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“R” Litter 8 Weeks and Homegoing

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We had a busy last week with the pups, as my daughter was visiting over the University of Nebraska-Lincoln spring break.

Cordelia and the “R” Litter pups

They passed their vet inspection with flying colors. Their teeth are all straight, their umbilical openings have closed, everything sounded and moved as it should.

The two girls at York Vet

In addition to the trip to the vet, they got some individual crate time in on a day that Cordelia and I went to the gym for a couple of hours.

Puppies crate conditioning in the “dog room” (and hunting junk room)
My head puppy assistant Caleb also got in some extra time with them the last week

We also worked on walking on a leash a little bit. They are used to following me around, so it doesn’t take much to get them to just ignore the leash and follow me around. Since Reba is going to be a dock diving dog, she got to see the retrieving bumper just briefly.

Reba checks out the bumper while on a leash

Other trainers have told me that it is important to only use the bumper for the task that you are training towards, it is not a chew toy or reward item. So this was literally less than a minute. It has been pretty chilly here (for South Carolina) the last few weeks so their time in the water was pretty limited.

Pups in the swamp

There is a little swampy area on the border of our property after it rains, so they were able to climb around in that a bit.

Rosalind will be working some birds, so she got some bird exposure while she was here.

Rosalind sight pointing a wing
Rosalind retrieving a dead quail

The way that I do the frozen dead quail is that I put the pup in an exercise pen so that they don’t have a chance to run off and get distracted by other things. I tie a string to the quail and drag it around inside of the exercise pen to get the pup’s attention. Then they pick up the bird and carry it around to much praise.

Rosalind checking out our bird menagerie

She also got a chance to check out some live birds in the bird pen. Early exposure folks are divided on whether to let a pup get their mouth on a live bird. I used to let a pup play with a live bird, but where we are testing more with pen-raised birds that they are able to catch at times, I would rather just avoid a problem and start them at “look/point only”.

Reba going home to Kentucky with vet Dr. Blair to trail run and dock dive
Rosalind going home with Clint and his wife to Pennsylvania to hunt and blood track

Then first thing Sunday morning, both of the puppies went home. The timing was such a blessing because I would have struggled with only having one of them here. They would have basically needed attention as if I were keeping the pup and I feel so lucky that both of the new owners were able to make it on the day that they turned 8 weeks. I look forward to watching them grow, they are great little girls! (Please note: the 8 week birthday rule is a USDA regulation for dog breeders and should apply to all dog breeders in the United States. Anyone sending puppies home prior to their 8 week old birthday is in violation of APHIS regulations and is opening themselves up to potential US Department of Agriculture enforcement.)

Since Ruth is five and it took us so long to get a male purchased, tested and raised to our specifications, we will be doing another litter in the fall. It looks like it is probably all reserved, but feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com to get on our backup contact list. After the Fall of 2022, our next planned litter is the Fall of 2023. Our daughter is graduating from college in May of 2023 and we need to be able to travel back to Nebraska for that event. Spring of 2024 will be Ruth’s last litter and then she will retire. We will keep a female puppy (or puppies?) from those last two litters. I suspect Spring of 2024 will be Sally’s first litter, as long as everything turns out with health testing.

Speaking of graduations, our son Conrad graduates from Clover High School two months from tomorrow! I am not sure when I’ll be back here blogging, but Sally has her UPT test and Obi has his last UT test (we’re trying for the UT I one more time, I told Charles that he is not allowed to test him ten times like some people do for the UT I) in May at the Hudson Valley (NY) Chapter of NAVHDA. I will also have to keep you posted as to when Ruth comes into season for the next round, I’m hoping that she can hold off until July to come in, but it may be June. She and I will be working out and getting ready. And Duke will be training with Caleb for NAVHDA Natural Ability.

So that is a wrap on “R” litter 2022, good luck to everyone out there training and testing this spring!

“R” Litter Seven Weeks Old!

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This week we will be heading to the vet for first shots, examinations and microchips! Then they go home a week from today on Sunday the 20th. This week we’ll work on walking on a leash a little bit. One of them will get bird and cap gun work. They will both get crate conditioning. I will continue with outdoor exercise every day, because it is fun! As you can see in the video this week, they come when they are called to the generic “puppies!”. They’re in the middle of their de-worming regimen.

