Oregon State College of Veterinary MedicineWhen Thomas and Virginia Knott decided to get a family dog, they did their homework. First they made a list of qualities that fit their lifestyle: good with children, athletic and outdoorsy, easy to train, and a history of good health. Then they started attending dog shows and visiting breeders.

One day, they saw a breed that really impressed them: the Landseer European Continental Type. Sometimes confused with the Newfoundland Landseer, the Landseer ECT is taller, more athletic, and has shorter hair. The Knotts decided to investigate further.

They discovered that the breed is strictly controlled by the German Landseer Club, which restricts breeding to dogs who pass x-ray checks and other requirements. This has prevented Landseers from developing hip dysplasia and other joint issues associated with many large, purebred dogs.

The German Landseer Club showed the Knotts books of documentation on every dog that had been released for breeding, going all the way back to 1976. The Knotts were so impressed they bought their first Landseer, a male named Charlie.

In 2005, a job transfer took the Knott family to China, where they lived for several years. Then they settled in Seal Rock, Oregon and, at last, were able to follow their longtime dream of introducing Landseer dogs to the U.S.

In 2011, the Knotts brought a female Landseer named Ginger back from Germany, and soon Charlie was the father of eight puppies. Ginger had a difficult labor and, sadly, died during an emergency C-section. Her puppies survived and one had a black mark on her shoulder that looked like a flower. The Knotts named her Bluemchen, which means “little flower” in German.

Bluemchen grew into a confident, strong dog who loves swimming in the ocean. Soon she was ready to be a mother but the Knotts had a dilemma. There were no other Landseer males in the U.S., and taking Bluemchen all the way to Europe and back would have been an ordeal for her.

Then the Knotts heard about the artificial insemination program at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH). With approval from the German Landseer Club, VTH Dr. Hernan Montilla imported frozen semen from a certified Landseer in Belgium and soon Bluemchen was pregnant – with thirteen puppies!

On average, Landseers have six puppies, so the Knotts were concerned about Bluemchen, and when she went into premature labor, they decided to take her to the VTH for observation.

By the time Bluemchen arrived at the hospital, she was running a fever and was very uncomfortable. She delivered three puppies but no more. Dr. Montilla gave her IV fluids and pain killer, but when she still had not delivered the remaining puppies by the next day, he advised the Knotts that a C-section would be necessary.

Having lost Ginger during a C-section, the Knott’s had a tense wait during surgery. “We were very scared. In fact, we are scared every time our dogs get sedation. But we have a lot of trust in the team at OSU,” says Knott. “They explain procedures, they discuss them with you, and then they execute. We are now going to OSU for the more sophisticated medical treatments.”

When a pregnant dog goes under anesthesia, the puppies absorb the same drugs as the mother, so a quick delivery is optimal. But there were so many puppies tucked into the corners of Bluemchen’s uterus, Dr. Montilla called in all three of the VTH surgery residents to help.

Jennifer Ree is a veterinarian in her first year as a surgery resident. She helped deliver Bluemchen’s puppies. “It was challenging,” says Ree, “She was big enough that we all could fit around her, but she had a lot of puppies. We wanted to minimize damage to the uterus so we basically had to milk the puppies out of one incision in each horn, while minimizing contamination, getting them out safely, and making sure we did it in a timely manner.”

With so many hands working together, they were able to deliver ten puppies in less than twenty minutes. “The last little one that came out didn’t make it,” says Ree. “Our anesthesia resident was working on her for a good half-hour, trying to revive her. They stay pink enough but they are not quite breathing so you just keep trying. But we got nine. I was really happy.”

Once the puppies were delivered, the surgery team still had to stitch up incisions and repair tears. “There were tears in the broad ligament that attaches the uterus to the body wall –  with so many blood vessels, you have to make sure to close up all of those, “ says Ree. “Also, the uterus is now big and floppy and could flop through any holes and strangulate itself. You have to make sure you close up everything.”

Bluemchen recovered nicely and went home with her family. All the puppies have now gone to good homes across the U.S., with the exception of the littlest one, Dani. She has a heart murmur, so the Knotts want to keep her a bit longer to make sure she grows out of it. Meanwhile, she is getting to know her family on the ‘dog ranch’ and enjoying the big, fenced yard, dog’s sunroom, and frequent trips to the beach.

Visit the Pacific Coast Landseer website to see more photos of Dani and her family.

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