To win a National Specialty is a breeder's dream. To win a National Specialty is a handler's dream. To win a National Specialty is an owner's dream. Basically, the way I see it, Best of Breed at the National Specialty is the ultimate win. It is better than any win, anywhere, anytime. It is your dog as last dog standing against his/her peers.
I have won 11 National Specialties. I realize, a pretty hefty record. It is a record I am exceedingly proud of. Some of those wins were under judges from the Pantheon of judge greats-Mrs James Edward Clark, Jane Forsyth, John Connally, James Reynolds, Thomas Mayfield, Denny Kodner, Edeltraud Laurin, John Studebaker. People I would be proud to have any win under.
This National Specialty was in Denver Colorado. It was accompanied by two Regional Specialties sponsored by North Central Briard Club and The Briard Club of America.
The morning regional was judged by Mark Houstin McMillan. We had no idea what to expect. Do not know him, never met him, never saw him judge. Dominique did a gorgeous job showing Heloise, Deja Vu Popsakadoo Hints From Heloise. She was Winners Bitch, Best of Winners for a 5 point major. We were thrilled. Dill, Ch Deja Vu Mia Cool As A Cucumber was Best of Breed with Regina. We were wildly happy. Johnny, again, shown by Dominique to brilliance, Ch Deja Vu Pomme Despair Came Knocking was Best of Opposite to Best of Breed. We were pinching ourselves.
The National was judged by John Studebaker. I know John. He is a brilliant dog person. He learned judging and breeding dogs through his foundation of judging and breeding dairy cows. He is a real smart stand up guy. We were hoping he would like our dogs because his opinion actually matters.
Marge was Winners Bitch, sired by Hoot, Ch Touche In Cahoots with Deja Vu, visiting from Mexico, bred by our friend Paula. We were tickled that Tabby, Popsakadoo Deja Vu Here Kitty Kitty was Reserve Winners Bitch from the 9-12 puppy class for a major(new rules).
Dill was Best of Breed. Johnny was Best of Opposite. Cagney, Ch Deja Vu Mia Cake Walk, Dill's brother, was First Select right behind Dill. Theo, Ch Deja Vu Popsakadoo Grin And Bear It received an Award of Merit. Awesome!
When I began my search about Briards, I had been in dogs for a time. I had some idea about how to look, where to look and what to look for. I had been training dogs for the five years since college. In my roster of training clients were two families with Briards. My curiosity was piqued.
One of the clients loaned me their copies of the Dew Claw and Le Magazine and I roamed the pages familiarizing myself with what looked right to my unschooled eye, the winners and the articles on the breed. I knew I wanted a show dog. I knew the breed had a reputation for problem temperaments. I knew I wanted this dog to be a foundation for something-what exactly, I wasn’t sure. But I knew it would be an important jumping off point into the world of conformation.
Not only did I know I was looking for the right dog, I was sure I was looking for a mentor. I wanted someone who had more experience than I, was dedicated to the subculture of dogs, was smart, was successful in Briards and above all ethical-someone I could trust to guide me.
By looking through the magazines, I picked out four breeders whose dogs I admired and called them . No internet or e-mail in those days. One of the four no longer bred so they were out of the search. I called each of the other three to hear what they had to say. One told me that he could not get his foundation bitch off of the couch if she chose not to come. “She growled” he said. “ She would bite if pushed” he added. That one was out of the search too.
I knew temperament would be a huge consideration for me. I was concerned by the breed’s reputation for being aggressive to both dogs and people. I was positive I didn’t want to live with an aggressive dog. I also had the concerns for my profession as a dog trainer. My dogs lived a fairly public life accompanying me to classes, seminars, workshops, private lessons at clients’ homes, commercial shoots, demonstrations and ultimately to dog shows. I could not risk an unsteady or untrustworthy dog.
A year passed and I read some more about the Briard. There was little available. I also looked at and spoke to a few breeders of other breeds-Springer Spaniels, Old English Sheepdogs, Gordon Setters, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Standard Poodles (of which I already had two). As luck would have it, I was entered in obedience at the December Cleveland dog shows and who was there showing Ch Phydeaux What’s Happenin’ but his breeders Art and Mary Lou Tingley. I already knew that Happy was the top winning Briard of all time. I was told that he was in the top ranked dogs of all breeds that year(I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly). However, two things sealed the deal for me. One, Happy. He was exactly what I wanted. A stand up gregarious and extroverted dog of great confidence, tremendous presence and unequalled athleticism. Two, Mary Lou. When Mary Lou looked me squarely in the eye and in answering my query about temperament said, “ I stand behind my dogs unconditionally. If you don’t like even the look in the dog’s eyes, I will take him back” I knew I had found my mentor.
