Where did you grow up?
I was born in Greenwich, Connecticut. I grew up and went to school in Carmel, New York, in southern Putnam County.
Do you come from a doggy family? If not, how did the interest in breeding and showing purebred dogs begin?
I grew up in a dog and horse family. We had pet dogs from my earliest recollection. Our show dog experience began with my step-father who was the Director of Parks and Recreation in Bedford, New York. He became associated with Peggy Westphal, accomplished Dachshund and Cocker Spaniel breeder, and a noted artist who was active in community events. We had two pet Dachshunds with many health issues. In his interaction with Peggy, she enlightened him to the difference that a quality, health-tested animal makes. He purchased for our family two Dachshunds that Peggy wanted finished, and that sparked our interest in dog shows.
My mother, Ann Smith, then Dolan, grew up in Scotland. She owned Bearded Collies as a child. Once we started attending dog shows, she became interested in the process of getting them recognized in this country. She imported two British dogs, became involved with the foundation of the Bearded Collie Club of America, the keeping of the stud book, showing them in the Miscellaneous Class and, finally, seeing them AKC recognized. It was a huge undertaking and I have a lot of respect for the people behind the new breeds that I see being recognized today.
Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their influence.
My earlier mentors were Peggy Westphal and Judy Anderson. They emphasized honesty and good sportsmanship, but most of all that showing and breeding dogs should be fun. The family atmosphere at dog shows at that time was what I remember most about it. I also actively showed horses at that time, so the dogs were something I dabbled in more than dedicated myself to.
After graduating from college, I felt the need for a break from the academic scene. Vet school was my goal, but even at that time I felt veterinarians would be best served by working with breeders, show kennels, and groomers to have a more well-rounded aspect of this segment that needed veterinary service to function efficiently.
I was fortunate to connect with Bob and Jane Forsyth. Assisting them and learning from Bonnie and Mark Threlfall changed the direction I had planned for myself. I am not sure that anyone was more knowledgeable or better equipped to train you than Bonnie and Mark were.
The Threlfalls left the Forsyths to go out and launch their own successful careers. The step up taught me about business management, kennel management, and animal husbandry, and the importance of maintaining good relationships with other handlers and breeders. It was an invaluable education. Bob and Jane were good enough to give all of their assistants a fair timeframe to investigate other options before publicly announcing their retirement at Westminster in 1981. One of the benefits of working there was having an exposure to a wide variety of breeds. While I was there, they showed a few random Poodles, mostly for clients who had used them before they became a specialty breed. From the beginning, Poodles fascinated me. The beauty, the trim, and their intelligence all piqued my interest. When they did have one to show, I was fortunate to have developed a friendship with Michael Dachel, who at that point assisted Bill Trainor. He would set-aside the time to try to show me and teach me the basics to make the dog presentable in the ring. Dee Shepherd and Sue Lackey, who assisted Wendell Sammett, were a great resource as well.
When it came time to make a plan, following Bob and Jane’s retirement, I considered all of my options. The Poodles just kept coming back into my mind. I asked to be off for the week of Poodle Club of America (at that time held in Ludwigs Corner, Pennsylvania, in June), to go and observe—lawn chair, sun hat, and catalog in hand. I watched for three days and I was hooked. Having been a breeder’s daughter prior to being an assistant, the breeder in me was starting to grow.
As I watched during the three days, one family of dogs stood out in my mind. The type, the movement, and the presentation appealed to my uneducated eye. I thought that if I was going to do that much work, then that is what I wanted them to look like. At the end of the weekend, I approached Bud Dickey and Joseph Vergnetti, and explained that after the Forsyths’ retirement I would be looking for a new job. Although it wouldn’t be until after The Garden, could they keep me in mind should they need an assistant? Buddy’s quick retort, “Look around, sister, does it look like we need help?” unnerved me at the time, but his quick wit became something I loved most about him during our relationship. Over the next few months, we got to know each other when they came to East Coast dog shows. Both Bud and Joseph felt a weekend at the kennel and a weekend at the shows with them was something I should try before making a commitment. We agreed on two weekends, and things began to fall into place. The weekend that I went out for the “test run,” Christine Foster Nethery joined me. At that time, she assisted Dave and Erica McCurley, and we shared a house in Bethlehem, Connecticut.
