Where did you grow up?
I grew up outside of Chicago. In my early twenties, I moved to Texas where I lived in both Houston and then Austin, where I spent many years.
Do you come from a doggy family? If not, how did the interest in breeding and showing purebred dogs begin?
My interest in dogs did not start with dogs, it began with horses. My close grade school friend had two sisters who both rode and also showed West Highland White Terriers at all the local shows. I tagged along to the stable and started a few lessons, but lessons were expensive and I was not able to continue. My parents vowed to purchase a dog, hoping to quell the horse enthusiast. My father wanted a Sporting breed, and many folks don’t know that Irish Setters were my first breed. My mother found an article in the local paper about a breeder who had a huge litter, and a few weeks later, my new puppy came home. Once “Shamrock” was old enough, the sisters took me to a fun match where we placed third in a class of six. Then we were off to the Western Irish Setter Club specialty where he was RWD to a five-point major from the American-bred Class, under Dick Renihan. I was hooked on showing dogs, and horses were on the back burner!
There was a bunch of kids in the neighborhood who showed dogs: Afghans, Alaskan Malamutes, Westies, and one baby Irish Setter. Some of them were successful breeders. We would hold our own fun matches in a two-car garage after school, using recycled trophies and ribbons. That practice paid off! My first time in Juniors netted me a first place out of 25-plus kids in the Novice Junior Class with Shamrock, my Irish. My mother still has the trophy!
My parents decided I should help fund my new hobby. I did some dog sitting for these same neighbors and, no surprise, I would wind up at the local animal hospital where my friends all worked. I did some odd jobs, mainly bathing dogs for the groomer, who bred and showed Wire Fox Terriers. Her name was Paula, and she had really good talent as a breeder and handler. She had just purchased a Smooth Fox Terrier from Mr. and Mrs. Farrell of Foxden Kennels. “Smoothie” was my first introduction to the breed beyond what I saw in the ring at the local shows. He was such a cool dog. We could not help but spoil him! He made me love the breed, as he reminded me of my first love: a cleverly made hunter.
At that same time, English Cockers were a breed I really enjoyed, and I had some success breeding and showing. Eventually, however, Smooth Fox won out. Mrs. Farrell sent me a really nice dog that I showed until moving to Texas. He was a great learning curve, and helped form my next few years ahead.
Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their influence.
From those first formative years of working at the animal hospital to attending local shows, I had a great education in this sport. I really did not have one mentor to teach me about Smooth Fox, but rather, I watched the likes of Dick Cooper, Ken Murray, Jack Funk, Doug McClain, George Ward, Lanny and Penny Hirstein, and Bob LaRouch present and care for their charges. All of them had top winners in their respective breeds. This was back in the day when we had to move each night, and would stop for dinner along the way to the next site. We talked dogs at most of these dinners. They were there to answer questions from a kid who had many questions. They didn’t mind. It was also a time of good dogs; domination of top kennels with set type in many breeds. This, along with reading as much as I could on structure, kennel management, showing and conditioning (the nuns confiscated many books in class), was my first insight into how to show and condition, and eventually, breeding came along. I learned from each of these, and use those set practices today. I continued to ask many questions, helped out handlers, and tried to learn as much as I could.
Mrs. Farrell and Harold Nedell were friendly, and when Harold was looking for a kennel manager, Mrs. Farrell suggested he contact me. It was a good situation for a young kid who needed a foot in the door and could work with a breed of dog she loved. I also ran his large boarding kennel. It was my move to Houston that basically started my career of showing dogs professionally, and eventually, with managing Foxmoor Kennels (then known for good Smooth Fox) that really taught me about how breeding can work—or not. Pleading with Harold to exhibit at the 100th Anniversary Fox Terrier Show (not having been under his employ but a couple of months), my first outing as his new manager I took WB onto BOS with a lovely bitch, one I had fancied since my arrival, under Ric Chashoudian. It was on this weekend that my very raw talents were spotted by Ric, and I soon made many trips to Baton Rouge to perfect my trimming, handling, and dog management. Ric was a tough but superb teacher.
Harold, a self-made millionaire, taught me good business practices. We did well together, breeding some nice dogs that are present in good pedigrees today. Eventually, I left Harold’s employ and went out on my own, moving to Austin.
