About Highfalutin' Poodles
 
 

I was raised with a wonderful Boxer named Sir Von Bok. He was born in the same year that
I was, 1947, and was brought into our family to love, and be loved, by my older brother and
myself..and, of course, Mom and Dad. He was my constant companion, sidekick and protector,
from my birth until we were both 10 years old, when he passed away quietly in his sleep. His
ashes are in an Urn here in my office, a reminder of how powerful the bond can be between 
a dog and his human.

In 1954, when I was 7 years old, my family moved from the city of San Anselmo, California 
(Marin County) to a small 4 acre farm in San Geronimo, which had a barn that had been partially
turned into a house, it had a kitchen of sorts, my parentís bedroom was a horse stall, the bathroom
leaked so badly that, when it rained, you had to have an umbrella handy for visits to the Loo.
It was WONDERFUL!

The best part of this was that, across the creek that ran behind our property, was this place that
was full of dogs, of so many colors, all running and barking, full of life! Daily I would find my way
across the creek and hang on the back fence of this magical place and watch the old lady taking 
care of her dogs. After many days, perhaps weeks, of watching, she caught me and told me to
come on over and quit acting like a little mischief maker! 

Thus began one of the most important, meaningful and loving relationships of my life. She was
Florence "Ma" Cleveland of Geronimo Kennels fame, a lifelong breeder of champion Collies and
Shetland Sheepdogs, many who are in the Record Books as ROM sires and dams. I was seven and
she was a grand lady of about 60. I spent every day after school, and the better part of every
weekend at her place, for over five years. We had sleep overs where she would tell me the history 
of her dogs and stories of great shows and wins and losses. She took me under her wing, and taught
me EVERYTHING about taking care of dogs feeding, cleaning, breeding, grooming, minor veterinary
care, whelping and showing. (She also taught me how to kill and cook chickens, 
but we can skip that part!) 

I worked for almost a year, after school and on the weekends, to earn my first Sheltie. I named
her "Teisha", Geronimo Little Teisha, she was a lovely Sable and White girl from one of Maís top 
Champions. I showed her for the first time in September 1954 at a Sheltie Match. Teisha won her 
Class and we won Best Junior Handler, I still have the trophy. Sadly, at only 7 months old, following 
a show in San Rafael, California, Teisha came down with Encephalitis. Despite the best efforts of
my Mom, who stayed up and cared for her night after night, and our vet, Teisha succumbed. "Ma",
upon hearing the news, took me down to her kennel, and told me to pick any puppy that I wanted. 
Thus, I came to own "Teisha Two" Geronimo Merry Mischief. To make a long story short, from the
age of about eight until I was fourteen, I bred, and showed, several of my Shelties from Geronimo
Kennels. I also put a CD on one of my dogs, Geronimo Jack Frost, in just 3 shows.

I registered my own kennel name, Sheltie Bel, and produced one home bred Champion, 
CH. Sheltie Bel Amber Lite. 

"Ma" passed away when I was 11 years old after a long battle with Leukemia. She is, to this day,
a part of everything I do with my dogs. She was my foundation and taught me how to experience
the great love and respect that exists between us humans and these wonderful canines. 

In 1956, as a result of my showing my Shelties in Breed and Jr Handling, I met a Professional
Handler, Fay Owyoung, who would become my Mentor, and close friend. He taught me the finer
points of handling, teaching me to show Rotties, GSDs, Goldens, Boxers and many, many more. He 
would often "loan" me one of his clientís dogs to show in Jr. Handling, so that I would have
experience with many varied breeds. He was always at ringside to instruct and support me. 

Also in 1956, after much research, I decided that I wanted to show and breed Belgian Sheepdogs (at that
time referred to as Groenendal). There were none in California, and few West of the Rockies. After many
letters, inquiries and phone calls, I found a breeder in Oregon, Ms. Marion Glover of Nightwatch fame. At
the age of 9, I flew to Oregon, unattended, to purchase my first Belgian puppy. I brought home a very nice
young bitch "Nightwatch Blandy" and later, on another trip, "Nightwatch Chantuese". These were the first
two Belgians in the state of California, and Chantuese later produced the first Belgian litter in the state
(bred to CH Laddie Candide CDX), several of which went on to be shown on the West Coast.

