Monday, May 27, 2024

Before you can swim, you have to get your paws wet!

 (Sharing one of our most popular posts from 2012 because….baby Scarlett!)

If you have ever read Albert Payson Terhune's books, about his Sunnybank collies, you know that HIS collies seemed to enjoy swimming. The Place was comprised of 40 acres, and located on a fire-blue lake. The house was Victorian, with wide porches, covered with Wisteria. The collies would romp and play across the lawns, through the woods, and they would swim in the lake. Now I believed this meant collies enjoyed swimming. But I have discovered that this isn't actually true. Some collies may enjoy plunging into a lake or ocean, they may enjoy the feel of the water as they paddle with all four paws through the cool depths. But most do not like swimming at all. I had a golden retriever, Chloe, who loved the water. She would never turn down an opportunity to jump in for a swim...collies, not so much. 

Maybe Terhune's collies enjoyed swimming because back in the 1920's and 30's they didn't have a little something called air conditioning. So the only way for a collie to cool off during the hot summer months was to jump in a lake. But collies have now become spoiled...

 Me: "Hey Abby, want to go down to the beach and go for a swim?" 
Abby: "No thanks, I'm just going to lay here on the couch, in front of this air conditioner, and nap. Can you put a Lassie movie on for me? Oh, and could you get me a Frosty Paws while you are up? Thanks-bye" 

Still, I think all dogs should be introduced to the concept of swimming. (Who knows, I might yet discover a collie who actually loves to swim!) Since we are working on socializing Scarlett, by introducing her to new people, places and things, it seemed like as good a time as any to take her to the beach. We invited Holly along, but not because we thought Holly might encourage Scarlett to swim, Holly has no interest in swimming. It was just her turn to go for a ride in the car. 

My daughter, Scarlett and Holly had fun, running and playing in the sand. 

And Scarlett graciously agreed to pose for some pictures. 

But then it was time for swimming. And her natural instincts had her paddling immediately…straight for shore. She proved she can swim, but will she every view it as something enjoyable? I don't think so...I think she'd rather chase sheep - on nice solid ground! Guess we can't all be swimmers! 

Friday, May 24, 2024

What does a pedigree tell you?

Social media is fast becoming a preferred method of communication for many.  It’s a quick and efficient way to announce show wins, new titles earned and litters recently produced.  Depending on the proficiency of the individual, online research can provide a wealth of information.  While it is a helpful source, the internet does not tell the entire story of a collie’s history.  Reviewing a collie’s pedigree can show not only a list of impressive names in the the collie’s lineage, but it paints a picture of the temperament and soundness of that family of  dogs by listing all the titles they have earned over the years.

Sophie, Marchello’s Heaven Sent, THDA, CGC, FDC, TKN, RATN, VC, proudly posing after earning her RATN title

What is the first thing we can learn from a pedigree? Each dog’s pedigree contains the kennel name of the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.  The pedigree also shows the dog’s registration number, official name and date of birth.  And if you have the names of those three generations, you can typically find the pedigrees of most of your dog’s ancestors and the titles they earned as well.  For example, with collies, this detailed information will show if there were many collies with herding titles, along with championships earned in conformation, in their ancestry.  

The titles that have been earned show that the dog conforms to the breed standard, a standard that was carefully developed for that purebred dog breed.  It also shows that the animal is potentially able to compete in a variety of competitions, and if they are still able to do the tasks they were originally bred to perform.  These titles listed in the pedigree are all abbreviated, and there are hundreds of them.  Most of the titles start with the novice, or beginner title, and the dogs can earn additional titles by advancing through more difficult tests. The most common type of titles that collies are earning are:

  • CH - Conformation Champion
  • GCH - Grand Champion
  • CGC - Canine Good Citizen
  • BN - Beginner Novice (obedience)
  • RN - Rally Novice
  • NA - Novice Agility
  • RATN - Novice Barn Hunt
  • HT - Herding Tested
  • SWN - Scent Work Novice
  • THDN - Therapy Dog Novice
  • TKN - Trick Dog Novice
  • ROM - Register of Merit  (earned when a Sire produces 20 Champion offspring or when a Dam produces 7 Champion offspring)
Ryder, posing after earning his THDX, Therapy Dog Excellent title

If you are interested in obtaining a purebred dog, the pedigree can provide a host of key details about that family of dogs.  The pedigree, along with breed specific health clearances, can help you choose a healthy dog with a great temperament for your next companion.  And for those who love researching the history of dog breeds, the pedigree is a great place to begin.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Vulnerable dog breeds…at risk of disappearing!

 Heritage or preservation breeders fulfill a vital role.  Often judged harshly by those passionate about rescue, they are vilified for producing puppies while so many animals languish in shelters.  What is often misunderstood, is that a reputable breeder is not at fault for the pet overpopulation that results in the many homeless dogs and cats filling the rescues and animal shelters.  A truly reputable breeder cares about dogs and cats, and they stand by the animals they produce.  They are always willing to take back those animals, at any age, to keep them out of the shelters and rescues.  Most of the collie breeders that I know, will work with rescues, and they are the first to donate money, supplies and their time when a crisis occurs.  It’s the unplanned litters, accidentally produced by a dog or cat that was not spayed or neutered, or the pet shop puppy that is no longer wanted once it starts to grow up, or even the abandoned street dogs and cats, that make up the majority of the animals in our shelters.  

