Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hold on to your hat - this won't be pretty

Something has been on my mind for some time and today, after another visit to a particular website, I'm compelled to write. I've let my blood pressure descend a little so as not to really torch this person. Hopefully eight hours was enough time.

I had a dog some time ago that I was interested in placing in a pet home. He was an older dog that had been out with a handler and had a rather rocky time of it since leaving Phoenix. Suffice it to say I was torn about this dog. I had finally made the decision that even though he was a nice enough dog for some people to breed, for me and the future of my breeding program, it just wasn't meant to be.

I had spent some time talking to a lady who had contacted me for a show quality puppy bitch. Well, good luck, I told her. Since I don't breed very often, getting a puppy was one thing, but a bitch? Was she kidding me? Any and all female puppies stay here for a LONG time, usually forever. The few that I've placed in pet homes had obvious conformation issues that would prevent them from being shown AND they were all spayed. Not to mention we all know how many boy puppies we get in comparison to girl puppies! But I digress . . .

This lady had me convinced she merely wanted something to show in an effort to spend more time with her daughter. A hobby of sorts if you will. I sent her pictures of the dog and this mere novice proceeded to tear into my dog's conformation as if she had been showing all her life. I was not impressed and told her forget it - he's not for sale.

Was I offended? You bet I was! I wasn't about to let this little boy go to someone that had ripped him to shreds when she hadn't as much as stepped foot into a show ring. The dog was pointed after all, and not just with a handler! I had put points on him myself - me and my ample ass! This dog was show quality. She TOLD ME SHE WASN'T INTERESTED IN BREEDING - she just wanted something to show.

Well, the little dog in question went on to complete his American and International titles. He even took a Group 1 placement in International competition. He is now living in Avondale, AZ with his new daddy James and his brother Oreo, a Shih Tzu about his same age. He is neutered and living large! James constantly is bragging about what a good boy he is. James is doing some therapy work with this dog - taking him to nursing homes - and he's flourishing! James has absolutely no regrets about adopting this lady's version of a less than perfect Shih Tzu.

And the lady? Well, these days she's got a full blown website hawking "Imperial" Shih Tzu. She even claims to be able to tell the potential buyer everything about the "Show dog world" yet she has never stepped into a ring. She has a Shih Tzu in every color of the rainbow, most of poor conformation in general - none meeting the weight requirements set forth in our breed standard. She has her nursery all set up online with varying prices for various colors and estimated full grown weights - we all know what an accurate science THAT is. The most ridiculous thing I saw on her site was a piebald pup advertised for $1,500. Eh GADS! Why? Because she estimates the full grown weight at 4 pounds! The key word here - ESTIMATED. She's been doing this now for maybe 2 years. Here truly is a lady that knows this breed - NOT! The whole time I was on her website I kept thinking "PT Barnum/sucker born every minute." If anyone buys a puppy from this lady, they a) haven't done their homework and b) are desperate! Me thinks this new found passion of hers has much more to do with the state of real estate (her "profession") in our country and nothing about her love of our breed - as she is destroying it.

Two points to consider: 1) All you Imperial hawkers out there, flame away at me - your comments are welcome. I can't be more pissed off than I am right now, and 2) Maybe this incident shows you why I don't believe anything anyone tells me anymore when they call me about buying a puppy. When you, the potential buyer makes it through my screening/interview, at the end I'll give you this lady's email address and you can send her a personal thank you note.

Frankly, I'd rather keep every puppy I breed then place them with people like this. It only proves that people will lie to get what they want without conscience. Especially someone that makes their living in a job squarely based on commission sales!

Shown above is AM / IABCA Group Winning CH WoTeH'sin If It Happens In Vegas - AKA "Lucky Christner" - going Breed over Specials is MS during his show career. Professional presentation by Corrine Thellman.

The Shih Tzu Reporter - Fall '08 - Mr. Stephen Regan

Paying It Forward
Nancy Manelski
WoTeH'sin Shih Tzu

When people ask me about showing dogs they always ask the question "Why?" And sometimes I take the time to explain my version of "Why?" and sometimes I don't. I guess it just depends on my mood of the moment or what I feel about how the question was posed. Let's pretend, if you will, that we are on the other side of that question "Why?" and we are faced with an individual that doesn't want to come clean. And now, let us ask the real question "Why?"

