Tiny Bubbles

Dither’s puppies are ravenous.  Each weighs around two and a half pounds, so Dither is trying to feed about 23 pounds of puppy from her small frame of 30 pounds. That’s an impossible task.

They are 16 days old, too young for solid food, but they are strong little hamsters. I am supplementing them twice a day with bottle feeding and it’s a bit of a wrestling match. They now instantly recognize what a bottle is, yet do everything they can to prevent me from actually getting in in their mouths. If you put the nose of the bottle near one that is sleeping, it wakes up and launches itself like a shark.

It takes a minute of acrobatics to finally connect the bottle to the puppy, but when it connects, they are in milk heaven. Their little front legs flail as if conducting the “Flight of the Bumblebees” and their itsy bitsy tails with the bright white tip flail too, but definitely not in unison.  Once they make a really tight connection, tiny bubbles are generated at a frantic pace. Oddly, you would think they would over eat, but they don’t. All those frenzied actions disappear once they are full. They will mouth the nipple a couple of times and let it slide away. They’re done. Time for a nap.

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Northwind Whippets – Kay Nierengarten and Mark Shubert


I’m Kay Nierengarten. Most of my thoughts on this blog revolve around my involvement in the world of whippets. My husband Mark Shubert and I have had this wonderful breed since 1980. I hope you enjoy it.

Team Echo


Team CrestaThis particular day we were rooting for two of our girls competing against each other in the brood bitch class.




We have a great deal of fun with the whippets and are grateful for the wonderful friends they brought us over the years. If you would like to explore the world of Northwind whippets, visit the home page, or the listing of our dogs, most of whom have their own page.

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First visit


Kenzie and Pam - Copy Layla - CopyMy sister Nancy brought her friend Pam with her two grandchildren to see the puppies. Puppies don’t do much at 12 days and 8 days old, but the little ones were somewhat interested. Kayla, the four year old was cautious about touching them because they have scritchy claws. Kenzie, the one year old was unimpressed with these amazingly cute little balls of fur. However, her eyes did light up when she saw the small bottle I use when feeding Dither’s ravenous horde.

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I’m Hungry!

Dither’s pups are nine days old and gaining nicely. Yet, Dither is just gaunt. No matter how much I feed her and tempting high calorie items she eats, she is just thin. She seems to have enough milk, but not an abundance for this many puppies. The puppies seem OK, yet I decide to do a little supplementing with a bottle. I mix up the goat’s milk and sit in the box while she’s feeding them. With nine, it always seems like one is pushing to find a teat and is unsuccessful. I begin by picking up whoever is not attached and trying them with the bottle. Pepe isn’t interested and pushes it out of his mouth.  After a moment or two of gently presenting it, BOOM! He realizes he’s hit the mother load and frantically begins sucking, not believing his good luck. Legs stuck straight out and rigid, body focused with every fiber of his being drawing in milk as fast as he can. When he finally stops to take a breath, his tummy feels full and he looks like a wood tick. Sorry for the analogy, but I live in Northern Minnesota.

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Round Two Keebler and Marco’s puppies arrive

Round two. Keebler is also a first time mom and weighs 46 pounds when her normal weight is 32. There must be a gob of puppies in there. I expect an average litter – perhaps 6-7-8. She is scheduled for an x-ray on Thursday to see how many are there. I have been taking her temp on a regular basis and think I see a dip Wednesday morning. The puppies aren’t due for days, but Keebler looks like a tightly packed goat. These puppies are too crowded and they are going to be early.

She begins to look serious about 10 p.m. with panting and nesting. We begin the puppy watch. The first puppy arrives at two a.m. She didn’t wait for the x-ray, so other than being sure she has a LOT of puppies, we really don’t know how many.

The seventh puppy arrives and immediately I know he’s not right. His mouth is slightly twisted and the ear on his left side is tiny. I see a cleft palate, or I think I do. He is viable and energetic at first. As a few hours go by, I observe that while he is snuggled in with the others, his breathing is a little ragged.

