Laura, PDT: I have to tell you I am pretty excited. Number one we are kicking off a brand-new series of episodes called “Wisdom Wednesday” and this is where you’re going to find interviews with literally legends in this sport. Master breeders, top handlers, world renowned judges. There is such a treasure trove of knowledge out there & we want to just share that with you. The second reason is that I’m so very excited is that our debut guests are two of my absolute favorite people in dogs. Bill & Taffe McFadden reached the pinnacle of our profession because their passion drives them. We were very fortunate to be able to catch up with them at the AKC National Championship Dog Show the morning after Bill won the non-sporting group, on his way to reserve Best in Show, welcome to Pure Dog Talk Bill & Taffy McFadden. We are so excited for you guys to join us.
TM: Thank you Laura
BM; Thanks for inviting us, where’s the lasagna?
PDT: That’s your treat for after Bill, you get your lasagna after you perform.
BM: Ok, I have to perform, then I get the treat?
PDT: You have to perform, this is your down & back. Ok we’re talking to Bill & Taffe about some of the great dogs that they’ve show, dogs that have helped established them as distinctly legends in our sport, and 1 of the biggest things people want to talk about is what’s the difference between good & great. So, what makes a great dog?
BM: What makes a great dog? I think it’s kind of intangible, because some great dogs are great because of their character, & if they’re good dogs & what elevates them is their character & their presence and magnetism, you know people are drawn to them.
BM: Ya, showmanship, some dogs just literally suck people in. I’m talking as a handler, not as a breeder, but as a dog, as a performance there are some dogs that really suck people in. And there are other dogs that are just as good that don’t have that quality, that “it” factor. It’s true in people to, you know there’s athletes and actors and singers that have that, where you’re drawn to them, they may not be technically as good as some of their peers, but they have that quality that makes you want to listen to them, or be them, or sleep with them.
TM: Sleep with the them? Seriously? I always sleep with my top specials. Under the covers, all snoozy. No, I agree I think the “it” factor has been used several times, describing a dog that’s out there that commands the attention of not only the judge, but all the spectators and, usually all the other handlers. You know, they aspire to replicate that dog’s energy & presence, & there can be some really great dogs out there that are flat show dogs, & there can be some good dogs that just ooze that personality, and their foolers sometimes.
PDT: Ok, so let’s talk about some of your great dogs. Ok, everybody always wants to talk about Mick. He was very much a personal favorite of mine, I happened to be showing a terrier at the same time, and I mean wow. Talk about bow to your idol, ya. He really had that. I remember watching him at The Garden that year that he kinda screwed himself a little bit.
BM: Ya it was more than one year. When Mick hit The Garden he thought everybody was there to see him, you know there’s so much energy & electricity in that building he was like: Oh, my God they all came at one time to see me! And that was really a difficult place to show him cuz he was just literally was out of his mind, it was just, that was a hard place to show him.
PDT: He was a pretty good dog
BM: Ya he was pretty good dog
PDT: So legitimately he had that “it factor” that you guys were talking about?
BM: He did. He did. The breeder, when I went to see him at his house, and Mick came into the living room and kinda gave me the once over. The way the breeder described him was that it was like living with Clark Gable, that he just, this dog, the look was he’d either make you love him or fear him, whatever he just had that quality. Some of that is not anything that you can do, you know if they have it, you learn to work around it or try to channel it. The way dogs are raised is important but, I don’t think you can raise a dog to be that, it’s either that or it’s not, it’s just the way it is. And there’s only one Honey Boo-Boo allegedly.
PDT: Thank God. Taffy, one of my very favorite dogs of yours was the giant schnauzer, Spirit, right? She had some of that, didn’t she?
TM: She did. And you know it’s funny, as a young dog she didn’t really have that presence. I mean she may have had it deep down, but she walked on the first fairgrounds and kinda looked around, and really didn’t think it was the thing for her. But in true giant schnauzer, you know the way they go, she grew into it, and she could read a person to the point of whether they appreciated her quality, or if they didn’t believe in her, she knew it. She’d size them up, and she’d perform differently for those people, ya it was crazy. We went through a communicator & I kept thinking, why is she not standing still for this one person, and the communicator said: Spirit says that person does not appreciate her, & had better learn to.
