‘Elka’ takes honors in the Bred By class, COGRC competition
The Central Oklahoma Golden Retriever Club, Golden Retriever Speciality. From left, Col. Jonathan Chase, AKC breeder, and past president of the Golden Retriever Club of America; Betty Jean Clark with her dog, Elka, and Clark’s business partner, Christy Brandt of Omaha, Neb. Contributed photo.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Mystic Ridge Bam A Lam Hot Elka, a Golden Retriever shown by Betty Jean Clark of Pike Ralls County, Mo., took first place in her class at the American Kennel Club-sanctioned COGRC Golden Retriever Speciality contest Nov. 18-19 at Norman, OK.
The judge was Col. Jonathan Chase, AKC breeder, and past president of the Golden Retriever Club of America. the class was "Bred by.”
“This show only focuses on Golden Retrievers,” Clark said, “and judges are breeder judges. They know the standards; they are specialized.”
This was Clark’s second American Kennel Club-sanctioned show.
“I have shown before, but AKC is harder, and speciality is even harder. (The judges) are experts in their field.”
Elka is a Light Golden Retriever, bred by Clark at her Ralls County farm.
“There are three colors of Golden: light Golden, Golden, and dark Golden,” Clark said. “Those are the only three that the AKC recognizes.
“My dogs are all light Golden.”
But that wasn’t always the case.
“I’ve been breeding, beginning with American Goldens, (starting in) 2000. I got too busy, with work and family, and put breeding on hold. I had two litters in four years.” But after she stopped breeding the dogs, “I missed the puppies,” she said.
Almost ten years ago, she partnered with Christy Brandt of Omaha, Neb., and they decided to focus on the European blood lines. European Golden Retrievers, “their life span is an average of 14 years; American lines are 10 years,” Clark said.
Also,“I love the look of them, they are a little bit softer than American goldens.”
In order to get started on this new venture, “I started doing my health clearances, learning about the breed, and how to do things ethically,” she said. “Those ethical practices are health focused. We always have to take the Golden Retriever Club of America recommendations to get a heart clearance by a board certified cardiologist; an eye clearance from ophthalmologist; hip and elbow clearances by either OFA (OrthopedicFoundation for Animals), based at MU in Columbia, or Pennhip X-rays which are sent to UC Davis.
“The things we’re breeding for include temperament, conformation and structure. I’m doing science, researching blood lines and knowing who will be compatible. Every time you breed, you try to improve the breed.”
“Our puppies are raised in our homes,” Clark said.
“We are working with the puppies, puppy cultural protocol,” she said.
“We are imprinting puppies with human touch and connection,” she said. They are exposed to different kinds of noises. “I have motor cycles, I have chickens, other dogs, crickets, environmental situations. When these puppies go to their new life they’ll have a success rate with their training.”
Since forming the partnership, “We have not looked back. Christy lives in a town where she can only have five dogs at her house. When dogs retire, we keep them. Living in the country, “I have a farm, and have no restrictions on the number of dogs I can have. She helps me show (the dogs); I’ve grown so much under her tutoring. She learned a lot from me about whelping puppies. We each have our own dogs, and we have dogs we own together. Christy is good at the show and blood line end; I’m the best poop scooper. We’re happy for each others successes.”
What brings the most pleasure to these dog-breeding partners is “placing our puppies in service work, therapy work and emotional support work. This gives us much gratification in our job.”
One group they work with is Lutheran Church Charities LLC. “Christy has six dogs in that program, this spring we will send more puppies there. They go to disaster sites, such as at Sandy Hook, or the mass shooting in Las Vegas, or during Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. There are several teams that go around the country, going to grade schools and high schools, wherever, for comfort, getting people to open up and talk about the disasters.”
Another organization they work with is the Puppy Jake Foundation, which selects, trains and places service dogs to assist wounded veterans.
“This Able Veteran” is a service dog organization benefitting United States military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Based in Southern Illinois, they are not affiliated with government programs; the dogs are totally trained; independent of government; and veterans get their dogs for free.
“Eevve” went to a Child Advocacy Center, BraveBe. “Larry the Cable Guy gave them a million dollars a few years ago so they could have a home-type facility,” Clark said.
Also, they work with “Canines 4 Comfort,” a facility in Cook County, Ill., where (the dogs) go in (to court) when teenagers have to testify, and the dogs assist police departments as facility dogs.
“One of our dogs sold to Uplifting Paws just went to a group home for handicapped children in Omaha, Neb.,” she said.
While Clark and Brandt live about six hours apart, “We try to get together four times a year, depending on the litters and puppies. Sometimes we meet in the middle.”
The partners have between two and five litters per year. “It all depends on Mother Nature,” Clark said.
Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post, on the last day of December 2014.