Page 212 - ShowSight, March 2020
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                and three Specialty Sweepstakes. I have been an integral part of the Wirehaired Vizsla becoming an AKC recognized breed, attending many Miscellaneous Classes and chairing Open Shows, and chair- ing the very first AKC Open show to include Miscellaneous breeds, in Atlanta, Georgia.
I have exclusively handled a Wirehaired Vizsla male Special, ‘Tareck’, to an AKC Silver Grand Champion, the first WV with this title, while taking him to the #1 WV for 2015 and most of 2016. I also co-own the #1 Wirehaired Vizsla All Systems for 2017, and he, ‘Durham’, went on to be the first WV with multiple Group 1’s and the very first and currently the only WV to obtain an All- Breed Best in Show for the breed. As of September 2019, I have finished 21 homebred Wires to their Championships, 31 in all, and eight to their Grand Championships. I have also owned several dogs in the Top 20 of the breed since their inclusion in 2014. I’ve had several dogs with hunting titles as well as other performance and companion titles. I was born with slightly deformed feet and, unfortunately, it keeps me from walking the Hunt Test and Field Trial grounds myself, although several of my puppies are in hunting homes and have earned AKC Hunt titles and NAVHDA Prizes. I appreciate those owners keeping the hunting instinct alive in these dogs, providing them with this opportunity and proving their natural ability.
I am very passionate about this breed, and feel that I do all I can to be a reputable, responsible preservation breeder of the Wire- haired Vizsla. I do all parent club required health certifications for all of my breeding dogs. I show in conformation with love and pas- sion and do anything I can to help those who are new to the sport. I love watching the lights come on when newbies ‘get it’ and take on their own love of dog shows.
I live in Greenville, South Carolina. I started showing in 1978, so 42 years in dogs! I have four children and six grandsons (no granddaughters!) I look forward to spending time with them when I can, and seeing my children. Showing is great for me also, in that I love to drive to new places and be on the road! I love to camp in my camper, but I always have a dog with me!
The current overall quality of the Group? I think the quality of the Sporting Group in recent years has been phenomenal. Some of the dogs I see in the SG are almost perfect examples of their breed, and it is nice to see how hard breeders have been working to improve their dogs.
How do I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to living indoors? I think the versatility of Sporting breeds has allowed them to adapt to any situation, indoor, A/C included. However, most of the dogs I know, especially in Vizslas and Wirehaired Vizslas, spend a good bit of time outside and many are taking part in Hunt Tests and Field Trials, as well as being personal hunters. The addition of dock diving, barn hunt, and other performance events, has added to the ability of these dogs and their owners to spend more time outside doing fun things!
Any particular challenges Sporting Dog breeders face in our current economic/social climate? Sporting dog breeders, as well as all show breeders, face the same issues we all do in these post reces- sion times. Entries went down, but have also come up in recent years. We do not want to lose this very important way of proving purebred dogs’ quality.
What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion in these 21st- century times? To me, Sporting dogs train well, are fun to work with, but also are wonderful to live with. They don’t have aggres- sion issues, get along well with other dogs, and make the perfect companion. They love to get out and do what they are bred for, as well as showing in the ring, and relaxing on the couch.
What advice would I give a newcomer to the sport? I love men- toring new people to the sport, and have taken many under my wing to show the ropes until they get started well. It makes me
happy to see them with a nice dog, showing them and doing some good winning. That always helps! My advice is to be honest with yourself, always, about your dog, as well as being honest with others in the sport and within your breed. Make friends, but make sure they have your best interests at heart. Show life can be intimidat- ing, so put on that thick skin, push through, and you will come out shining!
The largest health concern facing my breed today? I think the biggest health concern in the smooth Vizsla is hip and elbow dys- plasia. However, massive strides have taken place in the decades I have been involved in the breed, so we don’t see an issue come up near as often as we used to. In Wirehaired Vizslas, there is the hip and elbow dysplasia also, but we also have auto-immune issues crop- ping up on occasion. Culling the breeding dogs with health testing helps this tremendously for future breeding dogs.
Any trends I see that I believe need to continue or I’d like to see stopped? I love that AKC adopted the Grand Championships and levels. It gives breeders more levels to attain and more ways to enjoy showing your dog.
I have a hard time with the Owner-Handler Groups, as I feel that if you feel you aren’t a good enough handler to compete with the pros, make yourself learn to get better! I am probably just old school!
When I decided to dive into purebred dogs and shows, I was young. I worked for a Rottweiler and Poodle breeder, Susan Porter- field at the time, and she taught me more than I think she knows. I owe her a lot. I really didn’t have a mentor in Vizslas nor Wirehaired Vizslas, but have made lifetime, wonderful friends in both breeds.
The biggest pitfall awaiting new and novice judges? I think the fact that the requirements change so often that it is hard to know exactly what you have to have done at any given time. I realize there needs to be adjustments made, but the requirements should hold for a longer time period than it does, in my opinion.
The most amusing experience I’ve ever had at a dog show? Back a few decades ago, there used to be those who would play small tricks on the judges, or would mess with them. I remember when I showed Afghans, at the National, someone brought a nice little stuffed Afghan, about the size of a 6-9 month puppy. When the steward called the puppies in the ring, this guy walked in with his stuffed animal and went to back of the line, got down on his knees and held the head and tail up. The judge went down the line look- ing at them initially, and totally did not realize it was a stuffed dog! Very real looking! We all had a wonderful laugh, including the judge.
At another show, an exhibitor brought in one of those leashes with no dog at the end, and did a down and back with it. All in fun, and the judge loved it. Gave him Breed! I don’t see the fun and games like that any more, and I miss it.
Connie Gerstner Miller’s fifty plus years in the sport began with a Ger- man Shepherd she trained through the 4-H program. After more dogs, a horse or two, and a few years of expe- rience under her belt, Connie began Malagold Kennels, with a breeding program that encompassed both Alas- kan Malamutes and Golden Retriev- ers—hence the name “Malagold”
Eventually, the breeding of quality Golden Retrievers became Connie’s

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