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This is my journey into Natural Rearing Rhodesian Ridgebacks.
I have been in love with dogs since childhood. We always had Golden Retreivers. When I was seven, we moved to Evergreen Colorado, a very small mountain town and a great place to grow up. When I was a preteen, my dad started showing and breeding Goldens. I guess it was in my blood!
As an adult, I fell in love with Labradors. I aquired my first puppy from a well known show breeder. This puppy would start me on a path that I could have never imagined. His name was Ruger (Dos Rios Triggerhappy Ruger CDX, WCX, CGC), and he was a “monster” puppy! We needed professional training help. We started training at a well known facility in Denver. The trainers quickly picked up on his behavior as unchanneled intelligence. We started competing in AKC obedience trials. He also had a short stint in the show ring, but really hated to show. He never showed himself off, and looked like he was going to die in the ring! We focused on obedience. He achieved all of his obedience titles with ease, until that became boring for him. He decided that on long stays, he would much rather go socialize in the audience. I constantly had to find ways to challenge him. When he was two, we got a call from a movie and commerical manager. They had heard about Ruger and wanted him to try out for some jobs. He was thrust into filming! He had to learn new things each time and this kept him very happy! He was cast in commercials, catalogs and even a Labrador Breed Book. Then he got his “big break” and was cast in a movie starring Ben Affleck. It was the movie rendition of the Dean Koontz novel, “Phantoms”. We spent the good part of a year making the movie. Even traveling back and forth to LA sound studios and special effects sets. They made a full size puppet of Ruger for the scenes where he morphed into a monster!
After filming, I focused on showing, breeding and training. The training for movies instilled a love for training, so I began taking courses to become a certfied pet dog trainer. I opened HighNoon Canine Academy for puppies and basic obedience. I also wanted to be the BEST breeder I could be. I followed all of the rules and did everything “right’. My dogs were fully health tested, fed the best kibble and supplements and always had their monthly heartworm medication. All of my puppies went to their carefully screened homes fully vaccinated and wormed, and with a bag of the best kibble. Then the phone calls started. “My puppy was diagnosed with Excersize Induced Collapse (EIC).” No one had ever heard of it. Then the mother of the litter, Rodeo, collapsed after playing ball in the yard. Then I got calls about allergies, ear infections, gut issues… What was happening to my carefully planned breeding program? How could all of these health issues come up when I did everything right? I felt defeated. I had a big career change into law enforcement, and I didn’t have the ability to raise litters, so breeding was at a standstill. I just retired my girls and let everybody just be dogs. Then Ruger died at age 11. Not very old for a Lab. He had a cancerous splenic tumor that had burst and was bleeding out. I had to make an immediate decision on his behalf. My heart was beyond broken.
Shortly after Ruger passed, my foundation bitch, Rosie (Oakridge Wild Rose), had a massive stroke at age 11. She never recovered. Now I was down to her daughter, Rodeo (Ch ptd.HighNoon’s Little Britches). I decided to shower Rodeo with all of the attention and love. Her daughters and granddaughters went on to produce several champions. However small, my bloodline left it’s mark in the Labrador world. But the phone calls continued. Then I heard of ever growing instances of autoimmune disease, cancer, the dogs life expectancies were getting shorter and shorter. WHY???
At the age of 9, shortly after receiving her annual boosters, Rodeo began getting bloody oozing sores all over her head and body. Where the sores showed up, she lost hair. I immediately went to the vet. He put her on high doses of steroids and antibiotics. But he didn’t know what it was. This is the common cocktail of drugs the vets prescribe to most anything that they see these days. Surpress the immune system and give the appearance of the dog getting “better”. Rodeo had all of the side effects of the steroids. She blew up like a balloon, retaining water. Her hair continued to fall out and the only place she didn’t have oozing sores, was her tail and legs. She itched incessantly. She was miserable and I tried everything conventional that I could, but she got worse and worse. For a long 18 months we struggled. Far too long, now that I look back, but when she looked at me, her eyes said, “help me”. So I continued to try. I was defeated again. She lost her battle with Cushing’s Disease, a devastating autoimmune disease. She was 10 1/2. I don’t remember much in the days after her passing. I was so devastated that I withdrew into myself. I felt so guilty. How could this have happend? I was SO CAREFUL! I did everything expected of a reputable breeder and then some.
