Each One Different

As with most things in life no two events are the same and no two things are exactly alike. Each litter being born has been a different experience with some commonalities. Cassiopeia unfortunately had a very hard delivery. She was in pre-labor for a day followed by a day of whelping. This took a toll on her little body and mindset. As with people everyone is different and some things are easier for some than others and one may never know exactly the reason why but we can make speculations. I really thought that Cassiopeia would have an easy time with delivery for the way she was built. Was I ever wrong. She had a really hard time getting them out of the birth canal and had to almost sit to get them out. With each one we had to help in getting them cleaned, stimulated, and breathing. Truly I believe that was because it was painful for her and it really scared her. We worked hard and diligently to save every pup. Even though we didn’t save them all we have 7 healthy little bodies that squirm and need attention. Statistics show that the survival rate at birth in dogs is 70%. I really don’t like statistics and try to beat the odds. We were spoiled with our first litter of 11 that came out without a hitch and are still our in the world causing trouble. Know that we will do anything to make sure that each puppy has a chance for life. Fred even went out and got his welding canister so we could administer a little oxygen. And she came around. After such a traumatic day of giving birth it has taken Cassiopeia some time to recuperate. She sleeps a lot and still doesn’t have a great appetite after 3 days. On the other hand she is staying by the pups, lets them nurse and is even starting to roll over so they can reach the under teats. But we are having to do the pottying. Really hoping that she will come around and take over that lovely duty. Nothing like going around smelling like puppy poo. Life at the kennel after whelping is a whole different world and each litter is different.


As We Move On...

It has now been seven months since we lost Belle Starr. And so much has happened since then.  One way I coped was to stay away from all business.  Not Good...  Cassiopeia had her cycle early and so we didn't breed her in January for she didn't have her hips and elbows done.  So we had a break from puppies and breeding.  In June I bought two young ladies from Midnightsky's Kennel in Oregon, Phoebe and Andromeda who are sisters and half sisters to Cassiopeia.  They were almost 16 months old when we picked them up.  They have turned out to be such sweet girls.  Phoebe lives here with us and I co-own Andromeda with Fred's niece Mary Ellen in Frenchtown. Mary Ellen also has Bones,  (Shadow and Belle Starr's son) and eventually I will turn ownership of Phoebe over to her in full.  We need to have more responsible lab breeders and Mary Ellen is one of those people.  Then we have Bolo Sophia who has captured my heart in full.  She is her own, but shares her mom's personality. Love that girl.  She gets along so well with her brother Storm Trooper and they have an unique relationship.  White Hawk (Hüd) out of Belle Starr's last litter with Colonel Hawker lives in Kalispell with Fred's brother. This is what is called fostering: where we have ownership, breeding and show rights, but he is Bob's pet and will obtain full ownership.  So Fred and I are now managing six breeders and we have Therapy Dog Storm Trooper.  Storm Trooper keeps the kennel balanced and is a joy.  Sophia and Phoebe are good friends and all my girls get along so well. I am blessed.  And of course handsome Shadow is looked up to by all.  Everyone loves Shadow.  Our kennel is complete and our plans are to make the most of it.  Cassiopeia is having her cycle as I type this.  We will be breeding her to Shadow this coming week.  That will give us an all yellow litter the first part of October.  ( I seem to have a monopoly on October..Yikes) They will be awesome puppies if all goes well.  And then we have a surprise.  Andromeda who lives in Frenchtown and Bones who lives in Frenchtown decided to add puppies to the kennel.  If Andromeda is pregnant then her black and yellow litter will be born the end of September.  We were going to wait until her next cycle to breed, but hormones won over.  Bones has all of his clearances and Andromeda has all of hers except for hips and elbows.  So we will do those 4 weeks after she weans her puppies.  We will know the end of August if she is with puppies or not.  This litter will be some awesome labrador puppies. Surprise...Our plans for Phoebe is to do a prelim on her hips and elbows this next month along with the rest of her certifications and DNA.  Our calculations is that she will come in season in January just around the time she turns two.  So with the prelim we can breed her then.  If all goes well they will be some awesome pups as well.  As for as Bolo Sophia and White Hawk, we will take them to shows and they will be of breeding age in fall of 2019.  They both have great conformation, personalities, and carry great blood lines.  So here at Happy Labs Kennel we are moving on at great speed.  


