Last December, even before Beanie’s babies became zygotes, when they were only penciled notes on pedigree charts spread on my desk, a question about their tail docking came up. A breeder from Europe expressed interest in getting a female puppy bred by me. As I mentioned in part 1 of Tale of Tails, in Europe there is a ban on tail cropping, and a Norwich Terrier with a docked tail cannot enter in a dog show. If I was to sell a puppy to Europe I would have to leave its tail.
Considering the implications of leaving a natural tail on one puppy, while docking the others in the litter, I came to a conclusion that I would be leaving all tails uncropped. Number one, it is virtually impossible to pick a puppy with a show potential at the age when the tails are typically docked. Number two, it seemed strangely odd to intentionally affect one puppy’s looks and development to be different from the littermates. I discussed this plan with Beanie’s breeder/co-owner and with the prospective puppy owners.
All through the litter planning and the breeding, I have looked through hundreds of photos of undocked Norwich, and thought a lot about tail docking and natural tails. At the time, it was much too early to even know if Beanie would become pregnant, so it was just a plan taking shape. As time went on, and the successful breeding was taking shape cell by divided cell, the discussion about not docking tails ceased to be a theoretical exercise. It would affect life brewing inside Beanie’s belly. I started emotionally embracing the entirety of each puppy, from its nose to the tip of its tail.
When the time came to find out the number of fetuses prior to whelping, I distinctly remember noticing on an x-ray image all four little spines extending all the way to the very end of each tail. I was at Dr. Blaicher’s, a veterinarian I have known for years, who assisted in many births of my dogs, performed C-sections and tail dockings. Dr. B showed me the radiographs. We counted the heads and spines, rejoiced at seeing 4 puppies, and then Dr. B dropped his voice and said that he needed to tell me about a new policy he had for his breeder clients. He would no longer dock tails of puppies. I laughed at the timing and said I planned to keep these tails uncropped.
Sticking to the Plan
Beanie gave birth to four boys. The request from a European breeder was for a female puppy, so none of these puppies would be going to Europe where their tails would have to stay undocked. I no longer had that external reason to not crop the tails but all of a sudden I found myself with an internal one. I have already been emotionally prepared for a litter with natural tails, and was looking forward to learning whether I notice any differences in how this litter develops, learning about what tail genes my dogs pass on, making a project out of marking a theoretical docking length on each puppy and seeing it grow on an undocked tail. I was set to keep my plan.
As soon as I sent email notifications of the boys’ birth to prospective puppy buyers waiting for this litter I got congratulatory notes back with requests to leave “at least one tail intact”.
For these boys the stars have aligned to keep their natural tails. I cannot tell you whether this litter is a short-lived experiment, or something I will do from now on. Right now I’m learning something new and I love that.