RUNTRAILS' 2021 JOURNAL

 

  

Sweetwater Creek State Park, Georgia

 

   
 
 
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  A PLETHORA OF SERVICE DOG PUPPIES   
  @ WARRIOR CANINE CONNECTION IN 2021

MONDAY, DECEMBER 20

"We came for the puppies. We stayed for the mission."   
~ Slogan of the EPW (Extreme Puppy Watchers) Facebook group for WCC
 
 

Jim and I have been loyal supporters of Warrior Canine Connection (WCC) since we began watching the Explore.org live cameras in the puppy enrichment center in early 2018.

Four cameras inside the double-wide puppy trailer and one outside on the play deck let viewers around the world watch the adorable future service dog puppies 24/7 from just after birth until they go to their puppy parents (raisers) at eight-nine weeks old.


WCC Devin x SSD Chappy baby at 4 weeks old (4-13-21)

It's very easy to get hooked watching just about any nature topic on Explore, including the two dozen "Dog Bless You" cameras they have set up in several assistance dogs schools around the United States.

Watching these adorable puppies often leads to wanting to do more for the cause -- breeding, raising, and training dogs to assist people with various types of disabilities.


WCC Dottie x SSD Quincy's "Mary" from the Revolutionary Litter (8-23-21, about 6 weeks old)

Warrior Canine Connection was founded ten years ago by Rick Yount, a social worker by training. He was impressed by the impact his therapy dog Gabe, a handsome Golden retriever, had on his clients who were military veterans. Rick and his wife Molly Morelli, a breeding specialist, started with one litter.

Their program has grown to include thousands of active duty military personnel, veterans, volunteers, and staff members who assist with raising and training purpose-bred Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers, and a mix of the two breeds to assist veterans and their families as service dogs, facility support dogs, Gold Star Family dogs, and emotional support dogs..


A WCC Donna x Woody baby about 5 weeks old (5-20-21)

What sets WCC apart from other service dog schools is their Mission Based Trauma Recovery Program that utilizes veterans with PTSD and other physical and mental health issues to help train service dogs for other veterans -- warriors helping warriors. It's proven to be very therapeutic.

It's a model they hope will soon be emulated nationwide to help more veterans who are suffering when they leave the military. The suicide rate among veterans is abysmal.


Two WCC Garcia x Guy Devotion Litter puppies at 4+ weeks (the ear!!)

I've written in previous journals about our involvement with WCC. In 2019 we took two trips from our home in Georgia to their main campus in Maryland to volunteer for several days. We wanted to see the Big Picture of what happens on campus and meet as many staff members and volunteers as possible while we helped out with a wide variety of volunteer jobs.

We came away with a better understanding of the program and its impact. Although we haven't been back in person, and we live too far away to raise puppies for WCC, we still wholeheartedly support the program monetarily and on social media.

WCC'S 2021 LITTERS

Warrior Canine Connection's breeding program was outstanding this year, with a dozen litters book-ending the calendar from January 1 to the wee hours of December 31. Most of the litters were Labradors. Three were Golden retrievers and at least one is a mix of Labs and Goldens (AKA Goldadors).

Wait till you see how Gabe, Rick's first therapy dog, played a huge role in WCC's tenth anniversary year!

This entry features the twelve litters whelped at WCC in 2021. Photos include litter composites and Facebook page headers designed by a tech-savvy volunteer named Julie who lives out of state, a few pictures from staff Facebook and Instagram posts, and cute Explore live cam screen shots of the puppies. I've got hundreds of pictures of these litters saved on my computer and it was hard to whittle them down for this entry!


Composite of all the 2021 litters

Next, I'll give some details about each litter. You'll notice a lot of sharing of pups and breeders among various assistance dogs schools, including Southeastern Guide Dogs, Dapper Don's school.

I'll also mention several dogs in this group that Jim and I met either as breeders or young puppies when we volunteered on campus in 2019.

WCC Charlie II x PADS Harold: Resolution Litter b. 1-1-21

On New Year's Day, sweet Charlie II whelped her second litter with four little black Lab puppies. Harold is a handsome boy from Pacific Assistance Dogs in British Columbia. PADS is part of the N. American Breeding Cooperative with about forty certified assistance dogs schools.

WCC kept all four puppies and, as always, they were named for veterans who served our country honorablyAlan, Dom, Jacobs, and Lenah.


Charlie and her puppies on their second day (1-2-21)


Traditional bench shot of the Resolution Litter at ~ 8 weeks old

WCC Devin x SSD Chappy: All In Litter b. 3-14-21

Devin and Susquehanna Service Dogs Chappy are both Golden retrievers. This was Devin's first litter, with seven adorable fluffy puppies. WCC kept four of them: Arnie, Pinkie, Quigley, and Sue.