After a few agonizing days, I contacted my vet. I wanted to know what he knew about all of these conditions we were seeing. His answer shocked me and angered me to my core. He told me that VACCINES were to blame for the increase. WHAT? How can that be? I DID THIS TO MY DOGS? He said that we way over vaccinate dogs and it’s responsible for some of the things we are seeing. He believed that Rodeo’s CD was a directed result of over vaccination. THEN WHY DID YOU CONTINUE TO PUSH VACCINES ON ME? If you KNEW this was happening, why didn’t you stop it? He didn’t have an answer for that. That was the last time I spoke to that vet. He betrayed me and my dogs.
What did happen, was an opening of my eyes to what is really going on. I knew that we over-vaccinated. That would never happen again, if I ever got another dog. Which at the time, I vowed to never do, because I couldn’t go through the heartache again!
That lasted about three weeks. I couldn’t come home to a quiet house with no one to greet me.
In my days as a trainer at HighNoon Canine Academy, I fell in love with some other breeds, that I had never considered in the past. One that I couldn’t pass up was Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. I had a few come through puppy class and fell in love with the breed. I decided that my search for a Cavalier would begin. In January of 2011, I flew to Bozeman Montana to pick up my new baby, Xander, Mattiaci Switching Gears at HighNoon. And switch gears we did. I worked with a new vet that did minimal vaccinations. Fear was still very instilled in my mind about parvo and distemper. He would DIE if he didn’t have those shots, right? So we would stop after puppy shots. I felt good about that decision. And we still fed the “best quality” kibble. Xander went on to win BOB puppy and Group 1 puppy from the 6-9 month puppy class at his first show! But life got in the way again with another career move to Fort Collins Police Services. I was working shift work and always on weekends, so showing came to a halt!
Shortly after Xander turned 8 months old, he began having breathing problems, where he would suddenly act like he was choking, turn blue and pass out. We had several visits to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with Collapsing Trachea. (At the time, I did not correlate this condition with vaccines, although I should have.) It couldn’t be vaccines, because he wasn’t over vaccinated! Only puppy shots! He was put on long term small doses of steroids and a “special” cough syrup to give if he ever had an episode. We were also told to keep his execise to a minimum, as this could be exercise induced. I continued to research. Xander also exhibited very strange sexual behavior starting after his first rabies shot. He became obsessed with “humping” everything. I mean everything! He was mentally a different dog. After a year of this not getting better, I decided it was time to neuter him. His behavior stopped.
In 2014, I was afforded the opportunity to retire early and move back to the mountains with the love of my life. I jumped on it. I had much more time to do research. I was having pretty severe health issues myself, and I delved into researching my ailments. I learned that GMO’s and diet were a huge contributor. I changed everything in my diet. I eliminated as many chemicals in my household that I could. The more I researched, the more I was horrified and was determined to get away from the toxins that I could control. I knew this carried over to the dog food.
In moving, I became step-mom to two German Shorthaired Pointers, Cassie and Coco. Ron was much more knowledgable in the horrors of vaccines than I ever was. He didn’t vaccinate his children, and when he got Cassie as a puppy, she was unvaccinated and stayed that way. Coco was a rescue that Ron acquired at the age of two. She came to the rescue with an unknown vaccination record, so she was quickly revaccinated before being placed with Ron. We both fed “high quality” kibble with fresh cooked food added, and raw food added at times. I had to change vets again, because of the move and I found a wonderful integrative vet that I knew from years and years ago, when she originally went into vet school. With Xander, she said stop all of the steroids and start exercising this poor dog! In a short time, Xander was much better and has not had an emergency room visit since. What a difference doing the right thing makes!