Copper Toxicosis

Belle Starr's Battle:

 After a long battle we lost our precious Belle Starr.  She truly was a  unique Labrador Retriever.  She was smart, loved her people, the best dog mommy ever, sweet, and was my companion.  She carried a beautiful curly coat, was stocky in build, and had the cutest face ever.  She got along well with the other dogs and loved her Shadow. It was heart breaking to lose her, but we have her little girl Sophia whom we kept from her last litter.  After the diagnosis, we now know why she battled her health and had problems with her delivery.  We are so fortunate to have her pups that carry on her legacy.  Thank you Belle Starr for what you have given us.  You are missed by all.  Humans and Fur Family

They believe that she died from Copper Toxicosis.  This can be a genetic factor or also could be environmental.  She was the second dog who recently died here in this area.  The other was also a young female who had delivered pups 5 weeks before her death. Belle Starr hung in there as best she could until her litter was 10 weeks old.  She first started with signs of sickness when they turned 4 weeks old. Copper Toxicosis tends to hit female Labradors between the ages of 3 and 6.  I am attaching a paper that explains the genetic copper toxicosis.  Many vets haven’t even heard of this to my surprise. They say it is a rare condition, but I wonder how rare for if they don’t know much about it at this point.  I have had many conversations with genetics from a couple of DNA testing centers.  The one problem I have came across is that I was not able to have Belle Starr’s DNA test done for Copper Toxicosis.  The vet who did her second surgery was also the vet that diagnosed the other lab with this disease.  The other lab that passed away from this, they had done the test and she came back with the genetic disposition for CT.  After Belle Starr’s surgery they took a biopsy of her liver and were going to run several different tests on her.  To my unknowing they cancelled the tests when she passed on the next day.  Their  thinking was to save Fred and I lots of money ($3,000).  A week later when I called to check on her tests results was when I found out that they hadn’t run the tests.  I talked to the vet for a lengthy time and he apologized several times as making a mistake.  I stated that the only test I was interested in was the genetic test for CT.  Belle Starr and and this other young female had the same issues: (They had drained 2 liters of fluid from both girls, they drank lots of water, and both girls had very abnormal livers.  They were both about the same age and each just had a litter of pups.)  So my next step was to have Shadow and Sophia tested and I did Cassiopeia as well.  Sophia’s tests came back as carrying the 2 ATP7A which is the “good” mutation and both of her ATP7B genes were normal. So this tells me that Belle Starr had to have at least one good ATP7A and at least one of the ATP7B had to have been normal.  Shadow came out with the “good” mutation on his X chromosome, and both of his ATP7B are normal. So genetically Belle Starr’s and Shadow’s pups should be fine.  If ever in doubt you can order a DNA test from Paw Prints to check for CT.  I haven’t gotten the results back from Hawk yet, but will only contact you if I feel there is a problem. Now the other factor is environmental.  This is the food and water intake.  I checked the food, but don’t see copper listed.  Also our bodies need some copper and zinc helps control the levels.  My next step is to have our water tested for copper levels. So this is a very complicated aspect of genetics and how our bodies work.  And I learned that humans as well can have copper toxicosis.  Interesting…  One of the signs that dogs show with this is they stop eating.  Belle tried to eat, but her body wasn't digesting it and then she would end up throwing up.  Another thing that I noticed was that she was drinking lots and lots of water.  That had started before she even got pregnant with the last litter.  I had her tested for diabetes along with her thyroid tested and all other tests.  Her bloodwork always came back normal.  The thing is that copper toxicosis doesn't show up in blood work.  The more you read about it the more mysterious it is. The good news is, if they are diagnosed at an early stage, there is medications that can help the situation and they can live a long life. 


I hope I have answered any questions you might have had about Belle Starr’s condition.So

as for Belle Starr’s pups go, they shouldn’t have any issues with CT. 