Sometimes we need to understand why a potential mentor - doesn't. I mean, how many times does it take to be "burned" before someone stops answering the question of "Why?" and just says "Because." without putting on their mentor hat to try to make people understand the passion of showing and breeding dogs?

If you are interested in learning and finding a mentor, you should know that this person, this breeder/owner/handler, has seen "you" before. "You" may have introduced yourself at a show, or "you" may have placed a phone call or written an email. "You" have laid out the "I am serious about this" argument. And "you" eventually failed. So now, when the real you shows up, fresh faced and eager with hopes and dreams of showing and breeding a Best In Show winner, you merely get the answer "Because." to your "Why?"

If this seems a little Abbot & Costello-ish, I apologize. But it's important for the new person to understand that you are not the first to express an interest. What sets you apart from the ones that have not succeeded before you is your will and determination. And most times the mentor worth pursuing needs proof of your determination. And even then, you will still need to work harder.

We all have setbacks in our lives. It's how we handle them that makes us who we are. This leads to the "two sides to every story" thing. And my purpose is not to go there. My purpose today is to help someone new understand that first of all, there are a variety of mentors out there available to you. The very best ones are going to make you work the hardest. They are the ones that won't just sell you a dog and tell you to be on your way. Most of the time the best mentor won't sell you a dog outright, if at all. They document, they care and they EXPECT. But they expect in a good way. They expect you to learn and to grow. They are gracious when they win against you. They are happy when you win against them. They don't bait you to fail - they train you to win. If you are looking for anything less than this - get a pet and watch Westminster in February.

If you are not willing to develop a relationship with this person, this mentor, for the duration of your non-professional career in Shih Tzu, trust me when I tell you that it is better not to involve a dog in the middle of that relationship. If you are not ready to live, breathe, sleep, eat, laugh and cry about Shih Tzu, trust me when I tell you that the mentor worth the effort will prefer you to walk away now. If you have any elements to your personality that prevent you from selectively forming lasting friendships, showing and breeding dogs really isn't the best hobby you could choose. Try something more suited to your personality.

As the newbie, tread carefully among the masses. TAKE YOUR TIME. Remember there are people out there that are driven by motives other than betterment of the breed. Use your head. Be logical - it's tough when you've got these sweet faces looking at you to say "No, I think I'll be moving on." Remember all dogs, and pedigrees, are not created equal. And another favorite cliche - if it were easy anyone could do it.

Be as selective as the mentor. When the planets align, you will know. It's not just about buying a dog. It's not just about finding someone local. It's about finding someone worth the effort.

So how do you get a dog? Ah - we'll save that for later.

I am pleased to introduce to you, Mr. Stephen Regan, AKC Judge #22219.

NM: How did you get involved in the sport of dogs?
SR: I grew up in London, England. Living in a house full of dogs, my Dad was a Rough Collie Breeder/Owner. We immigrated to the USA in 1974. I obtained my first Standard Poodle in 1988. This Standard Poodle was a rescue bitch. I thought she was the best of the best, her temperament sure was. I later purchased a dog from the late Dr. William Houpt (Willow Hollow Standard Poodles). I showed "Zack" to reach a ranked top 15 Standard Poodle, reaching Group 1 with him once to be beaten by a Basset Hound in BIS. Breeding this excellent Standard, I was lucky to obtain better conformation and also brains, having a Champion puppy and also an Obedience CDX out of this very first litter. I was hooked on this sport and since then have had many litters over the years, owner handling many from these litters to their Championships both in the USA and Canada, exporting the efforts of careful breeding to New Zealand and England. The dog chosen to export to New Zealand won 6 Best in Shows in New Zealand, making us all very proud.
Moving on with my involvement in this multi-faceted sport, living in New Jersey the past 12 years I have been a member of the Eastern Stewards Club, working with other local Chief Stewards. I have attended 40+ dog shows a year serving as a Ring Steward. Most of the stewarding assignments were Toy and Non-Sporting Breeds. This job is fantastic to be up close to see many judges examining Toy breeds and their placements, learning ring ethics and procedure as well as having a unique position to study the breeds. In 2002, I applied to the AKC to judge the Poodle. Since then I have worked hard in learning the Toy dogs' breed standards and attending as many breed seminars as possible to progress in the Toy Group with the goal of obtaining the balance of the Toy Group one day. As for the Shih Tzu, I think this breed is wonderful. If one is having a really bad day, a Shih Tzu will make things much better. Coming from Poodles, I totally appreciate the work that goes into the grooming of the Shih Tzu. I look forward to having many experiences over the years judging this breed.

