LR: Welcome to Pure Dog Talk. Betty-Anne Stenmark, I am so excited, and I’m very happy you’re here! Welcome, here we are in New York City with an extra hour. I’m so excited, ok so Betty-Anne, give me the brief synopsis, your time in dogs, just a little bit.
BAS: 50 some-odd years
BAS: So, I grew up in North Vancouver, British Columbia with an English Cocker, “kind of” as my mother said, a show dog, not. And I recently found a bunch of stories about him that my mother had written, very fun. And then I had Saint Bernard’s because some kid at school, her mother brought her Saint Bernard to school, and it was an early version of what the kids do today. I fell in love with that dog, it was huge, it was wonderful, I had to have one. So, when I finally moved out of home, was married, there was a litter in Victoria that I went to see, and of course I brought one home. And the rest is kind of history. I bred oh, I think at least a dozen litters of Saint Bernard’s, that managed to have heart disease, endemic in those dogs. So, if you have do an x-ray for hips and they got an injection of anesthetic, they were dead.
BAS: There were actually five of them that did that on the table.
LR: Eh. Oh my God
BAS: It was not a lot of fun. I loved the breed still, but that was not an easy time. And then I married Roy Stenmark who brought 16 Lhasa Apso’s to the marriage, and I have to say, don’t hold this against me but it’s not my breed!
LR: Ha, ha! It’s a lot of hair.
BAS: A lot of hair, and I can remember the veterinary clinic I worked at many years ago. We had this little dog come in that, you couldn’t even vaccinate. So, I can remember we put him between a gate and a chain link fence so we could give him a shot, and I thought where the heck did this come from? Turned out it was one of those I hand raised!
LR: Oh nooo!
BAS: So you don’t think temperament isn’t highly inherited?!
BAS: So, then we decided that we’d get a breed that neither one of us had. Roy was already judging Saint Bernard’s which is where I met him, at the 1974 National Specialty. John Stanek and Larry Powell had over-drawn, and they brought in some guy by the name of Roy Stenmark to do the over-load, and I said, who the hell is Roy Stenmark? And then he followed me all around that weekend!
LR: Well, you know.
BAS: So anyway, the rest is history there. He came to visit in Vancouver, and I seemed to be engaged and moved to the United States. Don’t know that was all that smart of move, but…
LR: You could go back now, see. Oops!
BAS: So, we decided to get a breed that neither one of us of had, and we had a friend who was quite well known in her Dandie Dinmonts, and another one in Border Terriers. And Lorna Rindle had an adult Dandie bitch before June Monahan had an adult Border bitch, because we’d been around long enough to know we weren’t starting with a puppy. So, we ended up with this two-year-old bitch who flew in, and our cat met her at the door and she has his head in her mouth before we could open our mouths.
LR: Poor cat!
BAS: He died of natural causes which was nothing short of a miracle. When the Dandie’s got a hold of him, he was so fat they only got his fat!
LR: Oh my God!
BAS: He never drank water, he always drank milk. And one day we came home and found that a mouse had drown in his milk dish. He was one hell of a cat, the only one I’ve ever had.
BAS: So, then we began breeding Dandie Dinmonts, and 41 years later we’re still breeding. And that original bitch is still behind all of them.
BAS: They changed a little
LR: A little, ya
BAS: We began with a bitch that had fabulous temperament, wonderful movement. She needed a head, she need to be shorter, she needed to be longer, but she was a hell of a good bitch. And we then acquired her granddaughter who was also a beautiful bitch, and between those two, we are where we are today.
LR: Ok, so Dandie’s are very, very low entry breed.
BAS: Very low
LR: And I don’t know if you’ve heard some of like, Bill Shelton talking about the endangered species and some of that. And I think Dandie’s definitely fall into that category.
LR: So, talk to me about working with, this is fascinating to me, working with these breeds that you don’t have diversity in your gene pool to speak of.
BAS: Oh, we don’t have a gene pool, we have a gene puddle.
LR: So, how do you do that? Tell me about that.
BAS: I often am amused at people that have long-term plans for breeding. They’re gonna take this bitch to this other dog’s great-grandfather, and we don’t do that. The only puppies we keep are the ones who’s had the correct breed silhouette, who had good temperament, and hopefully good health. And from that, within the family generally speaking, we consider out if 25% of the other dog is not our breed.