I had never seen a breeding operation like Dassin Farm. It amazed me, intimidated me—and I was hooked. Following the weekend, I had a firm commitment on a job and Christine had purchased a Standard Poodle puppy, Ch. Dassin Dakota, who was her “foot in the door” for her now successful Boxwood Standard Poodles breeding program.
In the two years I spent at Dassin Farm, I learned more about animal husbandry, coat care, breeding philosophy, and managing a breeding program than I could ever have thought possible.
Everything that I do in my breeding program now is based on what I learned listening to Buddy talk on long drives from one show to another. No book, no website, and no webinar could ever teach me the things I learned from him. Presentation was something Joseph excelled in, and at the time he possessed a patience Buddy didn’t have. He would work with you on a brushing and drying technique, scissoring skills, and the finishing touches of banding and spraying up. All of these techniques I’ve adapted myself, but I couldn’t have learned without
Eventually, as often happens, the travel, the sheer volume of work, and the responsibility for the dogs began to make me enjoy it less. I realized, by watching the difficult chore of pleasing clients, that being a professional handler was not something I really wanted for myself. I loved the dogs, I loved the breed, but I needed to find a way to support myself and have a more home-based life. At that point, I was lucky to find a local grooming shop that had a big Poodle, Bichon, and “scissor breed” clientele. While I knew that I’d miss the team and the camaraderie of working for a handler, it was time.
During the time I was assisting Buddy and Joseph, I was fortunate enough to develop a personal relationship with my 40-year partner, Michael Carothers. He traveled, on and off, with Buddy and Joseph, assisting them, and he shared my passion for the Dassin family of dogs.
Together with Buddy and Joseph, Michael and I co-owned our foundation Standard, Ch. Dassin Daybreak, bred by Delores Solomon. She was a consummate Dassin type, and in three litters she produced 10 champions. Until Buddy’s death, we worked together, producing more than 60 champion Standards while still using the Dassin prefix.
After Buddy’s death, the dynamic changed for all of us. Michael no longer enjoyed the shows and opted to end his involvement. Joseph no longer wanted to share the kennel name and, at that time, the DeLaPassion Poodles began. Over the next few years, I continued to breed the Standards and finished 15 more, but their size and the sheer volume of work was starting to wear on me. In addition, trying to manage the health issues in the variety made it increasingly stressful to breed them and to sell them to companion homes.
The Toys at that point fell into my lap. Dr. Barbara Allan of Bagatelle Poodles was both a client of Buddy and Joseph, and a personal friend of mine. She suffered a serious stroke at the time and had to move into assisted living where she was only allowed to have one pet. Her friends rallied around and each took one or two of her dogs. I took a 13-year-old brown bitch, figuring she could live out her life with us, and a young champion bitch whose litter I had recently had to whelp, as Barbara was growing less able to do so. Ch. Primrose Desiree O’Bagatelle, “Dezi,” quickly won me over to a variety I honestly had never had much interest in. With the knowledge I had gained from working with the Standards, and Dezi as a foundation bitch, the DeLaPassion Toys were off to a good start.
I, admittedly, dabbled at first, not really sure in which direction I wanted to go. It was also at this time that I developed a friendship and partnership with Wendy Penn of ByReQuest Poodles. She joined me in our Toy Poodle undertaking, for better and for worse! In my second and third generations, I began to see what appealed to me. I feel strongly that our breed should be “three varieties, with one standard.” To me, there is no cutting slack because they are Toys. No “Toy heads” or “Toy temperaments”
are acceptable to me. The biggest compliment I get is when people remark that our Toys “look like little Standards” because this is my interpretation of the breed standard. My first improvement came with adding the impressive Foxmore dog, Ch. Foxmore Xclamation Mark, owned and bred by Janet Reed and Patti Jason. He immediately raised the bar for me, producing better coats and temperaments than the generation before. He was the sire of my top-producing Ch. DeLaPassion Madame X ByReQuest who produced eight champions for Wendy and me.