It was not long after that Mrs. Clark judged in Dallas, and saw a young dog I had whelped for Harold, which I’d named Dick Tracy, a Brat son. Mrs. Clark had a young bitch she wanted to breed to Dick. Within the time of her getting bred, and a return flight to Maryland, Mr. Clark had become ill, and it was decided I would whelp the litter to carry on their Smooth line. That was the start of one of my bitch lines. Mrs. Clark and I always kept in touch, and her guidance, on so many fronts, sticks with me today.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Mark Threlfall and Bonnie Threlfall. Both of these great dog people taught me the virtues of showing good dogs, conditioning and trimming properly (no short cuts), and running a business as it should be run. Bonnie is a master of her craft. She taught me about line breeding, reading catalogs and pedigrees, and running on puppies to grow them up. Montgomery was always a weekend to look forward to, as I spent many of them with Mark and Bonnie. We would discuss dogs while driving to the next show; the great Smooth discussion! Weekends like this were in anticipation of seeking out breeding stock, looking for a new stud dog, or purchasing a new bitch to enhance our breeding program.
Others who have taught me and shared their knowledge: Peter Green and Beth Sweigart, the best this sport offers. Both have a great eye for a dog. The late Sergio Balcazar, who bred some excellent Smooths and shared his breeding with us. He, Gabriel and I would banter on the right kind of dog!
Julia Gasow, of Salilyn English Springer fame, was the most masterful breeder (and a wonderful individual) who set type in her breed that stands up today. Researching her pedigrees, following her type, helped me understand line breeding, stamping type, and adhering to your principles of structure, even though our two breeds could not be more different.
So many good people have influenced me along the way, and not always locked into my breed; diversity is key, and makes a better dog breeder. We learn from not just one breed, but from many! In my years, I have bred not only Smooth Fox, but also, in tandem with other breeders and owners, Irish Setters, English Springer Spaniels, Airedale Terriers, and Wire Fox Terriers, all of which have won at important shows, but more importantly, contributed to the quality of their respective breeds. Every breed is a learning curve for one’s own.
The Bluestone Smooth Fox Terriers are widely known, highly successful, and well respected. What breeding philosophies do you adhere to?
Good breeding starts with great bitches. We have a very strong bitch line, started by the bitch from Mrs. Clark, and a secondary bitch line that goes back to Sergio’s breeding, all old
We have tried to keep the old lines right up front, and have adopted the policy that just because it can win, doesn’t make it good. Puppies have been run on, and sold off as pets, as we try to improve on each generation, knowing you need to keep those assets you have, but can only fix one issue per generation.
We run our puppies on a bit longer than most, as our lines are slow to mature; each breeding we expect to be a learning curve. It’s important to both Joe [Joe Vaudo, Liz’s longtime partner—AR] and me to try to be honest when evaluating puppies, mindful of keeping our type, but moving forward with what we needed to improve on with the current breeding. We look for clean heads, with flat back skulls, full muzzles with proper chiseling, super expression, and proper ear placement. Good shoulders are important, which sets up the balance of the dog, along with short hocks, proper tail sets, bone, and great coats. Balance is so important, to keep the same picture moving as standing. Because we keep one or two from a litter and the rest go to pet homes, temperaments and health are paramount.
While we have had many of our own super stud dogs from our own breeding, we also look for good dogs to breed to outside of our own lines. We look for “stallions” that have produced well, have similar type, and produce no genetic defects. Until COVID, traveling internationally meant we could seek and find new lines to enhance our well-bred bitches, and likewise, for those in other countries, to use dogs from the States. We have several winners in Europe and beyond, sired by our own stud dogs here at Bluestone.
How many dogs do you currently house? Tell us about your facilities and how the dogs are maintained.
Our numbers vary, but not by much. We house roughly 10 to 15 dogs of various ages, from 15 years to a month. When I moved from Austin to Cape Cod, Joe and I converted his 1850 antique barn into a kennel. It’s rather quaint, very bright, all carry out, with spacious runs and three running paddocks. My outdoor runs are heated, and have snow and wind drops, much needed on Cape Cod in winter months. During the summer months, we get a great sea breeze. All runs are roofed and completely shaded.
Every dog here is bathed at least weekly, kept trimmed, and all puppies are raised in the house. All dogs get some house time, and my youngsters accompany me to the stable for some horse time and socialization. What a great way to socialize youngsters! Of course, the older dogs live in the house permanently, and teach the young ones manners. Like all good dog people, the dogs come first
Who were/are some of your most significant Smooths, both in the whelping box and in the show ring?
