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Miss July 2020 - Paige
Motherhood just isn't for everyone

tarting a family isn’t always easy. Maybe less so if one of the parents is geographically (or corporeally) unavailable. But that hasn’t stopped Paige and her humans – Keith and Marianne Bruno – from trying.

Paige is an Anatolian Shepherd, 120 pounds of gentle giant. She keeps watch over the Bruno family and Endurance Seafood. The Brunos have tried to get Paige in a family way, but it hasn’t taken. Paige remains unbothered by it all, content to roam the fish house grounds and keep the Bruno family company.

For her patience, perseverance, and continued good nature about the whole thing, TownDock.net names Paige Miss July 2020, Pet of the Month.

Paige, July Pet of the Month
Paige on the docks of Endurance Seafood.

Paige is an Anatolian Shepherd, a guardian/working breed originating in Turkey. “This is 5,000 years of breeding,” Keith said.

“In Turkey they turn the dogs out with the goats for months. No human interaction; the dog stays with the goats. A few months later, the shepherd goes back up on the hill to look for the goats – the dog is right there. It’s fed itself: it’s killed rabbits and squirrels. And not one sheep or goat has been killed by a wolf or coyote. The dog is incredible.”

But Paige isn’t that stripe of Anatolian. “Paige is just very mellow, very easy going,” Keith said. “If she was born in Turkey they would have probably shot her; she’s not an ultimate guard dog.”

Paige, July Pet of the Month
Unlike her ancestors, Paige takes a more laid-back approach to guarding her home, content to let the Bruno’s other dogs keep watch.
Paige, July Pet of the Month
A bit of prolonged eye contact.

TownDock first visited Paige and the Brunos in July 2018. Then, there had been a hope for several puppy-sized pets of the month. But Paige’s first attempted pregnancy was a swing and a miss.

Attempt is the correct word here; this liaison was no chance encounter. Paige, known in the show circuit as ‘Full Circle’s Enduring Spirit,’ is a champion show dog from a litter of champion show dogs. The sire of her litter was not going to be just any Anatolian, but one of breeding and good bloodlines.

Paige, July Pet of the Month
Paige and her ribbons in Myrtle Beach in 2016. Today, she’s only a few points away from being a Grand Champion.

Their chosen suitor was Briarpatch Full Circle’s Grumpy, an Anatolian Shepherd male living in Florida. Despite the distance, neither potential parent had to leave their state to seal the deal.

How did Paige and her beau accomplish this feat of socially distant insemination? With the help of two ladies calling themselves the ‘Sperm Girls’.

Paige, July Pet of the Month
Paige as a very large pup.

The Sperm Girls run Infinity Canine in Sanford, NC. There they store – and sometimes collect – the doggy donations. Each batch of potential puppies is split in two and placed into a straw. Really. The two straws are stored in separate freezers (in case one fails) until a suitable recipient is found.

Keith describes the collection process as “not for a family audience.” This might be time to get your earbuds. Or just be brave – click play below and hear Keith describe being a witness to the process:

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Why do they go to such trouble? Each straw of pedigree semen costs $1,000. Plus the bill for veterinary services.

In 2018, Paige was a recipient of such a straw. While the potential sire’s part of the process may take minutes in a vet’s office, Paige’s was a little more involved. Where canine instincts and a few overnight visits might normally guide the operation, the Brunos chose to have Paige artificially inseminated.

Paige, July Pet of the Month
Paige with her family, Marianne and Keith.

She wasn’t the first dog they’d taken to the vet for that purpose. The Brunos tried the procedure with one of their earlier Anatolian Shepherds, Konya. The plan was to have the vet take from the sire and immediately implant via surgery at the vet’s office. But the dogs met in the waiting room before the appointment and nature took over. “She was brutal and wanted to bite his face off,” Keith said. “We bred [Konya] twice. She was no nicer to the donor the second time. They are the only two litters we have had.”

