My involvement in dogs began early in my childhood. I do not recall a time when our family did not have dogs. My earliest remembrance of family pets are a wonderful little Beagle named Sparky and a great Collie named Lady. Although neither were show dogs they were much loved family pets and both lived nice long lives. My first experience with show dogs came when I had taken a summer job at a local vet hospital and one of the employees bred and showed Parti Colored Cocker Spaniels. She would bring dog magazines to work to share and it was while reading one of these magazines that I saw a picture of what would become “my breed” – Gordon Setters. I knew after watching her spend countless hours grooming her Cockers, they were not the breed for me. In September 1974 she invited me along to a local show and it was there I started the search for a breeder of Gordon Setters.
I soon realized finding a Gordon was not going to be an easy task but with persistence, several months later I did find a breeder, Mrs. Elizabeth Clark of Rockaplenty Kennels fame. Finally the day came to make the trip to the mountains of Virginia to purchased my first show dog. Over the years several Gordon’s followed – several with Specialty wins, a Top Producing Stud dog and a Top Producing Dam.
Also during these years I married and had two kids, Blake and Jenny. I continued showing on a limited basis at local shows when the kids were young and traveled to a few specialties. I fondly recall the days in the ring showing my Gordons, my kids standing outside the ring rooting me on. When I would come out between classes Jenny would handle the brushing to make sure every hair was in place on whichever dog I was showing. Blake was more interested in searching for discarded rubber bands he could use to shoot paper wads.
During these years both Blake and Jenny were involved in ice skating and both were quite accomplished skaters. The majority of our spare time was spent in the ice rink or traveling to skating competitions. Several years go by and Jenny was old enough to compete in Junior Showmanship. I told her to pick which Gordon she wanted to be her Juniors dog and I would teach her how to groom and show it. Her response – I’m not going to show one of those things! – I want my own breed.
A few weeks later we were attending a show and I told her to look around and see what breed interest her and we would see about getting her one. Within an hour she came running up stating she found the breed she wanted. I just knew it would be something cute and fluffy – OH NO! she wanted a Greyhound. Fortunately I was able to convince her a Greyhound was too large and something a bit smaller would be best. By lunch time she had another suggestion – a WHIPPET!! My response was YUK – you must be kidding – a Whippet – they are icky. There was no changing her mind, after all she was told to pick the breed and it was smaller than a Greyhound.
Jenny and “Emily” CH Ableaim Dixie Chick SC
Blake and “Kitty” DC Ableaim Kit Kat SC
Jenny and “Cindy” Anndra’s Princess Bride Kachina SC
Jenny and “Rachel” CH Kachina Times Square V Anndra ROM
Jenny and “Hannah” CH Ableaim Heart Breaker
BIS CH Ableaim Rocksteady
By the next spring we had located a breeder, Connie Alexander – Kachina Whippets. She and fellow breeder, Ann Taylor – Anndra Whippets had an older female puppy available that would fit our needs. So Jenny got her own show dog, a Whippet – Anndra’s Princess Bride Kachina, SC – “Cindy”, I learned not to say a word about how skinny they looked.
Jenny and Cindy soon became a fine tuned team and together quickly earned the necessary wins in Juniors, however Cindy did not really like the show ring and Jenny tired of Juniors, she wanted to show in the “real” ring. Soon a second Whippet followed, a beautiful fawn brindle and white puppy bitch, Kachina Times Square V Anndra, SC – “Rachel”. Rachel proved more competitive in the conformation ring and finished with most of her wins with Jenny handling her. Breedings from these two Whippet girls we got our first home bred Dual Champion – Bert, out of Cindy, and our first Top 20 competitor – Emily, out of Rachel.
As in my early days of breeding Gordon Setters, our goal is to breed healthy, beautiful, and well socialized family pets. Majority of our dogs are sold solely as family companions, we have been fortunate and allowed to show some of the ones sold close to our home to their championships. While I must admit my first thoughts of getting a Whippet were not favorable, within a few weeks of having our first one I discovered what a wonderful breed they are. Within two years of the first Whippet moving into my house my Gordon Setters days were all but over. While I still love the breed and believe there is not a more beautiful sight than a well bred and correctly groomed Gordon, I’ve learned to admire them from afar.
Now with both kids grown our home is filled with wonderful Whippets and a couple French Bulldogs. My husband, Chuck, loves the days spent on the lure coursing field. Jenny and I continue traveling to shows – she, the one showing, me standing outside the ring rooting her on – and even though my son could care less about the showing part he has his own special Whippet as well.
To end this introduction I must add a funny twist – somehow along the way I ended up with one of those labor intensive Cocker Spaniels, a Parti Colored one at that! While it was suppose to be Jenny’s dog she somehow stole my heart. Thank goodness she grew up with Whippets and truly thinks she is just a cute and fluffy variety.