BM: I think that Taffe & Spirit, there was a difference. I don’t think Spirit had the “it factor,” I think they had the “it factor.” There was such a partnership and so many people independently referred to it as like they were dancing together. That’s a different quality than a dog that’s just drawn in the partnership, was the “it factor.”
PDT: Ok that just gave me chills.
TM: Its making me cry.
PDT: So, over the course of you career, there’s always the famous owns, but there’s also the favorite ones, and those aren’t the same.
BM: I had a Pooly bitch one that was one of my favorite ones I ever showed, bred by the same lady that bred Preston the top dog this year. She just was pure joy to show. I just loved every minute of her, she was so much fun. And then another one was a Bouvier bitch, and neither one of them had huge careers, they both won Nationals, but they weren’t like bazillion Best in Show dogs. But they both, I just, I loved them. They were so much fun to show. And then for some reason there’s this string of Westie bitches, & I can’t even come up with all their names, they all were maybe Best in Show winners & had reasonable careers, but they just, I don’t know, I just clicked with them and none of those have anywhere near the success of some of my other dogs but I just really enjoyed those.
TM: I think my all-time favorite was the English Setter, Kid. He just, again you know the difference between Bill & I, our careers, I always seemed to have the ones that needed to kind of coaxed along, and given courage, my Bedlington needed courage, my English Setter needed courage, the Greyhound, the Deerhound, they all needed courage and they kinda leaned on me. Where Bill kind of tended to get, his giant Schnauzer bitch Tristen was just like held-bent for election. Mick, the Dandy had a presence like he just walked in there & commanded the ring. I always seem to have ones that I kinda had to noodle into thinking that they were big and tough, the English Setter dog, the kid dog, and the Bedlington, I loved that dog. He was one that I had to convince that the sun was kinda coming out tomorrow. I think I like that, I’m drawn to that.
PDT: Taffe I think they respond to you because you give them strength
TM: Ya, exactly, ya.
PDT: So now we’ve talked about as handlers, but also, we need to talk about as breeders. I think sometimes people forget that some of the best handlers, a lot of us started as breeders. So, I’d like to talk a little bit about that, and what handlers that are also breeders bring to the profession and to the sport.
TM: My original breed through my sister was English Setters and I probably bred three or four litters and enjoyed them. But it just never really clicked for me, and so I fell madly in love with Shih Tzu’s and through an assistant. and Havanese and have actually had quite good success with both breeds. It gives you a new prospective of what breeders have to go through, you know you have this beautiful dog and this beautiful bitch and in all probability, you should get something in the litter that’s going to work out. And that doesn’t occur, you have accidentally breeding where your best friend forgot to close the gate and something happens, and you get the best puppy you’ve ever seen in your life. And you would have never have done that breeding. So, my hats off to the breeders cuz it’s not an easy thing, it is trial and error, trial and error, everything looks good, genetics, trying to make the perfect match, and I think I will never be a professional breeder because it is so hard, and such a long situation to get the end result that you want, or close to the end result that you want. So, I’m not as devout a breeder as my husband is. He lives, breaths Wire Fox Terriers, and I always tell him that the pecking order is Wire Fox Terriers, Starbucks, Pilates possibly me, maybe number four, if I’m lucky…..oh ya movies. Damn, moved down to five. Well anyway at least I’m in the top 50. I don’t consider myself truly a breeder like Bill is, you know I’m more of a raise the puppies, walk the litters, he’s the master mind.
BM: That’s my favorite part about dogs is the breeding. And probably I would have found another way to make more money, but this is a way I can do my breeding and any dog gets incorporated together. But that’s my favorite thing, I love master breeders, I love talking to people that have a plan, for generations, and particularly ones that have created or stamped a type. You don’t have it as much anymore because people can’t have as many dogs as they at one time could have. I miss they days that you’d say you were going to breed to whatever kennel because you wanted to improve your head, you wanted to get a star kissed head, or whatever the kennel name was. I think that’s made it a lot more difficult to breed dogs because what’s happened is a lot of the pedigree, everybody has basically similar pedigrees, we’ve all breed to the dog that has produced is producing well whether they are related to us or not. So, all of our pedigrees are relatively similar which makes it a lot harder to have like a break-out line, or a dog that can significantly make a difference. Because you know we all have cottage cheese and you can put pineapple in it, put a little something else in it, but it’s still cottage cheese.
