Low Ebb

Dog showing has reached a low ebb when, no matter who judges, or how good a job they do there will always be someone ready to rip them apart. Not so in my early days in the ring in the early 1940`s. Respect, Honesty and Admiration were the rules. Dog showing was conducted at its highest level and was most satisfying. There was no subversive talk that the judges were crooked or judging the other end of the lead. I have to admit there were fewer shows and the All Rounder Judges in the UK could easily be counted on the fingers of one hand for some time. The Green Eyed Monster had not arrived.
I consider myself very fortunate to have been born into a household of “stock men” possessing a good eye for an animal. Yes, I believe this can be acquired in some instances, with breed standards to study and guidance.  They were very critical of their own stock, as were the majority of the exhibitors in those days. Everyone admired a good dog and views and opinions were exchanged amicably after the judging over a pint or cuppa. Giving much thought to the discussion and opinions expressed.
  Twenty Class Sanction or Limit Shows were the “norm”. A few of the more adventurous Canine Societies ventured into the big time and held 30 class Open Shows. They were always well attended as shows were few and far between, Canine Societies holding one show annually.
  Most exhibitors travelled by bus or rail, a few were fortunate to own cars and travelled in style. I can well remember my Father building a dog trailer to transport the dogs to and from shows. It was hitched up to the car, a big black Standard with running boards and a starting handle to it get going. We would head off at dawn along the narrow twisty Welsh roads in order to get to a show 80 miles away in time for judging. Average speed would be around 30 miles an hour. Climbing up the Welsh hills was another matter.
  My parent was devoted to Gundogs, and housed mainly, English and Irish Setters and Pointers. I believe they exhibited the first Irish Setter in Wales, a bitch registered as “Jewel of Pant” born on May 5th 1937. Her sire was Bench Champion Borrowdale Juan and her dam Bench Champion Norna of Settnor. bred by a Mr. J Howard from Hampstead.
  Whether the same could be said for English Setters I do not know but I have a registration certificate of a bitch they purchased from Miss A B Jones, “ Garda of Gwynfryn” born on June 23rd 1934.
  My first experience in the show ring was with an Irish Setter dog at Carmarthen Open Show, an annual event in the doggy calendar in those days, and winning the Children's Handling Class. These classes were very popular in the early days after being introduced at the Llandybie Canine Society when my Father was the Secretary. No, I was never allowed to compete at this Societies shows. My Father was the Secretary and those were the rules in our household. We were expected to contribute by entering at the show but we were not allowed to show our dogs.
  The Carmarthen Show was a major event, held in the Market Hall, combined with a Fur and Feather Show. Can you imagine dogs and chickens and furry friends all under one roof today? Yes, and LITTER CLASSES. This is where I first saw puppies that resembled little red foxes without tails and little rats with tails. No, I could never show anything that resembled a rat. I was used to BIG DOGS.
A big dog would have no trouble striding out on the sawdusted floors of the rings in those days. I could imagine those little rat type puppies scuttling along the ground. No, no, I would never have those on the end of my lead. How mistaken we can be at times.
  My Fathers job at this time was to collect the milk from the local farms and deliver it to the Creamery. One day in the late forties he arrived home with something resembling a rich red fox without a tail. He had fallen in love with this little fox earlier and eventually had managed to persuade his farmer owner, who kept him tied out in the barn, in between fetching cows home for milking, to part with him for the outrageous sum of thirty guineas. My Mother thought he had suffered a brainstorm and went ballistic.
To pay all this money for a dog of no quality was outrageous.  We all knew he would never grace the show ring.   However “The Corgi” had arrived at Gwenlais.
  Jim, as he was known, was registered as  “Gwenlais Little Wonder”. There were times when we all agreed he should have been registered as “Gwenlais Little Horror”. However, he lived up to his name and really was a wonder dog. Soon learning to collect the letters and newspapers and delivering them to my parents in style. The Postman and the Paperboy unfortunately lacked a sense of humour. Well we all thought so. They could not see the funny side, with this little tailless fox sitting in wait for them to push the letters and the papers through the letterbox before Jim could “have them.”
  My Dad decided it was necessary to have a telephone to help him with his Secretarial duties for the Llandybie Canine Society. Well Poor little Jim went berserk everytime this dammed contraption rang. It could not be an alarm clock, he knew this. The alarm clock rang every day at the same time, 5am then his master would get out of bed and get ready for work. This thing would ring at different times of the day, sometimes not at all. This really infuriated Jim, as he had now come to terms with the fact that it was his duty to let the household know that this contraption was ringing when they were out of ear range. He would career up the garden path, barking his little head off to attract attention. Then it would be a race back to the house, and the first to arrive would pick up the telephone. There would be times when, Jim would be in the house on his own, and callers would soon realise this. He would get so infuriated with the telephone ringing incessantly; he would eventually pick it off the receiver and bark at it.