Dew claws will be done tomorrow, but I cannot watch this puppy slowly fade. It’s not right. I decide to take him to the vet today. Why am I crying real tears over a puppy just hours old when I know he doesn’t have a chance? That’s just how it happens sometimes and I accept it. Yet I am crying as I drive. I know he won’t be coming home with me. I drive to the vet with him tucked into my shirt. I feel tiny warm breaths on my bare skin, soft little body breathing quietly, sleeping.

I hand him to the vet and ask that before they euthanize him, they examine him. You never know, I could be wrong. I know I’m not, but I need someone to tell me this tiny gentle being is not destined to grow up and be someone’s darling companion. That it is the right thing to let him go. I go home without him and am grateful that Keebler’s remaining ten little furry bits of wonder are doing well.

Newborn photos are located here.

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Name the puppies

Sara arrives to see the puppies. She owns Norris, the sire of the litter. Sara was entered in dog shows in late July when the breeding needed to take place. The only way to go to the shows and accomplish the breedings was to take both dogs with her and do the breedings during the weekend.

Sara had never supervised a breeding on her own and was nervous. That’s my job – I’m Norris’s “people” and take care of all of that.  Well, this time I couldn’t be there and Sara had to take care of it on her own. With some understandable angst and worried consulting with everyone on the planet, the task was accomplished. Because Sara was so impressed with her new found skills as a breeder, she insisted she got to name the puppies their temporary names.

Since Sara is from Wisconsin and she was at shows in Wisconsin when they were conceived, all the names are places in Wisconsin, an animal, or beer. Sara likes beer.

The places in Wisconsin are Geneva, Stanley, Madison , Colby, Spencer and the beer boys are Leinie and Miller. One little male has the brightest narrow white stripe on his head that he reminded us of a skunk. Hence Pepe Le Pew, or “Pepe” for short. There are skunks in Wisconsin….

The final male was going to be Packer, but as a good Minnesota Viking fan, Mark was indignant at the idea of one of these innocent puppies growing up off our kitchen being named for an opposing team and objecting strenuously. So, Packer became Pattison, the name of a lovely little state park in northern Wisconsin. If you want to see the pretty babies, click on puppies to be taken to their photos. If you’re having a dreary day, they are guaranteed to generate a smile.

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Dither babies arrive


photo 3

Breeding dogs is not for the faint of heart. It’s a tremendous amount of work, but the rewards are worth the effort. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking, sometimes it’s wonderful. I have two girls I want to breed and just by coincidence, they are in season at the same time. I’ve had two litters at the same time before – litter of six and a litter of seven, but it was in the summertime.  This time, puppies will be born late September/early October and by the time they are even remotely big enough to go outside, winter will have set into Northern MN. Yet, I work from home, so this whole crazy idea is actually possible. Just because it is possible doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea…

The first litter arrives. I expected at most six puppies because that was the most her mother ever had. Dither is a first time mother and like others before her, insists that the whelping area is not where any good couch dog should lay down. I don’t argue with the dam so sure enough, the first puppy is born on the couch, thankfully already covered in blankets. After the first puppy, it’s an easy task to lure her where she needs to be by moving the puppy. The second puppy is born an hour later. The x-rays showed 9-10. The hours tick by at a snail’s pace. One hour between puppies – that’s fine, that’s what it was between the first and the second. Two hours. Getting a little worried. Three hours. Getting a lot worried The vet dispensed oxytocin if needed, but it only works a couple of times. With 7-9 puppies to go, I am hesitant to even try it. I give a shot. Nothing. That’s it. Thankfully, I recognize uterine inertia when I see it. Then there is the inevitable call to the ER clinic, because of course it is 2 a.m. Mark and I and my sister, who loves to assist with whelping puppies pack up mama and the two babies and off we go. At the ER clinic, they try another dose of oxytocin, but it’s obvious the dystocia is not going to allow for a natural birth.

The clinic is staffed with one vet and one vet tech. 7-8 puppies are all going to be born within minutes of each other. Mark, Nancy and I suit up to be the whelping crew and resuscitate the puppies as the tech hands them out the operating room door.  Nancy is game but hasn’t done this before. She puts out her hand and ask that I rub it like I would rub a puppy that needs to wake up and breathe now. She is surprised by how vigorous I am.

