A Labor of Love … 17 Golden babies, oh my!

Ruth Bonneville, Winnipeg Free Press, Sept 09, 2010 Local - Eight day old golden retriever pups snuggle together Thursday afternoon after feeding from their mom, Giselle who may have broken a world record by having the most pups in one litter. Photo by RUTH.BONNEVILLE@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Canadian pal, Donna Barnes, mom to Golden Retriever Bailey, just wrote to me about a very special litter.

Hi Rochelle, I thought you might be interested in the recent litter here in Winnipeg. Might be a record # of babes for a golden. This is a breeder who my parents got their golden boy from a few years back.

A groomer and breeder from Winnipeg is trying to keep a low profile after her Golden delivered 17 pups last week. Good luck with that! That number actually shares a record for highest number in a single litter as registered by the Canadian Kennel Club.

The record largest litter, as noted by the Guinness World Records, was an amazing 24 from a Neapolitan Bull Mastiff in England.

Dog breeders Damian Ward and his girlfriend Anne Kellegher had only been expecting 2-year-old Tia to give birth to a maximum of 10 puppies — not two dozen. But when Tia grew so big that she could barely move, the couple took her to the veterinarian, who decided that an immediate caesarean was vital. Two hours later, Tia had given birth to a record-breaking 24 puppies. Unfortunately, four of the puppies were too weak and died but the remaining 20 are thriving.

Thankfully, ALL 17 puppers in this Golden litter, are thriving and gaining weight, and getting lots of wonderful care from their momma Giselle.

Giselle feeds some of her puppies, who were born last Wednesday. Photo by RUTH.BONNEVILLE@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

The C-section hasn’t hurt Giselle’s ability to nurse her pups, but her owners try to make it easier for her. “We help her lie down and get on her side.” And they keep her well-fed so she can nourish her pups. “She has home-cooked chicken, carrots, rice, sweet potatoes and garlic, and cheese and eggs.”

Giselle’s nursing half of her pups every two hours with Dinah bottle-feeding the other half of the litter. Then they switch at two-hour intervals. “It’s very time-consuming.” But well worth it, said the owner. “She’s looking really well and she’s doing well.” The pups are kept under heat lamps and are starting to move around. …

“The fun part is in four or five weeks when the pups go loose,” and run around the house. “That’s going to be really fun to see.”

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True Giants …. Curing humans & their animal companions

The Land of PureGold Foundation became a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit corporation in February 2005. The formation of our organization followed a period of 8 years that the Landofpuregold.com had been a presence on the web, supporting and engaging in various charitable endeavors and providing numerous educational activities to promote the human-canine bond.

One of our goals is to raise monies for research in comparative oncology, which is the study of cancers that occur similarly in companion animals and humans. Another, is to support and disseminate information on canine cancers; and, to educate and promote interest in research of those cancers in companion animals that share a similarity to the cancers that afflict children.

Given the tough economic times and the limited resources of such a small non-profit, fundraising has been difficult. But, we decided to bite the bullet and provide $20,000 to Dr. Jaime Modiano for one of his exciting comparative oncology research projects. The funding went to Minnesota Medical Foundation’s Comparative Oncology Research Fund for the following:

PROJECT TITLE: Discovery and Characterization of Heritable and Somatic Cancer Mutations in Golden Retrievers (this project also involves Hemangiosarcoma)

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Dr. Jaime Modiano (Veterinary Clinical Sciences), Dr. Jim Cerhan (Mayo Clinic), Dr. Matthew Breen (North Carolina State University), Dr. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh (Broad Institute)

PROJECT GOALS: We propose to identify and characterize heritable (genetic) traits that contribute to risk and progression of hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in golden retrievers. This project is developed as a partnership between the GRF and the Investigators, Drs. Modiano, Breen and Lindblad-Toh. The goal to “make a major impact” carries some risk, but in this project, risk is mitigated by the financial commitment from the GRF and MAF, as well as by the investigators’ entrepreneurial spirit, the extensive preliminary data from their laboratories, and their collective expertise applying state-of-the-art genome-wide technologies to cancer investigation. Our long-term goals are (1) to institute simple, straightforward tests to allow assessment of the specific genetic risk carried by an individual dog and thereby to allow breeders to develop strategies that will slowly reduce the incidence of hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in golden retrievers, while retaining the positive phenotypes of the breed, and (2) to develop effective diagnostics, risk reduction, and treatment strategies for hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma that will benefit not only golden retrievers and other dogs, but also humans with these diseases.

Dr. Modiano is a true treasure. Our back-and-forth correspondences have exemplified both his wisdom and patience, prized traits for successful researchers such as himself. Dr. Modiano is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine’s V.M.D.-Ph.D. Program. Graduates with this or D.V.M.-Ph.D. degrees go on to careers in translational research, thus qualified to develop and do research in animal models, compare basic biology across animals, and translate research findings to different species including humans.

Jaime Modiano is one of the graduates who elected to focus on academic research. After completing the V.M.D.-Ph.D. program at Penn, Modiano went to Colorado State University for a residency in pathology. At the end of his residency, he realized that “you can’t go into science with just a Ph.D. and clinical training. I really needed to do a postdoc.” He joined the lab of Erwin Gelfand at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine (now National Jewish Health) to do research on T-cell activation, the subject of his Ph.D. research. He soon realized, however, that his residency training in pathology and his research interest in immunology didn’t mesh well professionally.