CT - Copper Toxicosis (Labrador Type)


Copper Toxicosis in the Labrador Retriever is similar to the disease found in other breeds in

that it manifests itself as a build up of copper in the liver of affected animals. Unlike the

disease seen in Bedlington Terriers, the Labrador form is not inherited as a strictly recessive

trait. The mutant genes have an additive affect, so one copy of the mutation increases

copper levels, and a second copy when present increases levels even further. This affect is

somewhat more extreme in females than in males. We know very little of the frequency of

the disease itself. It is an uncommon diagnosis, but that may be due to the fact that it is a

relatively late onset disease (middle aged or older dogs) and may have variable, difficult

to diagnose, symptoms. The mutation responsible for copper toxicosis in Labradors has

been identified by researchers at the University of Utrecht. Our test is based on their


The primary cause of copper toxicosis in Labrador Retrievers is a mutant form of ATP7B. Dogs that inherit two normal versions of the gene (one from each parent) will have normal levels of copper in their livers. Dogs that inherit one normal copy and one mutant copy will have somewhat elevated levels of copper in their liver, while those that inherit two mutant copies will have the highest levels. Generally speaking, it is those dogs with two mutant copies that are at the highest risk for the disease, although there have been some dogs reported that only had one copy and still had dangerously high copper levels.

The second gene involved in the Labrador disease is a mutated form of ATP7A. This is a "good" mutation which helps minimize the accumulation of copper in the liver. Since this gene is located on the X chromosome, the mutation is inherited as a sex-linked recessive. Males inherit only a single copy of the gene either normal or mutant from their mother, while females inherit two copies, one on the x chromosome of each parent. Therefore, males only need to inherit one copy of the mutant gene to help with their copper levels, while females need to inherit two. This is why females are more commonly diagnosed with the disease than males.

Since the frequency of the ATP7B CT mutation is relatively high, we do not recommend breeding completely away from it, but rather avoiding pairings that might produce two-copy offspring.


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Upon taking the pups and Belle Starr to the vet yesterday I had a great visit with the vet about the delivery.  Hindsight is always better than foresight which this time was tragic. What he figured happened is that she delivered the first horn first and we got 4 healthy puppies.  He felt she got fetal Dystocia where the pup was too big and she ended up with Euterine Fatigue and she didn't have enough energy to push the pup out.  If that happens you can give them Oxytocin to help with contractions or with her big litter and big puppies could have caused Dystocia.  I had oral calcium from Breeders Edge that I gave her but it wasn't enough.  Oxytocin is a prescription you can get from a vet.  If that doesn't help and if she doesn't deliver in an hour then she needs to be rushed to a vet for c-section. He says that once this happens it is possible it would happen again. Having just changed vets I should have gotten more established before whelping time. Note to self:  Make sure your vet knows when your bitch is showing signs of Stage One labor and have him on call for emergencies. If this problem isn't addressed the possibilityyou could lose the pups and your dam.  The good thing is that with all the exercise and good diet, Belle Starr came through with no complications.  The pups are healthy, Belle Starr is healing good, and with the dew claws off and a bottle of worming medicine to use at day 10 and 20 in place, it is watch them grow and keep them safe. 