I was especially interested in this litter because Devin was a daughter of WCC Dawn x SEGD Moose b. 5-28-19. That's the litter where Southeastern Guide Dogs came on our mental radar and we discovered we could raise puppies for them because there's a group in Atlanta. (WCC raisers have to live within 75 miles of their Maryland campus.)

Devin is also special because she was in one of the litters that Jim and I helped care for in June and July of 2019. We got to see her at 4-5 weeks and again at 8-9 weeks of age.

In addition, Devin is the first girl whelped at WCC to become a mama herself, and she's a great one.

I have numerous screen shots of this beautiful litter and it was hard to narrow them down to only a few for this entry. Golden retriever puppies are soooo cute!


Devin x Chappy pups at 3 weeks (4-8-21)


Devin x Chappy pups on the outdoor play deck at 7 weeks (5-11-21)

WCC Carol x ECAD Gipper: Endurance Litter b. 4-14-21

Carol's first litter was a difficult one but she quickly learned to be a good mama. She was retired as a breeder after this litter and was adopted by her puppy parent, who continues to raise pups for WCC. Carol is a good role model for the pups in training.

Carol required a C-section to deliver four healthy yellow Lab babies; unfortunately, four others were stillborn. WCC is one of the few assistance dogs school that will announce problems like this to the public. It's one reason Jim and I wholeheartedly support them -- their transparency, emphasis on education, and trust of their supporters, in addition to their vital mission of serving veterans.

 
Instagram post 4-16-21 by Danielle Young, WCC Staff

WCC kept three of Carol's puppies and named them Buzz, Harold, and Sara. The fourth puppy was shared with the sire's school.

Gipper is a handsome yellow Lab from Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities, based in Connecticut. To ensure Carol got pregnant, this was a relatively rare dual breeding. In addition to receiving Gipper's sperm, she also had a real date with WCC Guy. Genetic testing later confirmed that Gipper was the sire of the four living puppies.


 Carol's very relaxed Miss Blue at about 5 weeks old (5-20-21)


Two of Carol's puppies cuddling at 6+ weeks old (5-30-21)

WCC Donna x WCC Woody: United We Stand Litter b. 4-16-21

This is another litter I was especially interested in because Donna is one of Dapper Don's aunts on his father SEGD Teddy's side! Donna and Teddy have the same sire, SEGD Bill.

This is Donna's second litter, so Don has eight new cousins at Warrior Canine in addition to Donna's previous litter (and SSD Felix's litter that was whelped at WCC in 2020 -- Felix and Donna are littermates whose mama is SSD Henna).

Woody is a handsome yellow Lab from WCC Ann's Allegiance Litter born in July, 2019 while I was volunteering on campus. After taking the whelping box training I was allowed to assist with the care of Woody and his littermates. He's a special boy to me!

All eight puppies in Donna x Woody's litter were yellow. WCC kept seven of them: Albert, Brownie, Healy, Kennedy, Kelly, Shay, and Tesla. I don't know who got the eighth puppy but my guess would be SSD.


Sacked out with Lamb Chop at about 3 weeks old (5-8-21)

Playing outside on the deck with Danielle during a Facebook live presentation (6-4-21)


Facebook litter page header of the seven pups WCC kept

WCC Ann x WCC Guy: Tribute Litter b. 6-19-21

This is Ann's fourth and last litter. She's the first WCC female breeder to have four litters.

Guy came to WCC from SEGD as a puppy in hopes that he'd become a breeder, and he's been busy siring litters at various schools. Guy is another puppy I met when I was volunteering on campus in July, 2019. He is from Guide Dogs' Skye x Bill's Operation Overlord Litter that was whelped at WCC.

Ann has been a fabulous mother to all of her litters. I had the pleasure of assisting with her Allegiance Litter when those puppies -- including Woody -- were a few days old in July, 2019. So she's pretty special to me, too! (Photos of that litter are in my 2019 journal.)

This time Ann had three big, beautiful black Lab puppies. WCC kept all three: Tina, Cortez, and Mikey.


Ann's chunkers splooting while nursing at about 4 weeks of age (7-15-21)


Compilation of weekly photo shoots of Ann's puppies from 5-7 weeks of age

WCC Dottie x SSD Quincy: Revolutionary Litter b. 7-7-21

Dottie, a pretty yellow Lab from WCC's 2018 Liberty Litter (Elaine x Gordon), whelped eight beautiful babies in her first litter. There were six girls and two boys.