Each generation is built on the last, and I have to start with my foundation bitches that gave not only in the ring, but more importantly, in the whelping box. Without their quality, we would not be where we are today.
Starting with Ch. Bluestone I Love Trouble, WB under a breeder judge at Montgomery County KC, and then Ch. Foxstorm Bluestone Paper Moon, we built our lines. From both of these bitches, bred in different directions, we derived our very best.
Everyone knows us for “Witchy,” Ch. Pennfox Trackway’s Wicked Brew, who was a three-time MCKC breed winner, also placing in the Groups, including winning BIS as a veteran (the only one to do so). She was also a superb producer and is present in many of our dogs and bitches today. We bred her in two different directions, and one of my best current sires is linebred on Witchy/Gabryl lines. Ch. Bluestone Ambitious Brew, “Eli,” has get winning in Europe and beyond.
Joe and I have bred many Montgomery KC and Specialty champions/winners, and also two English champions. We are very proud of these.
Am. and Eng. Ch Bluestone Hold All Tickets, sired by our import, Ch. Gaybryl Goldman, from the late Malcolm and Mary Gabriel, Wales, goes back to Paper Moon. “Tip” was the first dog to make up an English championship by traveling three times in the same year to the UK, winning three consecutive tickets, two of them under breeder judges. He also won many specialties. More than he won, he was a superb producer, giving us a leg up on future generations, giving us MCKC and Crufts winners, present in our pedigrees today. Blended with our older stock, he gave us a very important sire, Ch. Bluestone Campaign Promise, who is behind some of my best producing bitches.
One of his daughters, Am. and Eng. Ch. Bluestone Snow Angel, a National Specialty winner from the classes, was also a three-time Crufts ticket winner, the only dog outside of England to win those tickets coming from the States, consecutively.
In return, Snowy gave us two litters, both being bred to our only Witchy son, Ch. Bluestone Ghostzapper, WD MCKC, the year Witchy was BIS. Both litters produced specialty winners, and their get have produced MCKC winners, as well as a performance champion. Continuing generations has proven fruitful.
Joe and I have never kept track of how many dogs we have finished, but more importantly, we tried to stamp our type, keep the good type we had, and carry on forward. We focus more on specialties and Montgomery County to showcase our breeding to
Please comment positively on your breed’s present condition and what trends might bear watching.
It is great to watch this breed become such great show dogs! SFT is not an easy breed to show. I believe this breed, thanks to the breeders, has become more versatile and can do much more, whether it be showing, performance or obedience.
I think as breeders we should concentrate on heads and expression, with higher placed ears, and work on our fronts. Overall, however, the breed is in good shape.
The sport has changed greatly since you first began participating. What are your thoughts on the state of the fancy and the declining number of breeders?
This is the million-dollar question. Twenty-five years ago, it was nothing to see 175 SFT at MCKC. The 9-12 Puppy Bitch Class typically had 20-plus competing. Now, we are lucky to see 50 SFT overall this same weekend. What is the solution? It is hard to get folks interested in showing—many just want a good, healthy pet. We have lost many breeders to old age, location, and the difficulty of travel from other locations via plane. We have sold a few show and performance puppies but are mostly thankful for the great homes our puppies are placed into.
How do we encourage newcomers to join us and remain in the sport?
We encourage showing, performance, and breeding with a purpose, but good homes to us are more essential. Perhaps we can try to encourage the children of puppy buyers to take their children to 4-H, to get them interested in competition.
Where do you see your breeding program in the next decade or two?
Joe and I just had milestone birthdays this year, but we hope to continue doing what we love; breeding good type SFT, to continue to contribute to this breed and the sport we so love.
Finally, tell us a little about Liz outside of dogs… your profession, your hobbies.
Well, personally I have come full circle, and after a lifetime in dogs, showing professionally, then breeding our dogs, I went back to riding about 10 years ago, and totally loving it!
I am also a Certified Advanced Diver, and would like to finish working toward my Master Diver Certification. When I have the time, I also love cycling—it keeps me fit to ride and dive.
Both Joe and I are avid cooks and gardeners, and have enjoyed travel. I might also mention, he is the best midwife any breeder could hope for, spending those nights on the couch
It’s been a great life together, and we look forward to each day. We are thankful for all the wonderful people we have met through dogs, many of them lifetime friends.
We wish peace and good health to all.