Chula Vista, CA
Introduction by Iva Kimmelman, Merci Isle
Dianne Bowen has proven to be one of my best experiences in dogs. We met in the early 70’s, and both grew up in the breed together. Not only does she “still” give me credit, (or is it blame?) for discovering whippets, to this day, she also makes me proud with the nonstop quality she creates. Dianne came into whippets with dog knowledge already installed from her St. Bernard breeding program, and pretty quickly became wildly successful in whippets, some of it most certainly, through her association with Deann Christianson, another one of our contemporary “pillars” of the breed. Although they have gone in different directions, there is still that consistency that one would expect from someone with vision.</p><p>I am pleased to see Dianne giving a chance to share some of her secrets with us.
Interview by Eva Engvall, Tangens
On a sunny January day, I went to see Dianne Bowen. She has the smallest Whippet kennel imaginable: right now two spayed females and a litter of puppies. She has lived in her house on Oxford Street for a long time. No wonder she likes it there, as the house is close to the beach and everything else, immaculate and cozy, with three nice dog yards, and a special area for puppies. Here are my questions for Dianne: How did you get into Whippets? My first main breed was Saint Bernard, and I had those when my kids were small; my daughter was born in 1962, and the kids were young when I got the dog. The kids grew up and used to hang on to the tail of the dogs to stand up.
After I was involved in a car accident and hurt my back and could no longer take the Saints down to the beach and jog them in the sand, I needed a breed that was a bit more active and could exercise itself. To anything my vet suggested my response was: “oh no I couldn’t live with that – that barks too much”. We had formed an all breed club here in San Diego, which is still very active: Del Sur Kennel Club. One of the club members, Diane French, decided to breed her Whippet that she had gotten from Iva Cottrell (now Kimmelman) Merci Isle Whippets. The Whippet was bred and had 13 puppies!!! Diane French had no clue as to what to do with all the puppies, so Iva and I went over to do what we could: shots, worming, I helped bottle feed, and this poor ugly Whippet puppy decided he was my best friend. Iva had been after me to get out of Saints: “you need to get a dog that is not quite so costly; you need one of these Whippets”, but I said: “too skinny, I don’t like them”. But in the end, I took this pathetic fawn brindle puppy dog home to be my buddy. Iva had deemed him to be a pet. However, when he was about 1.5 years, my daughter said “that is a pretty nice looking dog; maybe you should show him”. I did. Merci Isle Back In A Flash got his first major in Santa Barbara the weekend of the Western Hound Specialty. That’s what got me into Whippets!
How did you continue from there? I decided, before Flash was finished, that he needed a friend. I contacted Donna Lukasky, Spectre kennel. I got “Wendy” (Ch Spectre Wind Chime) from Donna. I just decided I wanted a little bitch. She finished, very fast, and I ended up breeding her to Ch. Runners He’s A Continental ROMX. That breeding produced several nice puppies who finished their championships. Before I could breed Wendy again, she met a very untimely death. I went looking for another bitch and met up with Deann Christianson, who had Wendy’s sister, Spectre Chalsedony. Deann had a litter with a lovely lemon fawn and white, Saffron (Ch Chelsea Saffron ROMX). I fell in love with her, but Lee wouldn’t part with Saffron, because she was his pet. Instead, I ended up getting a daughter of hers, Ch Chelsea Deception (Ch Chelsea Legerdemain X Saffron). I finished her but never bred her. I then leased Saffron from Deann, and we bred her to Whippoorwill Moonstone and kept her offspring “Drake” (Ch Chelsea Drakkar of Oxford) and “Dovie” (Ch Oxford Paloma of Chelsea)
After leasing Saffron from Deanne, Deanne said: “you may keep her”. And I did keep her for the rest of her life; in fact her ashes are up here. She was the most wonderful bitch; she was an alpha bitch – she was boss – everybody knew she was in charge – I hope nobody will take her place, because it is really nice to not have somebody who wants to be dominant.
What is your ideal Whippet? Have Whippets changed? They have changed, which is a good thing. My focus is on temperament; that has to be one of the most important things. Like the sire of my current litter, Ashton (Ch Starline’s Sovereign). He was brought over here because a puppy buyer wanted to see him. We turned Ashton loose in the yard, and he thought the puppies were the most wonderful thing. Health is the big issue. I don’t get all freaked out about the eyes and the deafness, because those are very minimal, but heart is important. Anything bred should be totally health tested.
In terms of looks: Top line. Many people don’t understand it. Obviously a lot of judges don’t. A bad top line can ruin the whole shape of the breed, in terms of where the break in the top line is. And the hardest thing is to say: “what is this puppy’s top line going to look like as an adult?” Fronts! I sell all my puppies with bad fronts as pets. People don’t understand the layback of shoulders, length of upper arm. A dog with a straight front and a weak rear can have beautiful movement. They may have reach and drive because they are balanced – two faults cancel each other out. A dog with a good front but a weak rear will not have good movement. You don’t want to see a dog that is over angulated in the rear, even though it looks pretty. Our standard stresses moderate. The last thing I look at is head. It is wonderful to have a beautiful head with pretty eyes. It is important, because the standard says “large dark eye”. Would I throw away a dog that needed eyes? No. I am fortunate to have had pretty eyes.
