I grew up with German Shepherds and I guess my love of herding breeds started there. In the early years of my marriage, a small dog made sense because of our constant moving due to my husband's job. Along came a Maltese!
Always used to the biddable GSD, I couldn't seem to get through to the Maltese. Off to training classes we went and in less than three years I had competed with him in obedience trials earning the U.D. title for Utility dog, the highest level of obedience competition at the time. "Macho Mio UD", was only the 3rd in the history of his breed to achieve this title. I ended up teaching advanced obedience training and handling at that school for fourteen years. I earned a certificate from the nations one and only college credit program ever offered for dog obedience instructors .
During exhibiting this Maltese in show coat, he'd often get mistaken for another breed because he was about eight lbs. too large for his breed. I made up my mind that my next dog would look like the breed it was supposed to look like. While I was searching for a compatible breed, I entered the training building one night and I saw this stunning large black dog. He looked very alert and wolf-like. He was a "natural" looking dog, not exaggerated; no cropped ears or docked tail, natural coat pattern and that appealed to me. After some investigating, I decided this was the type of breed for me.
When I started my search, the Belgian Tervueren appealed to me, but I had difficulty finding one and this was way before the internet. The few people I met told me you couldn't tell A Terv's color until he was an adult. I preferred the deep red Mahogony color and was leery about how to obtain it. So instead I ended up with the Black Belgian Sheepdog, or "Groenendael". Although I had two litters which had Tervuren in them, it wasn't until the end of my career that I finally purchased my first Tervuren who, by the way isn't Mahogony!
My quest brought me to High Mount Kennel where I purchased my first Groenendael, "Nitro". He became "BIS, BISS, Ch. High Mount's Coup de Grace, CD, HOF. Someone once asked me if I knew he would become High Mount's greatest winning dog when I picked him. Considering that I much later found out his breeder considered him to be the "least likely to succeed" male from five males in his litter, I guess he was pretty remarkable. But in truth, I was too naive to believe otherwise. After all, I thought he was the pick, his parents were Champions, the world was his for the takng. Sometimes you get lucky! Unfortunately, after siring only two litters (not mine) he became sterile.
I had no interest in breeding but wanted a second Belgian. She was Ch. High Moun'ts Quianna that I co-owned with her breeder. It was not long before I realized she really wasn't a very good representative of the breed. She had an inorrect head, was long and was shy. So after I fulfilled my co-ownership obligations, she was neutered and lived a long life.
I searched for a while and ended up co-owning a first cousin to Nitro called "Charis" from Marc Hessel. She became Ch. Endymion's Charisma, CD, ROM. She was a Ch. by ten months of age defeating top Ch's ending with a Specialty BOS over Specials under a breeder judge. After completing my contract with her co-owner, she became the base of my maternal line. She was the dam of our most famous male, "3 X National BISS Ch. Rolin Ridge's Fourteen Karat CGC, HIC, CD, HOF, ROM and was the grand-dam of our most famous female, Nat'l Spec. BIS, BiSS, Ch. Rolin Ridge's Cameo, CD, CGC, HOF, ROM, who in turn produced Multiple BIS and National BISS Ch. Charma's Sarah Lee, HOF and one of the top winning females of this time, Multiple BIS,and National BISS Ch. Rolin Ridge's Quinlan, CD, CGC, PT, HOF..
My first love was showing. I always handled my own dogs. I enjoyed the preparation for the ring, the scene, the excitement, the friends and acquaintances, and the competition. I never minded losing to an equal or better dog. I had a lot of success with my dogs. But, it wasn't easy. I stubbornly stood in the working group (before it was split into working and herding) for many years and sometimes made a cut and rarer, a placement. If my dog won Best of Breed, he went to group. And I won often, because I had the only Belgian Sheepdog this far South! What worked for me was learning how to groom, attending classes, staying and watching other breeds and groups, reading and studying all to do with the subject, video taping my dogs to see where I could improve and looking honestly at my dog's faults and virtues. A wonderful, understanding and supportive husband was a key ingredient. Lastly, I would love to convince others that a wealth of knowledge is available at your breed's National
Specialty. I've attended every national but one since 1978 and I'm still learning about this wonderful breed.
In 2012 I decided to retire from breeding. We had two older dogs,, and a middle aged one but I still wanted one more puppy. I started a search and ended up purchasing our first Belgian Tervuren.
I never set out to be a breeder. I started due to agreements with co-owners. I hated the birthing process. I just feared all the possibilities of all the complications. On the other hand, my husband, Bob, found it exciting and fascinating; so he was always the midwife and I assisted. I loved working with the puppies. I hated letting them go and trying to find good homes. Long-term breeders can encounter many pitfalls. Like them, we encountered genetic issues. Dogs are living beings and as such, subject to disease and carry genetic faults as does every living entity alive. I believe we never introduced any "new" problems to the breed and I did my best to avoid them and to improve on each succeeding generation. Most of the time there was success; sometimes, not. There were so many highs but there were also the heartbreaks in breeding and I quit at least four times.
99% of our dogs were handled by their owners and the majority were first time handlers. I'm proud to say I only ever lost two puppies and only four dogs were ever returned to Rolin Ridge. When I started breeding Belgians, we only kept records required by AKC which were minimal. I never even kept records on my Champion's wins, breed points and group points. Hard to believe in this day and age, I know, but taking Best of Breed was THE important win; not so today. I am also proud to say that during my "career", I was a recipiant of a "Dog Writers Association of America" award and also the recipiant of the "Gaines Medal of Good Sportsmanship medallion.
My feelings about breeding are captured here by an anonymous author: "A breeder's success should not be measured by the amount of winning their dogs have done in the show ring but by the number of dogs that stayed with the family that purchased them as a puppy and that died in the arms of that same family 15 years later. In that case, we have had three winners, the breeder, the family and most importantly, the dog." Regrets? A few...... I wish I had started in dogs when I was much younger, I wish dogs never trumped friendships. I wish I had been at times a better judge of character with some people I worked with; I wish I could have avoided some of the breeding pitfalls. Being human and subject to the human condition, I'm sure I made some bad decisions and mistakes. Nevertheless, I do believe I did my best.. . Today, I'm judging occasionally, still going to occasional dog shows and would love a new puppy.............