Interview with Anita Kay Simpson, Breeder of Tarwathie Dandies
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What is your breed? What is your kennel name? Do you have a website? How long have you been in dogs? How long have you been breeding dogs? Who are some of your best-known dogs?
Anita Kay Simpson: I live in Orlando, Florida. My breed is the Dandie Dinmont Terrier and my kennel name is “Tarwathie Dandies.” Tarwathie is a mythical seaport off the coast of Scotland. Scotland is where this breed had its beginnings. I have been showing and breeding Dandies for 48 years. I have had some other breeds of dogs as well, but primarily as rescue dogs when I have had the opportunity to do that. I have been blessed with five top Dandies over the years, starting with CH Misty Morn MacWatson, my first show Dandie. She became a BIS winner and was also No. 3 Terrier Bitch in 1977. CH Saramist Knight Templar, “Beckett,” was from my first litter, sired by the great CH Woodbourne Knight Errant out of Misty’s sister, CH Nellie Tempest MacWatson.
Beckett was a multiple BIS winner and was sire and grandsire of multiple winning and producing Dandies. CH Teaka’s Raleigh Ra was one of those offspring and also a BIS winning dog and a great producer. GCHS Londale Sir Joseph Porter, “Gilbert,” was not only an incredible show-winning dog but also a fabulous ambassador for the breed. At all of his shows, he was out on display, allowing adults and children to pet him and get to know how wonderful this breed is as a family member.
My latest Dandie ambassador was bred by the late Cathy Nelson who did more for this breed than anyone else, in both the United States and around the world. GCHB and Platinum Owner-Handled Pennywise Hearthrob has been in the ring for the past seven years, winning multiple BISs, No. 1 All-Breed 2017, and No. 1 Owner-Handled Dandie for the past three years. “Gabe” has produced Group-winning offspring and is grandsire to multiple winners as well. This dog also has been an incredible ambassador for the breed with both his temperament and his fabulous conformation.
As a Breeder, can you share your thoughts on your breed today? Is breed type strong? Are there things to be concerned about? Are there any health-related issues? Have you worked with breeders overseas? Are pet homes typically available for your breed?
Anita Kay Simpson: The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is an endangered breed. Our numbers in America have not yet been able to gain the ground we need to improve the gene pool and increase the numbers. Due to having only a few breeders of more than one litter per year, the breed type in America has areas where we are straying from our Breed Standard in ways that are endangering the essence and purpose of this terrier. One example of the issues are too many Dandies with long, straight toplines and being too tall at the shoulder.
The Standard says, “Height is from 8 to 11 inches at the top of the shoulders. Length from top of shoulders to root of tail is one to two inches less than twice the height.” If Dandies in the ring in America were actually being measured, many would not meet this part of the Standard.
Continuing from the Illustrated Standard, “The topline is rather low at the shoulder, having a slight downward curve and a corresponding arch over the loins, with a very slight gradual drop from the top of the loins to the root of the tail.” Again, straight toplines on Dandies with shoulders too high are being seen too frequently. The Dandie is not a hound; it is not like a Dachshund. These straight toplines can also lead to Dandies having back issues, similar to the Dachshund and other long, straight-backed, short-legged breeds.
The Dandie is a terrier, pure and simple, built to go-to-ground, and keeping our eye on the Standard is critical to keeping this breed born to its roots. One other serious issue is Dandies that are being bred with no layback of shoulder. Their front legs are too far forward, under the ears and not under the shoulder. This is detrimental to their ability to have the reach and drive to go-to-ground and move as they are intended.
The DDTCA and our members have worked very hard to obtain and keep records of health issues that have shown up in our breed. They are working to avoid increasing health issues, but again, the size of the gene pool is not our friend in this effort. We have needed to work with breeders outside the US in order to increase this gene pool with outcrosses. This is a very positive effort we must continue with Dandie breeders in Canada, the UK, Sweden, Finland, and other countries with dedicated Dandie breeders. As for pet homes “being available,” in my experience, most inquiries are for pet Dandies. Our issue becomes, once again, the endangered numbers of our breed.
If an average little is three, and two of the puppies, if not all three, go to pet homes and become neutered or spayed, we have gained no ground in our numbers. This will continue to be an issue. Ideal would be to encourage people who love the breed, are willing to participate in shows and events, and are willing to have at least one litter to try to keep numbers. But this is difficult to find.
As an Exhibitor, can you comment on recent entries in your breed? Are majors available in your area? Does your breed often participate in Companion and Performance events? How can newcomers in your breed be encouraged to join the sport of dogs?
Anita Kay Simpson: The numbers of Dandies in the show ring continues to remain small, and in many areas, decline. Majors are very difficult to find, so breeders must often “build their own major.” The result of low entries also means that over the last several years, the dog or bitch that wins the most at the annual Dandie Specialty weekend shows, simply because of the numbers in the entry for that weekend, will be the “Dandie of the Year” for the club statistics. The DDTCA has worked with tireless club members to participate in the “Meet the Breeds” events organized with the help of the AKC, plus other opportunities to have our breed seen. Club members and Dandie owners have participated in parades and other events to show off this breed, its uniqueness, and its incredible temperament.
However, getting newcomers to join in the sport of dogs has been impacted by the “cluster” setup that is now everywhere. It often requires out of town travel, hotel costs, etc., and if people work, getting to shows that are 4-5-day clusters can be difficult. They can participate on weekends but cannot participate as frequently, so they find it difficult to be competitive. Clusters have been great for handlers, retirees, and clubs, and we understand why, but for working people it is not as accessible.
What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole and how can we address them? And finally, what are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in your breed and in the dog show community as a whole over the past decade?
Anita Kay Simpson: I think among the biggest challenges for the show community is what I’ve just mentioned. The “sport” is much more difficult to participate in to have your dog become a competitor or champion. If you are not a handler, retired, or independently wealthy, it is hard to get in, and stay in, this sport. The “two show” weekends are not coming back for obvious reasons, but maybe it’s time for the AKC and local clubs to look “outside the box” again for ways to have more local involvement in the sport without the expenses and time for travel to participate.
One of the positive changes I have seen in the show community is the continuing number of young people getting involved in the sport. Adding the additional features beyond Conformation and Obedience for Juniors, Veterans, Pee Wees, Dock Diving, Fast CAT, and more has given many people more opportunities to participate. These additions have brought more interest from the public and that is great! Hopefully, we can all continue to work together as breeders and participants, to keep this sport continuing to provide the fun, excitement, and camaraderie at the same time we continue to maintain the quality and future of our breeds that we love so much.