  There were very few vehicles on the roads in the Forties, and all our dogs soon learned to recognise the sound of Dads lorry approaching. They would start to howl and little Jim would scamper up stairs to collect a slipper from the bedroom and greet Dad at the door with it in his mouth.  He would then scamper upstairs for the partner and drop it at his feet. Dad would then say,” Well, I need socks” and away Jim would go to collect a pair of socks that my Mother had left on the bed for him earlier in the day. This was a daily ritual.
  I could relate many more stories concerning this little dog who had never been inside a house until he was 18 months old. He was never trained to do these things; they all came naturally to him. It was a very sad day when Jim departed from this world and I don’t think my Father ever recovered from losing him.
  Not many months earlier he had suffered the loss of a very promising Blue Belton English Setter dog with the dreaded Distemper. There was no vaccine available in those days.  Breeding dogs was heartbreaking.
  Dogs would suffer from Hysteria. The majority of today’s` exhibitors have never heard of this. Let me enlighten you. We would be experiencing an enjoyable walk through the woods, listening to the silence and the twittering of the birds. Suddenly there would be a sound similar to the wailing of the Banshees. More often than not it would be the Irish Setters that would be affected. Dad would say, “Oh, Hell he’s away”. There would be nothing we could do other than stand and watch and wait, whilst this poor creature would tear away, at what seemed, to me, to be a hundred miles an hour. Screaming his head off in terror. A dog could travel for miles in this state but always returned home safely as if nothing unperturbed had happened. For a little girl it was very frightening when it first happened, but one soon became accustomed to it, and knew how to deal with it. At the time it was believed to have been caused by the white flour added to the dog meal.
  Often at Dog Shows, the same thing would happen and dogs would also have fits whilst resting in their owners arms. There was never any panic. Someone would find a towel or blanket, throw it over the dogs’ head and pray that the dog would recover in time to enable it to be shown in its class.  Yes the Dog scene has changed.
  When “Gwenlais Little Wonder” left us my Father lost all interest in the Welsh Corgi for a while. And concentrated on his Gundogs.  However, by now I had become enthralled with these little creatures and several quality Pembroke’s, mainly from the “Saffid Kennels” owned by Betty Faithfull. graced  our hearth, and kept the Gwenlais flag flying for many years in Wales.
  The little puppies that I could remember seeing at the Carmarthen Show, resembling rats, though still did not interest me. Although I had greatly admired Sgt Williams Cardigan Corgi Ch Marlais Premier many years previously, along with another Red and White bitch owned by a Mr. Hector Williams of Saron. Most of these little rats, which now turned out to be Cardigan Corgis, were Brindle. Maybe one day, maybe, if I could find a good Red and White bitch I could become interested.
  Opportunity presented itself. Opening the Dog Papers one Thursday, I saw what I was looking for. Phoned up immediately and purchased  “Ch Gleghornie Destiny ”from Mrs. Roberts of the Gleghornie Kennels in Devon. The following day, another very good friend, also a Pembroke Corgi fancier telephoned me and said that she had picked up the Dog paper and there was a Champion Cardigan Corgi Bitch advertised. She thought she would make enquiries. I did not have the heart to tell her that I had already made a deal and bought her. Luckily for me she was a genuine friend and could see the funny side, when she was told that the bitch had already been sold to someone in the same village. I was very lucky to get in first, by being a subscriber, in those days to the Dog papers and they were always posted to me a day earlier than when they were due out in the newsagents.
  There soon followed Gleghornie Red Rose of Treeza, Gleghornie Dancer, Ch Gwenlais Gleghornie Earl and Gwenlais Gleghornie Elegance.
  In the meantime, I had married a successful businessman who had no interest in Dogs at all, although he was a dog lover, left home and found myself feeling very miserable. Yes it was a big mistake and did not work out, for various reasons. Dogs were my life and it was tough luck on anything that got in the way. Selfish of me, maybe, but that that was my way of life and I could not change it.
  In the early 70`s and finding the home of my dreams, and another new husband who loved all animals as much as I did, maybe even more when it comes to cats, we moved into an idyllic 18 room Mill house, in the country, with 16 acres of land, 2 acres of grounds and an orchard. A wonderful place for the dogs, the cats, and the Parrot. All this was taken away from us, when fire gutted our home one New Years Eve. No doubt it could have been saved, had the Fire Appliances headed for our address, rather than a similar address 16 miles away.
  It has not been easy to start again. We were not adequately insured, but have managed to get our life together. All the animals were saved. This we can be thankful for.
  Everything in our home relating to Dogs was lost. To many, this is of no importance. However to someone who had been dedicated to Dogdom for over thirty years, it was a feeling of desolation. This is when one discovers true friendship. Often one is surprised when one realises they are complete strangers who offer help. I can only recall that the strangers who helped out were Doggy people in another breed. In fairness I must admit that the Cardigan fraternity had no idea that this disaster had occurred until much later.