BAS: We brought in a dog from Finland who is 75% our breed, but came from a bitch that’s now the grandmother, who looked like our dogs but was entirely unrelated. And we got lucky on that, so we breed more on phenotype, but we end up with a highly line bred litter, aligned. And, thankfully in 1998 I went to Australia and found a family of Dandie’s that look liked our dogs, except they were long. And we had lost the long gene in this country, the Dandie should be longer than the Skye Terrier in the group, and when was the last time you ever saw it? Actually, I’ve never seen it.
LR: I haven’t
BAS: When we fixed up the standard and filled in all the blanks, we didn’t change the silhouette or the dimensions, because we felt it gave you an excuse to have a shorter bodied dog, we’d end up with upright and square. Because many of the dogs in the ring are upright and square today. So, it is not an easy thing. We accidentally had a brother-sister breeding last year, and the dog sitter was a little upset. Then about seven weeks later it’s obvious this bitch was really pregnant. I was judging Santa Barbara that weekend, and it ended up being one of the most fabulous litters I’ve ever seen. There’s two out of the three survivors that are exactly what I would hope would come from 41 years of selective breeding. But we walk a fine line there, there’s lymphoma in the breed and its inheritance is not really known. There’s many forms of it, there’s a very lethal variety that takes them out in three weeks, which we lost our beautiful Angelina Ballerina to that.
LR: Ohh. I wondered.
BAS: Yep. And then there’s others that have survived chemo for three years and done very well. And we also have glaucoma, people don’t talk about it.
BAS: And there’s been a few, but thankfully so far, not a lot.
LR: Ok, so you have health issues that you’re working around in your breeding program. Temperament?
BAS: We have, I am told, the best temperament in the world. We started out with good temperament, and to me, there is no compromise. We’ve had a couple of bitches born that were nice, but didn’t have typical temperament, they were eliminated from the gene pool by spaying. There’s one that acts like a Border Collie in a Dandie Dinmont suit, she is a hell of an agility dog, a hell of an obedience dog, but she’s not typical. And then we have another little scary one at home that looks like she’d bite you in the back of the ankle! She never has, but we couldn’t sell her, nor could we put her down, so lives at my house.
LR: Oh good, biting your ankles!
BAS: Hasn’t yet!
LR: Ok, so when you’re talking about you’ve got, if you can get an out-cross to you is 25% of the gene pool.
BAS: Yes, yes.
LR: So, what you found in Finland, you found in Australia, and I remember, I was trying to remember his name. Harry?
LR: Yes! God, I love that dog. Have you found anything else that you’ve been able to incorporate that you’ve liked?
BAS: Every time I’ve gone out, tried something, I looked at what I had in the whelping box and I thought, that didn’t work. For me, if it hasn’t got a front assembly it is immediately altered and out of the gene pool. When you don’t have a front on a dog, you don’t have head carriage, you don’t have reach in front, usually no drive behind, and it just looks, it’s a pet, it’s gone. As a judge that is very important to me. It’s somewhere I don’t compromise, I can’t. Because at my house, it’s altered, it’s a pet.
LR: And I think that that’s tough because front assemblies just across the board in every breed you can name, I think in this country, aren’t what you might want them to be.
BAS: There’s very few. But, the good dogs, the ones that keep rising to the top, there’s a reason. When it ran around your back yard and that one that kept catching you eye, that was the one with the good front, with the good side gate. And that’s the one can rise above the rest. It just has the look of confidence and its eye catching. And no, it’s not all about gate, but breed type, the typical structure and carriage is part of breed type. And without it, you really have nothing.
LR: Yes. And I think that’s a really great point, that people get stuck between type and movement. But in reality, I think you’re right, I think they’re the same thing.
BAS: Oh, they are the same thing. That old question, what you do prefer, type or soundness? That’s just nonsense, that’s people not understanding what it’s all about.
LR: Right. Ok, so Dandie’s have very, very specific breed traits.
LR: So, front assembly, and length, we just talked about those two.
BAS: Great length, yep
LR: Ok, so what’s your next piece?
