Ruby woke me up at 5 AM on the morning of her procedure. I’d slept well, thanks to wax earplugs that subdued the neighbouring guests’ party music, and Ruby had too. When she was younger, Ruby alarm barked her way through most of our show travels, but this trip, she settled into our low rent motel life and is being a wonderful travel companion.
Dr. Sophia greets me at the door, her brown eyes friendly and reassuring over her masked face. The defrosting and preparation of the semen is time sensitive, so she has waited for our arrival. I watch and listen as she explains everything as she works. Curling puffs of vapour rise above the storage tank when she opens it. Liquid nitrogen maintains the semen at a storage temperature of -195 Centigrade. Using a clamp, she carefully draws out a a series of 5 inch long ‘straws’ and checks the labels. Defrosting takes very little time, and Sophia places a drop onto a slide, bends over the microscope and says “Oh, yes, I’m a happy camper! Would you like to have a look?”
I turn the focus knob and suddenly they appear, incredibly small and powerful little bundles of Rebus’ genetic material, dancing on the slide. For the first time, the whole project feels real. When I flew to Arkansas to pick up Ruby from Pat Boggs, I had confidence that she had chosen a good quality, healthy schipperke puppy for me but I had no thoughts of breeding her. Her litter mate sister, the lovely Jade, had been selected to be part of Kathy’s breeding program. Even though I showed her in conformation, I did it for the experience and not because I wanted to breed her. Yet here I was, five years later, watching these potential puppy lives, wriggling on a slide.
I lifted Ruby onto the table and we placed a wide strap under her hips to prevent her from sitting down during the procedure, which could injure her. Ruby stood calmly, munching treats, as Sophia inserted a short plastic tube into her vagina, through which the catheter would be guided. In moments, we were watching the screen, following the catheter as it threaded its way through the tube, the vaginal canal to the cervix, and through that doorway into the uterus. All of the tissues looked very strong and healthy. Sophia inserted the semen, withdrew the tube and we were done.
Well, not quite done.
After everything was put away and the Ruby was released from the strap, Dr. Sophia leaned over, placed her hands gently on Ruby’s hindquarters and intoned, “Maaaaake PUPPIES!”
Scratch a scientist and you’ll probably find there’s a little bit of a mystic, underneath.