Page 238 - ShowSight - November 2019
P. 238

                AKC Breeder of the Year 2019 Q & A
 “Entry fees, hotel and travel expenses are raising quickly so we all have to work harder to support our ‘habit.’ We all do what we do because we love it!”
the club as president, show chair, and specialty coordinator, and for 16 years he was publisher of the national breed magazine. He currently serves as the parent club historian and archivist and has amassed one of the largest collections of breed-specific items known among all breeds. He has judged parent club specialties on four occasions including the national and has judged Griffon specialties and club shows worldwide and is an AKC multi-group judge. He has been an approved breed mentor since the program’s inception and has presented the breed both here and abroad on many occa- sions.
Kestner has been active in the breed for the last 15 years and maintains a vast Griffon breeding-record collection and database worldwide. He is approved to judge the breed along with half the Toy Group. As an active parent club member, he has served on constitutional revision committees and is a parent club–approved mentor and presenter. He has also judged sweepstakes at the national specialty.
Together the Jeffs have bred and/or owned 102 AKC champions as of mid-2019, bred another 64 champions in the United States and Canada, and owned or sold another 90 champions internation- ally. St. Johns exported the first American Griffons to Australia, where they earned multiple group and Best in Show placements. The Jeffs also helped reestablish the breed in its homeland dur- ing the mid-1980s. The breed had nearly died out in Belgium and the Netherlands before St. Johns Griffons revitalized the breed on the European continent. Dogs of St. Johns breeding have sired many champions internationally, and St. Johns is behind many of the world’s successful breeding programs. Performance titlists are important to St. Johns, with 20 AKC-titled dogs and an additional 18 internationally.
Bazell and Kestner are proud AKC Breeders of Merit whose stock is health tested on a generational basis. St. Johns has been an AKC-registered kennel for many years.
How do we feel about the current quality of our breed and- group? As a teenager I became involved with Griffons and this year makes my 50th year with this enchanting breed. Over that time I’ve watched the breed go through the ups and downs typical of all breeds. We currently are at an apex in our breeding program but it takes many things to get there—devotion, time, money, diligence, but most importantly passion. Presently, I find the breed in general at an ebb, there are some outstanding individuals but generally bal- ance is off, few dogs stand under their withers as they should, long loins are becoming more prevalent and coats and color are dyed in and product enhanced with few judges either not noticing or car- ing. Let me say, rich color is one of the easiest things in this breed to conquer, but it will never be done if dyeing is the new norm. The breed is truly in trouble around the world as standards have been changed, supposedly to clear health issues, but these standards describe something very different than what the founders of this breed wrote in the original standards of this purpose bred dog. It angers me that people with little or no experience with this breed took it upon themselves to change time honored standards with no reference or studies to show a relationship between those standard points and skull structure.
As a frequent and long time toy group judge I find the group to be one of the stronger groups. Often I have walked into a group
anywhere around the country to find eight or nine dogs that I have given other strong groups to previously.
Changes we’ve seen in our time involved with our breed? Posi- tive changes in the breed include generally pleasant heads with good expression, better overall grooming at the breed and group level, and one I am passionate about—a better understanding about the health of the breed. Some things need some work—breeders need a better understanding of structure and adhering to the words of the standard (ie: moderate does not mean an open shoulder with a short upper arm with head sitting on top of shoulders), extreme dyeing with known carcinogenic materials and dearest to my heart—the nickname of the breed is Griffon, never Brussels.
Any particular challenges we face in our current economic cli- mate? Entry fees, hotel and travel expenses are raising quickly so we all have to work harder to support our “habit.” We all do what we do because we love it! Anyone taking the time to read this understands completely.
Do we use a handler or prefer to show ourselves? Jeff and I agree that we should limit our showing in the ring ourselves but have always exhibited because we love it. I also think that every judge should be required to show occasionally in some manner because it reminds us of the stress that exhibitors have on a daily basis with parking/crowds/running behind in your day etc. It makes you patient and kinder to both the dogs and the exhibitors.
How many dogs do we normally maintain? We are very for- tunate in that we have some wonderful people involved in the St Johns breeding program. They are like family to us and we all work together for a common goal of bringing happy, healthy Griffons into the world. In order to maintain a successful breeding program with health tested dogs and maintain some genetic diversity it is necessary to keep a number of dogs. That being said, we place and co-own many dogs that are necessary so they will be in loving show homes. We pay to health test these dogs, pay their entry fees and any medical expenses and the folks that they live with provide the TLC and daily maintenance. Jeff and I typically keep between eight to ten at our house that we are currently showing. Evelyn Hole is abso- lutely the foundation of St Johns and Homestead. She is an 81 year old wonder of nature! Evelyn is one of the finest animal husbandry people that we’ve ever met. She catches things other folks would not notice. Evelyn maintains a daily log of what happens with each dog that is abnormal. She whelps and raises our puppies then when we decide which we are keeping they come to stay with Jeff and I for training. We do not breed puppies to sell and typically have not ever bred a bitch more than twice in her life. These girls are then placed in loving homes for the price of a spay and enjoy retirement as a special dog for a special person. We maintain 12-15 adults with Evelyn’s great care.
In addition to this we currently have dogs with Anne Jahelka, Pam Hicks, Jane Handschumaker, Polly Girard, Jeff Crouse and several other friends that we can use to expand the gene pool.
We are fortunate to have formed a great relationship with Susan Depew while showing specials for us and we look forward to bring- ing out a new special soon.
When do we pick a show prospect and what’s the most impor- tant attribute in our choice? Jeff, Evelyn and I start evaluating pup- pies at about four weeks. If they do not grow steady and even they are out of consideration and that we evaluate at four weeks. At six
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