BAS: It’s the curves. And the operative word is “slight.” And it’s a slight arch to the neck, and slight downward arch over the shoulders, a slight arch over the loin, not the back, not the rump. And a very slight drop over the crew, which sets the tail on in the correct position which is at about 1 or 2 o’clock. That is one hell of a difficult package to get, so that is ultimately important. So, correct size around 24-25 pounds, the happier dogs are the because they are very long in body. The old standard said 12 to 18 pounds, that would be a weeny little tiny pet, that doesn’t work. So, we have three elements of breed type, it’s very distinctive head, big eyes looking straight at you, the correct silhouette, and great length of body. And the great length of body for us is the arch typical of what Annie Clark would call the drag of the English Cocker breed when they got long and low. Ours go upright and square, and they go upright and square very easily. So, I often laughed at, I think it was old Bob Moore who this column for Dog News talking about “why can’t you figure out what is rectangular and what is square?” Well some people just don’t have it, and it is difficult if the entire ring is full of upright and square dogs, and you have this one long low one behind, and you don’t have that breed silhouette in your mind’s eye, your dead. You’re gonna put up the pet and the good dog’s gonna walk out.
LR: And I think coming from Clumber Spaniels I understand this exact struggle. And I think one of the things that I saw, and I don’t know if it’s the column you’re talking about or another one, but I remember reading once that the human eye is drawn to square because it is symmetrical. And that is where we see some of the struggle, so I can appreciate that.
BAS: That’s interesting
LR: We want symmetry, like our brain wants symmetry.
BAS: So my brain wants to see balance. To me that’s symmetry when all parts work together.
LR: Good. Ok, so going back to, and again I think this applies to a lot of the rare breeds so this is why I keep coming back to this. Have you had any success with say, old frozen semen, anything like that?
BAS: Yes, yes. Many years ago, Barb Binder worked at for ICSB in Oregon, and thankfully she fell in love with the first Dandie we sent up there. So, we have a bitch in season, we phone Barbara, ship the bitch up, they always came home pregnant, we never missed. Ever!
LR: I like Barbara!
BAS: I moaned the day that she retired. But, that was how we turned the corner in this extremely rare breed. I brought in semen from Harry’s grandfather, his uncle, his sire, him, offspring, I think there’s probably 10 that we brought in.
BAS: And they just nicked with my last bitch with was a daughter. It was funny when I went there and judged. I didn’t put up Emma’s big winner at the time. I put this young 9 to 12 puppy, walked in the ring, it was so long and so low, as so “weasely,” which is what we call the correct outline. I was in love, and I said to my ring steward, the husband of my beautiful bitch has just walked in the ring! She looked at me with wide eyes! I thought my God, where the hell did that come from? So afterwards, Emma didn’t know me from a bar of soap, and she stands there and goes, why? And is said because my dogs at home are this long, and yours are that long. And that trait is so difficult to keep. The Skye apparently has no problem staying long in body, the Dandie does. But I think we’ve actually cemented in length. We may even have a bitch at home that might actually, my husband says, that’s a LONG doggie! Too long? Oh no. No, she’s not too long, but I’ll tell you even to my eye she looks extremely long.
LR: I know
BAS: So, I think it’s there now, but this is from 1998 to 2017, that’s how long it took to cement it in. And when other people use these dogs to get that length, they don’t get that length. They don’t have the gene to match it.
LR: Interesting, interesting. So, you talked about one of my favorite things in dog breeding, which is the nick. That certain lines just click. And certain lines just don’t. Can you expand on that at all?
BAS: You know it’s quite interesting, it’s quite fascinating to me. In the Dandie world right now there’s a real effort to select the stud dog that is the most un-related to your bitch. And I think to myself, my bloody God, no wonder they’re all starting to look like a boarding kennel in the ring. No two are remotely alike. And for me some of these people have come to us and used some pretty in fluently dogs from our viewpoint, dogs we can pinpoint what they’re going to give us, they’re offspring looks nothing like what we expect from that stud dog. The nick is not there, they don’t gel at all.
BAS: The fact is, I think it’s a waste. I’ve actually let some good semen go out because I didn’t want to tell somebody no. But, in retrospect we shouldn’t have done it, it was a waste. It was expensive to them, and they semen is lost and gone forever, the dogs are dead.
LR: So, your success, your nicks, and they’re consistent, right? Like you see it every single time this particular line, and this particular line, you can layer them together and consistently they’re going to produce for you.