What Improvements have you seen? Have we lost anything? Temperament is much better! I don’t think we have lost anything. Looking back at what was shown back when I started: Go to whippet archives! Oh my gosh! See what we started with. And obviously, we wanted them to change. When I got into the breed there was a particular bitch that was very pretty. Rosemary Sutton owned her; her name was Summerwind Sheer Energy. She was beautiful, and I said to myself: “if I can only have something like her”!
What do you think about dog shows, show business and showmanship? I love dog shows and feel the art of breeding should be rewarded in the show ring. I prefer going to specialties as opposed to all breed shows, as the breeder judges understand our breed better. Showmanship: Important, but not too important. When we showed Saint Bernards, they were just big working dogs, and if you thought of where they came from, you would just take them out, dirt and all, and show. Whippets to me are like a poor man’s race horse – they are elegant, they have class, they have style, and it is not that hard to show that off. Showmanship is not the utmost thing, but it does help. And it is not hard. For years I didn’t show my own dogs, I hired handlers. Kim Tucker got involved with me because she is a handler and I needed someone to handle a lovely Saint Bernard puppy, Ch Oxford Dolcey of Santa Fe. Kim and her husband Tim and I became good friends and have lots of wonderful memories. Dolce lived with Kim and Tim until her death and we still miss her. Kim decided to breed Ch Frisbies Love at First Sight to my Ch Surrey Hills Strike the Gold JC ROM. That produced Ch Tobell’s Oxford On Tour “Holly”, who turned out to be a wonderful producer. Now I am back to showing myself. I even teach handling classes!
What are your thoughts about the future of Whippets? Personally, I am not sure how many more years I will continue. I was hoping to find someone considerably younger who could continue and be able to work with me. I want to travel in my motor home, so I don’t want to have a lot of dogs. Whippets don’t do well in a huge pack. They are not pack animals; they get into trouble. It’s not fair, they are not kennel dogs, and there is a limit to how many can sleep in bed with you. I do intend to continue on. A lot depends on the breedings that are going on; some of it is pretty scary. One thing I find very interesting: people’s opinion about a line breeding is so close it is incredible. If there are dogs in the pedigree 5 generations back with the same kennel name, they consider that to be a line breeding. If you don’t line breed, you could have 8 puppies and none of them look the same – How would you know what to keep? With Saint Bernards, breeding for type was first on the list. If they didn’t look like Saint Bernards, forget it. The parent club was criticized when they re-did the standard, because there are about three pages on the head. But it was the most difficult part of the dog. When you get into working dogs, it is a big difference – they are all designed for a reason. Whippets just run and sit on the couch. Yes, they have to be functional. I think the Whippet breeders today are focusing on breed type, and I don’t know that they did it in the past. Bringing in foreign blood may be a good idea. You have to look at it from two aspects. Obviously, it will be an outcross, so you will need to take a tightly bred dog to do it with. And the foreign dog you breed to has to look like what you are breeding. We have talked about bringing in foreign blood, but not to the point of doing it. If I would do it, I would contact some of the people who have gotten our dogs and bred into theirs: Molly Rule-Steele, kennel Taejaan in Australia; Pat Miller, kennel Woodsmoke in Canada; or Pat and Frank Pieterse, kennel Statuesque in Australia.
How many Whippets do you keep? Max four or five whippets at one time. I never wanted to have a lot of them. I co-own many. I don’t do much co-breeding. I co-breed with Lori Lawrence and a limited number of other breeders.
Food and conditioning? I feed good kibble and cottage cheese and some raw – as far as conditioning, I just turn them loose in the yard. For shows, I take them out with my scooter, a lot easier than running, to teach them timing for show. Whippets don’t need a lot of conditioning. If they are crated all day, that is a whole different situation.