Two months later Ch Phydeaux What’s Happenin’ won the Working Group at Westminster shown by Art Tingley. I believed in Mary Lou from our meeting in Cleveland. Mary Lou Tingley had been one of my four phone calls. I looked no more. I chose the breed because of the breeder.
In every breed there are factions and cliques. It is the human condition-tribes forming, alliances cultivated. People congregate around the family of dogs they start with or devote themselves to. Minds are sometimes closed and options ruled out. A closed mind is never good for a breed. A closed mind is never good for anything. To eliminate options and possibilities, to fail to appreciate the good in others’ animals creates an atmosphere of animosity and exclusivity. It develops dead ends and stifled creativity. Mary Lou was the penultimate mentor. She taught by example. She lead by example. She and Art fostered a spirit of sportsmanship and kindness...and open-mindedness.
In the atmostphere of Mary Lou’s open mind and natural appreciation for others’ points of view, she fostered in those around her the same. I have never met someone in my life so open minded to perpetual learning and inspired by what new ideas might come to her doorstep. This was Mary Lou. Because of it, it was the kind of breeder she was. Open to all possibilities.
At the knee of Mary Lou my mind was inundated with education of the AKC standard, structure of the dog, evaluating breed type, understanding proportions, seeing movement and appreciating the breed for what it is-its nobility and character, its independence and intelligence, its countenance and sense of humor. We talked endlessly about breeding and genetics, pedigrees and history. It was an unequalled education and life long inspiration.
Through Mary Lou I came to admire and identify the beauty and soundness of the de Vasouy kennels from France. When Mary Lou attended her first national in Philadelphia she was struck by a dog imported by a French war bride. This woman had brought Haro de Vasouy to the States with her. She drove from her home in Texas to the national in Phildelphia to exhibit him. Mary Lou laid eyes on Haro and knew this was going to be her start. This dog was so different than what she had seen before. He was upstanding and sound. He carried himself proudly and alert-something Mary Lou knew was right.
My first Briard was a cheerful and extroverted boy named Phydeaux Take The Money N Run. Mary Lou called him “Thunderbolt” because of the strip of white on his chest which disappeared later. I called him Woody after the Woody Allen movie with the same name. Woody was out of French import dam Ch Jennie D’el Pastre. Jennie, shown by Art (and one of her Best In Shows by Mary Lou) was famous for setting the record for Best In Shows(subsequently broken by Happy) and causing a sensation for her beauty, proud carriage, smooth movement and gorgeous coat, unforseen in that day.
Woody’s sire was a young dog named Richlen Steppenwolf. “Hesse” as he was called..or kiddingly “Hesse-Bob” by his southern breeder/owners Richard and Ellen Walton/McDearman. Hesse went back on one side of his pedigree to breed greats like “ Turquoise” and “ Henry” and the de Marha kennels of Harold Marley. What Harold brought to the table was his breeding experience and knowledge about line breeding, a new fangled concept to Briards in that day. Mary Lou aways said that Harold, an accomplished Collie breeder was truly wise and quickly set his style and type in the early generations of de Marha Briards. He was able to create a family of dogs with beautiful heads and breed type. Mary Lou admired what Harold was able to accomplish. He used Mary Lou’s great dog Ike de Vasouy-the first dog Mary Lou imported and brought forth qualities by converging traits from Ike and Harold’s own Nestor de Vasouy. Hesse had de Vasouy from both sides of his pedigree. Hesse’s sire Turquoise went back to Ike and Nestor deVasouy and Hesse’s dam, Chateaubriard Novelle Nova came from the great Chateaubriard kennels which started with Phydeaux dogs founded in de Vasouy again...Ike de Vasouy, Nestor de Vasouy, L’Ange de Vasouy, Hilda de Vasouy and Haro de Vasouy.