On that first visit to Nightwatch, I became friends with C. Bede Maxwell, "Maxie", who was visiting with
Marion. Maxie was from Australia, a world renown writer and also a dog lover, then employed as a writer
by the Australian Dog World magazine. She was in the US on assignment, writing articles for the Aussie
Dog World. We became fast friends and, as a result, she often stayed with my family at our "farm" when
she was in the US on one of her dog writing adventures. (Her beloved Pointer, INT CH. Crutchfield Couee,
was buried next to our family pets when she died unexpectedly on one of Maxieís visits). Around 1958,
Maxie and I were invited to San Mateo to meet with a group of fledgling Silky Terrier breeders. Silkies
were, at that time, very new, still only imported from Australia, and not recognized by AKC. They were anxious
to have some input on their dogs (from Maxie) and to learn some handling techniques (from me!) We held a
small Fun Match with perhaps 25 dogs, I did a Handling demo, Maxie did some Conformation judging and a
great time was had by all! I recently saw a Silky win Best In Show and I was reminded of this
"small" step that I was fortunate enough to be a part of so long ago!

Between 1956 and 1960, I spent my time showing my Shelties and Belgians. I taught Obedience Classes
at our local Youth Club. I made a couple of TV appearances on Ch. 4 in San Francisco, demonstrating
Obedience with my Sheltie, Geronimo Jack Frost CD. I was nominated twice for the Gaines Junior Handler
of the Year Award, once by the Shetland Sheepdog Club (I was the youngest member ever, accepted only
by a special vote) and once by the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America (also itís youngest member).
I finished Third once.

As a result of my success as a young handler/breeder/enthusiast, my parents were approached by
LOOK Magazine (the smaller, but still popular, competition for LIFE magazine). They wanted to do an
article on me, dog shows, our dogs, the parents of kids showing dogs etc! After some discussion, of
which I remember nothing, it was arranged for a writer and photographer to tag along with me, my family,
my dogs (and the other people and their dogs who I was also showing at the time) at the Oakland Kennel
Club Show. It made for a very interesting two days, much of which went unappreciated by a 10 year old
who had much more important things to do than answer questions, and smile for pictures, by two guys who
had no idea what this dog world was all about! The article never made it to the pages of the magazine, but
I kept the proofs of the pictures and notes that my father made at the time, which still make
me smile at my precociousness!

Through out those years, I also showed dogs for many other people, including one very special dog, a
Doberman named "Dusty", aka Tweeny Weeny Stardust. Odd name for a Dobie, but let me explain. When
Dusty was a very young puppy she was given to my neighbor, Muriel Whittaker, who bred Chihauahas under
the kennel name Tweeny Weeny. Thus Dusty ended up with that unlikely name. Muriel had no real interest
in Dusty but I sure did! I thought she was just gorgeous and asked Muriel if she would mind if I trained
and showed her. She agreed..why not?? Thus began one of the most rewarding dog show experiences of
my life. I worked with Dusty almost every day after school, lead training her, teaching her to stack (stand
precisely, unmoving and attentive), running her around our make-believe "ring" etc. She was amazing, I get
goosebumps to this day thinking of her tremendous presence. She made her show debut at 11 months old, with
me as her "handler" (also 11, but in years), in the American Bred Class at the Oakland Kennel Club Show.
Oakland was the second largest show in California, slightly smaller than the (still) prestigious San
Francisco Kennel Club Show. She won her class, WB, BOW, and went on to win the Breed! I was ecstatic,
what a HUGE win for her! But that was only the beginning. We went on to win a very competitive Working
Group over many wonderful Champions (handled by some of the finest Professional Handlers of the day)
making me the youngest person ever to win an AKC Group! Now if that was not enough, we lost Best In
Show, by a nose, to a spectacular Dalmation, who was the best in the country at the time,
CH. Ard Aven Shamus handled by Jim McManus. What a day!

