He was born by c-section on August 8th, 1992.
Jordan's (Ch. Highwood’s Jordan Baker) temperature had dropped dramatically to 97.1 degrees, and she had been bearing down intermittently for an hour -- but to no avail. I rushed her to our veterinarian at 6:30 am to perform the procedure. I was disappointed to have the section, but something seemed obviously wrong. And something was. Ratty was halfway down the canal--and stuck there.
After careful maneuvering, my vet pulled a limp, 8 1/2-ounce puppy back up into and then out of the uterus. The sack was opened. There was no motion.
While the vet delivered two other males, one red and one black and tan, both moving and crying at birth, I started on Ratty. I suctioned the throat and nose. There was a heartbeat. I rubbed vigorously. I swung him carefully between my legs. A stream of liquid spurted from his nose and mouth -- and then a gurgle.
I suctioned again and put him briefly in the oxygen hood, giving him intermittent bursts, and then administered Dopram subcutaneously. His body shuddered, and he took his first breath. I put him back under oxygen and started to rub him again. His gray tongue was gaining a pinkish cast. He took another breath. I rubbed and rubbed. I pinched the skin on his neck, and he squeaked discomfort . . . he would live.
And this is how Ch. Highwood’s Ratfaced MacDougal came into this world -- the beginning of his wonderful story.
(One supposes that the story actually began some sixty-odd days earlier, when Jordan was bred to Joan Read’s brilliant Ch. Chidley’s Willum the Conqueror. Willum had very few puppies on the ground, and we were thrilled that Jordan -- in her third and final litter -- could present us with three handsome male offspring.)
The other two puppies weighed in at 7 1/2 ounces each, and all three were vigorous. When I took them in for tails and dew claws at six days, they had almost doubled their birth weight. Jordan was an attentive, perceptive mother. The whelping box and the puppies were spotless. But the box couldn't hold these puppies for long; after shots at six weeks, they were given the run of a portion of the kitchen.
I had promised a puppy to Barbe Pessina. Barbe conducted a handling class about half an hour by car from our home and had been responsible both for teaching me to handle and for mentoring me in conformation showing since 1983. She had worked with me when I showed Ch. Highwood’s Great Gatsby, our foundation stud. She herself had several BIS Pulik -- and wanted to special a Norwich.
Ours was a rather loose agreement. I would give her the pick of the litter on a co-ownership. She would continue to mentor me. I would be the only person to touch his coat. She would pay for entries and do the majority of showing. She would do all the specialing. She would provide a van and its accoutrements while showing. On long trips I would kick in for gas. We would split hotel costs and airfares. Ratty would reside with Barbe. He would come to me once a week for grooming. The agreement continued to be verbal as his stature grew. I could use the dog for stud whenever I wanted (but I basically demurred until I had learned from Barbe how to breed). Our only concern was breeding him to bitches that had some current history of genetic problems. We discussed every breeding. We could afford to be choosy -- so we were. And still are.
Sometimes, with the right people, a handshake is worth more than all the paper at Staples.
Barbe had three puppies to choose from -- and, of course, we disagreed. I wanted her to take the cobby red male with the Gatsby head. But I was learning fast that I had better listen. Barbe’s comment -- as I remember it -- was, “They don’t walk on their heads. I want that one (Ratty). He has a beautiful rear and moves cleanly.”
And so, began the next chapter of his amazing story.
We started showing him at six months. He wasn't easy. We never knew what he might try.
He would dive off the table, he would lose concentration -- and if there was anything in season two rings away it was hopeless. This intrigued Barbe. Annie Rogers Clark just smiled as she gave a little puppy Best of Winners and his first major.
I had relatives in Chicago and wanted to go there both to visit and, while there, to support the inaugural Specialty of the newly founded NNTC of Greater Chicago. I asked Barbe if I could take Ratty and support the entry in Sweeps and Puppy 9-12. Ratty had quickly compiled ten points, but Barbe didn’t think twice about it because he was being so difficult and his coat was just starting to come in and he had no furnishings. There was no way I could get the last major. We were saving him for Montgomery.
As it happened, Roger Hartinger was judging Skokie Valley K.C. on the Friday proceeding the two International Shows. The ring had not been mowed, and it was raining; the grass was long and wet. Obviously, everyone looked sodden after the first go around. Furnishings didn't matter; coat length didn't matter. Ratty didn’t seem to care. He was the only puppy in his class that went around briskly, without hopping. He did the same in Winners Dog.
He received the Best of Winners ribbon -- and an ovation ringside for his performance. It was a five-point major.
Barbe and I almost had a divorce. She was furious. I was all taken with this showing stuff now and bursting with pride that I had finished him! I wasn't allowed to show him for the next three years and could only take him to Montgomery when he had become a Veteran.
His show record with Barbe was amazing. (The Ratfaced MacDougal is, of course, a trout fly, and, to support Ratty’s career, my husband crafted some wonderful fishing ads that the fancy looked forward to seeing every other month in Dog News.) We went out only once or twice a month, picking our shows and judges carefully. Ratty won 80 Best of Breeds, 35 Group Placements, and three Group Ones. At Montgomery K.C. and our National Specialty, with me showing him out of the Veterans class, he was accorded Awards of Merit in 2000, 2001, and 2002. We are not professionals. We just had a dog that judges couldn't stop looking at. He was up all the time and loved what he was doing. He taught us plenty.
The continuing pleasure of this happy dog is reflected in his get. Ratty was a top producing sire from 1998 to 2005. His progeny has titles in Breed, Agility, Obedience, Canine Good Citizenship, Pet Therapy, and a Best of Breed at Montgomery. In 2003, a son won Winner’s Dog at the National Specialty. He deserves accolades. He has had a profound impact on the breed. He was ageless, game, and loved. He was a once in a lifetime dog.
Knowlton A. Reynders
Breeder / Owner / Exhibitor
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