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Noeleen Kennedy,

can’t tell you how many times I have had to explain the difference between a Bichon Frise and a Bouvier des Flandres, a strong cattle dog originating in Belgium, sometimes used for police and security work, ranging in colour from black through to fawn.

“Bouvier des Flandres, oh they’re those small white dogs like poodles.”

Some years ago in New Zealand my ex-husband, a security guard, saw a picture of a large black Bouvier des Flandres and had his heart set on one, but there were none in the country. A couple of years later we purchased two bitch pups, Gina and Greta van het Lagaland, from a Dutch Kiwi breeder who had imported stock from overseas. They proved to be everything we hoped for; intelligent, loyal, strong, very trainable and best of all, loving, and gentle.

At a few months old Gina fell off our second floor balcony and broke her left hind leg, which was pinned with a rod but was obviously not mending so another operation was called for. This time they joined the two parts of the bone, which had not knitted together, with a metal plate. Poor Gina, it still did not work, she began holding her leg high up close to her body and obviously in pain. We changed vets. Our new vet advised the only course of action was to remove the leg, which we agreed to as the poor girl seemed in such pain. Gina’s sweet and gentle nature never wavered throughout and she seemed over the moon to be rid of the painful leg at last.

Our two bitches were first mated at two years old, Gina being the first to whelp. What an exciting night, at about 9.00 pm Gina started tearing up the paper in her whelping box so I knew her time was near. When the strong contractions began and the first pup appeared she knew exactly what to do, before long seven healthy puppies were produced without fuss.

When her puppies were about two weeks old Gina developed milk fever. I had never seen anything like it, she went as stiff as a board with all three legs rigid and her claws extended out. Loading her into the car to visit the vet was an exercise in itself. It was like picking up a lump of wood. When we picked Gina up the next day the vet told us Gina could no longer feed her pups, they were off limits. Now we were faced with hand rearing! Not only did we have to get food in one end, but also had to take on the job of cleaning the other end. We substituted Gina’s tongue with a warm, damp face washer and the rough towelling worked very well. To make cows milk up to the quality of bitch’s milk we had to add several egg yolks to each litre of milk as well as calcium and cod liver oil. With so many egg whites on hand I became a pavlova expert!

We successfully raised the puppies until they went to new homes, although it was the messiest of jobs, particularly the weaning, requiring covering the work table with newspaper, and ourselves in large plastic aprons. The first solid food was Farex baby cereal which the pups managed to get all over themselves. It was not only feed time but bath time as well.

Raising that bouncing, healthy litter gave us a great feeling of achievement and at least one dog became a NZ Champion.

As I mentioned previously, Bouviers are very intelligent dogs. It seemed with future litters Gina thought a two week input on her part was all that was required. She was a happy little tripod with no psychological hang-ups, but oh what a hopeless mother. Greta on the other hand was a splendid mother and one particular time even produced milk when her sister’s pups suckled her.

If your dog ever has to lose a leg, don’t worry, they manage very well with three.


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