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Once again, I sit on the edge of the whelping box eagerly awaiting the new arrivals. How many boys? How many girls? What colors will they be? Will Carrie be a good mother?

I am curious, and excited. I am soothing Carrie — who has no idea that she is about to embark on the most important event in her life. I say to myself that this is indeed what it’s all about.

The puppies arrive, one by one, round, pink, blind, and helpless, and immediately Carrie nominates herself as Mother of the Year. I have played this scene so many times over the past 30 years, but for Carrie it is her first starring role — yet within minutes she is older, wiser, and far more capable than I. Once again, I marvel at the miracle that nature has wrought, and I admire the perfection of each tiny little body. But most of all, I know that now their future is in my hands, and I am sobered by the responsibility and commitment that I feel.

Four weeks later I am sitting on my kitchen floor, which doubles as a puppy room, and I am getting my hair chewed, my nose bitten, my face licked, and my shoelaces untied. I am soothing the bumps of the tumbling and tripping puppies, and I’m the referee of the Baby Whippet Wars. Their little legs carry them farther and faster each day, and their individual personalities blossom. Their minds develop just as their bodies grow. Carrie is still an amazingly caring, compassionate, and capable mom, but she is now content to let me handle more of the mundane and boring nursery chores.

Soon the phone will be ringing, interviews will be done, families will visit, and each individual spirit will grace the lives of people who, although they may be strangers now, I hope will become my friends through the common bond we will share throughout each little canine life.

For me, this is what it means to be a breeder. Competitions and awards may serve as a means by which we measure our breed-improvement goals, but we should never lose sight of the fact that in those efforts we are creating lives — living, breathing, thinking, feeling, innocent lives who deserve the best that we can offer them. The little pet puppy with the light eyes or the prick ears is just as important as the flyer whose future in the show ring is bright. The slowest puppy who is reticent to chase the lure deserves as much love and care as the fastest and most athletic.

Being a good breeder means taking complete and total responsibility for every life we’ve created. It is about finding responsible owners who truly deserve these wonderful creatures, and who take their commitment to them as seriously as we do.

Ribbons fade, records are forgotten, and careers are short. All of those things are meaningless when compared to the character of these special animals whose lives we have engendered. What endures is the loyalty, love, and uncompromising devotion they give us so freely. We owe each of them the same in equal measure, for their entire lives. —Phoebe Booth, American Whippet Club, AKC Gazette
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This article was originally published in AKC Family Dog magazine. Subscribe today ($12.95 for 6 issues, including digital edition) to get expert tips on training, behavior, health, nutrition, and grooming, and read incredible stories of dogs and their people.
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