BM: Ya, I don’t like cottage cheese in my lasagna
PDT: And I agree with you Bill, I really think the popular sire has always been there, but it’s kind of more common now.
BM: And world-wide
PDT: In your breed, in Wire Fox, I don’t know is that a breed you could still find pockets of singularity?
BM: So, you’re not as likely to build or find a dog in Mozambique & bring it over. There’s a lot of good things that have happened because the world has become smaller, but I also think it’s harder to breed because they all have pretty much the same stuff.
PDT: So, we were having a conversation actually, Taffe & I about this. How does it work for you being a handler, and being a breeder? Taffe said you’re not allowed to bring your Wire Fox Terrier, so how do you make that work?
BM: Well you know I have goals that I haven’t reached yet, but because I’ve seen other handlers mis-handle being a breeder and a handler. You know what happens is, a breeder like I like to show my dogs were bred-by, but if I have a client’s dog entered in open, I’m not going to show a dog in bred-by that I don’t thinks pretty spectacular.
PDT: It’s a conflict of interest.
BM: So early on I decided, ok first I didn’t show dogs for any Wire people. Then I decided, oh we’re supposed to be making a living! So, then I started for a few select people who know me as a breeder and respect that there are some shows I want to show my own dogs. And that I will be honest with them & tell them sorry, this is for my dogs, this show, I’m sorry. That I really have never campaigned one of my own dogs, I mean I would like to, and I still have a couple years in me so I might, but I’ve never done that. So, I’ve bred a lot of Best in Show winners, I’ve bred National specialty winners and stuff.
PDT: All over the world
BM: I’m not in the record books, like you’re not going to see me as one of the top. And they’re pretty lofty records in that breed, you know it’s a breed that’s had lots of success. But I still find it’s a challenging breed and still working on the little puzzle pieces, it gives me something to occupy my mind.
PDT: Ok, all of that going forward, you know in this sport I think we find ourselves a little bit challenged looking for a solution for some of the things we see in this sport. We’re seeing conflicts with some of our handlers & professional handlers, we’re seeing fewer people, and what kind of ideas or suggestions or recommendations do you guys have for people who are just frustrated?
TM: I really think that there’s a pocket of this business that has not been made more important, and that’s the breeders. I just feel that this is initially a sport where we are comparing our breeding stock. If Mr. Jones has a great Pointer, and Mr. Smith has a great Pointer bitch, the whole purpose of it is to make the best next generation. I don’t feel that we’re showcasing our breeders nearly enough, and as a handler we are at the mercy of these breeders to be able to produce the next great one, & to be able to be honored enough to show it. I have all the respect for the American Kennel Club and their owner/handler series. I understand that it does help encourage other people to show their own dogs, and I know as a handler Bill & I are both very supportive of people that show their own dogs, and we’ll give hints out, and tips, and we’re always helping the new people, you know that’s what we’re here for. But I really feel that there should be more breeder showcases because those are outstanding things to watch. When a breeder can walk in, there’s a specific person up in the Pacific northwest, that walked into my ring when I had the honor of judging the showcase, with a generation, after generation. One of the dogs was 15yrs old, one of them was 7, and one of them was 3. I couldn’t believe, that 15yr old dog could have walked in any one of those groups today, and won that group. It was the most amazing thing, and this person can stamp that breed consecutively, line after line after line, and those are the people that we need to make the next Julie Gasow, the next whomever in whatever breed it is, and we’re just letting that fall, we not pushing the breeders. I don’t profess to be a breeder, but I profess to being a handler with a very good eye and we need more of those people producing whatever breed it is.