Things go smoothly, other than one puppy slipping out of the vet’s hands and to the floor. Nancy almost loses it when she sees this happen. Good thing puppies are pliable and bounce. The vet does a beautiful job of stitching the mother back together; we wait for her to get a chance to become stable. Then and only we take a tally of the puppies. Two girls and seven boys, all Irish marked fawn brindles with just a sprinkling of white here and there. Seriously? Seven boys when I bred the litter to get the perfect bitch? I was expecting six at the most and now there are nine. Well, that’s great – I love having a big litter to pick from. But all Irish nmarked fawn brindles? Not a parti, not a fawn or a blue?

We arrive home, they are installed in the whelping box and all is well. The first few days are always worrisome – are they gaining? Does Dither have enough milk?


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Tribute to Echo

Who is Echo?

Am/Can Ch Northwind’s Echo of Poetry, Fch, CD, RA, CAV, CGC

All of those titles are wonderful, but they don’t really capture the essence of Echo. Echo was sheer joy wrapped up in a whippet body. Life was a party to Echo. She was a delight to show, finishing her championship easily; she went to Canada and finished her championship there with a Best in Show. That was a six show weekend and she was the only lively dog in the ring after six shows in three days. She loved to lure course, got her field championship easily and certified many a dog.

She was going to travel to the 2013 national with a friend who could leave a day earlier to participate in lure coursing and the triathlon. The dreaded phone call came about 11 p.m.  Echo had gotten out and despite desperate calls from my friend to return, she trotted off into the cold, sleeting April Minnesota night. Does she get hit by a car or end up hiding fearfully in someone’s backyard in the dark and cold? No, she turns up in a bar, helps serves drinks for a couple of hours until we could fetch her, begging for and getting hot dogs as a snack. As always, life was a party to Echo.

But Echo’s exuberance towards life and willingness to try anything new showed most when working with her friend Irene Mullauer in obedience and rally. Irene spotted Echo’s unique approach to life and talked me out of taking her through obedience with my usual casual commitment. She saw her potential and with my permission, stole her away for training. The two of them were just a delight to watch working. Unlike most whippets, Echo’s zest for life showed in her obedience work ethic. For those of us who have trained whippets over the years and have felt the pain of the off lead lag, dreadfully slow recalls, crooked sits and the “vulture” pose during the long sit marveled at her enthusiastic heeling. She would sit with one paw poised in the air waiting for the next command. Her recalls were fast and accurate and she smiled and wagged the entire time in the ring. She and Irene were the #1 obedience whippet team in 2008.

Echo was taken this past Wednesday after a brief but ferocious battle with cancer. Today would have been her 9th birthday. We and people whose lives she touched with her joyfulness mourn her loss so young.

Goodbye precious Echo.

Exercise finished.

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Puppy Daydreams

A friend visited yesterday and we looked at three month old puppies. Breeding dogs is a wonderful thing in some ways. Each litter represents a new beginning – a chance for high hopes. At three months old, they are all Best in Show winners. Once they grow up, you almost always realize they are not, but for now, they are just little brindle bundles of potential. They are what daydreams are made of.

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Joyful morning

Echo is joyful in the morning. She is not a mindless dog. Not stupid, not silly, just joyful. If you were to hear Echo’s train of thoughts in the morning when greeting you, they would go something like this:

As she runs to you and hits you in the thighs with both front feet, read (or better yet, say) this out loud as fast as you can

Hi, hi hi isn’t it a glorious day? I know the sun isn’t up yet, but I’m sure it will be just wonderful, it’s always wonderful don’t you think? I just can’t wait to get started on the day – breakfast yet? Breakfast? Oh, I like breakfast. Not yet? That’s OK I can just run around the living room, wagging as fast as I can until it’s time for breakfast. Oh, would you like this toy? Or this one? Or this one? Oh, you must want one of them! You just have to think a toy would make a glorious day like this even better, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you? Breakfast yet? No? Ok, well I can keep busy until you have time. There are things to do, things to do. It’s a glorious day and it can only get better every minute. It doesn’t matter that it’s 10 above zero, it’s still a glorious day.

I am a morning person, but even I cannot generate the enthusiasm Echo has to greet each day. There’s probably a lesson in this somewhere.