NM: What was your first breed owned? Shown? Bred? Licensed?
SR: Standard Poodles

NM: Give us a brief synopsis of your dogs/kennel and show "career".
SR: Breeder, Owner and Judge of Standard Poodles.

NM: Why did you decide to pursue judging?
SR: Great interest in the Sport of Purebred Dogs.

NM: Why have you decided to judge Shih Tzu?
SR: Love the breed.

NM: When judging, what is the "must have" quality you look for in a Shih Tzu?
SR: Temperament as per the breed standard. Correct coat, correct substance.

NM: Tell us your definition of breed type in a Shih Tzu.
SR: As per the breed standard for general appearance. This covers the breed type well.

NM: Type and structure - Are they the same? Why or why not?
SR: Well, type and structure are indeed linked together but type is also to include temperament and this is not part of the structure. So it is not an easy question to answer conclusively.

NM: What do you look for on the table?
SR: Table exam is to include all of the anatomy of the dog being judged: head, bite, neck, body, topline, forequarters, hindquarters & COAT. Need to repeat that... COAT. And of course, the temperament, I would not like to see a shy Shih Tzu on the table.

NM: What do you look for in movement?
SR: Everything as per the breed standard; smooth flowing movement with adequate reach and drive. Level topline and high head carriage.

NM: Health, Conformation, Temperament - What do you feel is the order of importance and why?
SR: 1)Temperament. 2)Conformation & 3)Health.
As a judge, we cannot be Vets so the health of the dog is not examined in the few minutes in the ring. I would assume most all dogs presented are healthy. Temperament is really in my opinion the essence of this breed. Conformation is what we judge to see what dog is to be placed where on that individual dog show.

NM: If you could address someone just coming into the sport of dogs, specifically conformation and Shih Tzu, what advice would you give a novice?
SR: Learn by watching the breed. Contact reputable breed clubs and sort out responsible breeders that are preferably local so they can follow up and help. If one is going to show, learn how to groom this breed and get to handling lessons. It is not an easy novice breed to master.

NM: In the US, the Shih Tzu is a Toy, in Canada, Non-Sporting. Where do you feel the Shih Tzu is a better fit and why?
SR: I prefer the Shih Tzu as a Toy Breed. Coming from the Non-Sporting ring with the Poodle, I am quite happy to see it as a Toy breed. I got beaten in the Group ring every time I went to Canada by a terrific Shih Tzu there. Putting that aside, the ideal size and weight of this breed best suits a TOY breed.

NM: What is your feeling of the grooming techniques of today in comparison to those practiced when the Shih Tzu was first acknowledged by the AKC?
SR: I really only know the Shih Tzu to be groomed the way it is these days. I was not involved with this breed back in the beginning of its time as an AKC recognized breed. I would have to assume that with time the perfection of grooming has of course improved with the years. I am perfectly fine with the beautiful grooming that goes into this breed. I expect nothing less than a well groomed and presented Shih Tzu in my ring.

On behalf of The Shih Tzu Reporter, I would like to thank Mr. Regan for taking the time to respond to my inquiry.

If you have comments and/or suggestions on interview questions, judges or this forum in general, please email me at

Judge Regan is shown above with his selections for Best of Winners, Rembrandt's Rightful Heir, and Best of Breed CH Afterglow's The Big Tease, at the 2006 William Penn Poodle Club Specialty.