Goodbye, 2022! This was a huge year for us in terms of milestones. So much happened that it’s difficult to believe it all happened in such a short amount of time. It will take a while for me to process everything. There were a lot of hard times as well, even traumatic losses, which we are still grieving. It was a year that taught us what it means to breed, challenged our commitment to the breed, and also rewarded us for sticking with it. Although I’ve never written down specific goals, if I had, then this past year we certainly would have checked off a whole bunch of them.
We have been so blessed with the two lovely litters we had in 2022, although the first is only eight months old and the second four weeks old, so they have plenty of growing up to do. But there is so much to love about them already, so many things that we have been able to improve on in our second generation of dogs, from structure to temperament to training. It is so encouraging to see, and I feel secure and content with what we have in our kennel in a way that I never have before. As a preservation breeder, you are always racing against the clock, against time. Lines, dogs, and breeders are dying out by the second. Even great judges are passing or retiring. Your girls have a limited number of reproductive years, and I have always felt an urgency to breed my girls as soon as possible. Now that we have enough promising youngsters, I feel that I can slow down a bit, especially since we plan to keep quite a few of Lillie’s babies.
I truly feel like I have been able to “preserve” the best qualities of our foundation dogs, Juno and Cece, and have vastly improved upon them in just two generations of breeding. A lot of that was careful planning, and a lot of it was also luck. If I could give a piece of advice to a new breeder, it would be this: pick the right stud dog the first time around. It saves you so much time and energy, and you are able to move forward with every breeding. Of course, that’s much easier said than done. I agonized over Lillie’s suitor for years — I had my eye on Blaze early on, but he was a young, unproven stud. I wasn’t sure if I would like him once he matured, and I wanted to see how he would produce. When I heard that he was soon going overseas, though, I decided that he was the one. I felt confident in his pedigree, and I felt that he was the best I could do for Lillie. Although the litter is only four weeks old, I have been extremely impressed with them so far. I’m so pleased we got some nice boys in this litter — finding a good stud dog is practically impossible these days, so it’s much better to have one at home.
Without further ado, here are some of our 2022 highlights:
- Our first grand champion. Lillie got her grand championship in the blink of an eye. She did it in style, going breed her second day as a move-up in a huge, competitive entry on a specialty weekend.
- Our first group placement. When I saw that the only other specials entered that weekend were RBIS, group-winning, top 10, etc., I did not have any expectations for Lillie’s first weekend out as a special. She proceeded to take 3 out of 4 breeds and got a group fourth the first day. The one day she lost the breed, the group judge gave the breed winner the group win. After seeing that, and knowing the same judge was judging breed the next day, I thought for sure we would lose to the group winning dog. To my shock, Lillie took the breed over that dog, and the judge made sure to let us know that she would’ve been her working group winner! That was a working group that included a National winning Doberman. To be honest, when we had Lillie out, I was so often surprised by her results, I think on the whole the judges appreciated her more than I did! I had to learn to see her through their eyes.
- Our first ranked special. Lillie was top 25 both breed and all-breed after only a month of being specialed. For half of that she was out of coat too. Then she hit another awkward phase around 2 years old, so we decided to keep her home and breed her. Even now, she is still ranked in breed!
- Our first second generation bred-by champion. With each generation that you breed, if you are lucky enough to maintain a line, the blood, sweat, and tears that go into the newest generation just grow exponentially. So many lines fizzle out in the first generation; it’s so incredibly hard to keep quality going for more than one generation. To improve on that quality two generations in a row is truly unusual and requires both skill and luck. Gracie is everything that we wanted from her parents, and we couldn’t be prouder to have her representing us as our first second generation bred-by.
- Our first competitive 6-9 puppy. It is every breeder’s dream to breed a dog that is competitive at every age, from the puppy class to the veteran class. We have had some nice puppies, but not the type of puppy that wins breed from the classes or is consistently competitive against older dogs. Gracie is pretty much that – her head is the only part that looks a little awkward. I wasn’t sure if the judges would see what I loved about Gracie, but enough of them did, and she became our youngest champion ever at just 7 months old. She took back-to-back 5 point majors (another first for us) in stiff competition to finish.
- Our first stud dog service. It was such an honor to get our first stud dog recommendation from a longtime breeder who had seen Valley at last year’s National and told us he should’ve won his huge and competitive open dog class! It’s been a whole new experience navigating these waters as a stud dog owner, writing up a stud contract, and really thinking about the responsibilities of this new role. We have decided that we wouldn’t stud our dog out to anyone who we wouldn’t sell a puppy to, and while this decision certainly upset people, it’s something we’ve decided to stick to, if only for our own peace of mind. The fact that Valley is about to have puppies on the other side of the country is hard to comprehend!
- Our first time rehoming a retired dog. We have always kept our kennel small (we do not actually have a physical kennel) so that we would never need to rehome dogs upon retirement. I always said, though, that if the perfect home came along, I would be willing to do it. All of our dogs are very happy in our home, but some of them I know would be even happier having more one-on-one attention. So the perfect home ended up coming along for one of our retired girls, our second show dog who we decided not to breed, and we thought we would give it a try. This home already had one of Gracie’s sisters, and they were doing a great job with her as first-time Siberian owners. It turned out to be a perfect match, and we are absolutely thrilled!