Page 214 - ShowSight, March 2020
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                primary focus, as she felt that she could do justice to only one breed. She believes in producing healthy, family-oriented Golden Retriev- ers, bred to the breed standard—a belief that she has followed con- sistently. The “Malagold” kennel name is attached to more than 150 AKC champion and performance titled Golden Retrievers.
In the early 1970s, Connie was approved as a licensed All-Breed Professional Handler. This, in conjunction with her successful grooming, boarding and training business, allowed her to broaden her participation within the dog show world.
Highlights in Connie’s long career include winning the Sport- ing Group at the 1984 AKC Centennial, as well as being the breed- er/owner/handler of multiple generations of Best in Show winning Golden Retrievers. Connie has had the thrill of being awarded Best of Breed three separate times at the Golden Retriever Club of America National Specialty. She has also been honored with a past nomination for Breeder of the Year at the Purina Annual Achievement Awards.
I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan and have been in dogs for 57-ish years. What do I do “outside” of dogs? My dogs have been both my hobby and my profession, so I don’t really have any other hobbies!
The current overall quality of the Group? In my opinion, it depends on the breed. Some breeds are doing better than others. However, it seems that in many breeds, we have lost the idea of the “Sporting” dog, and many individual dogs would be unable to do the job that they were originally bred to do.
How do I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to living indoor lives? It is easy for a dog to be climatized to indoor/air-conditioning. But, for them to go back out into the field and be used for the origi- nal purpose would be difficult, if not impossible, for many.
Any particular challenges Sporting Dog breeders face in our current economic/social climate? It is harder for most breeders to keep a number of dogs because of space challenges, as well as zoning regulations in many areas. Obviously, having the money to travel to shows, spend the money necessary to keep up breeding stock, to have good veterinary care and get all of the clearances for breeding is getting more challenging. Many people just cannot afford it! In some breeds, it is also hard to find points to finish dogs, as there isn’t enough competition to even finish a dog.
What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion in these 21st- century times? Most Sporting breeds have wonderful, gentlemanly temperaments and can adapt to many different environments.
What advice would I give a newcomer to the sport? Try to find a good mentor. When your breed is showing, stay for the all of the judging, not just for your class. Find people to talk to and to learn from. Read your standard over and over and understand it.
The largest health concern facing my breed today? Cancer. We are seeing so many dogs dying at a young age from various types.
Any trends I see that I believe need to continue or I’d like to see stopped? I do not believe in “trends”. Overall, my dogs look the same now as they did 20, 30, 40 years ago, and that’s the way it should be, since the standard hasn’t changed in that time. I see way too much over-grooming; fluffing and blowing up backwards. Too much sculpting on areas that should be natural. And lastly, the gaiting way out in front, dragging the handler around at the end of the lead. Sporting dogs should be shown at a moderate pace on a loose lead.
I was fortunate to come into the dog show world at a time when people from all breeds generally worked together, and respected breeders were generous with their time and the sharing of their deep knowledge. The first and most important person in my Golden Retriever life was Ludell Beckwith, of the famed Beckwith Gold- en Retriever line. It was from her that I learned the importance of studying and understanding the breed standard of the Golden Retriever. She wanted me to know the total of the dog—history, purpose, structure, temperament—everything that is the complete
Golden Retriever. I worked with Ludell for a long time before she sold me my very first “show” dog.
I also developed a wonderful friendship with the esteemed authority on canine anatomy and movement, Rachel Page Elliott. “Pagey” and I spent many hours discussing the importance of prop- er structure and its effect on a dog’s movement and overall health. We were both interested in breeding a healthy, long-lived Golden Retriever and she had a significant impact on how I look at dogs and their pedigrees.
There are two others that I have counted on over the years to keep me on point with my vision of the breed standard and for my plans within my breeding program. Marcia Schlehr and the late Betty Gay are/were advocates and historians of the Golden Retriever breed, and I have always respected their determination to keep the Golden Retriever true to what the breed standard truly calls for. They have always stressed the importance of the Golden Retriever as a moderate Sporting dog, with a biddable and willing temperament.
The biggest pitfall awaiting new and novice judges? Too many judges that have not put in the time to learn. They have passed a test, shown up at a seminar or two and ring stewarded. They have not truly put in the time, in most cases, to have learned from long- time breeders in every breed that they are judging. Nor have they seen enough of the correct specimens of each breed to understand what they are judging. Also, too many depend on the advertising to steer their judgement.
The most amusing experience I’ve ever had at a dog show? Truly, after 50+ years, way too many to pick just one!
I am a mother of five. I’ve been married almost 11 years to my husband, Chris. We will be resid- ing in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania come June of this year with our two youngest sons, Jared and Derek. We are proud grandparents to a beauti- ful boy named Wyatt, brought to us by my husband’s daughter, Brooke. I am a breeder and I have been han- dling dogs, mostly Cockers, for 30
years and am looking forward to what my future holds. We have two daughters who are graduating in May. Dana will go into the Army and Rachael will continue showing dogs.
I live in Lake City, Florida. I’ve been in dogs my whole life—so 46 years. I enjoy breeding Cocker Spaniels and I am going to start my next chapter of pursuing judging once I am retired from han- dling in May.
The current overall quality of the Group? I think the Sporting Group is very competitive this year.
How do I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to living indoors? I think most can and are still able to be trained to do their “job”.
Any particular challenges Sporting Dog breeders face in our current economic/social climate? Allergies.
What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion in these 21st- century times? Sporting dogs are great companions and are fairly active dogs. The bigger dogs need a lot of exercise and love being outside to run. The smaller of the Sporting dogs are not as hyper but still need plenty of exercise.
What advice would I give a newcomer to the sport? Please be patient and don’t expect everything quickly. Do research. Come to shows and meet people. Weed out the ones who badmouth every- thing and everyone and find your mentor. One who will teach you specific things about the dogs. One who can have something good

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