  The dogs were all saved, as were the horses, and Polly Parrot. However I still have a sinking feeling in my stomach, when I think of all the photographs, and record that were lost in this fire and can never be replaced. The day of reckoning arrived. I had to make arrangements for re-homing some of my dogs, and this was heartbreaking. Somehow we got through it.  “Gwenlais Gleghornie Elegance” and  “Ch Grangefield Rainchaser ” spent most of their time resting in between chasing rabbits all day. No more dog shows for them.
  However I decided to find a suitable mate for “Rainchaser”. A phone call from Doreen Page, with a request to drive her home from a dog show, a 400-mile round trip in one day, worked out in my favour. There was a litter of Cardigans for me to view, and I took a fancy to a smaller very black brindle bitch, with very little white on her. She was not flashy but full of quality, so Milford joined the Gwenlais Mob.
  Eventually she was mated to “Rainchaser” and produced the “B” and “C” litters. The combination of this breeding proved to be very successful, that is why it was repeated.  Usually the Gwenlais bitches are bred from only once, no matter how successful they are in the ring. It is our policy to breed, only when there is need to keep a particular line going, and only when we know that we have the room and the finances to keep every puppy, if necessary. Had we not stuck to this policy the results could have been even more disastrous for the breed.
  Every Gwenlais puppy bred is closely kept a check on. Very few are sold, we prefer to give them to our friends to help them on their way to a successful show career. From the “B” litter, Gwenlais Bethan of Asoka went to our friend Peggy Litton, owner of the famous Asoka Kennels, Gwenlais Beauty of Bedwisan went to Mr. Ron Lewis, later registered as Gwenlais Beauty of Grangefield, Gwenlais Blodwen went on to a successful show career with Grace Noble, “Gwenlais Bashfull of Westville” started Mrs. Walsh off in the breed, but he was later sold to Doreen Paige who exported him to the Cymro Kennels in Holland. Briallen and Bonanza stayed at Gwenlais.
  From the “C” litter there was only one little bitch “Ch Gwenlais Cariad”. She was really very special, 
Ch Gwenlais Caleb at Salroyd started Mr. and Mrs. Devine in the breed. Gwenlais Carwyn at Seaton went to our friend Iris Harrison; Gwenlais Crwys at Sanja lived with our friend Margaret Aynsgough. Ch Gwenlais Croeso stayed here with his sister Cariad.Fortunately he is still very active extremely fit for his age and we hope he will be around for some time yet.
  Peggy Litton offered to breed a litter from “Gwenlais Bethan of Asoka.” and Gwenlais Ffranc Fferws hopefully would be her mate. However this was not to be, he was still too young at 10 months old. A hurried phone call to Peggy and she agreed to mating Bethan to her FULL BROTHER Ch Gwenlais Croeso. I was very happy to do this, as both were of superb quality. The result of this mating produced
Gwenlais Asoka Hennin, Gwenlais Asoka Huwcyn , Ch  Gwenlais Asoka Hopcyn and Gwenlais Asoka Heilyn. AT LONG LAST, A FRIEND, HAD BRED FOR ME THE BLACK AND WHITE BITCH I NEEDED TO START MY BLUE MERLE LINE.
  Yes, I had taken a risk with this full brother to sister mating but at the time had no idea how serious the outcome would be. There were problems with PRA in Holland but I did not know of this at the time.
Years later I realised how lucky Gwenlais had been not to breed PRA affected dogs and once again I realised how wise I had been not to over breed my Cardigans.
  Not so many years ago the Blue Merles were very low in numbers in the UK, and the gene pool almost diminished. Sandra Tonkyn had a top winning Blue dog in Ch Beckrow Blue Cedar but much as I admired him I could see no point in using him on Heilyn to start my Blue line. The breed needed new blood. There was a superb dog with Eddie Young of the Rhiwelli Kennels, namely Rhiwelli Tango. This dog should have the title of Champion but he was not campaigned as a youngster, neither had he been used at stud other than on Eddies own bitches. The mating duly took place, with Tango coming here for a few days.
  The long awaited litter was born and I looked on with wonder, not really knowing what to expect or look out for in this colour blue. They popped out like peas from a pod. The Gwenlais Blues had arrived. My first phone call was to  “Antoc” and Aileen Speding`s daughter Carol answered, they had many years experience in breeding Blue merle Collies and Shelties, and I wanted to know what I should be looking for. Carol explained to me how to look carefully at the different shades of blue. Well they had all looked the same at first glance, so I put the phone down and checked them all carefully, then described them all to Carol as puppies splattered with little dots like newspaper print and some with black streaks and yes there was a difference in colour blue in some of them. She said “ You lucky so and so. You seem to be on a winner ”
  Again a litter of superb quality, but I would have to wait and see if the older experienced blue breeders would approve of them. My aim was to breed top quality clear blues with very little white and in this breeding I was very successful. The Gwenlais “ I ”litter had been born and yes the old stagers approved of the colour and the quality.