It is always bittersweet when they go home because you will miss their company, but it is so rewarding sending them home to their new families!

Rosalind in the muddy driveway
Rosalind on the run
Rosalind running in the pasture
Reba giving something a stare
Reba on the run
Reba giving me a point
Rolling down the hill!
Chomp!
Exploration

And here is their seven week old video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DLy_E7JJP8&ab_channel=CharityUpchurch

My daughter is here from Nebraska for her spring break, so I need to run and spend time with her (and not just the dogs!), so I’ll sign off for this week and be back next week with homegoing pictures.

“R” Litter Six Weeks and Hunting Ends

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The two girls are really getting active, come when called for the most part, explore, eat just hard kibble and love lots of hugs and pets. They go in for their shots and microchips a week from today and so we’ve sorted out who goes where. Reba will be going home to Kentucky and Rosalind with be rolling out for Pennsylvania in a couple of weeks.

Reba head on
Reba side profile
Reba facing the other way
Reba with a leaf in her mouth
Rosalind laying on her belly
Rosalind sitting down
Rosalind looking at the sky
Rosalind on the run
Rosalind through the fence, you can see Reba’s rump squeezing between the posts
Rosalind being accosted by Reba
Reba and Rosalind palling around
Girls on the prowl

This is actually a shot from last week that I forgot to include. They moved from the inside whelping box out on to the covered patio with a kennel and dog house. Outside is much more entertaining and where they start eating primarily solid food, they get pretty stinky to be indoors.

Outside is best after 5 weeks old

They also have spent time with our older puppy Duke and our son Caleb. It is fun for them to get exposure to dogs other than Ruth and people other than me.

Big puppy with little puppies
Caleb and the pups

Here is their six week old video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_yAKsP4BAg

End of hunting season

Charles and Quentin went out one last time on the final day of quail season in South Carolina. It took them all day, but they each put one in the bag. It was dark by the time they wrapped up, so there were no dead bird photos. Charles did snap this pic of the sunset with the pointers, setters and Griffons all together.

Sunset with a mixed bag of dogs

This was actually back on President’s Day but I somehow forgot to post this photo of our almost thirteen year old son Caleb with Charles, Obi and Sally and a big haul of preserve quail. Charles wanted to get Caleb even more excited about bird hunting and this seemed to do the trick!

Caleb and Charles with a big haul of preserve quail with Obi and Sally

This has taken me way longer than I intended, so it is time for me to get on with the day. Next week will be our last video before the puppies go to their new homes! See you then.

“R” Litter Five Weeks and Carolinas Field Trial

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For the remainder of the puppy time here, I’m going to shift to a Monday morning posting time. With the puppies needing to be fed and exercised twice a day, it makes for one less thing that I have to try and get done Sunday evening (along with dinner and tutoring the boys).

The girls are growing as they should at five weeks old and love to run and play!

Reba and Rosalind at five weeks old

They love their twice-a-day feedings of puppy kibble!

Reba at the top, Rosalind at the bottom eating food

They are also learning to swat items with their paws and pick things up with their mouths. Their teeth are starting to come in. They have finally mastered a decent run and don’t fall over when they are trying. All of these are normal developmental stages for Griffon puppies of this age. Looking at these photos reminds me that it is time to put their little puppy collars on!

For the next week we focus on eating and running. I have toys for them to pick up and carry around. They have also started to come when called (I don’t call them by their temporary internet names, I just call them “puppies”). I have seen where other breeders have toy gyms set up with PVC pipe where there are toys on a frame that the puppies can tug on. I choose not to do this intentionally because I don’t want them in the habit of tugging. Bird dogs need to pick up items and release them on command. I am concerned that if they get that satisfaction of tugging early on, that it will be harder to train them to release the bird later in life. So I stick with the old-fashioned “pick up your toy and carry it around” fun, which also taps into that retrieving instinct.

