on, little man,” I pleaded, tears of exhaustion
and frustration rolling down my cheeks. “Hold
on! You have to live!” For what seemed like the
hundredth time that night, I opened the mouth of the
morsel of a collie puppy I’d ever seen, and placed
a drop of milk-replacer formula on his tongue. Too weak
to nurse from his mother, the newborn puppy would only
survive if I could get him to swallow the formula from
a syringe, one drop at a time. Tonight, I was supposed
to be celebrating the realization of a lifelong dream.
Why had things gone so terribly wrong?
Since before I was born, the Moore household had always
included at least one collie. I grew up reading Lad:
A Dog and other stories by Albert Payson Terhune. “Lassie”
was a must-watch on TV, and collie figurines filled
the shelves in my room. As an adult, I’d finally
been able to begin a small breeding kennel. Tonight,
my first litter of puppies had been born. And now, I
was watching them die.
Ten years of preparation had preceded the
birth of these puppies. I pored over collie books and
magazines, contacted breeders, studied pedigrees and
bloodlines. My goal was to produce collies that were
more than just pretty faces, athletic, intelligent dogs
that could shine in the show ring one day, then run
the hill at a sheepdog trial or be a child’s best
friend the next. In a video from Pennsylvania’s
Lochranza Kennels, I saw a dog that made me catch my
breath. Lochranza’s breeding program is based
on Champion Amberlyn’s Bright Tribute, a Best-in-Show
winner raised on an Alaska sheep ranch. In this dog,
I saw everything I hoped the dogs I bred would be. A
telephone conversation with kennel owner Ron Hevener,
and I knew I’d found my cornerstone. Ron was bend-over-backwards
helpful with the selection of my beginning breeding
stock. First came Bob, a promising mahogany sable puppy,
and later Marilyn and Annie, both experienced brood
matrons from Lochranza’s own breeding program.
Bob grew up tall, dark and handsome. Annie is a sweet,
gentle lady, outstanding in head and hair coat. Each
complemented the other, and I had been eagerly awaiting
the birth of their puppies.
But when Annie delivered, my dreams nearly
died. Five of her ten puppies were stillborn. Two more
died shortly after birth. The litter I’d waited
so long for was down to two healthy females and one
male no bigger than a mouse. Since he wasn’t strong
enough to stay snuggled against his mother’s body
for warmth, I put the puppy in a box with a heating
pad, and fed him by syringe every two hours. Next morning,
my veterinarian estimated the puppy’s chance of
survival at next to none. Hairless spots on his body
and a generally fetal appearance suggested that he had
been conceived later in Annie’s breeding cycle
than his sisters, making him actually several days premature
at birth. Only with the most vigilant nursing care might
he have any chance at all.
That said, the battle was joined. Inside
the puppy’s frail body was a huge will to live.
He was a fighter, and I had to help him. Graciously,
clients at my boarding / training stable took over many
of my everyday tasks, so I could concentrate on my mission.
As the days passed, I wondered what this little fellow
would be like if he did get the chance to grow up. I
knew he wouldn’t be sold. That big heart of his
had taken hold of mine. Day by day, he clung to life
by his tiny toenails, pulling every bit of nourishment
he could from the syringe, and later from a baby bottle.
At 2 ½ weeks, when his sisters tipped the scales
at three pounds each, he weighed only 15 ounces. But
he was still alive! Two weeks later, when he made his
first successful attempt to nurse from his mother, I
picked him up and cradled him in my arms, crying unashamed
tears of relief. My little man was going to live!
This special puppy needed a name that would
reflect his amazing inner strength. On his registration
papers, he’s Lochranza Lionheart. His everyday
call name comes from the annals of Arabian horse history.
In the early 1920’s, a little grey stallion survived
fertility problems, a treacherous transatlantic voyage
and a broken leg, eventually becoming one of the breed’s
most influential sires. Today his story is legend, known
by horsemen the world over. The little giant’s
name was Raffles. So my puppy, who had already climbed
his own mountains and beaten his own odds, became known
And he would live up to his name. When the
puppies learned to play-fight, Raff, being smaller,
always took a beating. If I were close by, he would
crawl to me, seeking refuge from his sisters’
onslaughts. He seemed to know his limitations, quietly
conserving his hard-won strength. At six weeks, the
tables turned. Raff decided he’d had enough. Now
when his sisters pounced on him, they found themselves
facing a furry whirlwind, all snarls and snaps and flashing
teeth. For the first time, Raff found he had the advantage,
and he loved it. From then on, as W.R. Van Dyck wrote
in describing Raff’s ancestor, Champion Honeybrook
Big Parade, “He never missed a meal nor lost a
From the first time Raff saw sheep, he took
to training like a duck to water. At just over a year
old, he made his stockdog trial debut. The youngest
dog entered in the trial, he didn’t win, but his
work was full of bright shining moments, and his devil-take-the-hindmost
attitude earned praise. “I’d like to have
that dog on the farm,” one onlooker said. “He’ll
get the job done, and not take all day doing it.”
According to an old superstition, a working dog of the
highest caliber will have a black mouth-roof. Raff does.
I see it as a shining arrow, pointing the way to his
future. A National Championship someday? We’ll
So my little man has grown up. Once the
palm of my hand held him with room to spare. Now he’s
taller, fuller-bodied and heavier-coated than his sire.
There’s a strangely old-fashioned quality about
Raff. In him one sees not the fleeting flame of show
ring fad and fashion, but the timeless beauty of the
great dogs of the past. In his eyes shines “the
look of eagles,” the heart, strength and courage
that made him my personal miracle. At the end of a calamitous
day, when I’ve had fences down and horses loose
and broken water hoses and riding lesson no-shows until
I’m ready to explode, there’s one way to
loosen my banjo-string nerves. All I have to do is look
in Raff’s eyes. What I see there makes the cares
of the day fall away, and for a little while at least,
all’s right with the world.
I’ve found differing opinions among
breeders on the use of heroic measures to save puppies
that otherwise wouldn’t survive. Some say they
will pull out all the stops to save a puppy, others
let nature take its course. Had I chosen not to intervene
when Raff was born, I’d have saved myself half
a summer of heating puppy formula, every-four-hour-feedings,
and sleepless nights. And I wouldn’t be sharing
my life with the best collie I’ve ever owned.
Should I have taken the easy way out and let Raff die
that first terrible night? I don’t have to look
far to find my answer. I see it in his eyes.
this original dog story with pictures here.