Story last updated at 4/30/2014 - 7:07 pm
With the delivery of frozen semen from a stud dog in the Netherlands, Ann Boochever and Scott Miller's rare Stabyhoun, ZZ, will increase the breed's population in North America come mid-May. With only about 250 Stabyhouns in the United States and Canada, ZZ's pups will be a significant addition.
The breed is more plentiful in the Netherlands where it originates (and where ZZ was born). Boochever and Miller fell in love with the breed while doing research after the death of their Bernese Mountain Dog, Rainbow.
"I didn't want to get another dog, I was really sad," Boochever said. "I had a hard time with that."
But her husband started searching dogs on the internet and Boochever, then a librarian and music teacher at Auke Bay Elementary School, began bringing home books on various dog breeds. It was Miller who came across the Stabyhoun, a dog that seemed to meet all their needs.
"They're quiet indoors and active outdoors. I'm a runner, so I wanted a dog that would run with me, and hike in the summer time," Boochever said. "And my kids are all grown now, but I'm starting to get grandkids and I teach piano lessons, so I wanted a dog that would be good with kids. And they are very intelligent."
Boochever and Miller knew it was the dog for them but discovered there was a two-year wait list.
Boochever said she's almost always had a canine companion, from a Dachshund named Boochie in her childhood to a lab mix who lived to be 15. There was Rainbow the Bernese Mountain Dog, and another the pair adopted before ZZ came into their lives. Their adopted dog had poor health and only lived a year and a half after she was taken in.
Two years after discovering Stabyhouns, Boochever got a call there was a puppy available - in the Netherlands.
Boochever said she and Miller had never been to the Netherlands and decided to go for it; they planned a Dutch vacation and came home with a puppy.
ZZ has been with them for three years and became part of the family easily.
"She's half human," Boochever said, laughing. "She just sits on the couch like she's watching TV with us."
The Stabyhoun, originally known as the "poor man's dog" in the region of the Netherlands where the breed originated, is known for its versatility. From hunting to herding and pointing to retrieving, they are even known to serve as guard dogs. Despite this versatility, Stabyhouns are one of the 10 rarest recognized dog breeds on Earth.
When the Ameri-Can Stabyhoun Association asked Boochever and Miller if they'd be interested in breeding ZZ, the couple decided to give puppy parenting another go. They previously had bred Rainbow, their Bernese Mountain Dog, but only once.
Breeding ZZ had a unique set of challenges. Because Stabyhouns are so rare, Boochever said they eventually had to arrange shipping of frozen semen from a stud dog in the Netherlands to the U.S. The semen was stored in an Ohio facility until ZZ was ready.
"We traveled to Portland to a vet who specializes in frozen semen, found a stud in Holland, Tys, and had semen sent from that dog," Boochever said. "Fortunately, my sister lives in Portland. We were there for almost two weeks. Every day we went to the vet's office and ZZ had progesterone tests daily."
She said ZZ was inseminated on two separate days and - good news - she is now carrying a litter of Stabyhoun puppies.
Boochever said ZZ's demeanor has changed with the pregnancy; she has slowed down and doesn't have her original sense of balance when it comes to getting into the car. She's also more finicky about food. But she's healthy, and an ultrasound showed at least three pups with beating hearts, though the vet suggested there are likely more pups that weren't detected.
Boochever said the average litter size is five or six and occasionally as many as nine or 10. It's possible to do an X-ray the week before the due date to see the exact number of puppies.