Handsome black Lab Quincy from Susquehanna Service Dogs, was their sire. He also sired a litter with WCC Donna last year.


WCC Dottie with her eight newborns (photo by Danielle Young)

Warrior Canine kept six of the eight puppies in the Revolutionary Litter. The litter name and namesakes for the puppies are all related to the Revolutionary War since the puppies were born close to the Fourth of July: Abigail, Margaret, Martha, Mary, Notley, and Slick.


Dottie's puppies cuddling at 3+ weeks of age (8-2-21)


Traditional bench shot of the whole Revolutionary Litter at ~8 weeks of age

WCC Garcia x WCC Guy: Devotion Litter b. 7-16-21

This litter of nine Lab puppies came close on the heels of Dottie's litter. Garcia, who came from Guide Dogs of America as a puppy, was also a first-time mom. This was second WCC litter Guy sired this year.

Here is a composite birth "cheat sheet" that one of the volunteers does for every litter, showing the puppies minutes after each is born, their order of birth, their collar colors, and the dam and sire's photos:

WCC kept seven of the nine puppies: Ashley II, Bucci, Desiree, Jillaine, Piccone, Vivian, and Warren.

WCC Devin x WCC Gabe: Anniversary Litter b. 10-30-21

Sweet Devin is the only girl who whelped twice this year and this litter was memorable for a couple other reasons, too.

First, this fall is the tenth anniversary of the founding of Warrior Canine Connection. Second, the sire of this litter was none other than Gabe, the handsome Golden retriever who gave Rick Yount the idea of starting a service dog school to provide highly trained dogs to disabled veterans.

But wait -- isn't Gabe too old to sire a litter now?

Nope, because Rick and Molly had the foresight to freeze some of his sperm years ago! Now how "cool" is that? (pun intended) Gabe died several years ago but his legacy lives on in this litter of ten beautiful Golden retriever mini-me's. Danielle posted this in a WCC Instagram story before the litter was born:

I have got so many photos of this litter that it was very hard to choose just a few to include here! Golden retriever puppies are just about the cutest in the whole dog kingdom.


Official newborn photo by Danielle on day of whelping


Devin's sweet babies at ~6 weeks old (12-13-21)


Anniversary Litter having fun on the outside deck on a warm December day (12-16-21)

WCC kept all ten of the puppies in this litter but only nine of them went to puppy parents for basic training: Abel, Dee, Fidler, Glenn, Kay, Mia, Pumley, Seebie, and Stacie. (Rick and Molly raised one of those.) The tenth puppy was released from the program and adopted as a pet.


Traditional bench shot at 8 weeks (yes, there are always a lot of out-takes!)

WCC Minda x SSD Parker: Dedication Litter b. 11-2-21

For the third time this year, WCC whelped two litters within a few days of each other. Devin had ten  puppies and Minda's first litter was also a relatively large one with nine healthy Lab babies.

Minda is another mom I was familiar with. She's a shiny black Lab from Guide Dogs' Skye x Bill's  Operation Overlord Litter. Guy is also from that litter. I helped care for them on my second visit to volunteer at WCC in July, 2019. So, like Devin, I met Minda as a young puppy.

SSD Parker is a yellow Lab. Four of the puppies were black and five were yellow:


SSD Parker (L) and WCC Minda on the day they had their successful date


Happy birthday, babies!  (11-2-21)

Warrior Canine kept six puppies from the Dedication Litter: Cherruff, Claire, Forester, Mark, Strider, and Wells.

Two of the puppies were shared with Valor Service Dogs and are named Walker and Bogey. I've been following them on Valor's social media accounts. Another puppy went to Susquehanna Service Dogs and is named Lawrence.


Puppies' first mush at 3+ weeks old; larger litters often begin to get mush
a few days earlier than smaller litters, or litters with smaller puppies. (11-25-21)

WCC Kirk x CPL Bo: Glory Litter b. 11-16-21

A short two weeks after Devin's and Minda's puppies were whelped, Kirk gave birth to her first litter of eight Lab puppies. That made a total of 27 young puppies in the Puppy Enrichment Center, a double-wide trailer. No problem! The spaces are versatile and can easily accommodate four or five litters at a time.

Kirk is a pretty yellow Lab from WCC Charlie x Rico's Charlie's Angels Litter born in November, 2019. Bo is a handsome black Goldador from Canine Partners for Life (K94Life), a service dog school in Pennsylvania.


Kirk (L) and Bo on their successful breeding date


Kirk and her 2-day-old babies (photo by volunteer Laura M.)

