Breeders Forum: Carol Harris, Bo-Bett Whippets and Italian Greyhounds
Q: How did you start in dogs? When and how did you fall in love with your breed (or breeds), and how did you go about founding your current breeding program? Briefly outline the most important breeding decisions you made and identify the most successful dogs you have bred. Do you believe in linebreeding or outcrossing?
A: I must have been born with a premature instinct to make dogs and horses my primary interest. As a child I played with them constantly and tried to learn how to understand them. My best friend Isabel Robson who lived next door to me had the same interests I did. The Albert Payson Terhune Collie books definitely created my first favorite breed, and I remember how Mrs. Florence B. Ilch, owner of the famous Bellhaven Kennels, treated me so kindly in regard to learning about her breed. [Mrs. Ilch won BIS at Westminster in 1929 and was active up into the 1960s. - Ed.]
I next fell in love with a much shorter-coated breed, the Dalmatian. Then came Scotties, Wire and Smooth Fox Terriers, and even a couple of Airedales. Terrier people back in the 1930s and '40s were heroes to me. They were the serious dog people whom I admired the most. They were hard workers and gave me a desire to be like them, especially in regards to learning about anatomy and the art of proper trimming and grooming. German Shepherds and Dobermans also captured my heart. I still love their looks and also their intelligence.
But it was the elegant, lovable Whippets that made me discover the breed I came to adore, and then the Italian Greyhound that looked so much like the Whippet but didn’t act like them. It was hard for me to understand how they could be so different until I made myself purchase two of my own to compare and analyze both breeds. Today at age 96 the Whippet is still my favorite and I know they always will be. The Italian Greyhound, that I finally learned to understand, will remain my second favorite.
I commenced my current Whippet breeding program in the early 1980s by listening to many different dog people, who eventually become mentors and friends. I watched them all, and wisely took my time with the generous advice they chose to offer. Today I am still in awe of the guidance I received and was able to absorb. I do believe in linebreeding and outcrossing and think I have been successful with both on many occasions. I’m certain I’ve made mistakes but I know I have learned from them. Today I feel quite satisfied with the results of my entire breeding program.
Ch. Grovenor's Marla of Morshor, Marla
Q: How many dogs do you keep at home? Approximately how many litters do you breed per year? Are you planning on maintaining this level of activity?
A: Today I still have approximately 20 Whippets and 25 Italian Greyhounds. I generally breed two or three litters each year from each breed, and on occasion a few more. I probably will not maintain this level of activity, but who knows what I’ll do next ...
Q: Is it easy to find good homes for the puppies? What are your requirements for a suitable home? What's the average litter size in your breeds? Terms for sales, co-ownerships, etc.? Is there an average price in your breeds for a pet vs. show quality puppy?
A: I don’t remember ever finding it difficult to sell or give my best puppies to people I liked. This has been a large part of my life. I’ve met the best, and I’ve also met a few others. I have no set way of finding suitable homes. Extensive conversations will generally convince me whom I want to entrust my puppies to. I am disgusted with co-ownerships in general due to some bad experiences I’ve had in the past, so I would recommend that breeders only co-own with people they entirely trust. Yes, I have an average price but I’m willing to adjust it according to the circumstances of each sale.
Carol and Champion Whippets
Q: What about health concerns in your breeds? What do you test for?
A: I really have had few health concerns in any of the breeds I’ve been involved with. I’ve still spent a fortune on vet bills and testing for necessities, but on the whole I’ve been blessed. My dogs have been healthy and free from negative genetic problems. However, I have asked all my customers to let me know if any dogs I sold them exhibited any health woes that I should know about. I did have a call this year that broke my heart — it involved the health of a puppy I had sold that the new owners castrated too young.
Q: If you have kennel facilities, please describe them. Do you have property where the dogs can run? What is your daily "kennel routine" — sleeping, feeding, exercise, grooming, socialization, etc.? Road exercise? Show training? Do you have kennel help?
A: My Whippets basically take turns being house dogs and since I’ve always been the leader of the pack, we’ve been relatively free of dog fights and other behavioral incidents. I do have kennel facilities, but that is mainly for cleanliness and safety. Both my Whippets and I.G.s have access to exercise every day in large runs and paddocks. My favorite kennel routines are the morning and evening feedings and lead breaking for shows. My son Jeff, daughter Wendy and myself are mostly the kennel staff; however, we have a full-time assistant who keeps nails short and everything clean. A member of our family is always present for overnight care.
GCh. Bo-Bett's Favorite Pick, Pixie
Q: Approximately how many shows do you go to per year? How do you select those you show at? Are you willing to travel some distance for certain judges? Do you have favorite shows you attend no matter who's judging?
A: This is all changed from what it used to be. Today, with the help of my good friend Deborah Bahm, I’m just trying to keep our dog routine enjoyable and successful on a day-to-day basis, because I am no longer able to travel or personally show my dogs like I once enjoyed so much.
Q: Roughly what percentage of the judges do you feel can offer a reliable assessment of your breed/s?
A: I feel the percentage is very low, and getting lower due to the retirement and loss of so many talented judges that we once depended on. Too many of their replacements are proving to be inadequate, but I can’t worry too much about this problem, since I feel there is nothing any of us can do, because our leadership seems to be permitting this trend to continue. I no longer know who the judges are that make proper decisions, but I continually hear grumbling from exhibitors who complain about certain new judges, who need to do dog shows a favor and just plain give up judging.
Carol and the No.1 IG, Barbara Ann
Q: Please mention some dogs of your own breeds, not currently being shown and not owned or bred by yourself, that you admire. Which is the best one you yourself have bred? Any favorites in the other Sighthound breeds?
A: This is a hard question, because I know way too many Whippet breeders who have honored our breed with fabulous show dogs and bitches. They have been inspirations to us all because of their consistency of correct type and beauty. Today I feel certain I might not be able to remember their names, even if they belonged to me. I’m positive I would leave out some of the outstanding dogs I admired so much. You folks will know exactly what I’m talking about when you become 96!
Q: If you are involved in any field or other performance activities, please tell us about them.
A: I am finding myself enjoying the agility competitions very much these days and can’t help but recognize how much fun the dogs are having with their owners and trainers, while the crowds are enthusiastically responding to techniques that have little to do with liver, bait and other temptations to make them want to perform. Winning at agility, coursing and racing is not about using food to tempt dogs to perform, it’s all about training for fun and accuracy, praying for speed and celebrating the thrill of victory.
I am also definitely recognizing that the most popular horse competitions today involve the United States Equestrian Federation pony and horse hunter and jumping events. These events clearly demonstrate that today’s equitation success was developed by traditionally educated trainers and students, who valued proper techniques that also insured their animals' welfare and trust.