Out of the many services offered at Vale Park Animal Hospital, pet owners may be surprised to learn the facility offers a selection of canine reproductive services. Headed up by Dr. Mary Ann Sheller, the breeding services at Vale Park bring recognition to the region, drawing in breeders from across the country.
Canine reproduction is a particular interest for Sheller and when approached by a client who wanted to stay local and not travel to Purdue every time she needed this service performed, Sheller received specialty training, in order to be able to offer the reproductive services. “It’s very interesting,” she said, “the reproductive cycle in dogs is very different than it is in cats, horses.” Dr. Sheller has continued her education over the years in order to offer the most up to date in reproduction.
“This is not your backyard breeding,” stated Dr. Sheller. Breeding is often shed in a negative light, due to people getting into the business for a “get rich quick” mindset and many vets are not interested in this avenue of canine health. “They get a tainted view of breeders,” Sheller said. None of the breeders Sheller works with at Vale Park fall into this category. “We work with high quality breeders, they’re not money makers, they are breeding dogs for show or for performance work,” she continued. “They pay special attention to their health clearances.”
The breeders have an incredibly connected network. “They all know each other, see each other at schools, communicate online. All the time, I get referrals from them and the business keeps growing,” said Sheller. “I learn from the breeders I work with- it’s a really good relationship.” Dr. Sheller works with several hundred breeders, some coming from up to six hours away.
One of Dr. Sheller’s breeder families is local couple John and Jane Smith.* Having had Labradors as family pets for several years, the couple decided on looking into a performance dog they could show for their next dog. Their show dog ended up having many desirable qualities and the Smith family decided to breed her.
“Our first litter was in 1998,” stated Smith. “The more you do, the more you learn, the more you learn, the more you want to do,” he continued, discussing how they became very involved in the breeding world, forming friendships and making connections.
After seeing an article in Dog Fancy magazine on Dr. Sheller, the Smiths brought their dogs in for heartworm treatments at Vale Park. When a new litter produced puppy strangles, an infection, in two of the pups, “all of a sudden we realized the greatness of having a repro vet right down the road. Dr. Sheller fixed them immediately and we were hooked.”
The Smiths have gradually moved away from breeding litters to the stud dog side of the business, utilizing Vale Park’s services to collect the specimen for shipping. “Another reason we love Dr. Sheller is reputation is everything in breeders and when you have a certified vet that collects your boy and examines it under the microscope and certifies it, you eliminate any issues of people trying to say they were sent dead semen,” Smith continued. The couple has shipped to clients around the world, even as far away as Australia.
“A cool part of breeding that is not available to most veterinarians and clients is the ability to ship semen,” Dr. Sheller stated. Through special extender solutions and chilling capabilities, specimens can be sent across the country to inseminate a dog the next day. For overseas situations, the specimen is frozen in liquid nitrogen and shipped in thermos-like containers. “It’s very delicate but a very cool way to improve genetics. You can get parents from far distances that would be impossible under normal circumstances.”
The Smiths credit their success in the breeding world to Dr. Sheller and the services offered at Vale Park. “I don’t think we would be doing this as much if she wasn’t 15 minutes away,” Smith stated. “She’s so accommodating. No, seriously!”
“Part of being a good, responsible breeder is taking care of your dogs,” Smith continued. “Spaying a retired dog is a big thing and Dr. Sheller offers a laparoscopic procedure which has made spaying as simple as going for a littler procedure.” The healing time is greatly reduced, allowing the dog to get back to her normal activities sooner.
“For the general public that’s not interested in breeding, this is a great clinic to bring your dogs to.”
*Names changed by request