Belle Starr's Story

It has been a while since I have blogged which means that nothing extra exciting has been going on here at the kennel.  Well that is until August.  After I took Belle Starr and Cassiopeia to the International Dog Show, both girls came into season.  So I loaded the girls up and headed to the coast.  For Belle Starr it was a breeding with Hawk and Cassiopeia went along so Fred wouldn't have to deal with a bitch in heat while I was away.  It worked out for the girls kept each other company,  While I was on the coast, we lost our Drake who was a Chocolate Lab and Great Dane.  So that was hard being away for that.  At 4 weeks I took Belle Starr in for an ultrasound and the vet thought it would be a small litter about 4 pups.  Beings that Belle Starr went into pregnancy a little heavy I walked her twice a day.  I became a mother hen over her for I wanted her to not have any complications being that her last breeding didn't take and she went through a false pregnancy.  It was very hard on her.  But being back in good health and spirits she a had a good pregnancy.  Belle Starr was due this coming Saturday, but showed signs of getting ready to whelp early in the week. So I prepared the puppy room and got things done that needed to be done so I could focus on her and the pups. She got very large and we are thinking that there must be more than 4 pups or that she was extremely overweight.  I didn't think she was overweight for I hadn't increased her food that much and kept on walking her twice a day until the last week of pregnancy.  On Monday Belle Starr became restless and by Monday night was panting at times and digging at her kennel blankets.  I was up with her most of the night with a couple of hours sleep here and there.  On Tuesday  the 17th I was certain that she would be whelping that night.  I don't know why they whelp in the early morning hours, but that's the way Mother Nature works. That afternoon I grabbed a 2 hour nap since I didn't get much sleep the night before for I knew it was going to be a longer night. She went into Stage 2 Labor about 9:00 or so.  Fred and I took turns being with her.  She had her first pup at 11:40 she had her first pup and the 3 more from then until 1:40.  All 4 very healthy and weighed 15 oz. Up to this point she had no problems delivering. She kept on having contractions but not pups.  I had started giving her Breeders Edge Calcium to help and also kept pups nursing so they would bring on the contractions. She was very restless and we were sure there was more pups to come.  By 5:00 and no more pups we began to worry.  In the meantime, I took a 2 hour snooze on the couch and then Fred got about an hour. With no more pups by 7:00 I called the vet in Plains and talked to the vet.  It was the closest to where we live. He said to bring her right in.  So we loaded up pups and Belle Starr and hit the road.  Having made a great warming bed when I started breeding it was easy to take the pups and I just put a warm bottle of water wrapped in a towel in it to keep them warm.  At the vets I plugged in the warming bed to keep them nice and warm.  Since the 4 pups had eaten constantly since they were born, they were very content. The vet took an ex-ray and said that he saw at least 2 more pups and decided to do a c section and get the rest of the pups out.  After a long wait the vet came out to say that she was still carrying 5 pups and that one was still born, two had too much mucus in their lungs and couldn't save them and the last two they were fighting to save.  One was strong and the other one pretty weak. Needless to say being tired and up all night with no sleep before hand the tears ran .Ones that stay with me most of the day.Even Fred had teary eyes which I hardly ever see..  Later they brought out one of the pups, a little yellow girl who was tiny. Since I had brought an emergency whelping bag along I got the suction and used it to help get the stuff out of her lungs.  She was very noisy for she didn't get to nurse right after birth.   A while later they brought out the little guy who was weak but alive.  Know that I am sitting here crying and typing through the blurr.  So many emotions mixed together.  They then worked on Belle Starr for another long time. and finally we were able to take the two newborns back to see if we could get them to nurse even thought Belle Starr was still unconscious. Not having much luck I had Fred bring back one of the other pups to get them to nurse to bring on the milk.  The little girl got the hang of it and we worked and worked with the little guy whom I call White Hawk. We slowly made sure all the pups got some nourishment for it was already afternoon.  All this time Belle Starr was making horrible sounds.  She came to enough that we had her lick the pups for relief. The vet gave us an eye dropper and little container so we milked some milk to give to White Hawk.  We got some of that good momma milk down him.  Belle Starr was so out of it we put her on a stretcher to load her in the car.  Once home (now 3:00 pm) we got Belle Starr and the babies into the nursery. Neighbors are awesome.  One came over with soup and helped me milk Belle Starr and get some milk down White Hawk.  She knows a lot. Another neighbor came and sat with the pups while Fred and I got a couple hours of sleep and long need showers. Another neighbor called to see if we needed anything and offered puppy watching services.  Then warm cookies showed up. After a couple of hours sleep i worked with White Hawk and got him to sucking. Such a happy relief. The end results is that we have 2 caramel colored females, 2 black girls, and 2 caramel males.  We lost one little black boy and two little black girls. Such a big loss in our hearts. But we still have our Belle Starr who is the best mother ever.  Even drugged out she insisted having her babies with her and if we put them in the warming box to give her rest she would stumble around whining until she had all of them with her.  The surgery anesthesia was really hard on her and it took her until sometime late last night to completely come out of it.  She is eating and drinking along with going out to go potty.  But only long enough to do her job and then she runs back in to her pups.   So with this big scare and loss we will weigh the odds of if we want to breed her or not in the future.  Love our Belle Starr and the rest of the kennel. And they have been great through all of this.