I would be remiss in not including the impact that Chelsay Paul Grubb has had both in my life and in my success in the ring. Her mother was a grooming client, and Chelsay began to visit and play with the Standard puppies as a young child. She would then visit, lead break puppies, and eventually began to attend dog shows with us. Fast forward to her adult life, marriage to Nick, and a successful handling career. I was instantly drawn to a young special that she was showing, owned by Mark and Christine Waldrop. Ch. Debrocks Avra had that charisma and presence that just “wowed” me. I went home, looked up her pedigree, and began to research her sire, Ch. Apogee Baliwick Bountiful. Fortunately, his breeder and owner was Nancy Hafner. Nancy had always been very encouraging to me as a Standard breeder, and had been willing to answer any questions I had as I was learning about the Toys. We had participated in her judges education seminars for several years. At the last one that we’d attended, she had brought a dog that both Wendy and I found really appealing. When I called and asked her about him—happy coincidence—he was Avra’s father! (Nancy is a strong line breeder herself.) She wasn’t really enthusiastic about letting him be used on “Mimsy,” who was an outcross; breeding her to “Bennie” would be another outcross. I begged, I wheedled and, finally, got her to agree to at least consider it. She agreed to look at her, found her just as appealing as we did, and agreed to let us use him. Her first litter by Bennie produced three champions, two of which have had significant impact in my breeding program.
Through Chelsay, I connected with Mark and Christine Waldrop. That connection, combined with Nancy’s longtime association with Ianthe Bloomquist’s Baliwick Toy Poodles, allowed me access to another strong family of Toys. Combining the qualities of the Foxmore family with qualities of the Baliwick/Apogee Toys has given me a type that I’m happy with and a direction to head toward in the future.
The DeLaPassion Poodles are widely known, highly successful and well respected. What breeding philosophies do you adhere to?
My breeding philosophy is strongly rooted in my foundation of working with Dassin Farm. I’m a strong linebreeder. I believe that when you outcross, it needs to be to a family equally as strong, with the attributes you seek. I think you work to improve one thing at a time, not to try to reach multiple goals in one litter.
How many dogs do you currently house? Tell us about your facilities and how the dogs are maintained.
I currently house more stud dogs than brood bitches. I’m fortunate, in the grooming shop, that I have many clients who enjoy a retired show dog as a companion. The stud dogs make excellent pets and my clients have little problem housebreaking them and allowing me access to them. I’m less eager to place a bitch that must be bred. In breeding Toys, things can and do go wrong. I’m not really prepared to expect a family to deal with that possibility. I don’t feel Toys make great kennel dogs, so all my dogs are house dogs. If they go to my handler, I prefer that they go as young as between five and six months before they become true house pets.
Who were/are some of your most significant Poodles, both in the whelping box and the show ring?
My most significant Standards were my foundation bitch, Ch. Dassin Daybreak, and her grandsons, Ch. Dassin Despierita and Ch. Dassin Banderas DeLaPassion. Another favorite Standard was Steven and Joanne Kirk’s Miki Moto son, Ch. DeLaPassion Easy Come Easy Go. “Ben” was a multiple Group and Specialty winner.
In Toys, we would have nothing without Dezi as our foundation. Her granddaughter, Ch. DeLaPassion Madame X ByReQuest, significantly affected our program.
Both Wendy and I feel very fortunate that Ianthe shared the outstanding Ch. Baliwick Baby Gaga with us for her show career and two litters. All four of her puppies are champions and contributing to our breeding programs. Currently, her son, Ch. Baliwick Breaking the Rules, is co-owned with Martin Gregory and has been the start of a satisfying partnership.