  This is when I find out I have problems in my line. Gwenlais Idwen lived with my friend Kathleen Kelly, Ch Gwenlais Idwin and Ch Gwenlais Idwenno went over to Holland to my partner Phil Bitter. Gwenlais Idwal and Ch Gwenlais Idwina stayed here.
   I have mentioned earlier that I try to help novices get a good start in the breed, and get recognised for showing quality Cardigans, so I offered Idwina to my friend Sandra Muckle who had been given Gwenlais Fflossi Fflusteris to handle through her puppy stage and later Gwenlais Gomer Golygus, whilst I was campaigning his brother Ch Gwenlais Gwrgan Goch. She had proven to me to be capable of producing them in top form and I was more than happy to offer her Idwina to show. Sandra did a superb job of this and handled her to her Championship. There was no way that I would now take Champion Idwina from her so she was given to Sandra as a Christmas present. She is the foundation bitch of the successful Gowerston Cardigans and I am very proud to have been the one to start her off in the breed on her winning ways. Long may she continue.
  Phil Bitter campaigned both Cardigans to their Championship and was delighted with their quality and temperament. Eventually Idwin was used at stud. We both knew there was a PRA problem in Holland but had not realised at the time that Idwin had been mated to a proven carrier. In fairness neither did the bitch`s owner know she was a carrier. She had been mated to a dog who had since been proven to be a carrier, but this bitch was thought to have no problems, as no problems had cropped up in the litter. Well not before she had been mated to Idwin.  The puppies were born and all went well. However one day I received a phone call from Phil with the news that this bitch that Idwin had mated was now proven to be a carrier also. There were affected puppies in her previous litter. We both now started to get concerned. I immediately telephoned Dr Ken Linacre and explained the situation and promised to keep in touch with him. What if Idwin was a carrier? No he could not possibly be one. There were blind Cardigans in the UK, but it was Cataract problem I was told by the owners. There was no PRA problem in this line; it was PRA free for seven generations.
  Phil and I worried ourselves sick, but we would have to wait for quite a time before we would eventually know the outcome of this mating. Yes the day dawned when we did eventually find out the truth. Yes, he was a Carrier. We were devastated.  Here we had a very successful line of quality Cardigans sweeping all before them in Holland and the UK. A line that had produced Pedigree Chum and Our Dogs Top Puppy in Breed award five times, Top Dog, Top Brood, Top Sire, Top Breeder, Junior Warrant, Res CC, CC, winners in every litter shown.  Eight UK Champions, Dutch Champions, an American Champion and an International Champion.
  Urgent phone calls to Dr Ken Linacre once again. Yes, it was PRA in Holland but I could not convince the UK Breeders. We asked Ken to make a statement naming Gwenlais Idwin. I was expecting my telephone to be red hot when this was published but NO ONE telephoned, NO ONE asked questions at shows. I was totally amazed and confused.
  My first thought was, “ No more breeding,” I discussed the situation with Phil and with Ken and decided to sit tight. Maybe he could get someone interested in trying to perfect a test to try to sort this problem out. MAYBE, MAYBE. To me it sounded more like  “MAY DAY, MAY DAY.”
  Well we all know the outcome. “MAY BE “ arrived and now its ”EUREKA”.
  I was so very fortunate to have so many oldies around at this time from this line and was able to supply blood samples from both Ch Gwenlais Croeso and Gwenlais Bethan of Asoka, including Gwenlais Asoka Heilyn, Ch Gwenlais Cariad, Gwenlais Briallen, Gwenlais Idwal and Gwenlais Idwen. and Ch Gwenlais Idwina.
  I recently expressed my feelings on breeding and maybe producing too many puppies, and asked everyone to give some more thought before breeding their next litter. This is a ruling I have strictly adhered to in my breeding plan. Had I not kept to this, can you imagine how more disastrous the results could have been for the breed in the UK?
  With the DNA test now available we can all plan ahead. However, I beg you all, once again to stop and think. Ask yourselves ”Why do I need to breed this litter” If you are satisfied with your answer, well, go ahead.
  Whether there will be another Gwenlais bred litter, remains to be seen. I feel at this moment that I have a great deal of heartbreak ahead of me, with so many oldies between 7 years old and 15 years old. My youngsters are also getting older and I am not getting younger. This breed lives to a ripe old age and my thoughts are that I should stop now. I might not be fit enough to care for my dogs in another ten years, when my youngest now will then be eleven years old. Sad thoughts I know, but something we all need to think about at some time.
  Mair and the GWENLAIS MOB..