Alice's story starts with a bit of a preface. At the time I was offered Alice, I was NOT looking to get a Hamiltonstovare at all but was ready to take on the challenges of getting a male 15 Inch Beagle. Mind you, I am still looking for that said 15 Inch dream Beagle (with Hastings, Page Mill, older Lanbur dogs in the pedigree). When a Beagle that I thought was going to be the one fell through for one reason or another, a friend who just happened to have the Kilcavan line offered me Alice as long as I paid for the import. This offer was a dream offer because I was fresh out of college and could no way afford an import and puppy price which easily could get close to $5,000 total. So I moved mountains and did everything that I could to get Alice here. During the planning phase of Alice's import, her breeder told me that Alice will never show well, that Alice would never finish her championship and never win a best in show.
When Alice arrived, I was so overcome with joy that I did not notice anything strange. I was naive and made the assumption that a person with their show record and history that everything was on the up an up. Alice's registration did not travel with her and I had to badger her breeder for 11 months to get her registration.
Originally when we were discussing registration, I decided to keep Alice co-owned with her current owners as a courtesy to them. There was no contract or true written agreement about the terms of the co-ownership at the time of her import. Everything seemed to be going great until Alice started showing and winning big.
I spent countless hours training Alice to be a top notch show dog prior to her even entering the show ring. I suffered a few setbacks because Alice suffers from severe separation anxiety. I did not understand the cause until recently. Alice was raised in a kenneled environment around multiple dogs that were crated in multiple crates. Alice was crated with her brother, Harry, until the day of her import. She had very little human contact with the exception of the daily feeding and occasional show. So when she saw me and I treated her like the diva that I was told that she was, she soaked it up and acted out when I left for work. She would panic and scream bloody murder for hours in her crate. If I left her out of her crate, she would destroy everything in sight ($250+ worth of items in a 30 minute span stands out clearly in my mind). I did everything in my power to try and help her anxiety issues and it was so bad that she had to be placed on a temporary dose of Reconcile. At that point, she got me kicked out of 2 places for one reason or another and permanent damage on her tail.
The Reconcile worked wonders and she was immediately helped. At this point Alice was 18 months old and never had a heat cycle. I consulted with my area's leading canine reproductive specialist who theorized that the Reconcile might have delayed it. So I took her off of the medication and tried everything from natural remedies, exposing her to other intact females and even considered an experimental medication to bring her in. Thankfully, she came in season 4 days after she turned 20 months old. The heat cycle was odd, it lasted for only 5 days and then came back 30 days later for only 4 days. I chalked it up to her first heat and some first heat cycles are split.
Then nine months later she had a textbook heat cycle and I thought my concerns were over. I was so wrong, she did not have a heat cycle again until nearly a year to the day after her last heat cycle, just 3 days after Rolo was imported. That heat cycle was normal in duration and then we waited for 9 months and nothing. I never stopped showing Alice and she kept on winning, every win Alice and I got, she took credit for in some way.
The whole time I was informing her breeder and contacting various vets and experts. Every expert said that she needed to be bred as soon as possible. Her breeder said no, her breeder wanted to stress her out and take her back to the UK and leave her there, with no promise that I would ever see Alice again (mind you this is a dog with separation anxiety that was horrible). She wanted me to do this without any agreement, contract or any information regarding the supposed breeding. At that point, I was wise to her tactics and never agreed to anything. I kept asking for more information, I was even willing to travel there, stay there during the breeding and bring her back home to ensure that Alice was bred to who her breeder wanted. As a last ditch effort, I even offered to bring Alice over there and I would stay with her for 6 months, but her breeder shot that down too.
Then we went a different method and that was, watch Rolo, he will tell us everything that we need to know about Alice. Sure enough, 11 months after her last heat cycle, he began to indicate that she was receptive, but everything was abnormal. She showed no signs of a heat at all. Rolo only showed interest for 4 days and it was only a passing interest. So I was resigned to the fact that Alice was probably sterile and would never whelp a litter. Then while I was doing some health testing for Rolo, I brought Alice along to discuss a few things with the canine reproductive specialist. She advised that if Alice didn't have a normal heat cycle soon then the best option was to either spay her or medically induce her into a heat and breed her. She recommended some natural remedies to try and that worked like a charm.
Alice went into her most intense heat cycle ever. She was insane and that is when the breeding took place. To say that our feelings were mixed would be an understatement, on one hand we were concerned about Alice and thought that if the breeding took that it would help her, on the other hand we didn't want to disappoint Alice's breeder. Well, 30 days after the breeding, Alice had an ultrasound and was confirmed in whelp. At that point we told her breeder, who was awful. She wanted us to abort the litter using a medication that is illegal in the US or a medication that the vet refused to give because the risks were too high. Even though we told Alice's breeder this, she didn't care and would rather risk Alice's life than for us to have the litter. Obviously, Alice's life is more important to me than that.
On May 21st, Alice's puppies were born via emergency c-section.. After that, I thought that things would die down, boy was I wrong. Within hours, the harassment started by people affiliated with her breeder. The harassment was brutal and wishing everything from Alice's death, the death of her puppies my death, my ruined reputation, etc. I reported those individuals and for a time everything died down.
During that time, I consulted with my attorney regarding the harassment and co-ownership issues. Well according to Virginia law, her co-owners have absolutely no rights unless they have proof of current share in ownership costs. So I drafted an itemized bill and sent it to her co-owner/breeder. At the time her portion of the bill was over $30,000. I never heard a response and now that 7 months have passed, her portion of the bill is now over $50,000.
While, I started doing everything that my mentors taught me about raising a litter of puppies, I noticed a dramatic difference between the puppies and their mother. Alice's puppies are much more affectionate, respond much better to stress and are normal puppies. Alice is now 15 days in her first normal heat cycle that was not brought on by any natural supplements. The canine reproductive specialist was right, breeding her was better for her reproductive health. The reproductive specialists have a theory behind Alice's heat cycle issues. When Alice was imported, she was about 15 pounds overweight during a crucial time in her development. Then with her separation issues causing endless amounts of stress during that time that the stress plus the adverse effects of being 35% overweight, that it shocked her reproductive system. Now that she has been bred, it is like I have a totally different dog. She is less responsive to separation issues, she has a normal heat cycle and is acting like a normal goofy Hamilton girl (and I wouldn't have it any other way).
Now that this year comes to a close, I must resign myself to the end of a very one-sided relationship with Alice and Rolo's breeder. Alice's breeder showed no concern if Alice lived or died. When Alice won her first AKC Best in Show, her breeder didn't care, when Alice broke the RBIS record, her breeder didn't care. Alice and Rolo's breeder in my opinion is the worst example of what a breeder is. She poses as responsible, with impressive show wins, but treats her dogs like commodities instead of prized possessions that bring endless amounts of joy. I am so grateful for Alice and Rolo, they have taught me so much and still teach me things everyday.