Published on: February 25, 2021
By LOIS KINDLE
ONlexis Anderson and her husband Stuart have long admired the mission and work of the Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto.
They took in a 2 year old Labrador Retriever who had been “changed careers” by school 17 years ago, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions they’d ever made.
“When we lost her two years ago, we wanted to give something back to Southeastern Guide Dogs,” said Anderson. “We had been associated with them since the 1980s and had sponsored (a series of fundraisers) and sponsored and named three of his dogs.
“Two years after losing Skylar, we decided to take on one of their breeding dogs and we got Skippy in January 2020,” she continued, adding that she and her husband thought they might never have another dog that much love like Skylar. “But we loved Skippy from day one. She’s so smart, so well educated, and she has a wonderful temperament. She loves to play and can be pretty goofy. She is just great! “
In addition to all of these superlatives, she recently gave birth to nine future superheroes.
Skippy, 3, was originally trained to be a guide dog, but because of her outstanding traits, she was chosen to be a SEGD breeder, one of 50 currently in the school’s reproductive and puppy education program. She was bred with one of 15 males, also chosen for her superior genetics and temperament.
Females stay in the program until they are 5 years old and have produced approximately four litters, and males get older by 6 years after producing eight to 10 litters, said Nicole Potter, manager of litter and newborn care.
Breeding dogs live very much like normal pets in their hosts’ home, although SEGD officially owns them. Their health is carefully monitored by the school, and when the women enter their heat cycles, they return to campus for about four weeks. It is at this point that the decision is made as to whether or not to “date” a man.
When Skippy got home, Anderson was notified that the dog had been bred. Between three and four weeks later, Anderson took her back to campus for an ultrasound to see if she had popcorn-sized embryos. Then everyone found out that Skippy was pregnant.
When Skippy returned home, he was given the required pregnancy diet by SEGD, with all the necessary food and information on what to expect. On day 49, Anderson took her back to campus for weight control.
Potter said the gestation period for dogs is 65 days, so she calculated a due date for Skippy and a return date of seven days before the pups are expected to be born. In the latter case, the now very pregnant woman comes back to SEGD to give birth to her offspring. She stays in the neonatal department with staff on duty around the clock. A trained litter helper, very similar to a midwife, supports the dog throughout the delivery.
“This will allow her to be prepared to be back on campus with the staff at our neonatal center for about seven weeks,” said Potter.
Skippy’s second litter of nine healthy puppies was born on January 3rd. It was the school’s first litter in 2021.
After a dental and medical exam, Skippy returned to Anderson’s home on February 22nd. She immediately resumed her role as beloved pet and greeter at West Coast Golf Cars, the company the Andersons have owned for 37 years.
Your puppies will stay in newborn care for a few more weeks, where they will attend the puppy kindergarten. Between 9 and 10 weeks, they go to puppy breeders for the first year of their life before returning to campus for assessment and professional training at Guide Dog University.
Skippy could possibly have two more litters before she retires as a breeder. Then her family plans to adopt her permanently.
“We’ll definitely keep her,” said Anderson. “There is no way we could ever give them back.”
The Tampa resident encourages anyone interested in becoming a breeder host to apply.
“You will give something back to a great organization,” she said. “Every time I look at Skippy’s puppies, I see nine potential guide dogs. Just think of all the people you will be helping.
“And you get a great pet too,” she added. “It’s definitely a win-win situation.”
There are many ways you can help Southeastern Guide Dogs with their mission. This includes taking in a breeding dog and sponsoring a puppy. to become a much needed puppy breeder; Voluntary work; make a one-time or monthly donation; name a puppy; and more. More information is available at www.guidedogs.org.