Here are some more action photos from the yard yesterday:

Reba on the run
Rosalind on the run
Here they come!
More running practice
Rosalind and Reba in the yard
Having a stare down
On the lookout

Here is their five week old video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5835uE9Mzg&ab_channel=CharityUpchurch

Carolinas Griffon Field Trial

Charles took Obi and Sally to the Carolinas Griffon Field Trial in Benson, North Carolina on Saturday. Thank you to Kelly Hughes for organizing the event! I wish I could have made it, but I was home with puppies and kids. This event was formerly supported by the AWPGA (American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association, the AKC parent club of the breed), but appears to no longer be an official club event, even though it is mostly attended by AWPGA members.

Charles and Bluestem Sally Forth NA II “Sally” at the 2022 AWPGA Carolinas Field Trial

Obi took second place in Advanced Gun Dog. Charles thinks that there were some handler errors that contributed to losing points towards taking first place. He said it was run in a NSTRA format and we’ve never run dogs in that, so it was all new rules. But hey, second place is great!

AWPGA Carolinas Field Trial Second Place Advanced Gun Dog Ribbon 2022
Obi and Charles with the second place advanced gun dog ribbon 2022 AWPGA Carolinas Field Trial

Charles is actually out today with Obi and Sally for the last day of quail season in South Carolina, so I’ll be interested to see if they bring anything home. One can hope! And at least quail country doesn’t have any gators!

It is time for me to go feed and run some puppies, but I’ll be sure to check back in this time next week.

“R” Litter Four Weeks and Low Country Snipe

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The two little girls of the “R” Litter are sure starting to grow up! They started on puppy mush this week and they are starting to go outside everyday to stretch their legs.

Rosalind in the grass
Rosalind up on her front paws
Rosalind looking straight on
Rosalind side profile on all fours
Reba in the grass
Reba up on her front paws
Reba close up
Reba up on all fours

Here is their four week old video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAPozIsymEc&ab_channel=CharityUpchurch

Low Country Snipe Hunt

Charles and the neighbor Quentin went down to the low country of South Carolina snipe hunting. They saw more alligators than they could count. Obi went in after one and it was super scary! But they put birds in the bag and none of the dogs got eaten!

Charles and Quentin with South Carolina Low Country Snipe
Mama gator and all of those little lumps in the water on the right are baby gators

I will be back next week with the next installment of puppy adventures. It is hard to believe that they are half way to going home already!

“R” Litter Three Weeks and Welcome Duke

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The two girls of the “R” Litter are really growing! Their eyes and ears are open and they are starting to push themselves around the whelping box. They should be up and walking unsteadily by next week and I’ll get them started on some puppy mush, that always gets them up and moving.

Two girls
Mama Ruth and the babies
Rosalind peeking around
Reba just hanging out
Rosalind face
Rosalind back
Reba face
Reba back

And here is the YouTube video where you get to see them on the move! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94XqaRZsvmw&ab_channel=CharityUpchurch

Welcome Duke!

Wednesday we welcomed Cedar and Spruce’s Apollo to the south from Hull, Iowa. He took a plane from Omaha and got here safe and sound. We’ve really been having fun getting to know him and getting started on the basics. I will go over his pedigree and why I selected him in the future, it is getting late and I really just want to share the pictures from today for now.

Duke on the move
Side profile of Duke on the move
Duke with Sally and Obi
Sally and Obi giving Duke a sniff
Duke chasing Sally

I hope that everyone enjoyed their Super Bowl celebrations and has a Happy Valentine’s Day! Talk at you next week.

“R” Litter Two Weeks Old

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I always, always say that I won’t know how many puppies I have until they are two weeks old. There is always a small one that hangs on a good week and then fades away seemingly out of nowhere. When I posted last Sunday, the little boy was still taking a bottle and nursing the teat, even though he wasn’t putting on weight at all. Like I’ve said before, the most intervention I will do is helping a pup on to the teat and giving a bottle. I won’t try IV fluids or tube feeding like some breeders do, that is just too much intervention that could possibly be bringing up a defective pup that will pass early in life. Little boy stopped eating Monday morning and was gone Tuesday morning. We have two sisters who are going strong and their eyes are now open.

