“Whatever you do, don’t stop showing your dog. Even when you believe the judge has their final line up… don’t stop showing.”
This piece of advice has held true through four generations of purebred dog breeders, owners, and handlers. It has become a mantra among my family.
My great-grandmother, Margaret, started my family’s passion for show dogs when she imported Miniature Poodles from England back in the 1950s. My grandmother, Cheryl Schuman, got her first Skye Terrier in 1982 and had 13 generations of Marwyn Skye Terriers, unbroken from her first Skye Terrier, “Becky.”
We lost our last Skye Terrier in 2022, but before that, in 2018, my grandmother was in search of a new breed. Surprisingly, she found the Longhaired Dachshund, and with that came the introduction of “Dawsey,” and later, “Cheslie,” and in 2021, the Wirehaired Dachshund, “Leon.”
My mom, Meg Smith, also grew up in the world of dog shows from a young age, handling a dog to a 5-point major at the age of seven. She handled professionally, but never settled on a breed of her own until, in 2018, she got her first Ibizan Hound, “Reina,” and two years later, “Spencer.” She is also the Ibizan Hound Club of America’s Corresponding Secretary and has been Show Chair of the National Specialty for three years.
My story in dogs also began with the Skye Terrier. My “Meme” (grandmother) and my mom showed me how to part and groom a Skye Terrier to perfection before I was hardly able to see over the grooming table. The breed will always have such an important place in my heart. There is no other Group than Terriers that can build a good handler, in my opinion. They teach you patience and how to be tough. However, as I neared the age to become a Junior Handler, I realized that Skye Terriers were my Meme’s breed, not my own. So, when I was ready, my mom said, “Do your research and pick whatever breed you want. I will find you that breed.”
Okay. No pressure.
Did I want a Poodle? I’ve always loved Poodles… but the hair? Too much. A Rough Collie? Again, so much hair. Nope. My mom loved Staffordshire Bull Terriers. (She had a handling dog at one point that was one of her favorites.) Not it either. I really wasn’t sure where I was pointed, so, I knew I had more research to do.
One summer, however, I went to stay with my Great Uncle Gary and Great Aunt Donna. I didn’t realize it that day, but walking into their house I would make a decision that would impact my life for the better. Gary and Donna had two dogs, a Shih Tzu and… a 12-year-old Whippet named “Taylor.”
Taylor used to be one of my mom’s client’s dogs who turned him over to my mom when they decided they no longer wanted him. Taylor then went to live with my aunt and uncle. That entire day, Taylor sat on the couch with me, his head in my lap as we watched TV. The demeanor and style of the breed was exactly what I was missing. When he got up to play and “zoomied” around the house, becoming a puppy again for an instant, I knew.
I went home that summer without a doubt in my mind. “Mom, I want a Whippet.”
So, my Mom and Meme went to work. My Meme knew Karen Gibson with Andauer Whippets, a fellow member of Mid-Continent Kennel Club at the time, and told her that we were looking for a Juniors dog. She put out a “feeler” on the American Whippet Club forums to see if anyone had that special dog just for me.
And someone did.
A year later, we were blessed by Sat Ananda Hayden of Bésame Whippets with “Valentino,” Ch. Bésame’s May Be Habit Forming. He was five years old and was Sat Ananda’s first home-bred champion. He hadn’t been getting along with another house member, and Sat Ananda decided that we were a perfect fit for Valentino. We met in Nashville, Tennessee, to get him. I remember my mom holding so tightly to his leash, scared he would get away. We put him in the crate in the back of the car and headed home, stopping to get Valentino a McDonald’s burger. He had me wrapped around his paw from “day one.” He went on to be an amazing Junior Handling dog and taught me lessons I couldn’t have learned with a Skye.
Thirteen years later, I have gone on to own four other Whippets and have handled mine and Sat Ananda’s dogs to amazing feats. I have taken an Award of Merit at Westminster, several Group placements in regular Groups and Owner-Handled Groups, been in the ribbons at regional specialties, and overall, just got to enjoy my love of this breed.
Without the love of purebred dogs, my life would be completely different. I have made wonderful lifelong friends, and getting to do this with my mom and grandma is an experience not many people get to share. I cannot thank the mentors and breeders and owners of our own dogs enough, and our client dogs as well. I hope that Marwyn makes you all proud and that we never, ever stop showing these dogs.
A Fourth Generation Junior Finds a Breed of Her Own
By Baylie Smith