BM: Just generally I think that we all need to put on our positivity caps as opposed to our negativity caps because the sky’s been falling for as long as I’ve been in dogs. You know every generation is be-moaning the next generation, or that the great people are all dead or whatever. I think that there is amazing talent, I think there’s young people, young breeders, young handlers, young veterinarians, there’s people out there. We need to encourage them, we need to empower them, because many of them are intimidated by handlers or by judges, by the AKC, there should not be intimidation to not enter into it. There should be a place for thirsty people to get a drink at any time. I’m very dismayed by, you know there’s a very negative vein on the internet about handlers, because I am one I’m offended by it because the handlers I know are hard-working, giving. People are never afraid to ask us to donate handling services, or grooming or handling lessons, and we all do it. Yet we’re the first person cascaded…it’s the handlers fault that the sport is falling apart. There are exceptions, you know there are instances, there are inequities, there are handlers that have won a lot that maybe didn’t always deserve to. But for the most part, the core of our brotherhood of handlers are good people that work way too hard for way too little money, and give, give, give. I really don’t like that negative opinion that people have. And yes, those are tears in my eyes, but then I thought of lasagna.
PDT: Soon Bill, there’s gonna be lasagna soon.
PDT: I think both of those things we’re talking about, these are really important things that we can do. And I think just to sum up just for the whole package moving forward, would you encourage the owner/handlers to come and talk to a handler?
BM: Definitely, definitely
TM: Oh absolutely
BM: And I don’t know a handler that wouldn’t. That have to be respectful of our time. I think the worst thing that happens is people come to a dog show & get a bad experience because they ask you…when you’re walking in the ring in 3 min… a question, where you’re focus is on your dog and maybe it’s a dog as Taffe says needs courage, or whatever & you know you’ve built your little bubble getting ready to go in, and somebody takes a pin and pops your bubble. So, making sure that you ask at an appropriate time. I would recommend leaching on to a handler, offering, you know when I’m not showing my Chihuahua I will help you with anything, I just want to learn…make yourself available, become part of their family. You don’t have to want to be a handler, but you can learn so much about dogs in general. There’s not a handler on the planet that couldn’t use an extra hand, or a set of eyes or ears, and would gladly take you into their fold and help you learn and help you build your dog knowledge.
TM: And I also think as a handler, we get excited with new blood, new eyes.
BM: New talent
TM: New talent. You know it’s fun to see them take the baby steps, and then start taking leaps. It’s really fun. Bill and I do a handling class, and trust me there’s nothing cooler than having them lay the ribbons out on the table when we come the next week after a dog show, and they’re like, look what we did! You know & it may be their very first blue ribbon or it could be best of winners at a big specialty. That is just the best feeling to know that somebody else has found the passion that we feel about this business. There’s nothing that’s been harder in my life than when I was tired of going to dog shows, cuz this is a difficult thing to maintain sanity in, very little sleep, hard work, lousy food, blah blah blah
PDT & BM: No lasagna!
TM: But when, somebody takes it away from you because of a health issue, or economically, or for some reason it gets taken away from you, I’ve never felt such a burning need to get back. Because I love it, and it’s in my blood and you can watch new people get the people, and that’s so fun. That makes you really believe that this business is gonna flourish
PDT: That we haven’t wasted our lives
TM: Exactly. Well there are days when, you know usually Monday mornings….
PDT: Congratulations Mr. Bill, winner of the non-sporting event last with the Bijon Frise. We wish you the very best of luck tonight, we’ll be there cheering you on!
BM: Thank you
TM: Thank you, it was good talking.
PDT: As always, if you have any questions or input, we’d love to hear from you. The show notes and links to resources on today’s topic are available at puredogtalk.com. Drop us a note in the comments, or email to Laura at puredogtalk.com. Remember guys, this podcast is for you, so if you want to know something give me a holler, we’ll do a podcast for you. If you wouldn’t mind, you could help me out here, take a couple minutes and to visit iTunes and give us a review, this will help share the love with others with others out there in the sport. This has been Pure Dog talk with your host, Laura Reeves. We hope you can join us next time as we continue the journey to success with your pure-bred dog.