Pictured is a European smooth collie, only 45 smooths were registered in the UK last year.

All shelter and rescue animals deserve a home, that’s not up for debate.  But an individual, or family, choosing to buy a puppy or an adult dog from a preservation breeder should not be held in contempt for that choice.  There are a host of reasons for deciding to get your next puppy (or kitten) from a breeder.  The first, may be the desire to get a dog that was produced by fully health-tested parents, to reduce the risk of your dog developing a preventable disease or illness in the future.  The second could be the desire to get a dog that was purposefully bred to be able to perform a specific task, such as retrieving, herding, livestock guardianship, search and rescue, guide dogs or service dogs.  Another reason might be the love of a specific dog breed, such as my love of the collie.  There are countless reasons to get a puppy from a reputable breeder, and none of them are wrong.  And if you choose to adopt from a shelter or rescue, that is wonderful, you are saving that dog or cat’s life, and filling your home with love.  Everyone has to decide what is best for their individual needs.

Foxhound, image from Petfinder. Only 1 Foxhound was registered in the UK last year!

Being a preservation or heritage breeder means that the breeder is producing dogs in an effort to protect, maintain and improve a particular dog breed, based of the breed’s original purpose.  These are individuals who are passionate about that specific breed, they strive to maintain the standard created for that dog, while carefully producing healthy, well-socialized puppies.  Why is this necessary? Because without them, we are at risk of losing some beautiful, intelligent and loyal dog breeds.  Every year in the U.K. they release a list of “Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds.”  The list is comprised of dog breeds, of British or Irish origin, that are considered to be at risk of disappearing because of declining registration numbers in the U.K.  These are dog breeds with fewer than 300 registrations per year.  The reason for the decline may be that they are not well known, so they are overlooked when people are considering their next dog.  For others, who were once a popular breed, they are not considered to be currently fashionable, like the French Bulldog or Labrador.

The Greyhound, image from Wikipedia.  Only 35 Greyhounds were registered in the UK in 2023

For whatever the reason, with less demand for these specific breeds, fewer and fewer puppies are being bred and sold each year, and they are becoming unrecognizable by the general public.  These dog breeds are wonderful companions with a rich history, developed over centuries of careful breeding by dedicated preservation breeders.  While some dogs on the Vulnerable breeds list are more popular in other countries, the low numbers in the U.K., where they were originally developed, is very concerning.

The Harrier, slightly smaller than the Foxhound, there were 0 Harriers registered in the UK in 2023!

Hopefully, through the hard work of their preservation breeders, these dog breeds can be saved.  If you want to learn more, please research these wonderful dog breeds, and reach out to your local breed clubs.

The Irish Red and White Setter, only 46 were registered in the UK last year. (Image from Wikipedia)

I know this a hot topic for people, and it’s not my intention to start arguments with this post.  Please understand the intent of this post is to help bring attention to the efforts being made to preserve these vulnerable dog breeds before they are lost.

The Otterhound, image from Vetstreet.  Only 18 Otterhounds were registered in 2023.

There were only 36 Skye Terriers registered in the UK in 2023

Want to see the complete list of Vulnerable dog breeds?  Please click here!

Sussex Spaniel, only 27 were registered last year. (Image from Showsite Magazine)

Thursday, May 16, 2024

I wasn’t ready…

 We lost our Kori yesterday.  Even though we knew it was coming, my daughter and I still weren’t prepared.  The sight of her empty bowl, when I was preparing the collie’s dinner last night, just wrecked me.  Kori and Ryder always ate their dinner side by side, and now he stands alone, none of the other collies are willing to eat in “ her spot.”  I’m feeling her loss so deeply, and already miss my Sunshine girl so much.  The collies are all sticking close by me, to try and help, but I know they miss her too.  She was the 6th dog I’ve lost during my adult life, and it never gets any easier. 

Love you my beautiful Kori Beanie, 8/30/11 - 5/15/24

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Collie Chuckles

 Since the collie is such a fun loving breed, I thought we would share some collie humor today!

This collie comic is from Existential Comics

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Dog show updates!

 Two new collie puppies joined our family last year, and currently live with my daughter.  Rosie, a sable and white rough puppy, and ZuZu, a smooth tri color puppy.  They both turned a year old this past December, and we finally started entering them in dog shows.  We delayed entering them for a couple reasons, the first being that they were too young.  Then when they were old enough, the scary dog virus was making the rounds, so we decided to wait until the dog shows were being held outside, as the virus was respiratory in nature.  The third reason, is that my daughter does most of the handling at dog shows, I’m just the back up, and she was busy giving me my first granddaughter!  My 3rd grandbaby was born in February, and her name is Merryn, and she is absolutely beautiful!  So now that she has arrived, we are back to entering dog shows, and have some exciting news to share.

