Interview with Carol Howell

Page 2.

Q: What faults irritate you the most and the least?

I have worked hard to get a beautiful eye and rear. So, I suppose that when those are faulty I notice them the most. I love most a dog that has the essence of beautiful breed type. I dislike most the totally common ones. None of these faults "irritate" me though, except maybe in my own dogs. I will keep lesser grades of perfection in many of these areas, but I am elated when certain points are "just right." I love a beautiful neck, and glorious bodylines, but have liked (and kept) dogs lacking them. While I do have the Perfect Sheltie in my mind's eye, I like bits and pieces of many dogs. Few of them (even---maybe especially---my own) are perfect to me in all ways. But I have evolved to the point that I can appreciate pieces. A beautiful eye in one, a muzzle and under jaw in another, a glorious coat in one, and great showmanship, and head planes in yet another. I can appreciate a dog with a too-short neck, because he has a perfect rear. Or, I can love the look, and type, but wish that the shoulder were better. I happen to love a breed where it is nearly impossible to get perfection. Yet, I think that we need to appreciate the good points when we get them, and not throw the baby out with the bath water, because of faults.


Q: What goals have you set for yourself?

Like every other breeder, I want that elusive, perfect specimen of the breed. If that were not a goal of mine, I don't think I could continue on with the one disappointment after another that this breed hands us. The highs in breeding come less often than the lows. But there is always the hope of attaining better and better. That's a goal, I have. That's the fun and the challenge of it. Also, my goal has always been to have fun. When the fun stops, I will quit. The wins are wonderful. I love to win, and to finish beautiful dogs. But as I grow older, the losses are easier to accept. Maybe I am more philosophical. Or, maybe I am just getting used to it! As much as I enjoy winning with my own dogs, I equally love the calls that I get from people telling me that they have won in the breed ring with something I have bred and sold them; or with something sired by one of my males, or something coming down from one of my bitches. The calls from those who have won or excelled in the performance ring are just as exciting. It makes it such fun when you can share the excitement.


Q: What are you striving for?

I am striving to do no harm. To never put a dog with a disabling genetic or health problem in a pet home. To never cause hurt by unsolicited criticism. To never spread untrue and hurtful gossip. To never breed something not representative of the breed. To always be a good sport. To never stop learning. To never stop enjoying and loving what I have. To appreciate what
I have, but to always want better. To count my many blessings. To never stop having fun.

Q: Do you handle your own dogs?

I finished the first---probably 25 or more-dogs totally by myself. I loved showing them. I loved going to the shows. I loved the whole experience of staying and rooting for the winner in the group. We always had a motor home to travel in. In my early California days, I would sometimes travel to circuits with Susan Bentley. We broke in (and broke) my first brand-new motor home, but Susan was great at crawling under it and fixing things! After the move East, my good friend Ellen Russell and I traveled to many shows together; mostly in her big Collie-size van. We always had a giggly-fun time! Then, when we started building our new home, the last motor home was sold, and my special friend Laurie Schaum and I started traveling together to shows, taking turns using our vans. We still do the National together every year. But, when I lost Keith (my built-in critter sitter) I had to cut back on the traveling drastically. It is often difficult to get a good sitter when I need one, and it is expensive when I do get one.

In recent years, the only dog I have finished from first points to last is my Ch.Jade Mist New Sun Rising. He is small (14") and I thought it would be the easiest to finish him as a puppy. So, I flew to shows around the country where I thought the judge would "do" a puppy, and would appreciate a small one. Zachary fit under my seat in a Sherpa bag. One of the benefits of being a little squirt, I guess. He finished from Puppy and Bred-by under breeder-judges, and had Specialty majors and Sweeps wins. Laurie sometimes flew with me; we rented a car, and often got lost. It was great fun. It was so good to be on the road again! I really miss it.