We still fed kibble with fresh and cooked food. I started learning more and more about diets and GMO’s. I wanted to raise my own chickens, and knew that organic non GMO, non pellet food was the only way to go. I found ONE resource near me to buy the feed. It was at this store that I learned the biggest lesson of my life. KIBBLE KILLS. Who knew that finding organic chicken feed would lead me down another rabbit hole! The horrors of kibble rabbit hole. I read books, and watched a very important documentary that really changed my mind. Pet Fooled is a MUST SEE for any dog parent. I immediately changed the dogs diets. Xander took immediately to raw. He LOVED it! I immediately saw a change in him. his coat no longer had that “little dog smell”. He smelled good! Is breath wasn’t stinky! He didn’t have horrific room clearing gas! And his overall energy level soared! I was thrilled! But for Cassie and Coco, the change wasn’t so welcomed. Cassie was the worst. She turned her nose up at raw and wanted her sugar ridden candy in a bowl back! It took a solid 18 months to get them switched entirely. They were seniors set in their ways! Little did we know that the garbage in the kibble had already done it’s job.
Ron and I had a difficult conversation in 2015. We knew our time with the girls was getting short. We discussed what we should do about getting another dog. We knew where we live, we needed a good protector and a fun-loving, active breed. We tossed around several breeds. Then Ron said, I have always been in love with Ridgebacks… I jumped up and said, Oh my goodness! That’s PERFECT! Why didn’t we think of them first?!?!? That was it. The search for a Ridgeback (eventually two) began. Little did I know the journey that would become. I started researching the breed. I went to dog shows to meet reputable breeders and meet their dogs to see what caught my eye. I also wanted an unvaccinated puppy. I decided that going and getting to know people, instead of calling on the phone and asking if they would send home an unvaccinted puppy to a stranger, was a better option. If they met me, they wouldn’t think I was crazy, right? Well…
I went to the internet and started looking at dogs with type that caught my eye. I spoke to one that had a male that really caught my eye. So I gave her a call. That dog had sired a litter that was due in a week! I was excited! She told me I could meet the sire at the show that weekend. I got on her list for a pup. So off I went to the regional Ridgeback Specialty in Greeley, CO. I was met with very friendly people, very willing to talk to me about their dogs. But the breeder I was there to meet, didn’t show up. No one had heard from her and found it odd she didn’t attend, as her male was one of the top dogs. I spoke with a couple of other breeders, and one really went out of her way to answer my questions and welcome me. She too was expecting a litter.
The next day at the show, the second breeder, informed me that the reason the first breeder did not attend the previous day, was because her female went into distress and required an emergency c-section. All puppies had died and the female was spayed. The breeder sent me an email apologizing and said she knew of another nice litter, and if I wanted to be placed on the waiting list, she would recommend me. I accepted. The second breeder suggested I look into her litter, which I did. A few weeks later, it was determined that her litter was a singleton, however, she wanted me to have the puppy! I was so excited. The puppy was born and I quickly fell in love. I had spoken to this breeder about my views, but only scratched the surface. We named the puppy and went for our first visit when she was 6 weeks old. At the visit we spoke more about my views, and she seemed on board. So I asked if she would send the puppy home without vaccinations. She reluctantly said she would consider it. The next day, she sent me an email and announced I was no longer eligible to take the puppy. My heart was absolutely broken. I begged and pleaded, but the answer was NO.
I went back to the internet and looked up natural rearing breeders on the internet. There was one in my state. I contacted her and instead of beating around the bush, I said, I want a naturally reared puppy! She told me all about her litter. It was a huge coincidence that the female was the littermate to the first breeders female and they were both bred to the same male! It was the litter that the first breeder mentioned. I told the third breeder that I was on the waiting list. We started talking about natural rearing and I was so excited to find someone open to it. But then she explained that she co-owned the female with a conventional breeder that was against raw feeding. She had to agree to feed kibble during the pregnancy and raising of the litter. She also demanded vaccination. She said she would work with me on the vaccines. I felt ok with that.
