Neville, my big boy Boxer is a fool. Not unusual in a Boxer, the breed dubbed ‘the clowns of the dog world’, he has idiot factor in spades. From the moment we brought him into our home he has made us laugh every day. Not because he does anything particularly amazing, but because he always looks confused, because he is clumsy. He’s not the sharpest knife in the box and so he doesn’t know that he should have anything other than a sunny outlook on life. His tail wags all the time. He’s a great, big, soppy fool with not an aggressive bone in his body. Having had Boxers all my life it was easy to identify a superstar temperament that should not stop with him. But the Kennel Union say I can’t breed him because he is white.
I know that there are good reasons for this. I know that the chance of deafness in white Boxers is higher and, obviously, they are more at risk for skin cancers, particularly in our hot sun. But still. In years gone by breeders used to euthanase white puppies, a dreadful practise that has fortunately stopped. Neville is not an albino – which would be problematic. He has a big brown patch over one eye and spots all over his body. A bit like a Dalmation, which is why the men in my family mostly call him Pongo (as in 101 Dalmations). So, enough pigment. He’s really just a tan Boxer with too much white, more white than the Kennel Union think is acceptable which means he doesn’t tick all the right boxes. And that’s fine; but if one is going to go to the trouble and expense of breeding dogs, surely one should be doing it for temperament rather than looks, or any other arbitrary criteria that are not important in a family pet. Besides, a whole bundle of my friends who love Boxers and know Neville want one of his puppies, as do I.
Over the years my male Boxers have been borrowed for stud. The perfect thing. You got to visit the puppies, admire them, feel proud of what your big boy created, and you have had none of the hard work that goes with a litter of puppies. But I’ve always known that no one would want to borrow Neville because of his colour. So, nothing for it. Find a nice bitch and breed a litter myself.
About three years ago we found Brenda. Unrelated to Neville, I asked the breeder to choose her. If I had chosen her I would have done so on looks (what else can you base your choice on when faced with a litter of chubby puppies) so I asked the breeder to choose the sweetest natured female in the litter. And she is sweet. Very different to Neville, she is naughty. The sort of dog that walks into a room with an expression on her face that says ‘what trouble can I cause here’. Despite the fact that she knows Neville is in charge of all the dog toys, she’s no slouch. If she wants the toy she will take it, give him a look that says ‘if you want it come and get it’, after which a chase will ensue. One usually won by Brenda. They’ve loved each other from the moment they met.
But they had to wait. You can’t let a puppy have puppies. After her first season, spent in the kennels, we put her on contraceptive injections. We needed her to grow up first and, because I travel a lot on business, I wanted to be able to fit the whole saga into my programme. I can’t cause a litter of puppies to happen and then push off overseas leaving others to do the work. I had it all planned. She had an injection in January which meant that, if the effects lasted for the stated six months, she would come into season in July, my trips for the year would be over, I would be home and it could all work.
But nature does what it wants to do. You cannot dictate to the hormones how they should behave and nothing happened. Every day for months I inspected her rear end and it remained resolutely flat. How depressing. I spoke to my vets about it, they consulted their various tomes on the matter, said to me that I needed to be patient, these things vary and we started calling her Brenda The Barren Brindle Boxer Bitch. I even took her up to Hilton to consult with a veterinary reproductive specialist, not because I didn’t trust my own vets but because I felt I needed to at least be doing what I could about the problem.
That was interesting. Speak to any adult woman and she will tell you that a gynaecological examination is her least favourite thing. And that’s what Brenda got. She didn’t see it coming. True to her wonderful nature, she coped. Struggled a bit, but nothing too bad. It was when the doctor was finished that she went completely crazy. Jumped off that table and went hyper-Boxer. Jumping four feet in the air, turning herself inside out, as only a Boxer can do, licking my face and telling me it was okay, she was not cross with me. I fell in love with her yet again (it’s a daily thing). The verdict? Nothing really. Everything in place, no infections, just be patient and if nothing’s happened by a year after the last contraceptive injection, we could try treatment to stimulate oestrus. I left there feeling much happier, at least I knew that a litter of puppies was still a possibility.
In mid-December it happened. We woke up on a Saturday morning to find that Brenda had a decidedly altered rear end. An early Christmas present.
Which then posed the next problem. Neville is six-and-a-half years old and still a virgin. Would he get it right? Was instinct going to overcome the deficit in his grey matter? Was he going to be able to work out how to react to Brenda’s interesting new whiff? I am ashamed to admit that I had my doubts.
We have four dogs. Two Boxers, an Africanus, a little Maltese and they all sleep on our bed at night. Space is not a problem because last year I replaced our queen size bed with two double beds pushed together. This means that in essence, we sleep on a parking lot. There is plenty of room for everyone and what is more, it’s a great playground. Or rather, the dogs consider it to be their personal playground.
It was inevitable, therefore, that when Neville eventually worked out what he was supposed to do, that the two of them would choose our bed to do what they needed to do. Boxing Day – ironically – all was quiet, we were in the TV lounge and I heard a squeal coming from our bedroom. Took a walk down the passage and yes, there they were. Tied together on top of my pillows. I spent much of Box(er)ing Day changing sheets and pillow cases.
Once he had worked it out, Neville turned into a machine. We had numerous matings and if all goes as it should we can expect the patter of little feet towards the end of February. A whole litter of soft, snugly, snuffly Boxer puppies from two of the best parents in the world. How exciting!
Some years ago I had a beautiful Boxer dog called Dick. True to his name, he was always out siring puppies. He knew what ‘Darling, today we’re going to make babies’ meant and would start barking and slobbering long before I could get him into the car. By the time we got where we needed to be my windscreen would be dripping on the inside because he would sit barking in the front seat, spurring me on to drive faster, with slobber flying. Every time we got the phone call to say that a litter of puppies had been born, we would make him his very own Irish Coffee. Now, we should probably do that for Neville, but we are not sure. He is particularly fond of Bufo Toads. If there is a frog in the garden, he will find it. If we don’t notice that this is happening, he will come into the house stoned. Dripping frog froth with a glazed look in his eyes. We think he’s addicted.
My son has suggested that, instead of an Irish Coffee, when and if these puppies are born we should find him his own, very large Bufo Toad.