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