What started off as a sad situation last spring - Longreen Foxhounds' (TN) Kindle '13 did not survive an emergency cesarean section at the veterinarian's office - developed into an inter-breed, cross-discipline example of canine cooperation. Joint Master and huntsman Susan Walker was prepared to hand-feed the litter if necessary, but knew a nursing foster mother would be the best choice in terms of nutrition and socialization. With the help of the greater dog community, and a varied team of good-natured mamas, eight Penn-Marydel puppies not only survived a difficult start, but are now thriving back at home.

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Some of these things are not like the others: Penn-Marydel puppies with their British labrador "siblings." Photo courtesy of Duckhill Kennels.

Any delivery involves risk, and despite Kindle's labor being expected, her hind end did not relax as contractions began and Walker transported her for professional attention. While her puppies were saved, their dam tragically expired following the surgery. Walker ensured that colostrom was provided and began tube and then bottle feeding, but networked to find a foster mom. "Puppies need the socialization, the suckle time, the interaction with each other," she explained. "I could raise them and I was ready to, but they wouldn't have had the complete benefit of a natural raising."

Remarkably, several nursing moms were available, and cautious introductions began. A champion Golden Retriever, Ember, happily received two pups, but her own offspring were so much larger, even at the same age, that the little Penn-Marydels couldn't compete.

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Genial Ember keeps watch over her brood. Photo courtesy of Susan Walker.

Another champion, a Pharaoh Hound named Nixie, provided a solid start for a few whelps. However, when her milk dried up, the pups needed another option.

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Pharaoh Hounds are the national dog of Malta, and are traditionally used for hunting rabbits. Photo courtesy of Susan Walker.

Ultimately, all of the babies ended up on a hunting dog - just not a hound. Robert Milner's Duckhill Kennels, breeders of British Labradors, provided their Prudence as a gentle and generous foster. Duckhill produces top quality gundogs with an emphasis on initiative, temperament, and trainability, as well as search and rescue and explosive detection dogs. Litters are typically sold out prior to the breeding; Walker was impressed with Milner's proven, positive training system. Prudence's pedigree includes multiple field trials champions.

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Prudence proved the ultimate foster mom. Photo courtesy of Susan Walker.

"Prudence had taken a few puppies right away, and they all ended up on her," Walker said. "It was valuable for them to have that developmental period with a mother dog."

After several weeks, the growing PMDs were ready to come home. The litter was sired by Cedar Knob Hero '17, and two pups went on to Cedar Knob after completing their puppy shots and deworming protocols.

That leaves six puppies at Longreen's kennels, where Walker reports they are "thriving - they're right on target, with beautiful long ears, walking out with me five or six days a week and swimming!" They represent a special line for Walker, as Hero's sire and dam were both entered by Doc Addis - but Hero's dam carried old Longreen blood. They may have spent their first few weeks with a bird dog, but in another year, they will be all business tracking foxes through Longreen's Missouri and Arkansas country.

To learn more about Duckhill Kennels, visit their website here.

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