From the September 2019 Issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe.
Where did you grow up?
I am the oldest of four girls, born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia.
Do you come from a doggy family? If not, how did the interest in breeding and showing purebred dogs begin?
As I began to become aware of animals, I wanted a horse, like most little girls. My parents signed me up for riding lessons at an Arabian/Lipizzan farm to appease my passion. However, the riding lessons did not curb my appetite to own a horse, they only made the desire that much stronger. Now, my parents were not going to let me own a horse, since we lived in a suburban neighborhood with no land. However, my father is a photographer and owned a direct mail advertising company. One of his accounts was Coca Cola and the head of Coca Cola’s Advertising Department just happened to breed and show English Springer Spaniels. My dad got the bright idea that maybe showing dogs would replace my desire to have a horse. Well, it did! We immediately put a deposit down on a puppy from their next litter and started to get excited about our new adventure! I was about eight-years-old at the time that we went to check out our first dog show, the Atlanta Kennel Club. I could not get over how much there was to see there! Everyone grooming their dogs, laughing, enjoying themselves, tailgating, playing with their dogs, and the now all-too-familiar running in circles, showing their pride and joy. I was hooked!
From here on out my life was consumed with everything dog and dog show! I practiced in my backyard and awarded myself many Best in Shows!
When we finally got our puppy, we started going to training classes and matches to learn our new craft. We also joined the English Springer Spaniel club to learn more about our new dog plus learning to groom her from all the knowledgeable people who already belonged to this club. My father was going to be the handler for conformation and he got my sister and me involved in Junior Showmanship. My sister Jennifer didn’t really care for all of this but I did! I even found a Junior Showmanship club in the Atlanta area. We had many great times in our Juniors club, with slumber parties and meetings, and I met great kids who enjoyed dogs as much as I did. Some of those members like Linda Pitts and Susan Wise still successfully show dogs today.
As our dog show life progressed, my parents lost interest. I was too hooked to just stop, so at 14-years-old I started hitching rides with anyone who would take me. I realized I needed to learn more about dogs and their care. I decided to start working for a professional handler. Since I was only fourteen, no one would actually hire me, but Houston and Toddie Clark let me hang around and help. What a great idea! I was so excited and happy to do whatever they let me do. If they didn’t need me, I would work for anyone and everyone who would take me to dog shows.
Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their influence.
Houston and Toddie Clark, David Bolus, Barbara Alderman and Carroll James were my mentors as a child and teenager. They taught me so much about grooming, ring presentation and professionalism, things I still carry with me today. My summers were spent working for the Clarks. The fun stories I can tell about being on the road, working and learning to show dogs with them. They are the reason I still show dogs today. I learned so much, did so much and always felt part of the family. I eventually graduated high school early, and went to work full time for them. While working for the Clarks at Westminster, I met Carol Dean, who worked for Bob and Jane Forsyth. I was interested in moving North, and she helped me find a job at a Pointer kennel where I could learn about breeding and still go to dog shows. Eventually the Forsyths retired and Carol was going to Ohio to interview for a job at Dassin Farm, where Bud Dickey and Joseph Vergnetti raised their beautiful Poodles. Carol’s interview consisted of us spending the weekend with them at dog shows. She came home with a new job, and I came home with a Poodle! At the time I worked for Elliot and Linda More. When I had my Poodle entered at dog shows, I still didn’t know how to scissor him, so he got passed around at the dog shows getting trimmed by those who knew what they were doing! If I remember correctly, it was usually his breeders or Bobby Fisher. So these people were my mentors early on, and now I continue to discuss dogs and learn whenever I am with my longtime friends: Joseph Vergnetti, Alan Waterman, Ann Rairigh and, last but not least, Carol Dean. I also include all the different veterinarians I have used. They have all listened to my many crazy questions and answered them. They have all taught me a lot.
The Boxwood Poodles are widely known, highly successful and well respected. What breeding philosophies do you adhere to?
I have always thought that linebreeding was the way to go. I did it in the beginning but ended up branching out with some outcrosses. In my case I needed to. I have a small breeding program and I was getting too close too fast. My litter last year was again an outcross, breeding to a dog at Dassin Farm, owned by Ellen Charles of
How many dogs do you typically house? Tell us about your facilities and how the dogs are maintained.
The number of dogs I keep is constantly changing. I try not to keep too many. In my younger days I always kept two from each litter, and maybe bred two litters a year. The dogs are housed in a stand-alone, small hobby kennel a few feet from our house. They live in 4 x 4 stalls with walk-out runs that are 4 x 30 ft long. Since I work from my home, the dogs are outside a lot, weather permitting. I have a lovely grooming room where I am able to groom my dogs. I would say I bathe them weekly with re-banding and brushing in between as needed. I feed Purina Pro Plan and they are fed in the evening unless they are puppies, or dogs that need to eat twice a day. They go to dog shows with me every weekend that I go. They learn the ropes this way. I have found this to work very well for me. It gets them out and about, learning about the world when you don’t always have time to socialize them or go to handling class.
Please comment positively on your breed’s present condition and what trends might
As far as trends, at this year’s National I was able to watch a little more than usual, and I noticed the tremendous number of squirrel tails. I remember Joseph Vergnetti sharing with me that Charles LeBoutier, a hunter with Poodles from Chesapeake, Maryland, told him why straight tails are so important. When the Poodle is in the water, if the tail is carried over the back, it is very difficult to see the dog, especially at dusk. So this is quite dangerous for the dog and handler. As a breeder who has a dog or two with a squirrel tail, I will say it is extremely difficult to get rid of. I have tried. So I see how the fault continues. I think fronts always need to be worked on. I also hate the way people stack their dogs with their heads jammed behind their shoulders. It isn’t correct.