Rosalind and Reba

I finally got Ruth’s bloodwork results back late Wednesday. Although there were no answers, I am glad that it was not a viral outbreak that would potentially impact the future. The working theory is that we switched to an oral chewable for flea and tick when we moved to South Carolina. She was due for that at 30 days gestation. The package is marked “safe for pregnant females” and I was worried about an infestation with year-around bugs down here. So I gave her the chewable. Many fellow breeders and vet friends say that they’ve seen similar outcomes with the flea and tick chewables, and that the study to mark the medication safe for pregnant females was a very small sample size. Ruth had an unplanned litter right when she turned two that had nine healthy puppies, so it isn’t her. And we may never know the full answer, but this is where the collective thoughts are at this point. DON’T GIVE PREGNANT FEMALES FLEA AND TICK CHEWABLES.

I’ve decided to call them Rosalind and Reba. Rosalind has the blaze face and a little bit longer coat. Reba has the shorter coat and liver face.

Rosalind face
Rosalind back
Reba face
Reba back

Their eyes are just opening, so it is tough to get very photogenic pictures of them since they are so squishy at this point.

Ruth and the girls

Ruth really does not like cameras. She is a little bit more used to the still camera, but she growls at the camcorder.

Here is the first video of the “R” litter at two weeks old: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQ-PNpvfzl0&t=3s&ab_channel=CharityUpchurch

I take the puppies out of the whelping box and put them on a sleeping bag to help them practice using their legs. I try to keep the wood chips under them, but Ruth is always digging them away. Once their eyes get good and opened, they will start to use their legs more and more. Then we will introduce puppy mush and they will really get going.

South Carolina Quail

I had no idea that bird season was still open down here until Charles mentioned that he was going to head into North Carolina with a buddy to chase some ruffed grouse. That fell through due to his buddy’s doctor’s orders and Charles didn’t want to hunt someone else’s spots without them.

So luckily the neighbor across the road just happens to run pointers and setters. Who knew that when we randomly picked our house sight unseen, that we’d pick one right across the road from another bird hunter? So Quentin and Charles headed out for some central South Carolina quail yesterday, even though woodcock closed at the end of January, quail goes until the end of February. Charles got two and Quentin got one and a rabbit. Charles forgot his chaps and his legs are full of blackberry thorns. The brambles down here are horrible, if I go work at cleaning up the thickets on our property, I end up pulling thorns out of me for days.

Charles said it was fun to watch our dogs work with other upland breeds, he thinks that it makes them better.

Sally with the pointers with Quentin going in.
The full bag for the day on Quentin’s horse trailer dog box.
Sally with the South Carolina quail

The bag limit down here is twelve per day, so we were excited that they found some! Obi ran with the setters but didn’t have any luck.

So we’ll just keep plugging along here on raising puppies and doing some late season hunting for a few more weeks. We’ve got a little surprise catching a flight into the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport this week and you’ll get to see it in our next blog post next week too.

Oh and congratulations to all of the NAVHDA Invitational Invitees in this month’s Versatile Hunting Dog, a lot of familiar names in there in the Wirehaired Pointing Griffons! And a Griff on the cover even! Keep up the good work everyone.

“R” Litter One Week Old

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The three musketeers of the “R” Litter have made it to one week old. We went to York Vet on Thursday for a health checkup and to have their tails docked and dew claws removed. We also had Ruth examined and blood drawn from her to make sure that everyone is healthy. There are no outward symptoms of any sort of infection, so we are anticipating the bloodwork to come back clear.

The two females are just huge since there are so few puppies to compete with, then little brother is about half of their size. He moves normally and latches to the teat on his own, so we’ll just hope for the best unless things take a turn. This next week is extremely critical as we count down to when their eyes open and they can start taking a little bit of canned puppy food mush.

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Puppy nap pile
Little brother nursing while the two big sisters nap

Last day of hunting season

Charles and Sally went and harvested a couple of more South Carolina woodcock yesterday, as it was the last day of the season on public land. They are having good adventures in the cane swamps of the central part of the state. Charles says that it is tough shooting through the tree branches and the terrain is pretty uneven, so it is a challenge. But nice to see them put birds in the bag in a new state.

