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Canine Cancer Victim's Family Legacy Lives On
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Four bundles of energy are the legacy of a cherished Great Dane who lost a battle with cancer this year.
Barksdale's owner, Dick Tinsley of Lauderdale, started looking for a mate for his 8-year-old companion after the local veterinarian diagnosed late-stage cancer in 1997. As time was running out, his hopes turned to sperm donation and artificial insemination options at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
"I wanted to preserve Barksdale's good bloodline, and I had a friend in Texas who wanted puppies from her female Great Dane," Tensley said. "It seemed like a good match."
Dr. Chuck Estill, associate professor at MSU's veterinary college, supervised the handling of both animals throughout the process. He and another faculty member collected semen from Barksdale about a month before he died last spring. Under Estill's supervision, MSU veterinary students surgically implanted the semen in the female months later.
"This was our first opportunity to have control of both the male and female dogs in an artificial breeding situation, involving frozen/thawed semen," Estill said. "It was also the first time to have a healthy female and a male without a history of infertility."
Estill said artificial breeding programs for dogs are not as easy as efforts in other animals such as cattle, where artificial insemination is widely practiced.
"When you collect from a bull, you will have enough semen for several hundred breedings compared to just a few from a male dog. Also, because cows are in heat every 21 days, you have more chances to breed than for dogs who are in heat only twice a year," Estill said. "Quality semen and timing is everything. That's what made us successful."
Estill said frozen semen from a quality animal is like an insurance policy in the event of a sudden accident or illness. In the case of the late Great Dane, Barksdale, Estill said they have enough semen for two more breedings.
Tinsley said he also plans to have semen from Barksdale's puppy frozen for the future.
"I was confident the procedure would be successful. It wasn't that expensive when you consider the cost of a show-quality dog," Tinsley said.
Shane Wilkerson, a third-year veterinary student, was the lead student who performed the surgical procedure. Wilkerson said he plans to work in a small animal clinic and assist animals with breeding problems.
"The operation is a surgical procedure similar to spaying a female dog. The approach was the same," Wilkerson said.
Estill said the number of artificial breeding cases will likely increase in the future as owners turn to this method to preserve the genetic line of a valued pet.
Contact: Dr. Charles Estill, (601) 325-3432