The sport has changed greatly since you first began participating. What are your thoughts on the state of the sport and the declining numbers of breeders? How do we encourage newcomers to join us and remain in the sport?
In my two breeds (Poodles and Belgian Malinois), we are loaded with breeders. I don’t think the Malinois people breed as many litters as Poodle people do. Ohio is a very strong area for good-quality Poodles so I don’t see a decline in breeders but I do see a decline in the numbers at all-breed shows and specialties, too. I do think Poodle entries decline because of the coat work involved. There has been a huge interest amongst exhibitors in our breed in the Modified Continental trim. This is where I think we can encourage newcomers. They don’t have to be chained to a table grooming all day. They can do other dog sports as well. The trim really isn’t for everybody, so many don’t care for the trim, but the beauty of it all is that you can make the trim fancy or simple. I love the trim. I had cut a dog down before getting his Grand championship. This trim has allowed me to bring him back out in the ring without having to spend the better part of a year growing coat on him. I think the trim can be widely accepted if the right dog comes along with the right version of the trim.
Anytime I have a young person come into my life, I try to encourage them to show the dogs. I have taken many a kid to shows with me to learn all about our wonderful sport.
Who were some of your most significant Poodles, both in the whelping box and in the show ring?
My significant dogs in the whelping box/show ring started with the breeding of Ch. Romanov Rocketman x Ch. Boxwood Belle Rose. She was a Ch. Dassin Delancy daughter bred to a son of Ch. Maneetas Del Zarzoso Fuego Fatuo, “Gordon.” This litter produced three champions: Ch. Boxwood Belton John and Ch. Arrabelle of Boxwood, both owned and shown by me, and Ch. Boxwood Mirabelle, owned and shown by Alan Waterman.
Belton was a top producer; Arrabelle, a multiple Group winner; and Mirabelle, a multiple Group winner as well as a multiple Best in Show winner, Specialty winner and Best of Opposite Sex at Poodle Club of America. This significant breeding went on to produce sons and daughters that are still in my breeding program. Ch. Alaman It’s All About Me, “Tina,” was Poodle Club of America’s 2012 Best of Breed winner. She was co-bred by me and Alan Waterman. She was sired by Ch. Boxwood Brainteaser, out of Ch. Boxwood Busybody. Her sire and dam were Best Stud Dog and Best Brood Bitch in Show that year as well! Tina, later bred to an Afterglow dog, produced Ch. Gala Lakeridge Reflections of Me, another Best in Show winner, handled by Kaz Hosaka. Tina’s younger sister, Ch. Alaman Boxwood Gossip Girl, won three consecutive 5-point majors at 11 months old! Ch. Boxwood Arrabelle was shown in two trims, English Saddle and Continental. She finished her championship and went to our National as a Special in the Saddle trim. I cut her out into a Continental afterwards, and she continued her winning ways, including a Group First under Mrs. James Edward Clark.
Ch. Boxwood Brainteaser was Best Bred by at PCA, and a great producer of PCA winners. He came from a litter of seven, and we finished five puppies from that litter, with two puppy champions. Ch. Boxwood Bumbellbee, also out of Belle Rose from her second litter, was my most beautiful, and as I think back about her, she was definitely my favorite! She finished in puppy trim with Group placements, and produced another favorite, Ch. Boxwood BMW. He was my thrill ride! He won a Group First from the classes at nine months of age. He also won the Puppy Group that day, and went on to win Best Puppy in Show. He went on to win two more Groups while still in puppy trim and several additional Groups in adult trim, as well as an Award of Merit at PCA. He was used sparingly as a stud dog, but he and some of his get are still in my pedigrees today. Another son from Bumbellbee was Ch. Boxwood Bee Sting, another Group winner in puppy trim and Ch. Boxwood Beecause, a Group winner from the classes.
Last but not least we have Ch. Boxwood Rocky Belboa, whose frozen semen we used 20 years later. My friend Laurie Maraldo took a puppy from that litter, Ch. Boxwood Back in Black at Versailles, and made him Number 1 owner-handled Poodle for that year, including an Owner-Handler Best in Show and an Owner-Handler Reserve Best in Show. After looking through all these pictures and going down memory lane, I see how many dogs I have left out. I could go on all day about them… but I won’t! I will say that I am extremely proud of my dogs and I hope my good fortune continues!
Where do you see your breeding program in the next decade or two?
I would love to see my breeding program last another decade or two! The older I get, the harder it gets. As much as I think I am tired of grooming and duking it out for the next win, the more I want to continue doing it. I guess the passion is still there. All kidding aside, I would love to still be breeding, with a handful of beautiful, healthy dogs to show that are sound in body and mind. I love raising puppies and watching how they change as they grow. I’m always looking for the next “one!”
Finally, tell us a little about Christine outside of dogs… your profession, your hobbies.
First off I would like to say that I am married to the most generous, wonderful guy ever! For close to 30 years he has put up with all the craziness that showing and breeding dogs entails, so he must love me a lot. I guess I like doing a lot of things, like sleeping, watching TV and overeating (I even have a Golden Corral buffet husband!), but those aren’t really things people say they enjoy. I love playing with my dogs, I love to travel, and in the summer I enjoy hanging at the beach on Lake Erie and working on my tan.
Heidi H Christensen
This person sounds like MEE> I ALWAYS wanted a horse but we lived in the city. So they let me take lessons. Made me want a horse even more. THEN one Christmas they brought me home a Poodle. He was so wonderful till he died I never thought of Horses again (well hardly ever)