My high point as a breeder/owner-handler is a dog that I loved from the moment I clippered him the first time. GCh. DeLaPassion Valdinera ByReQuest was truly a group effort. His co-owners, Kate Hornik, DVM and Kasie Podijil, DVM did everything they could to raise him to his potential, and I could have never had him prepared without the encouragement and push from Chelsay and Nick. I’d sent him to them to get ready for PCA, but Chelsay called me that night and said, “You show him, you can do this.” I was doubtful, but she was right. At seven months old, he was not only Winners Dog from the Bred-By Class, but was awarded BOS to BOV at our National Specialty under breeder-judge Jordan Chamberlain. Working with friends is one of the most satisfying parts of breeding for me. Linda McFadden sharing the beautiful white bitch, Ch. Oaktown Gone Rogue, “Stormy Daniels,” sired by Ch. DeLaPassion Undeniable ByReQuest, led to another thrilling PCA as Chelsay piloted Stormy to BOW from the 9-12 Class under the esteemed Toy breeder, Sharon Stevens. Co-owning this beautiful bitch and looking forward to what she will produce is, indeed, exciting.
Each dog or bitch that I keep is significant in its own way to our breeding program. I rarely breed a bitch that isn’t finished. However, the current COVID-19 situation has caused me to reevaluate this position to some extent.
Please comment positively on your breed’s present condition and what trends might bear watching.
I’m encouraged that most breeders are branching out and working (if not themselves, then with others) to have their Poodles be the multi-purpose dogs they are. I see lots of conformation-bred Poodles doing a variety of performance sports and field work. I think the growing acceptance of the Modified Continental trim is a definite plus as it allows dogs to more easily do a variety of functions and still compete in conformation. The continued work of breeders to monitor their dogs’ health and use the ever-expanding health testing available is also a plus, and speaks positively for our future.
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? How do we encourage newcomers to join us?
I suppose change in any aspect of life is just the nature of it. I read about people complaining about too many dog shows, handlers having an edge, and the dog with the wealthiest backer doing the winning. I still believe, as I did 40 years ago, that a good dog, well presented, will do its share of winning. I believe an owner-handler who does it right can compete on any level. If I didn’t believe this I would stop breeding and showing dogs. While I think it is important to encourage newcomers to the sport, I’m not entirely sure the sport itself is to blame. I think we live in an instant gratification society, and that is simply not how dog shows work. It takes time, and the desire to learn and do the work, to do it successfully. I also think the many aspects of dog sports are more appealing to young people. Activities like agility, barn hunt, and scent work are all less subjective and more score based. I think when people show an interest in breeding and showing dogs, we need to nurture that. But, unless it is a two-way street, that’s not always easy.
Where do you see your breeding program in the next decade or two?
I would hope that within the next decade I will be able to maintain the type we’ve worked toward developing, continuing to improve, as we all do, with each successive generation. Sometimes you take a turn that doesn’t give you the results you would have hoped, so you regroup and move on. Although I don’t think you should ever be satisfied with what you have, I am extremely happy with the progress that we have made and look forward to what we will have in the future.
I have been extremely fortunate in having breeders I respect utilize my stud dogs. I’m looking forward to seeing what these dogs will add to programs other than my own. I’m also encouraged by the dogs that performance people have purchased from me and by the success these dogs have had. I’m looking forward to seeing what these multi-purpose dogs can contribute to my program as well.
Finally, tell us a little about Carol outside of dogs…your profession, your hobbies.
I’m really all about the dogs. My business is the grooming shop, which allows me to bring my dogs with me, to raise litters without having to leave them at home, and to schedule my life around the dog shows I want to attend. I enjoy mentoring both Poodle enthusiasts and promising groomers. Watching someone’s skills grow gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction. I also enjoy reproduction in all its phases, raising neonates, and helping other breeders succeed with problematic whelping. I enjoy learning about all aspects of our breed, our sport, and new scientific developments. I don’t think that that will ever get old for me.