Chase helping Walt at the computer

 

Sharyn Hutchens and TimbreBlue Whippets. I came to whippets from collies...kicking and screaming...nearly ten years ago. My daughter Johannah was about 14 when she decided she wanted her own breed. Her logic: "No matter how long I'm in collies, you will always have been in them longer." Well, yeah, and she's never going to be older than her big brother either. I told her no, they were skinny and looked sad and that I would spend all my time trying to feed them and make them look happy. Besides, they didn't have enough hair. No way.
But Johannah is crafty and determined (like whippets, come to think of it) and while I was out of town on business, she got my ex-husband to take her to a dog show, where she promptly convinced Jan Swayze to let her have a whippet. Sporting Fields Hamlet never finished but he taught us a lot about whippets, and by the time Johannah married and moved to Boston some years later, we had five of the little criminals and they outnumbered the collies.

Appraxin Kamikaze ("Chase")

When Johannah moved away, I lost my handler and she left two whippets with me -- the two that needed finishing, of course. In spite of my interference with her stage presence, Ivy finished relatively quickly and is now Ch Appraxin Sensation at Timbre(Blue). Chase prefers the couch to the ring, and is still Appraxin Kamikaze--seven points, one major--but he's not getting out of this till he finishes!

My husband Walt and I met through dogs (on an e-mail list, as a matter of fact) -- he acquired the whippets by marriage, but like any good adoptive dad, loves them as much as if he had raised them. Walt is an "obedience guy," though, so if he had raised them, they would be much better behaved. We live in beautiful southwest Virginia in a 75-year-old money pit on seven acres. Along with Chase and Ivy, our household consists of three collies, two Dobes, two mixes, and whatever rescues need us at the moment. We're not showing a lot right now, but hope to be more active in both obedience and conformation in the future. We'd also like to get involved in coursing and/or racing at some point, but right now there just isn't time for it all.

Ivy's just had her first litter. After an exhaustive search for a stud for her, we found him literally in our own backyard. On the advice of many who are wiser, we bred her to Chase. It's a wonderfully linebred litter, and as Cal Perry pointed out, Chase has everything Ivy needs...what more can you ask of a breeding? We have great hopes for this litter, and it certainly got off to a good start. Ivy obliged us June 24 with five girls and one boy!

Ivy - Bored with Motherhood

There are so many whippet people who have assisted me along the way. Whippet people are the greatest about taking in newcomers to the breed. Lura Chacon provided an example in human kindness, as well as ringside tutoring. Jodi Driscoll, Ivy's co-breeder, was incredibly supportive and patient while Ivy got me trained. Jan Swayze and Lesley Potts created my handler, Johannah...(I don't suppose I can blame them for her moving away...that burden rests firmly on my son-in-law Jon). The Butts and Cal Perry built Sporting Fields and Appraxin, to which we owe our past and our future in whippets. Kitty Williams helped us talk Cal Perry out of Chase and Ivy. And of course my husband Walt, who not only encourages and supports my interest in breeding and showing, but got involved in it himself! Walt is extremely well-read in genetics, the history of dogs & wolves, veterinary matters, and...well, just about all dog-related subjects, so I guess I married my most valuable resource. His true passion is still obedience though, so we will probably always have some Dobermans in addition to the whippets. Coincidentally, the star of the household obedience dogs is Judy Street Dog, a Lab/Whippet mix he adopted from the Baltimore SPCA before he even met me. Though he swears she has the trainability of a whippet rather than a Lab (wonder what he means by that?) Judy finished her UKC CDX and will be working on a utility title next.

Ch Appraxin Sensation at Timbre(Blue) "Ivy"

Someone remarked to me once that ours seems to be a "protected breed"--it's not always easy to find someone who will sell you a whippet and you don't often see whippets in puppy mills and pet stores. If I worry about anything in this breed, it is that they lose that protection and fall victim to the problems more popular breeds suffer. Having come from a breed that constantly battles genetic problems, I worry that we take the health of our dogs for granted--that something will slip in while we're busily reassuring each other that problem X is unknown in whippets.

I'm not sure what the answer is. Perhaps someday there will be genetic screening available for every hereditary problem. For now we can avail ourselves of CERF, OFA, thyroid panels, etc. We can stick to careful breeding practices, researching pedigrees thoroughly and using mature animals for breeding--those in whom any hereditary problems are more likely to be discernible. And we can continue and improve established, well-known lines rather than breeding to the current top winner regardless of his background or suitability. A critical part of the solution is for breeders to be completely open about problems we encounter, no matter how painful they may be...and for others not to condemn an entire line because of that breeder's honesty. What matters is the future of the breed, not our own success as individual breeders.

My other hope is that the whippet world will be as kind and patient with other newcomers and pet owners as they were to us. Dog fanciers forget what it's like to mean well but not know everything--and being rude to people with "dumb" questions only punishes the dogs in the long run. We started Petdogs-L at eGroups as a totally nonjudgmental all-breed/mixed breed list to help people with basic questions about pet ownership. The internet is a powerful educational tool, and I would love to see the breed lists become more newcomer-friendly as well. As my mama used to tell me, you can learn something from everyone...and novices and pet owners have a lot to contribute to our breed.

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