Interview with Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze, Breeder of Cross the Rubicon Kerry Blue Terriers
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: I am a Kerry Blue Terrier breeder living in Virginia. From the time I could walk, I was dreaming about owning a dog. After a few different Working breeds and mutts, I purchased my first Kerry in 1994.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: My kennel name is Cross the Rubicon, picked just for the sound and a love of history, not thinking about the meaning behind the phrase. Twenty-five years ago, I took the irrevocable step that commits one to a specific course. I own five dogs and co-own a few more.
Which breeders have provided the greatest influence on my decision to breed dogs?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: There was no breeder influence on the decision to breed dogs. The dog breeding was a natural progression of my interest in bettering the breed and creating the perfect specimen.
Can I talk a bit about my foundation dogs? How have they influenced my breeding program?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: As it goes, my first Kerry, and foundation bitch, was of an excellent, stable temperament but a low quality. This did not stop us from finishing the championship and competing at the dog shows internationally. I was a very enthusiastic newbie, worked hard, and did not get deterred easily. It was because of this, in 1998, that I met the real game-changer, Italian and Multi Ch. Aran Enniskeen. Our Slovak Terrier club arranged an exhibitor bus trip to the European Dog Show in Genova, Italy, where “Dusty” won Best of Breed.
I was in search of a stud dog, and as it was before the time of Google, I was handwriting letters to different breeders in Europe. After seeing this keen, upstanding, gorgeous male, my fate was sealed. Dusty took my breath away and I became an Aran Kennel groupie for life. In 2001, a new litter was born at Aran Kennel, and I became a proud owner of one of the boys, Aran Ferbane.
“Aran” went on to become one of the top-ranked Kerries in US; Best of Breed at Westminster and a BIS at the Great Western. Aran’s last show was at Montgomery at the age of 14. His legacy continues in all Cross the Rubicon Kerries, including the four dogs owner-handled to No. 1 standing in the US.
What about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: I am more of an enthusiast than a breeder. My pups are whelped at home where my dogs live the life of a companion when not at the dog show. The pups are raised half at home and half at the clinic, as my hours as a veterinarian, board certified in reproduction and pediatrics, are long and unpredictable.
Do I have a “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: My approach to raising puppies is very hands-on. I think I would be a perfect helicopter parent. Keeping a close eye on my pups from the time they are born, I kind of know which one will be staying. Picking the right pup may be frustrating, as they change over time, but so far I did pretty good.
How do I choose the homes for my puppies? Is puppy placement important to me as a breeder?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: My recent pups are mostly a replacement for Kerries passed. After a few bad experiences, I worried about puppy placements. But I do the best I can to find homes for life with responsible and dedicated owners.
Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: I see a big variety in the show ring. Truth to say, I am sorry for the judges who need to sift through the offered representatives of the breed. There are marked variations in size, outline, movement, coat quality, and grooming. The Terrier and Working judges may have an advantage in finding the right one, as the Kerry is supposed to be an all-round working farm dog—but the variety of styles may make it challenging.
Are there any health-related concerns within my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: There are no special nutritional needs, unless the dog develops food sensitivities. We have inexpensive testing for four genetic conditions (DM, CMSD, vWD, and factor XI); CMSD is lethal at an early age. We can prevent hip and elbow dysplasia by testing and wise breeding choices; the breeders who responsibly test before breeding.
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: Although I think our breed is in a good condition, the temperament of a Terrier contributes to a decrease in popularity among the general population of pet owners. This dog is not suited for a family looking for a convenient companion.
Until we move away from awarding the “tough/stand your ground” specimens in the show competition, it will be difficult to increase the numbers of companion dogs.
Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: The best candidate, in my eyes, is a younger, active person who likes to give their dog a job; someone who understands that Terriers are particular and that it may take long for them to choose a friend—but just a minute to consider one an enemy.
The best candidate to own a Kerry is a person who is able to just pick up and carry their dog away to avoid a fight if approached by an off-leash dog; someone who understands Kerries love people, not necessarily the companionship of other dogs. They do not need to live in packs. With this said, I’ve had (and still have) showy Kerries with keen, outstanding characteristics that we describe in the standard as coming from their “joy of life” persona and their bond with their human, instead of aggression. But these dogs are rare, difficult to recognize while sparing, and hence, rarely awarded in the show ring.
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: I think we have plenty of breeders, but not necessarily large numbers of litters.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with my breed?
Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze: My pups are raised on goat’s milk and commercial raw frozen food. Just recently, I got a report from one of the puppy owners that little “Hola” is in performance (obedience/agility/nose work) training, and her most favorite reward is just plain bread!
Are you looking for a Kerry Blue Terrier puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Kerry Blue Terrier dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
Kerry Blue Terrier Dog Breed Magazine
Read and learn more about the clever Kerry Blue Terrier dog breed with articles and information in our Kerry Blue Terrier Dog Breed Magazine.
Kerry Blue Terrier Breed Magazine - Showsight