Dusty and I had many more wonderful days and wins together. A highlight was placing 3rd in the Open
Bitch Class at the National Doberman Specialty in Southern California against a fantastic field of top
Doberman ladies, the majority of course, Professionally handled. She was the consummate showgirl,
she would stand and look at me forever, never moving, never flinching, always focused.

Dusty achieved her Championship in grand style, and was given a much needed break from the ring and bred
to one of the top Dobes of the time, CH Brownís Falstaff. She had a beautiful litter of puppies, much
awaited by Muriel, myself and many waiting puppy buyers. However, Dustyís story doesnít have the storybook
ending that she so much deserved. She died in a house fire, which took not only her life, but the lives of most
of her puppies, almost all of Murielís precious Chiís and several Persian show cats. It was a tragedy of immense
proportions, and it has left an indelible mark on my thinking in relation to leaving pets confined and unattended.

Dusty is still the dog that I compare all show dogs to. She was born to it, she loved it, flaunted it,
and she allowed me to be a part of bringing her out.

Move to 1960. The end. My brother had been very ill all of his life and the best solution at this juncture
was to move to the mountains and a drier climate. My family had many talks about this as it was apparent
that any move would greatly impact my career, which the entire family had a been a huge part of. But,
in the end, it was decided that we would move to the mountains, making the whole Dog Show lifestyle
difficult at best, too far to drive, too few shows nearby etc. So we rehomed all of my dogs except
for two Belgians and one Sheltie and moved to Grass Valley, California.

My distraction was High School..then horses, then life .but I always maintained a love of dogs,
working at Vets many times through out my adult life, some of the best times for sure.

Fast forward to 1999. I had been wanting a Standard Poodle for some years, not for any particular reason,
only that it seemed time and it was the PERFECT dog. I had loved them way back then, when Anne Rogers
had shown the best of them. To me she was the most talented handler of the time, and I held her, and
her choice in dogs, in the highest esteem.

Due to a variety of circumstances, any one of which missing would have created an entirely different result,
I visited our local SPCA late one afternoon. It had been at least five or six years since I had been to any
Shelter and I certainly had no reason to go on this day. But there I was. In the very back run was this
black, dirty, matted, wildly hairy dog who was both terrified and thrilled that I had stopped to talk to
her. I knew, without a doubt, that she was IT. I could feel that poodle body underneath all the mats,
her deep chest, muscular back legs, and the telltale hair. She was barely a year old, a stray who was
almost at her "limit" for her time there. The Attendant said no one had shown any interest in her. I truly
believe that she was waiting for me, and that I was "sent" there on that day to find her and take her
home. And that is how Hannah came into my life. She is a beautiful black Standard, smart
as a whip and then some, and happily rules the house.

One thing led to another, and a year later we adopted a six month old Silver Standard boy from a
Rescue in Southern California. Tucker is the most loving, affectionate hunk of Poodle love ever!
He has an unlimited capacity for fun, cuddling and rides in the car.

Hannah and Tucker accompany us on all of our backpacking trips, each carries their doggie backpack with
their food, first aid, cookies, bowls etc. They absolutely love being out on the trail, sniffing out all sorts
of interesting things, playing in the creeks and rivers and keeping us laughing over their antics. Then,
of course, a good dinner and snuggling in our sleeping bags with us!

Experiencing these two wonderful animals rekindled the long buried love of breeding and showing dogs.
I began reading books on Poodles, learning about the health issues, researching pedigrees, familiarizing
myself with breeders and their lines, started going to shows again, talking to people, and just generally
gathered as much information as I could about the breed as a whole. This is an ongoing process, and
while I have learned much, I have also learned that I have MUCH more ahead of me!

So here I am. Some 50 years after I originally started on this doggie journey. I live on 6 acres of paradise
in the Sierra Nevada foothills in Northern California with my wonderful (and Poodle convert) husband,
Randy and our Poodles. I feel as though I have come full circle, doing what I love, with some one I love,
surrounded by these amazing companions who remind me that unconditional love is
possible and exists in every wet kiss.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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