“My research in immunology was so disconnected from [my clinical work] that I had to make a choice because I wasn’t being excellent at either aspect of my career,” Modiano says. He decided to stick with research and joined the staff of the University of Colorado–affiliated AMC Cancer Research Center while serving as an associate professor of immunology at the School of Medicine of the University of Colorado, Denver. “It was kind of fun being at a medical school and known as the weird guy who worked with dogs,” says Modiano, who is now a professor of comparative oncology at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and the Masonic Cancer Center, where his research focuses on immunology, cancer cell biology, cancer genetics, and applications of gene therapy. …

Irrespective of the path that their careers have taken, D.V.M.-Ph.D.s have opportunities to make significant contributions to biomedical research, for the benefit of both humans and animals. This becomes apparent in diseases such as cancer: Dogs and cats suffer from naturally occurring cancers similar to human cancers. Unlike rodent models, which are developed from inbred strains of mice kept in controlled environments, companion animals, like humans, are genetically diverse and are exposed to many of the same environmental influences as their owners are. …

A critical barrier to using companion animals in preclinical research is organizing those studies. It’s a problem that Chand Khanna recognized when he arrived at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1997 to do a postdoc. “I came with the intent to study molecular biology techniques,” says Khanna, a D.V.M-Ph.D. who is now a senior scientist in NCI’s pediatric oncology branch. “But I also came with the veterinarian perspective, and as I talked to people, I realized there was an opportunity to answer questions in dogs with cancer that can’t be answered in either humans or mice. And that is critical for the development of new drugs.”

To that end, Khanna created the Comparative Oncology Program within NCI’s Center for Cancer Research. By linking together veterinary scientists at research centers across the country and in Canada, the studies completed through the program’s Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium provide valuable information needed to design human clinical trials.

Khanna believes companion animals will play an ever-increasing role in biomedical research on cancer and other diseases. As such, he believes there is an obvious role for dual-degree veterinarians. Penn’s Volk agrees: “For me and most of my colleagues, … we are thrilled to make a difference for our animal patients,” Volk says. “But really, there is an opportunity with appropriate animal models to make a huge difference for the human community as well.”

Golden Retriever Riley: The Real (Iconic) Hero of 9/11

New York, N.Y. (Sept. 15, 2001) -- Golden Retriever SAR dog, Riley, is transported out of the debris of the World Trade Center. The twin towers of the center were destroyed in a Sept. 11 terrorist attack. U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres.

This one photo has never left my mind, heart, or soul as the images
from such a tragic day tend to be indelibly marked.

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The post below originally appeared on May 28, 2007, sad news from Riley’s dad, Chris Selfridge, prompting many heavy hearts. Although I never got to meet Riley, I loved him as did so many other folks who had been glued to their television sets after the attack on the twin towers.

On 2/26/10, Riley passed away. He was our family pet, my friend and partner. Riley was 13 in November. He lived a good life and taught me many lessons during his time with me. He will be greatly missed. I love you Bub!

Dog book author, Susan McCullough, has included Riley in her upcoming book on Golden Retrievers and learned more about his final days.

While Riley had aced a physical this past December, a mass was found in his abdomen on February 20. Surgery to remove the mass took place on February 24, but Riley died two days later.

Chris and I exchanged email last fall when I was writing my book about Golden Retrievers and wanted to feature Riley as a representative of the breed. At that point, Riley was still enjoying chasing Frisbees and had helped to welcome a new puppy into the family. He clearly was enjoying his retirement from SAR work.

I am so glad Riley was able to be by his family’s side for a little over 13 years. Cancer has kept me from having a Golden Retriever beyond the age of 11. These special souls live their lives so intensely, never tiring of seeing our faces or simply the joy of going for a walk or getting a treat. I don’t think we could ever appreciate life or live it as well as they do. So, while it seems like they have such short lives, I think they live far longer than we do when it comes to happiness and fulfillment.

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May 28, 2007 Post

I have a page at the foundation site on our Disaster Search and Rescue Goldens. It details a great book, Dog Heroes of September 11th: A Tribute to America’s Search and Rescue Dogs. The book details the stories of 77 handlers and their Search and Rescue dogs who responded at the World Trade Center & Pentagon following the September 11th attacks. It shows a photo of Dissaster SAR Golden, Riley.

Riley is one of the most famous dogs of Sept. 11 because of a photo taken of him at the World Trade Center site a few days after the attacks. In the photo, Riley is in a basket being sent over a 60-foot-deep canyon to search the rubble of the North Tower. “Normally when we send a dog, the handler goes with him,” said Riley’s trainer, Chris Selfridge. “This time we decided it was more practical to just send the dog.”

I also recently learned of video being available of Golden Riley through SAR worker and author extraordinaire, Susannah Charleson. She is most familiar with this apparatus on Riley as she has trained in activities with similar gear with her SAR Golden Puzzle.

It is wonderful to actually have footage of the Golden Retriever who really DID work at the World Trade Center (separating him from those preposterous claims made by Scott Shields).

Riley is now retired, and suffers from various skin problems and the like due to his time at Ground Zero.