BAS: Yep. The greatest compliment I ever got was from a judge who’d flow to another country and judge a Terrier group show. And she phoned on her way back and said I turned around and saw this beautiful Dandie bitch on the table, and she said there’s only one place in the world you could get that dog. And it was one of ours. And to me, that was the ultimate compliment, look in the ring and you can tell where it came from. And I think that’s what all breeders should be wanting to do. I think you’d look at a Norwegian Elkhound and you know whether Pat Trotter bred it, or she didn’t.
BAS: It’s the stamp that’s there. And to me, you may not always agree with what I’m looking for, but at least you know what I’m going to produce.
LR: Ok, management of your bitches. We run into this, the rare breed you know that I grew up with, Clumber Spaniels, struggle, struggle, struggle with the bitches to get them to produce. Do you have that problem?
BAS: We find we’re very successful if we breed early, and annually. I like to breed a bitch just around 18-20 months, which is probably than a lot of people would do, but I find they’re very fertile. But I find that they’re very fertile, I think it’s kinda like the 16 or 18-year-old girl, they are normally going to conceive. And I find if I breed them every year, every other season, they are going to have a litter. We don’t have the luxury of having a litter early and then breeding one after we’re finished showing. We do our breeding first, and then we show our special, our bitches. Like the Angelina Ballerina bitch had two litters of five, and then she went out at 6 years of age.
LR: Right, right. So, you’re fortunate you have a breed that holds up into its older years, you know, and comes back from pregnancy well.
BAS: Oh, they free whelp, they raise their puppies, they feed them til, I never stop the bitch, they stop it and it’s usually 14-16 weeks of age. And they pull right up and they look better than they looked before, we put a body on them.
LR: Right, I think that we see that in a lot of breeds. You just get that spring, that maturity in a bitch.
BAS: Yep, yes.
LR: Yep, ok very good. And so, looking to the future in Dandie’s to you see the breed, the gene pool expanding? Where do you see the future?
BAS: I think the internet and Facebook have helped immeasurably. There’s a group around the world that are totally devoted to the breed, they are wonderful companion dogs. And people like, many people with their own breed, it’s the right one for them. And I think there’s the pictures that are posted, they peek people’s interest and they see dogs, they go, wow! Maybe I could use something from that. And I think we’ve expanded that pool a lot, my only hope is that more young people come into the breed. We are a very gray, elderly looking bunch. Not so much in Europe, the European’s have some kind of a secret they we have lost, there is lot of interest. The young gal we worked with in Finland is 32 I think, and she’s been at it for 10 years.
BAS: And very clever, she’s a really good person. Emma Greenway in Australia’s a young person, and she has done extremely well.
LR: And I think you just hit on a really, really important topic, which is how to expand our sport to young people in our country. And I’ve heard the same comment from others, that overseas, other countries, they have young people coming up. Do they have better mentorship programs? How do you see that happening?
BAS: I don’t know about better mentorship programs, but I think perhaps young people are more receptive to being mentored. We have some young people that we have brought into our little group of Dandie people and helped them, we’ve put good dogs with them. I think a lot of the time, it’s hard as a breeder, you don’t get many good puppies so you want them to go where they’re going to be used and reach their potential. Yet, we’ve had, there were two Angelina Ballerina daughters that went off to people that spoke well, nothing ever really happened. Very, very disappointing to have that kind of quality go, and end up being spayed and not shown. It was very unsettling, so there’s that part that makes you want to say why do I do this? Why do I entrust a new person with this quality? Yet I think if that person is well intentioned and goes into the ring, and is always beaten by the breeder that kept the better one, how disheartening is that if we never have a chance to win?
LR: That’s a really good point, and I think people don’t get it.
BAS: You walk a fine line, and unfortunately not everybody lives near you so that you can help all the time, but we try to. I don’t know the real answer is. I think today people are so busy, and it takes two people to maintain a home, buy one in California, good luck and have a space for a dog. Life has changed, it’s quite different from when I was growing up. So, I’m heartened. Last night at the Dogs Review Dinner a lot of young people, very successful doing great jobs, so hopefully they too are mentoring people into the sport.
LR: I think that’s important, and I think we’re seeing sort of resurgence of it, you know.
BAS: I think so
LR: So we’ll see!
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