Saxonsprings story by Jean Blyth

ILKLEY, WEST YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND

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My interest in dogs goes back to my school days before the war, when my mother bred and showed Scottish Terriers and puppies were far more fascinating to play with than dolls. One of my earliest memories is of my grandmother coming with here two Westies to say goodbye before she immigrated to Australia. I still have the pages from the Sydney Royal Show catalogues of the early twenties listing the winnings of her dogs out there. My mother’s ill health, the war, and my career as a teacher in London altered the pattern and I was out of the dog world until my husband gave me a Basset Hound puppy as a wedding present. We lived in a small house in the suburbs.
Her first litter was ten, we could not sell them and the tide of Bassets grew deeper and deeper. The wonder is that my husband and I survived to breed many more litters and to enjoy doing it.

After a few years we moved north and we were able to increase the pack. I loved the Basset character. Trying to breed sound Bassets is a very difficult task but my experiences with them taught me a great deal that has helped with the Apsos. I sometimes think that all breeders of coated dogs ought first to serve an apprenticeship with a breed where all faults of construction and movement are impossible to miss.

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My first Basset champion, Kimble was a rich tri-colour and was made up in 1964. His name appears in many pedigrees of the northern show dogs of today. I still retain my interest in the breed and enjoy judging them. However, advancing age, coupled with some necessary deep x-ray treatment made the bathing, loading reluctant hounds into the tackle with pleasure. Anyone who had been owned by these beautiful but stubborn hounds will know just what I mean!

My love affair with the Lhasa Apso started in 1967. I was at a meeting in London of the Basset Hound Club when I mentioned to Anne Matthews, already a friend and fellow Basset breeder, that I would like a smaller breed, preferably coated. I liked the Lhasa Apsos she had at Hardacre, and although at that time I knew nothing of their history nor of the Kennel Club Standard, I loved the temperaments of her Lhasas. She promised she would find a foundation bitch for me. I heard nothing for several months until she rang one day and asked if I was still interested in Apsos. She had taken over a number of Jack Lord’s Namista dogs when his wife had died suddenly and offered two dogs and a bitch.

Namista Norbu and Kiushu were by Ch. Namista Yasi and been winning steadily, while the second bitch had Ch. Gunga Din of Verles behind her. She was big and had a character to match. Her temperament was, to me, the perfect Tibetan, reserved, yet full of fun, never fussy, yet always there and with a delightful way of lifting one lip and leering at you when she was pleased. I am always delighted when I see her loving ways reappearing in the present day litters.

From these I bred my first Apso champion, Saxonsprings Lobsang, and a bitch Dze-Tu who produced many winners. Dze at twelve years of age still has a perfect mouth, wide with the correct bite and a complete set of teeth as strong now as when she was youngster. I wish I could produce mouths like that in every puppy today.

A breed that numbers among its top exhibitors experienced and knowledgeable people ready to help and guide the novice is very fortunate. This has certainly been the case with the English Apso and I am indebted to Thelma Morgan, Anne Matthews, Daphne Hesketh Williams, And Beryl Prince ( Harding) for their help in understanding the breed. The Namista dogs were developed from Thelma Morgan’s stock so I went back to her for advice and as always she was most helpful. From Thelma came a white and grey dog puppy very typical of her line. He was named Morgan of Saxonsprings and looked most promising. I returned one day from a show to find him with a badly bruised eye. The cause was never found, although we suspected that a kitchen stool may have fallen on him. After several weeks the eye had to be removed and his show career was over.  However, he sired some excellent litters; from him and Dze-Tu cam Ch. Saxonsprings Zako, typically English in style, with a strong, well constructed body and a beautiful head and good mouth.

Later from Anne Matthews came Not So Dusty, chosen at five weeks. I wish I could claim this was skilled insight, but it really was luck! Anne’s dog champion, Hardacre Ang Tharkey, a son of Hamilton Dewartus, sired a black and tan bitch who was Ch. Annakapelli of Saxonsprings and took Best In Show at the breed championship show under Beryl Harding. She was mated to Hardacre Pied Piper, now in Australia, who was also Dusty’s sire, and produced Chussekuan.

So, in 1977 I made up my three grey champions. At that time nearly all the dogs in the ring were grey brindle or grey and white parti-coloured.

The next chapter in the Saxonsprings saga came when I went with Anne Matthews to Westminster. My first sight of that ring full of the most beautiful gold dogs with flowing coats sweeping the ground, immaculately presented, is one I shall never forget! I resolved there and then I would add the colour, the high held head carriage, the free movement and extra elusive quality and style to my English line.

At the benches I met Margery Lang and Joan Kendall who invited me back to Delaware overnight. We talked and talked and found it was the same language. There are two sorts of people in the dog world: exhibitors who also breed and breeders for whom the show ring is important but not their prime fascination. The latter are my sort, I love to trace the generations back and to plan improvements for the future. The ability to see the faults and accept the mistakes
is vital. I learned a great deal about the American Lhasas that night and shall always be grateful to Joan for her help and advice. I wrote to Joan when I returned home and asked her to find me a dog carrying the qualities who knew I had admired and needed.

The result was Eng. BIS & Am. BIS Ch. Orlane’s Intrepid -only then he was a young puppy called Danny. With him came two young bitches, also line bred to Everglo’s Spark of Gold. All three came to six months solitary confinement. Our quarantine laws are very strict. All dogs are taken in special vans direct from the airport to the kennels under Ministry supervision. They are extremely well cared for with daily visits from the vets, but the isolation is very hard. I always felt so sorry for the dearly loved and cosseted pets whose owners were returning home after serving abroad. But we have no rabies in Britain, and dread the thought of it arriving, decimating the wild life and causing havoc among the domesticated animals before it became endemic. Visitors are allowed after two weeks and you can imagine how anxiously I waited to see the new arrivals. I went several times a week during the winter months, grooming and bathing them and getting to know and love them. Danny quickly became the favoured pet of all the staff and owners, themselves well known breeders and exhibitors of Saint Bernards. No kennel club registration is possible without the quarantine certificate, so smuggling would be useless and among the dog fancy would be considered socially unacceptable. One of the results of this law is that we cannot show our dogs on the Continent unless we are prepared to leave them and quarantine them afterwards. The English show scene is thus restricted and it would be lovely to see a wider variation and to try to conquer new fields.

All three Americans came home to Saxon Lodge at the end of January in the middle of a tremendous snowstorm. Tragedy struck when two mornings later I found one of the bitches dead from Haemorrhagic Enteritis. The other two, Intrepid and Orlane’s Liteline O’Lamplite, settled quickly into their new life. Danny mated a bitch on his second day – that litter produced Ch. Saxonsprings Alamo, now Holland Champion and Best In Show at this year’s Winner’s Show (the Crufts of Holland) and group winner at the World Show at Dortmund!

The introduction of this new American blood into the English lines has started very well indeed. I have tried to follow Joan Kendall’s advice, to keep the puppies from this complete outcross that have the features that I want, working to breed out in later generations any faults that may appear. The second crosses are now in the ring. That’s the pleasure and frustration of breeding – success is always just around the corner and perfection is in the next litter!

The introduction of this new American blood into the English lines has started very well indeed.  I have tried to follow Joan Kendall’s advice, to keep the puppies from this complete outcross that have the features that I want, working to breed out in later generations any faults that may appear.  The second crosses are now in the ring. That’s the pleasure and frustration of breeding – success is always just around the corner and perfection is in the next litter!

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