Mercury Rang the Bell

My little baby Mercury is a father! His present for his second birthday was his first co-ed sleep over with that hot red head Mara, and now she’s given birth to six beautiful and healthy border collie puppies.

Oh they grow up so fast, and the sight of his very first breath still plays vividly in stereo when I think of it.  There’s an amazing amount of plot in those first eight weeks, a story unto itself and the first chapters of what’s starting to be a great read.  It’s a different experience raising them from birth versus 8 weeks.

Each of my four dogs has a role, and a corner of my heart, and if I had to sum up Mercury’s part it’d be “Legacy.”  A legacy is a gift you leave to others, the continuation of your work after you’re gone.  But you have to build a legacy, and it has to start somewhere.  Dublin and Celeste are that start, my choices from the pool of others’ art.  Mercury is my art, the product of my breeding choices, and the start of my Border Collie legacy.

So it’s rather exciting to announce that Mercury is a father to 6 beautiful puppies.  The joys of doggy fatherhood consist of making your “contribution” and then letting the mother do all the work, but we’re pretty proud none-the-less.   Like human babies, there’s not a whole lot to talk about right now except which parent the pups resemble (apparently a sea otter mated with a mole-rat if looks are indicative of parentage at this age) and what color they are.

I haven’t had Mercury tested for color genetics, since it’s rather tangential to what I value in the dogs–I don’t breed for color–but it appears that Mercury carries his father’s tri-color allele (guaranteed given that it’s recessive and Dublin is homozygous) as well as the allele for the chocolate coat variant: a surprise.

Mara is rather a mystery as she’s a cryptic merle. Although there’s a separate dilution gene that turns black to blue and chocolate to lilac, the merle gene itself dilutes the coat as well, so black + merle = “blue” merle, even though we could very well call it black merle.

If black + merle = “blue merle,” what do we call blue + merle?  I don’t know the term and suggest that instead of making up yet another word for even-more-diluted-than-blue, we just call black + merle “black merle” and blue + merle “blue merle.”

The best guess on Mara is cryptic merle lilac tricolor, but if we ignore her merle is she a chocolate/red or is she lilac (chocolate+dilute)? Since she’s cryptic, we only have a few dark spots to judge, but they look lilac, not chocolate.  It’s also possible that there’s some sable element to her coat, giving even more complexity.  But since all the dilute puppies are also cryptic merle, it’s likely that Mercury doesn’t carry dilute, as we don’t have any just lilac or just blue puppies: their dilution comes from the merle gene.

The happy group consists of 4 Boys, 2 Girls: 1 blue tricolor cryptic merle, 2 chocolates, 1 chocolate tricolor, and 2 red tricolor cryptic merles.  The breeder calls the last two lilac cryptic merles, but I think the base color is chocolate, not lilac, and the extensive dilution of the merle makes their coats predominantly lighter-than-red.

The cryptic (not highly expressed) merle genes come from the mother, Mara, and are what dilute the black to slate in the blue merle tri, and the chocolate to “lilac” in the two lilac merle puppies. Since I don’t think Mercury carries Dilute, my guess is that whereas Mara is a Chocolate + Dilute + Merle, the two puppies are just Chocolate + Merle.  If they are lilac + merle, then Mercury also carries Dilute.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.