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Don’t hold a grudge

I was staying with Sara and had Echo with me. Sara’s puppy Ollie is obnoxious and torments her older bitch Gwennie. He was busy with his usual game of “Bug Gwennie”, pestering her about any toy she may have. Echo looks at Sara, looks at me, and with an obvious expression of “if you’re not going to take care of this, I will” launches off the dog bed she was sharing on the floor with Gwennie and nails him. Nails him in the way adults reprimand children who are misbehaving. Quick, to the point, and done. Stop that! You know better! She glances at Gwennie as if to say “you’re welcome, but for gosh sakes, why don’t you tell him to quit?” and calmly resumes gnawing on a bone. No angst, no grudges, just a correction to obtain more appropriate behavior.

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Come Hell or High Water, Scary Camper and All


I’m a truckin’ rock star!

We have a camper.  A 30 foot pull behind travel trailer with a slide out. A 30 foot pull behind with a slide out that weighs 10,000 pounds. When we drive down the road, that 30 foot camper is attached to a full size extended van with a V-10. Collectively, with the length of the van and the camper and the hitch system in between, it is about the same length as the trailer part of a semi.

I am scared to pull the camper. We have driven hundreds and hundreds of miles with that van and camper and we’ve never had an accident. We’ve never gone in the ditch, we’ve never hit a deer or been hit by another car.  I have been the passenger during 95% of the miles driven. My rule is that I shouldn’t own something that I cannot drive but if Mark wants to drive, that’s just fine with me.

I am scared to drive the camper. My fear is irrational.

But, I am a big girl and I want to camp on the dog show site. I WILL drive the van and camper to Cambridge. I am pretty sure I will survive it. It’s only 2 and a quarter hours, about 120 miles from home.

It’s Wednesday and Duluth made the national news because of 9 inches of rain, washouts of many streets, the mall being underwater, a seal escaping from the zoo by swimming downstream to be captured on a main street, popped manhole covers and sinkholes big enough to swallow cars. It has been declared a disaster area.

NO TRAVEL IS RECOMMENDED. STAY HOME. Businesses and colleges are closed (in the summer?– when has that ever happened?)

I am leaving today for the dog show. What’s that phrase? Come hell or high water? That’s me – when a dog show is at stake, what’s a little water when I’m already scared to drive. Can’t make it much worse, can it? A person can only manufacture so much adrenaline in their system.

Mark drove around the area scoping out roads to get me from our house to I-35 – about 30 miles. After I hit I-35, I should be home free – after all, the interstate is never closed. I left the house and within 15 miles, I hit a main road closed that Mark had been on just 45 minutes before. The route away from the closed road was also closed in a mile due to a washed out culvert, which meant I had to pull into the biggest driveway I could find and turn around.

Hummm. Turn around – those are two words I really don’t like when driving the scary camper. Oh, well, with something this big, people are sure to see me and stop before they hit me when it takes 10 minutes of going back and forth, blocking the entire road.

Onwards to another road. Great! This will connect below the highway that’s closed that I normally take and I’ll get to I-35. Those people up ahead are driving through flowing water with a visible current to it, connecting to water on both sides of the road.

Hummm. Well, it only looks about 5 inches and they are going through it, so it can’t be that bad. Keep repeating dogshow, dogshow, dogshow. I go for it, water splashing five feet in the air onto the windshield of van.

Seven additional water over the road crossings later, I get to a reaaally deep one. Hummm.  Pickup trucks are going through it slowly, but just fine – I have a lot of clearance on the van and the camper, I’ll just do the same.  I proceed through the water and two thirds of the way across, I feel the van begin to lose traction. Heart in throat, I can only be thankful for the power of momentum. We made it to the other side. Inertia is a wonderful thing.

All right! On to I-35. I get onto the highway and within two miles they are pulling everyone off because it’s closed up ahead. Seriously? A major interstate being closed due to a little rain? Never heard of it. For gosh sakes, it’s MINNESOTA – you close roads because of SNOW – never for RAIN!