Seven of the eight puppies were girls, the first time WCC whelped a litter this big that was so predominantly one sex. WCC kept four of the pups (Esther, Joy, Ollie, and Ralphie) and the other four went to CPL and two other organizations.


Three of Kirk's puppies at ~8 weeks of age (1-12-22)

WCC Dani x Marshall: Destiny Litter b. 12-4-21

Dani's second litter of eight adorable Golden retriever puppies meant there were now four litters in the puppy trailer = 35 puppies, a new record for Warrior Canine Connection! Unfortunately, one of the puppies was very weak at birth and he died a day later. Thirty-four pups at once was still a record for WCC.

This was Dani's second litter. She is a beautiful Golden retriever who came from a private breeder when she was a puppy. Her first litter of ten puppies in 2020 was a "cross" with a yellow Lab, SSD Gordon.

The sire of this litter, a handsome cream-colored Golden retriever named Marshall, is also from a private breeder. Several of the puppies have very light fur like his:


Two weeks old and sporting their Big Girl and Big Boy collars (12-18-21)


Sweet faces in the nursery at 5 weeks old (1-8-22)

Fewer Golden retrievers are being bred at assistance dog schools now than they used to be, and especially during the Covid pandemic when fewer dogs of all breeds are being bred.

Goldens make awesome pets and therapy dogs but they aren't super successful as service or guide dogs. It's more common now for assistance dogs to be full Labs or Goldadors, a cross between the two breeds. However, Goldens are very popular with the public and they are a favorite of WCC's founder, so this was the second full-Golden litter at Warrior Canine in 2021.


Bench shot of the Destiny Litter at 8 weeks old

WCC kept three of the seven puppies: Chris, Pam, and Erin. One went to Marshall's breeder ("Dune," who I follow on social media), one to Paws with a Purpose, and two became pets.

WCC Brenda x SEGD Larson: New Beginnings Litter b. 12-31-21

This litter with just two sweet surviving puppies (unfortunately, two were stillborn)  squeaked in the last night of the year and serves as a bookend to a fabulous year of future service dogs whelped at Warrior Canine Connection. Most of Devin's and Minda's puppies had recently gone to their puppy parent's homes so the puppy center wasn't totally packed when these two arrived.

Brenda came from WCC Beverly x JJ's Stronger Together Litter b. 12-30-19. These puppies were whelped the day after Brenda's second birthday. It was her first litter and she was a terrific mom.

 Brenda got to travel with Danielle to Southeastern Guide Dogs' campus in Palmetto, FL for her breeding date with Larson, also a handsome yellow Labrador who has sired litters at various schools:


The cute couple, photographed by Danielle Young and posted to Instagram

With just two puppies, Papa (Mr. Blue collar) and Jenni (Miss Pink collar) were very close to each other the entire time they were in the puppy trailer. I was happy to see they were placed with good friends who are experienced puppy parents so the pups can continue to see each other during their basic and advanced training.


Aww . . . Papa and Jenni at 17 days old (1-16-22)


This out-take from the traditional bench shot at 8 weeks cracks me up;
Mr. Blue is kissing his sister but she doesn't seem too impressed!

One of the things I love about Warrior Canine Connection is the educational factor. I've learned a lot about dog breeding and training in their social media posts and the Explore.org discussion group. Staff (usually Danielle) will answer questions and explain things that other schools usually don't publicize, like why some puppies are born stillborn or how it's decided what career path a puppy will follow.

I've seen before on the live cams where one mama dog will nurse puppies from another litter born near her own litter. One time a year or two ago, for example, it was when one mom had mastitis and it was too painful for her to nurse her whole litter at once. The other mom did double duty for a few days.

Explore viewers and on-site volunteers were thrilled at the end of January when a little border collie puppy named Kit joined Jennie and Papa for a few days. The pups were all about one month old at the time:

Brenda and her pups quickly welcomed Kit to their little pack and it was sweet to watch them on the live cams. Brenda graciously let Kit nurse from her and the pups shared their milk bar, mush, toys, and beds with her.

More than one person commented on Explore, "Why can't humans be this accepting of others who are different??"

Kit was a singleton from a local breeder and needed this socialization to help her develop more normally. It was good for Brenda's pups, too. I'm glad WCC was willing to host Kit for a few days. Another time some Vizsla puppies also mingled with a different WCC litter for several days.

Twelve new litters! It's been a busy year at Warrior Canine Connection as their breeding and training programs expand in spite of the continuing Covid pandemic.

Next entry: year-end review

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, Holly-Holly, & Dapper Don

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