For me, my luckiest break in dogs came by accident in the aquisition of Tinsel. C’est Bonehur Woodbine Tinsel, was bred by Fran Taylor, taken as a stud puppy by Judy Odom and offered to me when she was two. Tinsel was a beautifully Phydeaux line bred bitch by Phydeaux Luvem N Leavem CD out of Phydeaux Polly Poulet. Barbu ( Luvem N Leavem) was by Sultan d’Esprit an Ike de Vasouy grandson out of Peinarde de Marha a Nestor de Vasouy daughter. Barbu’s dam was Phydeaux Usheba des Bergers, an O’Tresor de Vasouy daughter. Tinsel’s dam Poulet was by Happy who was an Ike de Vasouy grandson and Jennie d’el Pastre. It proved to teach me the values of diagonal ladder breeding in line breedings.This breeding which created Tinsel, eventhough not bred by Mary Lou by record, was classic Phydeaux in its finest form. Eventhough I had bought my first Briard from Mary Lou to aquire a dog from the great Phydeaux kennels, for me, the true flagship of Phydeaux in my dogs was Tinsel. I believed that in her greatness and all the best that I have in my dogs is because of Tinsel, her breeder Fran Taylor, therefore Mary Lou.
Mme Turgis of deVasouy had a vision of what this rustic working breed should do, how it should function and how it should operate in the world. Obviously this was not lost in 1960 on this blossoming brand new breeder, Mary Lou. Mme Turgis used her dogs in functional ways, pulling her in a cart to town, alerting her to the presence of Germans in her attempts to shelter and hide soldiers on her French property. The deVasouy kennels was where much of Phydeaux was built. Therefore, those who line bred and inbred on those dogs have brought forward into the future, into the present the classic gorgeous looks and family resemblance of Mme Turgis, then reinforced by Mary Lou.
It was because of this foundation and the vision to combine them, breeders like me were given the gift of the solid Phydeaux breedings. Famous founders of the modern American Briard were left in good stead to carry foreward and make their mark in the breed’s future. When Mary Lou stopped breeding, she left in her wake an incredible legacy in the breeders who began with and relied on Phydeaux.
It has been a wild and fascinating ride in dogs ever since Woody came to me in 1982. Mary Lou and Art opened doors for the breed in the show ring and made the path easier for those of us who campaign our Briards. Mary Lou is the rock that I relied on. She is the sportswoman, the spokesperson, the gracious face of the breed for 50 plus years. She is the anchor, the foundation, the elder stateswoman, the expert voice of reason. I would not have what I have in the my dogs without her. Few of us would.
Ch C'est Bonheur Woodbine Tinsel HT HOF ROM placing in the group being shown by me
A lot changes in a year. All the hope wrapped up for Dill and hooked on handler Mark Bettis crumbled in front of our very eyes. Let's just say that Dominique and I thought Dill would benefit from Mark's talent and Mark needed a dog like Dill. Why we thought rescuing a human from the fall out of his life was our responsibility-especially when it came to the quality of life of our dog...life's misjudgment # 599 I guess.
Dill got diagnosed with Lyme Disease in March of 2012-not Mark'e fault. Dill spent the next 7 months in Michigan with Mark, and lame on and off. I had a suspicion that Mark was not treating Dill with the antibiotics he was given. We had no proof. Unbeknownst to us, Mark lost interest in the dog he had touted as the greatest Briard he had seen. Dill slid into neglected oblivion at Mark'e kennel, untreated and uncared for, depressed and cranky and obviously in pain. Mark would not return my phone calls-over 50 of them.
The clarifying moment was in October when a friend traveling from Mark's direction on the way east, offered to pick Dill up and bring him home for us. Dominique and I were ready to bring him home and let him live his life out here with the best pain management we could find. Obvious to us was that Dill had some chronic condition that could not be fixed.
Kent met Michaela, Mark's wife at the time, and retrieved Dill and his little paper bag of pill vials full of antibiotics. Full pill vials? Mark was shipped two bottles of pills 9 weeks prior, with 60 pills. Those pills should have been long gone. Michaela didn't know enough to hide them, toss them or flush them. She was raising their baby and basically uninvolved with Mark's dog management. Lucky for us that in that one serendipitous event, we learned more than we could have otherwise known. Dill had never been treated for the Lyme Disease and it was still raging inside of him.
The last insult was the horrible coat condition Dill returned in. From multiple reports after the fact, the dog was living in a concrete run (the last thing you'd do with a lame sore dog) felted with matts. He came back with matts and holes in his coat and front leg coat, pastern coat and hock coat 1/8 inch long.
Funny thing. The day after Dill returned he was started on 60 days of Doxicycline. By a month later there was no evidence of lameness. There has been none since.
2013 has produced a healthy dog in Dill. So far this year, shown by Regina, he has won 22 Group Firsts, 3 Best In Shows, a specialty and 6 Reserve Best In Shows(and countless other group placements). What a difference a healthy dog makes.