It all sounds like a fairly happy ending, right?
I continued getting updates from the breeder. The female was progressing normally and she had an ultrasound done and approximately nine puppies were counted. Her due date arrived and she went into labor. She started delivering dead, decomposing puppies. She took her in for an emergency c-section, and 4 puppies survived. She had to be spayed. Remember, this is the littermate to the first breeders litter! Coincidence? I don’t think so. I started getting an anxious feeling. Why were Ridgebacks having such fertility problems? The good news was, the breeder said I still was in line for one of the boys.
When the puppies were 4 weeks old, the breeder contacted me and informed that she thought I had been put on a “Do Not Sell To” list from the Colorado Rhodesian Ridgeback Club. The co-owner of her litter contacted her and asked what my last name was, because there was a Kelli on this list. Breeder #2, decided to blackball me! She came up with a lame excuse, that I could no longer have one of her puppies. Needless to say, my heartbreak continued. I almost gave up. Then I found the REAL Natural Rearing website. Natural Rearing Breeders Association. There I found Valor’s breeder. Africali Rhodesian Ridgebacks in Northern California. Not only a NR breeder, but a breeder of the original Ridgebacks. Glenaholm Ridgebacks.
Valor’s arrival was surreal. When he arrived at the airport, I could hardly believe he was real! He was everything I hoped for. Raw fed, no vax.
A few months after Valor’s arrival, Cassie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right shoulder at age 15. Coco was 13 at the time and was always riddled with the sore between her toes, that we thought were due to grass seeds. Nope…vaccine damage. Allergies. Cassie was a trooper for the next 18 months. I believe the raw diet extended her life and slowed the cancer growth, but ultimately, time and age won. She passed away peacefully with her beloved Ron at the age of 17. Pretty unheard of for a German Shorthair. A few weeks before Cassies’ passing, Coco broke her right front leg while on a walk. She was also diagnosed with osteosarcoma. She passed away at 15.
Our joys were bittersweet with loss. The ailments from vaccination and feeding a carbohydrate ridden, over processed, crappy diet were more than evident. The changes we saw in the health of Xander after switching to raw was nothing short of miraculous. I believe once Cassie and Coco were transitioned to raw completely, it also slowed the progression of their cancer and we got more time with them. If only we knew about the diet long before now. But we didn’t know what we didn’t know. I have beat myself up for the many, now obvious mistakes I made with all of my dogs up to this point. I don’t do that anymore. I have promised each and every one that has passed, that I would avenge them. Their legacy would live on through my new and improved practices.
I have taken courses in raw food nutrition and am now certifed. I love counseling people on improving their dogs life through diet and eliminating as many chemicals as possible. I am fully engulfed in studying epigenetics at the moment. I find it fascinating and it’s such a new concept that it is changing and evolving quickly. I am certain it will become mainstream and completely change how we look at heredity. It’s an exciting time for our beloved dogs. Their health has declined with every man made treatment, prevention and convenience driven food item given to them. They have unabashedly allowed us to poison them, injure them and “curse” their future in the name of love. They have no voice. They have no choice.
But they do give us all of the information we need to change things. They suffer. They have allergies, terrible skin conditions, gastrointestinal conditions, heart problems, seizures, behavior changes and diabetes at ever increasing rates. Then theres the “too many to list” cases of autoimmune disorders. And the biggie. CANCER.
If you’ve made it this far, I assume it’s because you are here because the conventional rearing of dogs has let you down. We all share this loss at younger and younger ages. Dogs don’t live very long anymore, and what years they do have, are usually spent suffering on one way or another. The following pages are a labor of love and a snippet into the horrors of kibble and conventional preventatives.
This website is dedicated to all of those who have passed and to the guardians that have seen that there is a better way. WELCOME!