Name some of your favorite dogs of your own breeding as well as bred by others. Let’s start with the dogs I have bred. The first one is Ch Chelsea Drakkar of Oxford FC ROMX, “Drake”. No breeder can take credit for what they have done or produced on their own. I have had great collaborators. Mine, Deanne Christianson and Lori Lawrence have produced many great dogs – and other breeders contributed. When I leased Ch Chelsea Saffron to breed to Whippoorwill Moonstone ROM, who went back to a lot of Whippoorwill dogs, the front assembly is where I think both Deanne and I benefited the most. Moonstone had never been used before we bred Saffron. After Deanne and I bred to him, then people started to use him, and he got his ROM eventually. He was 10 or 11 when we bred to him. Drake had a huge impact on the breed. Deanne took him out to show the fancy that you can breed dilutes and do it successfully and accomplish something. You can win with dilutes. He was a red magnificent dog. He was just beautiful and did a lot for our breed thanks to co-breeder and co-owner Deann Christianson. We set out to do a photo of Drake and Sissy for the 1991 issue of Sight Hound Review with the help of Dara Loper and Kari McDonald. I don’t think we will ever forget the fun we had. We crawled on the back of golf courses and tried to find the ideal place to make the picture interesting. Ch Oxford’s Passion, Drake’s sister, a very beautiful bitch. She produced! She was really sound but not very glamorous. I co-owned her with Katie Rudolph. Katie had bought a whippet for her daughter, Kelly, who was about 8 years old at the time. Kelly called me one day and said: “you got to get my mom a dog, she is stealing my puppy”. I had this little bitch, Passion. Her nose didn’t quite fill in, but I thought she was really pretty. I ended up letting Katie take her and she was bred to Ch Locar’s Martini On The Rocks ROMX to produce Festiva’s Knickerbocker. We also bred her to Ch Surrey Hill Strike The Gold JC ROMX and finished almost all the puppies in that litter. It was a really good breeding. 0ther people have gone on with the offspring and done well. SBIS Ch Oxford Tobell Fire and Ice “Ella”, bred by myself and Kim Tucker and owned by Charlotte Lee. I am very proud of her accomplishments, including Best in Futurity at the 2006 National and BOB at the 2008 National. I am also very proud of her sister Ch Oxford Tobell Jadore for Rowes, who I co-own with Charles and Jackie Rowen. I had a wonderful litter out of her born November 2009. Ch Oxford N Starseekers Guiding Light “Nash” was number one dog and number two Whippet in 2008. SBIS Ch Festiva’s Knickerbocker ROM bred by Katie Rudolf and myself and owned by Katie and Kelly Rudolph. “Knick” proved himself, and we are all still benefiting from his great qualities. Ch Chelsea Where There Is Smoke SC ROMX, bred by Deann Christianson and Joan Damion. I would not be where I am today without Smoke. A big thank you to Deann for breeding him. Ch Starline’s Reign On ROMX has done incredible things for the breed, such as the temperament the class and style that he puts on dogs. For Lori, as an Arabian horse person, class and style were obviously important to her. The two of us have worked well together and I have enjoyed her friendship. I see more of the value of what I have incorporated into my program now, than what we saw in the beginning. The sire of the present litter, Ashton, is out of Reign. Ten years ago would I have bred to Reign? – No. I didn’t have the right bitches to breed to him. Reign is still being used. These are dogs that I feel have made a great impact on our breed and my breeding program: Ch Surrey Hill’s Houston FCh ROMX (Whippoorwill Moonstone x Whippoorwill Surrey; breeders Caroline Bowers and Karen Lee); Ch Surrey Hill’s Strike The Gold ROM (Ch Gold Dust’s Joint Venture x Ch Allerei’s Ain’t Misbehavin FC; breeders Caroline Bowers and Karen Lee) did a lot for my breeding program; he produced very smooth elegant Whippets; Whippoorwill Moonstone ROMX (Misty Moor’s Thornwood Dondi x Lady Blair of Whippoorwill; breeder Barbara Henderson); Ch Sunbeam Rembrandt of Endeavor JC ROM (Ch Chelsea Where There is Smoke x Ch Starline’s Purple Reign) bred by Dani Jacobson and Linda Stewart. I am also very proud to have been the co-breeder with Lori Lawrence of MBIS MBISS Platinum GCh Starline’s Chanel, breed and group winner at the Westminster Kennel Club show 2010. Working with Lori Lawrence has been a great pleasure. We both are very proud of what our girl has accomplished.
Do you have any advice for new people in the breed? It is important for new people to be mentored. They should take the advice from people who have been doing it for a long time. They should buy a dog from the breeder who has been successful in the breed and let the breeder educate them. You can’t read everything in books. I can tell you some breedings that didn’t’ work. You also can’t find in a book the best way to raise them. It is important to be mentored by someone who not only produced puppies that look good but also behaved well. In Saint Bernards, nobody would share anything with you. I find the whippet people very different. I tend to prefer to sell to someone new. I don’t do it because I want to control; I do it because I really want to see somebody, especially somebody young, do it right. When people get my puppies, I want to know them.
Anything you would like to add? Producing good Whippets does not happen over night. You must find the dogs you like and research where they came from and work with as many old time breeders as possible to finally get to where you want to be. I thank Iva Kimmelman for producing my very first Whippet that got me hooked on the wonderful breed. I especially want to thank Deann Christianson and Caroline Bowers and Karen Lee for producing dogs for me to go forward with. I also want to give a special thanks to Lori and Carey Lawrence who are a very important part of my current breeding program.