- Associated Press - Saturday, June 28, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Romping, clumsily rolling down slight inclines in the garden, playfully batting at each other and, inevitably, making some messes, half a dozen downy-furred puppies enjoy the overcast afternoon.

Ann Boochever grins as she plays a game of dog nuisance whac-a-mole or tries to keep the pups from exploring too deep under a currant bush.

The six rare Stabyhoun puppies were welcomed to the world on May 15, born to Boochever and Scott Miller’s Dutch-born Stabyhoun ZZ.

These pups joined North America’s small population of about 250 Stabyhouns in the U.S. and Canada. Two of the pups are the first Stabyhouns with brown and white coats born in North America. Typically, they share ZZ’s black and white coloring.

Most month-old puppies wouldn’t have much of a story to share (if they could talk), but this litter has some interesting origins. When Boochever and Miller decided to breed ZZ, they had to go to great lengths. Frozen semen from stud Tys in the Netherlands was shipped to the U.S., stored in a facility in Ohio, then transported to Portland, Ore., where ZZ was inseminated by a vet specializing in fertilization.

Boochever said she’s unlikely to breed ZZ again, despite the rareness of the breed and their desirable traits, not to mention how adorable the puppies are.

In April a vet had confirmed at least three heartbeats, expecting there would be more. Six were born, five in good health.

“I wish I could say that everything was great,” Boochever said. “We have five healthy puppies and one we call River, that the vet thinks has a liver shunt. She is still not doing well and we aren’t sure if she will make it.”

She said they don’t know for sure what is stunting River’s development and said the vet wants to wait until she’s a little older before they do tests.

“She has a lot of spirit even though she’s really little,” Boochever said of the tiniest pup.

River is improving with all the care being provided, which includes frequent tube feeding. She doesn’t have the strength yet to eat, though she’ll still play with her siblings.

“(River) requires around-the-clock care, so we are pretty exhausted,” Boochever said.

Though River requires the most attention, taking care of even the healthiest of puppies is a lot of work, and Boochever’s really had her hands full lately. She unveiled a new book the day after the puppies were born.

“Having puppies and a new book at the same time was really a challenge,” she said.

They have a pen set up in their home with three distinct areas. Boochever said they are trying to train them to sleep and play in one part, eat in another part and take care of business in the third area. The pups are getting there.

They are also in the process of being weaned, though they still nurse on ZZ when they can, at least until she tires of the process. They now mostly feed on a gruel of puppy food and formula four or five times a day.

Neighborhood kids have been helping with the socialization of the pups, Boochever said.

“They’re almost as adorable as the puppies,” she added.

The puppies will be well-prepared for when they are ready to go to their new homes - except River, who will stay with Boochever and Miller.

River will stay in Juneau, three will go to the Seattle area, one to Fairbanks and one to Ferney, B.C.

They all have names now: River, Holland (or Holly), Juneau, Mirakel, Taupata and Pim. The future owners named them based on photos they received.

They’ll likely go to their new homes at about eight weeks old.

“It has been a lot of work,” Boochever said. “But when you pick them up they are so soft and cuddly that you kind of forget about all the work.”

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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