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As the clinic manager at Valley Chiropractic, Lisa Anderson understands the concepts of a healthy lifestyle. But as a dog owner, she also understands and appreciates the benefits that her side business as a dog breeder furnishes.
"Breeding puppies is very time-consuming but very rewarding," Anderson said. "We love seeing the birth process and enjoy welcoming a new pup to the world.
"... We love the smell of puppy breath. We love the squeals, the growls, the whimpers and whines. We love watching a pup play with a stuffed toy bigger than itself."
Born and raised in Paradise, Calif., Anderson moved to Juneau in 1995.
"After moving here, we fell in love with the beauty of the town, the accessibility to nature and the friendliness of the inhabitants," Anderson said. "The only thing my first husband and I didn't like about Juneau was the lack of animal-friendly housing."
Before they left California, Anderson and her then-husband had the exasperating task of finding housing in Juneau to accommodate them, two cats and a basset hound.
"Sadly, as we couldn't guarantee dog-friendly housing, we were forced to find him another home before moving," Anderson said.
But despite the difficulty in finding pet-friendly housing, Anderson kept their two cats, and after re-marrying she adopted more dogs.
Lula, an offspring of Anderson's brother-in-law's purebred chocolate lab, Rocky, was ready for adoption in November 2004. Then, in August 2007, the Andersons adopted another pup, Rita, lovingly referred to as "Rock You Like A Hurricane Rita."
"Chris and I have always been animals lovers," Anderson said of her husband, who she met in Juneau. "Neither one of us can ever remember a time where we did not have animals in our households."
In the end, it was Anderson's love for animals and her dog, Lula, that inspired her to breed puppies.
"It was Lula who took over the job as Rita's surrogate mother," Anderson said. "When Chris and I saw how gentle, loving and nurturing Lula was with a young pup to whom she did not give birth, we decided then and there that ... Lula should be given an opportunity to birth babies and share her kindness with a new generation."
That is when the Andersons decided to breed - Lula. After finding Lula a "boyfriend," they waited for her to go into heat and set up a "date" for the two dogs.
"Sometimes more than one date was required for successful mating," Anderson said.
According to Anderson, the approximate time between mating and birth is 60 to 63 days, during which time the dam is fed a specialty diet of high-protein, high-quality food such as homemade chicken and rice.
"Or easier for us here in Juneau (is) salmon and rice," Anderson explained. "We make certain to supplement her diet with a daily dose of fish oil and we keep her physically active through walks, playing fetch, etc. She is given plenty of love."
Approximately two weeks before birth, the Andersons prepare a whelping, or birth box, which is lined with blankets and towels and is covered to provide privacy and dim lighting to encourage denning instincts.
"If we don't get a special place made for Lula, she just might choose to give birth in an unwanted and inaccessible dark place - say, underneath our bed," Anderson said.
During the actual birth, Anderson and her husband take turns with what they call "puppy duty," making sure one or both of them are available and by Lula's side at all times. Once pups are born and statistical information is gathered, the pups feed. Anderson said this time can be laborious.
"The days after a litter of pups are truly a blur," she said. "Sleep, what sleep? It's a round-the-clock job, ensuring that the pups are properly nursing and gaining weight ... oh, and that mom doesn't accidentally roll-over or upon one of her newborns."
Then, between two to three days after birth, the pups are taken to their "dog-tor" for an initial wellness check and dew-claw removal.
The Andersons spend the next five to six weeks conducting interviews and hosting play dates for the pups.
"We find that early socialization through play dates with a wide variety of people have phenomenally enhanced the livelihood of our pups as well as the individual lives of the people who have adopted one (or more) of our pups," Anderson said. "This is a great time for you to visit our litters, meet the eligible pups, find out a little more about who we are and how we breed and raise our pups, and ask us any questions you may have."
For Anderson, breeding dogs means genuinely loving all canines and seeking to "continue the genetic probability of continuing positive traits for the betterment and improvement of a particular breed." For the Andersons, the breed is Labrador retrievers.
The Andersons look forward to introducing family-raised Labrador retrievers, registered with the Alaska Kennel Club, to qualified adopters.
"We are very proud to live in such a dog friendly community - one with so many like-minded friends that strongly support and contribute to the Gastineau Humane Society, encourage responsible and selective dog breeding as well as accountable and dependable pet owners that provides tender loving care and the proper spaying (and) neutering of their new family member," Anderson said. "We love bringing families together with a puppy that is just right for them."
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.