The New Beginnings Litter wasn't supposed to happen now. I had a plan, a great plan. Nashira would be bred when she came into season mid-2017, while the Chinook Owners Association (COA) finalized the new Chinook Breed Conservation Program (CBCP). Once that came out, I'd work out details with a breeder form another breed (been talking to a Tamaskan and Leonberger breeder for *years*!), submit an application for one of their dogs as a New Founder. It would be approved in the Fall of 2017, in time for a planned Winter 2017/8 breeding of the New Founder and Calista. Presto - a cross litter for the Chinook breed!
It was a good plan, as plans went. Nashira's stud was finalized and I was googling hotels in Michigan when she came into heat in June. And then…. a week or so into her cycle we went to the vet for Nashira's first progesterone test. In her well check, we found Nashira has infected salivary glands, which necessitated a biopsy and stressful weekend waiting for results. Oh, it gave the first glimmer of an "issue" with the grand plan. The results of the biopsy were good- Nashira is fine but does have an infection (possibly from an encounter with wildlife) and need for antibiotics. The medication makes it unwise to breed her right now - the best antibiotic should not be taken during pregnancy. Nashira's well-being came first, so of course I scrapped the planned breeding and got her started on her meds.
And that night started to worry about the whole brilliant plan falling apart. Pushing back Nashira's breeding to the WInter 2017/8 is right for her, but that would push Calista to Summer 2018….and Calista would be 7+. While Calista is in great shape, this would be uncomfortably late for her second litter. If I kept Calista in the winter breeding, Nashira would be 4.5 for her maiden breeding in Summer 2018, which is again, uncomfortable.
On the other hand, I had no stud fully agreed for Calista, and the new CBCP was literally being voted on, and that meant a cross stud couldn't possibly be approved before I needed to do the breeding. And Calista had been in heat almost as long as Nashira- maybe it was too late this cycle!
Wanting more data, I ran Calista to the vet the next day, to find out her progesterone was rising and she was in the process of ovulating. If I wanted to breed her, it needed to be in the next couple of days.
I debated and debated and looked at purebred Chinook studs (that would have been easiest). But that isn't the breeding I wanted for Calista. The closest realistic Chinook studs when matched with Calista realistically would produce puppies more inbred than both parents- there was no option on the table where puppies would have even the average level of diversity for a Chinook.
And so, I remembered the Latin proverb Fortuna faveat fortibus, "Fortune favors the brave". And I remembered that the *worst* think that could happen if I bred to a non-Chinook was that the stud would not be approved as a New Founder, and I would have to wait and apply for the puppies to be New Founders under the CBCP in a couple of years.
So I did a bit more online digging in the non-Chinook studs I had been looking at, and realized that the ever-so-handsome Darwin the Tamaskan had ALL of the genetic and health tests we needed for the CBCP. He met ALL of the criteria, including a recent eye examination (they are only good for a year). Tamaskans have long been discussed as a good option for a Chinook outcross, with similar desired temperament, working ability, and structure. Oh, and also….Darwin lives about 2.5 hours away from me, a completely do-able drive.
So I pretended to be a lot braver than I really felt, and I called Tracy Graziano of Hawthorne Tamaskans and asked her what she thought about a crazy idea- breeding Darwin to my Calista some time in the next couple of days. Tracy magnanimously got through my crazy-person question, and being someone that "gets" the benefits of outcrossing new individuals into closed dog "breed" populations (having done so herself in the Tamaskan breed), she actually agreed! It was a date- and after a crazy series of texts, phone calls, blood tests, and instant messages, Darwin and Calista had a romantic rendevous in Pennsylvania a bit less than 36 hours after I called Tracy. (Note- we'd talked and known each other via facebook and shared dog groups- this wasn't a *total* overnight sensation!)
I firmly believe this is the right thing for the Chinook breed, and for Calista. Darwin's New Founder application was submitted the day the Health & Genetics committee solicited them from COA Member-Breeders. The Committee evaluated and approved the application prior to being notified that Darwin and Calista had already been bred, to avoid influencing the decision. Darwin meets the program criteria, and in fact the Darwin x Calista litter qualifies for the "Gold" badge under the COA's Litter Badging Program for Health, Diversity, and Performance (all three categories).
I AM awfully happy Darwin is an approved New Founder. But if he wasn't, for whatever reason, I was prepared to place the pups, take full responsibility for them, and then come back and apply for them to be New Founders in a few years.
I DO wish my brilliant plan had come to pass- I still want to see Nashira puppies, and it surely would have saved me a LOT of anxiety. But I am resting well, and thoroughly excited to meet Calista's puppies- knowing they represent an exciting evolution for the breed.