Sally and the last two woodcock of the season

So keep us in your doggy prayers this week as we wait for the bloodwork results on Ruth and hope that this little boy keeps on trucking. Our two weeks of winter are winding down here and it will be spring later on this afternoon, it looks like. It is so strange going from five months of winter with a few subzero weeks to pretty much no winter at all. I’ll take it though! I’ll be back next week, hopefully with all good news from here on out.

Welcome “R” Litter

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Complaining that I only ended up with three beautiful, healthy puppies and a perfectly healthy mama is like getting some really nice stuff for Christmas, but griping that it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I have had friends go into the emergency vet for a c-section and come out with nothing, no mama and no puppies. I’ve had friends come out with puppies and no mama and vice versa (a living mama that is unable to breed again and no puppies). Dog breeding is not a vending machine and it is really whatever mother nature gives you. You cry and pout with the mama, but you have to keep going with positivity for the pups who are here and those who are yet to come. I can’t even count how many times I’ve said “I’m never doing this again” to myself. But I’ve matured as a breeder over the last 12 years and I do it for this:

Whiskey of our “A” Litter 2010 will be 12 in April

Old Whiskey of our “A” litter will be twelve in April. There have been so many great dogs that we’ve made. And we have to push past these times to get to the good ones.

“R” Litter Arrival

I woke up Sunday morning to two puppies nursing and one still born. It was all a very normal birth that lasted from the early morning Sunday until about mid-Sunday afternoon. Ruth never strained with any of the puppies, it was all 2-3 pushes and they came out. About an hour between each pup. There were more angel puppies than I would have liked, but I was at five alive on Sunday night.

Ruth and pups Sunday night

One of those was a girl who was slow to come around after being born and I really worked on to get going. The other was a boy who seemed fine and lively at first but come Monday morning, I saw no signs of any peeing or pooping from him, which really concerned. me. I tried to get both the boy and the girl to take a bottle with limited success. The vet and I both agreed that we just needed time and Mother Nature to sort things out. I tried getting them to take a teat with help, but once again, with limited success. I don’t do tube feeding and I don’t to intravenous fluids to try to save a pup, it just isn’t worth it to me to try and save a pup that could have problems later in life from whatever issues they were having.

Ruth never showed signs of any illness or distress throughout her pregnancy or whelping, nor now. She is shaking off the sadness of the lost babies and focusing on those that are strong and thriving, same as I am.

Ruth and the three puppies today
Ruth and the R Litter Puppies
R Litter Puppy Closeup

Ruth and the puppies go in on Thursday morning to York Vet for examinations and tail docking and dew claw removal. Ruth will have a full exam with blood work done to make sure there is nothing identifiable/viral as the cause. It really could be anything from random congenital abnormalities, a reaction to flea/tick preventative or Ruth unknowingly ingesting poisoned mice. We may never know. But we’re going to do a full blood panel to rule out anything identifiable (brucellosis, canine herpes, a parvo exposure breaking through her vaccination, etc.).

I really appreciate the Griffon breeder community for their insights and talking through theories and next steps with me on this litter. It helps to hear other breeders similar/worse experiences and how to best react and move forward.

(One totally random thing that came up in all of this is that a FB dog friend asked about the bottom of the whelping box. This is a very well-heated interior room of the house. So here’s the layout of the bottom of the whelping box: mom and puppies on top, pine shavings, plywood under the whelping box, tarp that goes under the entire whelping box and kennel and is zip tied to the kennel wire, horse trailer pads that are like wrestling mat type material that is under the entire tarp and kennel, linoleum, cement floor. The puppies are not laying directly on a wood floor of a barn or house. I have tried blankets, towels, and carpet scrap as fabric alternatives but I have found that they are so dangerous, along with gross and unsanitary. The bitch will dig up any fabric I put under them and then I find the puppies and mom all wadded up in a scary way. So I ditched fabric years ago and found that this works best for us. Where there is bare wood showing is where Ruth has shoved the wood chips out of her way.)

Ruth looks healthy and is moving around well, this is her spontaneously running to me this morning, I didn’t call her to get her to run just for a photo. She is producing milk and tending to the puppies as she should be.

