Heads, tails and all that jazz…

As soon as a baby is born, families usually start arguing about whom the baby looks like. The same with puppies: head from mom, tail from dad and so on... And then begins the big debate on how to name the babies.

Every puppy is an individual

Despite all the genetic knowledge behind this litter, it was interesting to see how the puppies started turning out as individuals. As far as their looks were concerned, the males were easy to recognize: there was the first-born white-and-orange one, the two white-and-brown ones with different spot patterns and the Hungry Thing, the brown male, who always found his way fastest to the food source. The females were harder to tell apart. For the first few days I had to keep consulting the charts I made when they were born, since in their all-brown appearance there were only minor differences in the amount of white in their front paws and chests.

The personalities started sprouting after the puppies’ eyes and ears opened. I already knew they would each be named after a famous jazz musician. All I had to do is decide who was who.

There is a story behind the jazz theme

When Rita was already quite visibly expecting, we had our traditional family garden party at my place. My nephew Verneri Pohjola, a jazz artist and composer, came with his trumpet to play a couple of pieces from his latest album. As soon as he started playing Toto and Lola backed off with their ears pulled back and their tails low. Rita, instead, moved closer with her big belly and started swaying to the music… I then immediately told my nephew this was going to be our “jazz litter”.

And so it happened. After observing them for four weeks I know exactly how they should be named: Jazz Man Benny, Jazz Brother Dizzy, Jazz King Cole, Jazz Dude Duke, Jazz Star Sarah, Jazz Number Nina, Jazz Babe Dinah and Jazz Love Lady Day.

A great mix of mom and dad

Although the puppies each have their very own character, from my layman’s view they have some important, inherited features in common. They are just as independent, brave, happy, sociable and active as their mother Rita always has been. In new situations they are friendly, calm and very tolerant, which is characteristic to their father Romeo. These fine temperament attributes were the main reason why I originally decided this would be a fine breeding combination.

As a bonus it seems we got a litter with very nice coats (from both mom & dad), beautiful heads (from mom), very good body proportions (from dad) not to mention their already brilliant nose working potential, which comes from the working line grandparents from both sides.

All this said, I must admit that I know for a fact there are also a couple of challenges to be faced with this combination. Rita has quite a lot of game instinct left in her, which is not good for concentration at truffle hunting. I am also aware that Romeo has given his offspring that “over-happy” tail which gives him his typical, perky appearance, but does not earn extra points from devoted lagotto romagnolo judges at dog shows. They say the tail in this breed should stay below the top line to look right. Personally I feel the tail is one of the less important details in the combo that makes a great lagotto.

Almost as soon as the puppies were born I made arrangements to have them tested before deciding how to best match them and their future families. The test was done when they were seven weeks old. I shall tell you more about it soon.

1. What a healthy appetite they all have!

2. Taking photos of the dark brown puppies is really challenging, they tend to look just like black holes in any picture. Posing on the veranda in natural light helped a bit. Here I am holding Jazz Number Nina, the girl with “short white gloves”.

3. Jazz Star Sarah is “the sister with long white gloves”, and she was truly born a star. Her new owners told me their daughter is planning a documentary film on her growing up.

4. The standing pose is not quite so refined yet. But at least we are trying. This handsome fellow is Jazz Man Benny.