Last month, in April, we entered four collie specialties, being held on the same weekend.  It was Rosie and ZuZu’s first shows, and they did such a great job.  My daughter gets all the credit, as she did an amazing job training them for the show ring.  Out of the four shows, ZuZu won Reserve Winner’s Bitch twice, and Winner’s Bitch once, giving her the first points towards her championship!  Rosie looked beautiful, and showed like a dream, but was somehow overlooked during the shows.  I’m still very proud of her, and so was her breeder, who was also at the show.  

We are entering quite a number of shows in the upcoming months.  Please wish us luck!

Friday, May 10, 2024

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


Probably the most well-known dog show in the United States is Westminster.  I grew up watching this dog show every year on TV, and I was fascinated by the glamour of it all.  What I didn't know, and didn't discover until many years later, is that what you see on TV is a very small part of that show.  Behind the scenes are the breed rings, where champions of every breed compete for Best of Breed and the chance to compete in the Group ring.  Also behind the scenes are thousands of spectators wandering around, trying to pet the dogs entered in the show.  Westminster is a benched dog show, which means unless you are in the breed ring competing, your dog has to be on display in his or her benching area.  

Westminster 1877

Westminster 1927

The benching area is a very small cubicle, where the dog is kept throughout the day.  The dogs are not permitted to leave the show until the end of the day, not even to go outside.  They have x-pens set up, with shavings, for the dogs to relieve themselves.  And the people who attend the show as spectators are everywhere.  Thousands and thousands of people, so many people that it is difficult to even walk from one area to another.  So many people, including animal rights groups, that the owners of the dogs fear to leave their dogs unattended for even one second.  At Westminster you can actually hire a guard for your dog.  And all of this is hard on the dogs, it's a very hot, very loud and very long day.

(photographer unknown)

But it is the premier dog show in our country, and an invitation for your dog to attend is a coveted honor.  We have entered Westminster twice, and I am not sure I would do it again without more help to watch over our dogs.  So why would people enter their dogs in this show if it is so stressful?  Because to win Best In Show at Westminster is considered the "greatest honor in Dogdom."

My daughter, showing our collie, Holly, at Westminster.

In all the years since the Westminster dog show first began, a collie has only won Best In Show once.  The collie's name was Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven.  He won Best in Show at Westminster in 1929, and he was only 9 months old at the time.  Loyalty was imported by Mrs. Ilch of Belhaven Collies, a very well-known kennel of that time.  He was bred by R.F. Roberts of Ashtead Collies in England.  He was sired by Lucas of Ashtead out of Jean of Ashtead.  In his pedigree were multiple crosses to CH Magnet, from whom my own line of collies also descends.  

Westminster was Loyalty's first show in the United States.  Loyalty was handled by the Bellhaven kennel manager, Mike Kennedy.  He competed against 125 collies, and won Winners Dog and Best Collie.  Back in 1929, the collie was still part of the Working Group, and it was highly unusual for a collie to win this Group.  Best In Show at Westminster was usually judged by men who preferred terriers, so terriers had won the show for many years.  But in 1929, the Best In Show judge was Dr Carlton Ford, a collie judge!  

Dr. Burrows, a columnist at the time, wrote a description of Loyalty for Dog Fancier Magazine.  He described Loyalty as "he is in full bloom, full of life, and has a sweet expression, carries a wealth of coat, good head and ears, is sound all over, and a good mover."  Mike Kennedy wrote about the experience, "I knew I was in the running for the cheers of the people told me that.  I showed him on a long lead, and that is the way you have to show a collie.  There is no posing or holding your collie's tail.  What there was to see of Mrs. Ilch's collie, everyone could see and that is why I am the proudest kennelman in the world today!  Loyalty was shown with a free hand - a long lead.  His tail and chin hadn't to be held.  The puppy won on his own merits."

What is heartbreaking, is that this was Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven's only American show.  He retired after Westminster, and never finished his championship.  He retired amid threats to his life and rumors that acid had been thrown into his eyes.  Mrs. Ilch wrote a letter on September 3, 1974 about Loyalty.  "He was as near perfection as any collie could be and to think that after his great win, he was blinded, never to be shown again.  Someday I will hunt up a clipping of the dreadful death of the jealous fiend who did it - a person who from my first success, tried in every possible way to drive me out of collies."  No one knows the true story of what happened, or the name of the "fiend" who blinded the beautiful puppy, if that is what actually happened.

Loyalty was not used much as a stud dog, which I think is a terrible loss.  Laund Loyalty sired only one champion, a dog who played an important role in founding the Tokalon family of collies.  His son, CH Bellhaven Loyalty II, sired Tokalon Loyalson. (CH Bellhaven Loyalty II x Phyllis of Beechtree) Tokalon Loyalson is behind almost all the Tokalon collies.  Even though Laund Loyalty never became a champion, he will always be remembered because of his famous win, Best In Show at Westminster.

Holly, on the train ride home from Westminster.

We are sharing this post, from May 2012, as the Westminster show begins tomorrow.  Good luck to all the participants….but especially the collies!  Maybe 2024 will be the year a collie wins Best In Show at this prestigious dog show once again!