Ruth is looking healthy as a mama

So there are two girls and a boy. At this time, all are spoken for. I have decided that I’ve had enough stress with the move, the holidays and having a one year-old pup Sally that I am going to hold off on keeping a puppy myself (so they will all go to owners on my reservation list). Obi and Ruth are young enough to breed again and we’ll be making sure (as much as we possibly can) that we control the environment for potential hazards such as: hold off of flea/tick medication during breeding and gestation (even though the packaging says it is safe) and making sure our immediate neighbors aren’t setting out bait poison for raccoons or poisoning mice without us knowing.

The reality is that we may never know what caused the angel puppies (but obviously I’ll let you know if I find something out). So we’ll just keep trying and praying and hoping for the best.

“Find us ready, Lord, not standing still/find us working and loving and doing your will/find us ready Lord, faithful in love/building the kingdom both here and above/building the kingdom with mercy and love.” – “Find Us Ready”, a newer Catholic hymn by Tom Booth

I will be back on Sunday with the One Week Old pupdate!

Sally’s first wild bird retrieve

Sally brought this woodcock to Charles on Friday

Charles had the day off on Friday and took Sally back out by herself for some South Carolina woodcock. They got into a few more and connected with this one. The first one a week or so ago, Sally found it and just stood there sniffing it, not sure what to do. This time, she picked it up and brought it to Charles. The retrieve in the field is usually the last basic hunting skill that they pick up. Birds are stinky and sharing is not a natural instinct. It takes lots of training and practice to get to this point where they bring the bird back to you. Sally is Ruth’s full sister from Chief and Fire’s litter last year (both Chief and Fire are retired from breeding now). This picture is another great reminder of what this is all about.

R Litter Confirmed by Ultrasound

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The Bluestem Kennels “R” Litter was confirmed by ultrasound today! Please see the earlier breeding announcement blog post for additional photos of the parents and our “About Our Dogs” page for pedigrees and health clearances. Right now, we have 11 reservations with deposits. This is going to be a large litter so there is a possibility that if you put down a deposit and made a reservation now, that there could be a puppy available. We are also repeating this breeding in the fall, so if you get on the list and don’t get a spring pup, you could get a fall pup: bluestemkennels@gmail.com.

Why do back-to-back litters? Ruth is young, in her prime breeding years at age 5 and we are finally in a place where we can expand our breeding kennel. She is the great-great granddaughter of Am/Can CH Duchasseur Moustache, UT I, an AWPGA Hall of Famer from Quebec, Canada. The Quebecois bloodline was joined with our strong foundation blood from the upper Midwest US. A fantastic combination of health, hunt drive and family companion.

Obi is a new start for us, coming out of a small breeder in Wyoming. He has hips in the top 10% for the breed recorded by Penn-HIP. He is the most silly, gentle male we have ever owned as a family dog. He also has great biddability and is easy to train. We have high hopes to eventually take him to NAVHDA Utility Prize I in his life.

So this is the beginning of the next chapter.

I had to stay outside during the ultrasound due to COVID restrictions. York Vet in York, South Carolina
Ultrasound photo taken by the vet tech
Ruth resting with her little sister Sally a couple of nights ago

As we read test scores and judges evaluations in NAVHDA’s Versatile Hunting Dog magazine, as well as talk to other owners and breeders, it is tough for us to decide where to go next with bringing in outside blood again. We are keeping a male from this litter, so our backs are a little against the wall to come up with a mate for him somewhere. Now that I’m within halfway decent driving distance of Quebec, my eyes wander up there (also because I love the food and hanging around Vieux Quebec “est tres bien”). But I need to do my research on any new paperwork and veterinary requirements. But that is not where we are right now!

We need to focus on getting ready for the puppies. They are taking over the guest bedroom from the guests. I will finally have a whelping box with a bed next to it, like I’ve always wanted. So now it is just time to watch and wait! I will post more pictures of Ruth as she gets bigger and some of Obi training and just playing in the yard (once this rain goes away).

Happy New Year from Bluestem Kennels! Going into our twelfth year of puppies in style!

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