Dill has come back home. We brought him back from his stellar career in Mexico where for the past year he was Number One Herding Dog and Number Five of All Breeds. Dill won about 100 Group Ones all over South America and a mess of Best In Shows. He was Best of Breed at the AKC Invitational-a gorgeous win over about 18 Briards. He won Best of Breed the day before as well and placed in the group. Dill was shown by his Mexican handler, a gentleman names Fernando Paz-seemed like kind man but the language gap doesn't help judgement. Fernando speaks no English. I speak no Spanish.
Dill, so far this year (and the year is young for sure-alot can change) is Number One Briard in all the ratings systems. He is shown by Mark Bettis.
My search for the right American handler began last Fall. I knew Dill would be coming home. That was the agreement with the Fischl's who had "borrowed" him for the past two years in Mexico. This was not an easy dog to figure out. Therefore, not an easy dog to show. Dill needed someone dynamic. Dill needed someone who would know how to pay attention to detail. Dill needed someone tall( left out Regina for sure!). Dill would be best with someone who did not carry a giant string of show dogs and of course the basics of the handler knowing how to do coat and the final things that can not be compromised on-basic care.
Dill tends to be a bit lazy, retiring, easy going. He is a soft sort of temperament-not big and boisterous(read Flynn) and needs someone who would connect with him. He does not lack for confidence, he can be cheerful and very sweet. But he is not the big ego dog Flynn was. Flynn could have gone anywhere and basically been pretty happy and still believe he was the king. Not so Dill.
Picked Mark. It was a complicated decision and a long story. Dill looks spectacular with Mark.
I love to write. I am not very good at it. For me, it is kind of like singing in the shower. When I live alone with my writing, it reads brilliantly. When I compare it to others' I know it is sadly pretty poor. I like my vocabulary pretty well but I am acutely aware that my grammar sucks.
It also depends on my subject. I can wax philosophic about dogs for days...Briards, training, behavior, their owners, and all the crazy stories in between.
I think the craziest stories are the ones built on the phone calls I have received over the years. They are also the most maddening. The woman with the Great Dane whose husband is going to make her get rid of the dog on a pre-arranged specific date if the 10 month old dog does not "shape up" and listen to him. But he won't train the dog, won't pet the dog, won't interact with the dog. He just wants to bark commands at him. The wife's concern was not for the dog's miserable life. She was afraid that if she did not follow directions her husband would leave her.
This is one of my all time favorite pictures of my dogs. It is of my beloved Flynn, American Canadian Champion Deja Vu In Like Flynn CD PT and his daughter Sassy, American Canadian Champion Deja Vu Ruffles Have Ridges PT. Flynn is the top winning Briard of all time. Sassy is the top winning Briard female of all time.
Flynn is the top sire of all time in the history of the breed. Almost 50 champions. Some specialty winners, Best In Show dogs, Westminster winners and top producers just like Flynn.
Flynn was a four time national specialty winner in both the United States and Canada. Flynn was a multiple Best In Show dog. Flynn was a Top Five Herding dog. Flynn was Number One Briard every year he was shown. Flynn was Best of Breed at Westminster four times. Flynn placed in the group at Westminster.
Sassy was a national specialty winner. Sassy was a multiple Best In Show dog. Sassy was a Top Ten Herding Dog. Sassy was Number One Briard every year she was shown. Sassy was Best of Breed at Westminster. Sassy placed in the group at Westminster.
Flynn died at almost 14. I believe one reason he lived so long is that he was the king...in his own mind. Up to the last day of his life Flynn viewed the world as his own. In his reality he was larger than life. His legacy is enormous. He is what sets the image of the breed in many peoples' mind's eye...in and out of the dog world. Flynn put himself on the map by who he was on the inside and who and what he was on the outside.
To me, he was my beloved...my son...my best companion for almost 14 years.
I show and breed Briards-a French sheepherding dog. I go sheep herding with them and they live as my pets and work partners in my dog training business.
Training and behavior counseling for dogs and their owners is my profession. Fine art is my education (painting and drawing). Breeding Briards is my passion.
I am the breeder/owner of the top winning Briard male and female of all time in the history of the breed. I am the breeder and owner of the top producing sire and top producing dam of all time in the history of the breed.
In 2008 I was chosen Outstanding Breeder of the Year by Show Dogs publication/ Bowtie publication. Breeder of the Year is an annual national award given to one person in dogs. It is decided by the dog fancy-handlers, breeders, judges, owners. It was the first time a Briard breeder has been awarded this award.
I have bred well over 200 champions.