The artificial route is a gentler procedure for both parties. Dr. Sherri Hicks did blood tests for Paige to determine her progesterone levels. When her hormone levels reached a certain level, the Brunos drove Paige to a vet in Lumberton. They had a small window of opportunity – about 12 hours – to attempt the procedure.

Paige, July Pet of the Month
Paige just relaxing, or contemplating life’s complexities?

The Lumberton vet specialized in the artificial insemination procedure with an 85% success rate.

Unfortunately, Paige’s pregnancy fell into the unsuccessful 15%.

Keith and his wife, Marianne, resolved to try again that year. Had it been successful, it would have resulted in a December litter. Then Hurricane Florence struck in September 2018 and rescheduled everyone’s plans.

Paige, July Pet of the Month
Paige sleeps by Marianne’s side of the bed. Keith said, “Ain’t nothing coming between that dog and Marianne.”

The second attempt didn’t happen until this past May. A new donor was chosen: Full Circle’s Sayfayi Cevirmek. This donor had succumbed to a rattlesnake bite years before and had not lived long enough to sire a litter, but the Sperm Girls housed two straws with his donation. Best of all, SciFi (as he was called) was Konya’s littermate. His contribution could be the one to produce puppies that had a mix of Konya’s guardian temperment with Paige’s gentle nature.

The Brunos worked to make sure this pregnancy would the be the one. They “dotted every ‘I’, crossed every ‘t’, did every blood test we were supposed to,” Keith said. “On paper, this was going to be an awesome breeding.”

Paige, July Pet of the Month
Keith gets some side-eye from Paige during one of his more interesting stories.

Paige had blood draws every other day until her progesterone levels were again in range. Then it was blood tests every day. When the time seemed right, Paige was once again carted off to receive her suitor’s thawed donation. “We had a trans cervical implant done,” said Keith, “but at the beginning of June we discovered it didn’t work.” 

It was the last attempt for Paige. She’ll be seven this coming winter. Though Anatolian Shepherds are a long-lived breed at 12-15 years, they have large litters. Even with experienced dogs that have had several litters, the age cutoff is around 6. Keith and Marianne are afraid the stress of the pregnancy will be too much.

Keith had hoped for a glimmer of Konya in Paige’s litter. “I loved my Konya. She was so protective and so insanely smart. To be able to try and get some of that back – I was very excited about using SciFi to breed to Paige,” he said. “All the rest of it aside, that’s the hardest part about not having this breeding – we used two straws of semen from SciFi and that will never be recovered.” The two straws used on Paige’s pregnancy were the sum total of SciFi’s donations before his death. “That’s it. It’s gone. We’ll never ever be able to make that [dog] again.”

Paige, July Pet of the Month
Marianne and Paige.

Marianne is consoled by Paige, despite her lack of puppies. “She is the perfect dog for me.”

Though not much of a guardian – she leaves that to the Bruno’s German Shepherd – Paige is a faithful companion. She sleeps on the floor by Marianne’s side of the bed, but eschews more familiar dog activities. “We tossed a ball one time for her to fetch,” Keith said. “She looked at us like, ‘What the hell did you do that for? Now you got to go get it. I’m not chasing after it.’”

For playing against her Anatolian type and her ability to accept whatever happens, Paige is Miss July, TownDock’s July Pet of the Month.

Celebrity most resembles: Julia Roberts
Paige, July Pet of the Month
Likes: Marianne Bruno
Dislikes: Fetch
Known for: Playing against type
Not So Secret Ambition: To become a Grand Champion
Words to Live By: Get your own damn ball

photos and story by Allison DeWeese and Ben Casey

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Know a pet that is a standout? Send in some details and a photo to info@towndock.net. Tell why that pet deserves the coveted TownDock.net Pet of the Month Prize Package --- accolades, a pat on the head (snakes excluded) and a box of Milk Bones ( or snack suitable for the species).

We regret that we cannot offer a college scholarship to Pet Of The Month winners.

Animals caught near the HarborCam attempting to suck up to the judges will be disqualified.