Where did you grow up? Do you come from a doggy family and, if not, how did the interest in breeding and showing purebred dog begin?
I was born and raised in the Lubbock, Texas area, and grew up in a dog show family. My parents bred and showed Pekingese in the 1950s, and then Chows from the 1960s on. My wife, Linda, was born and lived in the Portland, Oregon area, and got involved in breeding and showing Chows in the early 1980s. We met through a handling client of mine who had bought a Chow from Linda and hired me to show him. He became our first Best in Show-winning Chow, and brought us together as a family. We then went on to breed Chows together under the Dreamland prefix as well as professionally handle all breeds since. We have both always been animal lovers and Linda had bred and shown American Saddlebred horses as well. The love of competition and the challenge of creating a work of art in a dog that you bred is what drives us to continue to try and improve our dogs with each generation.
Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their influence.
I was fortunate to have grown up with one of the top old-time Chow breeders, Hal Allen of Tsang-Po Kennels, and was able to learn a tremendous amount about the breed from him. I learned to watch and listen to the most successful breeders of the time, and incorporate their ideas and philosophies into my idea of what the breed should be. But the thing that helped give us a huge advantage was—and is—the experience of handling many other breeds which teaches us about the structure and purpose of each. Handlers such as Kenny Rensink, Roy Murray, C.L. Eudy and too many others to mention were not only good friends but great mentors in how to present that beautiful dog you were so proud to have bred.
The Dreamland Chows are widely known, highly successful, and well respected. What breeding philosophies do you adhere to?
We believe that structure is an integral part of type and cannot be separate from it. In other words, a dog that is not structurally sound does not have proper type. You can have soundness without type but you cannot have type without soundness. Only a small portion of the dogs a show breeder produces will become breeding/show stock, and the rest will be someone’s pets and companions. We owe it to the breed to produce the healthiest dogs physically and mentally that we possibly can.
How many dogs do you currently house? Tell us about your facilities and how the dogs are maintained?
We are fortunate to have a large boarding kennel which gives us the facilities to have more breeding stock. We usually have about ten dogs here, but co-own many more around the world with other breeders which gives us a much larger gene pool to work with.
Who were/are some of your most significant Chows, both in the whelping box and in the show ring?
We have had many through the years that have made a large contribution to our breeding program, among them Ch. Versaws Star of Justin (JR), Ch. Owlheads Justin Your Dreams (Fred), Ch. Dreamlands Star of Winalot (Sunshine), Ch. Windsongs Tango in Dreamland (Tango), Ch. Dreamlands Wanna Be a Billionaire (Forbes), and Ch. Dreamlands American Revolution (Jefferson), to name
Please comment positively on your breed’s present condition and what trends might bear watching.
I have watched the Chow breed go through many phases and fads in the more than 50 years I have been involved with it, and I think we are getting back to more of what the breed was meant to be: an upstanding dog that is square and athletic for its size and bulk. I am seeing more dogs with the proper balance of leg and body (50/50), and as a whole, the breed is structurally better than it has been in the past.
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 and remain in the sport?
Society has changed quite a bit over the years and it is much more difficult for breeders to have a kennel of stud dogs and brood bitches, making it quite a challenge to create the consistency that was seen in the large breeding kennels of the past. On the positive side, through technology we all have more access to stud dogs and puppies from around the world, giving us more options in our breeding programs, if we as breeders know what we are looking for. As for the declining number of breeders, it is a labor of love to be one, and the commitment needed to succeed is tremendous! We need to actively encourage and mentor new people, and not let the competition come before the betterment of the breed.
Where do you see your breeding program in the next decade or two?
Linda and I have been doing this for a long time and as we get older, it becomes more and more of a challenge, but we both want to remain active in the breed for many years to come. We have never created the perfect dog and probably never will, but the challenge of trying is always there.
Finally, tell us a little about Michael outside of dogs… your profession, your hobbies.
I trained as a diesel mechanic, was a service manager and owned my own farm equipment business for several years while showing and handling professionally part-time until the handling turned into a full-time job. I have handled all breeds professionally for more than 46 years now. We built and operate a dog and cat boarding kennel in Lubbock, Texas. I enjoy shooting sports and other outdoor activities when there is time between dog shows and taking care of the boarding business. You could truly say my life has gone to the dogs!