Getting to I-35 was going to solve all my problems. Hummm. OK, what goes north/south in this area – there are no detour signs, so it’s anyone’s best guess. Hwy 210 goes west to Hwy 65 (a mere 40 miles). So, off I go west, still pulling the 10,000 pound scary camper. Six more water crossings with current later, I get to McGregor. Hwy 65 goes south to Cambridge. NOT TODAY – road closed with no detour signs there, either.

Hummmm. Well, there’s Hwy 169, another 23 miles west to Aitkin where the Mississippi may have already flooded everything. It’s open. Yippee! South to Princeton, back east to Cambridge and 200 miles and 4 3/4 hours (remember, it’s a 2 ¼ hour drive) I arrive at the show site.

I pull into my allotted spot, stop the van and without any maneuvering at all, the camper is level!


There began four days of showing and socializing. Watching new owners expertly show their puppies, managing their misbehavior and applauding the occasional flashes of brilliance. Celebrating some wonderful wins on puppies. Cooking breakfast for 17 on Saturday.  See, you have to camp on site to cook breakfast and have a party. It made all the effort to get there worthwhile and during the four days there I don’t even think of pulling the scary camper home.

It’s Sunday, the shows are over, everything is packed up and I’m going to successfully drive the scary camper home again. I am a big girl, I can do this – if I can make it through all the closed roads and detours on the way to the shows, going home should be a piece of cake.

I am driving carefully, eyes ahead, and both hands on the wheel when a red pickup truck pulls alongside at 60 miles an hour and the man on the passenger side is waving his arms and telling me I have a flat tire. I pull over and get out and look.

Hummm. It’s one of the pair on the passenger side of the 10,000 pound scary camper. The tire had so much fun disintegrating that there are black marks on the side of the camper where it thrashed and flailed as it came apart. One would think such a thing would be noticeable in the rear view mirror. I guess maybe you’d have to be looking to see the flailing bits of tire and smoke. There were just shreds clinging to the rim. Wonder how many miles I drove with it flat?

I call my wonderful husband and with the help of Bluetooth technology and his calm voice in my ear, I am going to change that damn tire. He’s willing to come rescue me, but I am still 90 miles from home and it would take an hour and half for him to reach me and I have dogs in the van in the heat. No, I am a big girl and I need to just suck it up and do it.

Thankfully, he knows my physical limitations and put power tools in the camper to take care of unscrewing the nuts that hold the tire.  First crank up the scissors jacks built onto the camper to steady it, and then put a real jack under the wheels. Never having used a regular jack myself, I am listening to the ABC’s of jack placement in my ear. OK, pump up the real jack under the frame, then go to each scissors jack and move them up to steady the camper as it get higher. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I am beginning to dislike the word jack. Is the second tire of the pair off the ground yet? No. Drat. Not high enough and the first jack is maxed out. Get out another jack and four boards to make it taller and place that jack a bit forward on the frame. Jack it up, steady the other jacks and repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Now I am truly convinced I dislike the word jack. Mostly, because I don’t know jack about this process.

Ok, the second wheel of the pair is able to spin in the air so I know I have it high enough and I get the flat tire off the camper. Now, it’s time to put the spare on. The damn thing weighs 50-60 pounds and I am not strong enough to lift and manipulate it to get it on the bolts. I can get it onto the frame, but can’t wiggle it to get the bolts to line up.

Hummm. Well, monkeys can be trained to use tools and with my opposable thumbs, I’m pretty sure I should be able to figure something out. I just can’t quit now. The handle thingie from the jack can be pushed through the holes in the wheel frame and maybe, just maybe, I can use leverage to finagle that dratted heavy tire onto the bolts. Success!

I pack up my stuff, throw the dead tire into the camper and drive on. I’m not more than two miles down the road and someone else is flagging me down, waving at the back of the camper. I pull over again and walk around for a check. I’ve left the back hatch propped open where I accessed tools, most likely dripping bolts and whatnot down the highway. OK, close that and proceed.

I finally pull into my driveway and after my vast experience driving this weekend; I am going to nonchalantly back the camper into its usual spot. After several attempts and deciding the massive rain must have moved the 80 year old maple and birch trees closer to the driveway during the weekend, I finally give up.

Shubie, will you back this thing up? I already earned my truckin’ license and I know when to quit.

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