LIKE COUNTLESS OTHER COUPLES, Sadie and Caper were having sexual problems. She, older and more worldly, was trying to be patient and encouraging. He, on the other hand, seemed stressed and withdrawn. Both were feeling pressure to conceive.
Even with the dogged determination one might expect of golden retrievers, Sadie and Caper were getting nowhere, sexually speaking, until their owners turned to Bob Herd, founder of Herd's Merchant Semen and one of the country's most unique animal-mating specialists. Herd, 50, personally handles approximately 1,300 natural breedings a year, many of them involving sexually dysfunctional and high-strung show dogs. "Dogs are being brought up in artificial environments today," explains Herd. "They are untrained in how to do the proper things, like sniff. Maybe the owner caught the dog humping a pillow and kicked him in the butt. Then he wonders why the dog never tried the real thing. Not only do I have to educate the dog to do what's natural, sometimes I end up educating the owner too."
Herd's therapy sessions ($25 per half hour) are held in the living room turned office of his small frame house in Elgin, Ill. With no formal training in animal husbandry or veterinary medicine, Herd, who is unmarried, calls on skills he learned while growing up on farms outside Toronto and later refined in kennels and animal hospitals. "Bob does stuff veterinarians won't do," says Woodstock, Ill., terrier breeder Cindy Chritos. "He'll help you breed your dogs naturally. And the more naturally things occur, the higher the conception rate."
Herd's technique involves first observing his patients to determine whether their problems are physical or emotional. Sometimes, he says, an animal needs only encouragement to do what ought to come naturally. At other times, Herd is forced to be more, well, hands on. Few cases, he says, are completely hopeless. Take Caper, for example. In September he became the father of 10.
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