 25 1/2 hours, labor about 34 hours, and took the last ounce of strength from Jazz who was healthy as a horse and strong as an ox. During that time she lost a full 10 pounds and much of her health, as subsequent events (all statistically impossible) would reveal. (As it turned out, this was only the beginning!)
Should we have done the x-ray? Probably. Would things have turned out differently? Probably not. Should I have insisted my vet come out after that 6th puppy? I think so. But in talking to my vet later, she claims that at no time did Jazz's condition warrant a Cesaerian section or pitch shot. Would a C-section have saved that last pup had it been done earlier? We'll never know. I came to the conclusion that my vet never worries. I want a vet that worries! So I got a second opinion. That vet claimed he would not have done things differently. In the end, this experience left me with a healthy respect for all you Kerry breeders out there.
Today, let me say, that all 7 pups reached their first birthday as happy, healthy, and well loved as the day they entered the world. Jazz is once again as healthy and strong as she ever was, but today my beautiful champion bitch is spayed. (I wasn't going to let her do THAT again!)
So, happy birthday, kids! May the luck of the Irish stay with you!
Jazz ("Oh, never again!"),
Guinness ("Heck, I thought I was named for an Irish beer!"),