At a local show around 10 years ago, I was showing my (Ch.) Jade Mist Happily Ever After. She was doing some nice winning from the Puppy classes, even taking the Breed a few times. Julie Desy was attending that particular show (she was specialing Jill at the time) and liked my puppy. So, she approached me, and we discussed sending her off to shows with Julie. I had never used a handler before that, but knew that my days of carefree traveling were over. So, we made arrangements, and off she went to Julie. It was the best decision I could have made. Now my dogs are at shows when I can't go, and are finished in record time. They are impeccably handled and cared for, and are given exposure all over this part of the country. Simply stated, Julie is the very best that I could do for my dogs. Not only have we become friends, but have really enjoyed doing a few co-bred litters together. I couldn't have progressed so far in the last decade was it not for her help. I have managed to travel enough to put a major or so on a few of my dogs, but Julie has done the rest. It is not quite as much fun as being there myself, but I do love getting "those" phone calls!

Q: What was the most difficult problem to overcome when owner-handling?

When I was doing my own handling, the first few years were all a learning experience. Still, I won enough to feel satisfied. The hardest thing to overcome was competing against the Professional Handlers. I am not talking about politics. But, the fact was (and is) they often had really nice dogs to show. They knew the grooming tricks to enhance the dogs' good points, and minimize the faults. They knew which judges would like what dogs. As I got more experienced, and learned---to a lesser degree-the same things, I held my own in the ring.

Q: What advice would you give the novice who may want to handle his/her own dog?

To the novice I would say, don't expect to become an overnight expert. It doesn't happen that fast. Watch the good handlers and owners carefully, and learn from them.  Watch the judging. Stay for the groups, and study the judges. Present your dog in the best possible way you can, and present to the judge the best that you have.  Don't get discouraged when you lose.
Realize that sometimes you are simply out-handled, or out-groomed. Or, maybe the winner is simply a better dog. Also realize that judges are not perfect, and they can make wrong choices. But know that much of the time the best dog does indeed win. Believe in what you are showing, but always try to have better and better. Above all, don't lose perspective. HAVE FUN! Remember that every single winning owner or handler in the ring today was a total novice yesterday.

Q: How do you condition your dogs for the show ring?

I am fortunate to have lots of exercise room for the dogs. I feed a quality food, keep them free of internal and external parasites, and let them run, run, run!

Q: What's your grooming routine for a dog before a show?

That's an easy one now.  I bathe the dog, clip it's toenails, and send it  to  Julie and her team to do all of the hard work.

Q: How are your dogs show trained?

Years ago, when I had a lot more time and energy, I was very good at getting puppies lead-broken, table-trained, and well socialized in the outside word. I still socialize them to a degree because so many people come and go here, and they are always meeting and handling the puppies. But, I am always putting off the leash training, and don't get to as many training classes as I should. Having the time in my life to attend the classes is a real factor. So that the temperaments don't suffer, and the pups can get more early socializing and training, I use my friends. I have sent puppies to Caora Farm where Sharon Poorman's kids haul them around and get them used to the noise in different situations. Sharon takes them out into the Big Wide World. I have sent them to Laurie Schaum. Her late husband Frank was a super puppy socializer. (He worked with my Zachary, who still, to this day, sits when you point your finger at him!) I have sent pups to the home of a Veterinarian north of me, who has 5 kids. One of the older daughters lead trains the pups, and they all love and socialize them. The Mom takes the pups to soccer games, and such. I have sent them to Ellen Russell so that she can haul them around to shows with her and condition them to that life. And, the people constantly coming here to "meet the breed" are a wonderful teaching aid to let the puppies know that other people are GOOD. It is all a great help. After they stay a week or so in the training home, I personally try to keep them as well socialized as I have the time for, and get them to at least a few inside conformation training classes before their first show.

Many are just "naturals." I leash trained my Ch.Jade Mist Memorandum at his first show when he was 6 months old, and he went WD. He's always been a super show dog. I had another "natural" lately that kind of slipped into the cracks here. She was Jade Mist Share The Moment, a pretty, bloomy puppy who over-loved every person who got close to her. Because she was so exuberant, I often put her outside when company came. One day I looked a her and realized that at 10 months of age, it was time to go to shows. She hadn't been ANYWHERE, nor had she been within 5 feet of a lead. Her co-breeder, Heidi Jacobson, offered to take her to train and get her ready for Julie. Heidi slightly over-achieved. At her first practice show, Share got a major. This was followed in short order by 3 more majors, including Specialty wins. She finished with her last single point at days over a year. Poor Julie never got to see her! So, to sum it up, I couldn't show train without the help of friends.


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