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A Masquerading Maltese Started It All!

Combined photos of Ingela Gram, a Maltese breeder

My first Maltese came from England, across the North Sea, to Norway, where I lived. Little did that girl know that she was traveling to her new home incognito… not as a MALTese, but a PEKINGese!

A longtime Bernese Mountain Dog breeder, one year I was sitting ringside at Crufts with friends who had Pekes. They had been trying to convince me that the Pekingese was the perfect Toy dog for me to own. The entry was 120 Pekes and I liked every single one… but during a break in judging, my eyes wandered across the room. There I saw what was to become my true love!

Ingela Gram
Early Foursome Maltese; the mis-labeled ‘Miss’ is at bottom right!

Leaving the Pekingese ring, I stepped over to the Maltese ring where the judging had just ended. I got into a conversation with the owner of the Best of Breed dog, Brancliffe’s Snowprince. I asked her right away if she had any puppies for sales. Behold, she had one: Brancliffe’s Audacity. I convinced her I was the perfect owner for the pup and the deal was made that would change my life.

At that time, you needed a Norwegian import license to bring dogs into the country. I had secured a license for the purpose of importing a Pekingese (because that’s what I thought I was going to bring home). So, I reached the border with a Maltese in my arms and a Pekingese on the papers! I was praying that the customs officer did not know the difference between the two. He didn’t! And my work as a Maltese owner, breeder, and exhibitor began.

When she had her first litter, they became the first Maltese to be born in Norway for fifteen years. She barely finished as a Norwegian Champion, partly because the handler trained her in the way you train a Bernese; hence, she never wanted to walk; she wanted to run. She did finish, though, and her offspring became the top-winning Maltese dogs and bitches in Norway during the next ten years.

Over the years, I bought some more British imports. Barbarella Xanadoo was a Junior Warrant from Scotland who very quickly became an International and Nordic Champion. Also, Gosmore Snowdrop from Audrey Dallison became an International and Nordic Champion.

I came to the States in 1990, and brought with me my whole kennel: Scottish Deerhounds, Cavaliers, Pomeranians, and Maltese. The Cavaliers were not recognized in the US at the time, so I started to show the Maltese only. My first opportunity to show one of my own dogs was International and Nordic Champion Foursome’s Extremely Lovable, seven years old, with me on the lead, making all the mistakes in the book. The ring procedure in Scandinavia and in the United States differs widely, and that didn’t help. Also, I showed him with only one topknot, which is what we did in Europe at the time.

Ingela Gram
Winning the Stud Dog Class, American Maltese Association National Specialty under Edd Bivin.

I placed him on the wrong side of the table too! He won Best of Breed over Specials, but I was very confused and did not know it until the judge told me so. (After that, I switched to a professional handler who finished him in less than a year.) So, Patricia Proctor started showing my dogs. Between her and David Fitzpatrick, I finished over 50 champions. I also had the No. 1 Maltese All-Breed points in 1999. And never forgetting that the Pekingese breed was a fundamental part of the story, I’ve been
fortunate to enjoy that breed in my home and in the show ring as well, including winning the Pekingese Club of America National Specialty in 1998 with the expertise of handler Danny Jenner.

Most of what I’ve done in this country was with the assistance of my wonderful professional handlers. But in Scandinavia, I finished 20 Champions—among them a 6x International and Nordic Champion—by myself. I got my judging license in 2000, and in March 2013, I had the honor to judge our National Specialty in Orlando. As a breeder and fancier, this was absolutely a dream come true.

Ingela Gram
An early Foursome winner under Kathleen Kolbert, handled by Patty Proctor.


Judging the Maltese

Based on my experience, as a breeder, fancier, and judge of the Maltese, I feel no part of a Maltese ought to be exaggerated—everything should be in moderation. Too much “neck” gives a pleasing impression, but it throws the whole dog out of proportion. Usually, by closer look, the back becomes too short, and the tail set too low. The Maltese ought to be single-coated with a silky touch, without any curls. Most of the dogs I have been judging have been double-coated. It looks like the dog has more coat, but it is definitely incorrect for this breed.

Ingela Gram
Ingela Gram judging the American Maltese Association National Specialty 2013.

Most breeders and judges do not take the dog’s bite into consideration. There should be six incisors, in both the upper and lower jaws. If the dogs lose too many incisors, they will get a “snipey” muzzle. In the extreme, I have seen the tongue hanging out. Pigmentation is very important. Lucky you, people, who live in a warm climate where the dogs can be outside and enjoy the sun, which enhances the Maltese’s pigmentation. Up here in the cold North, they get “winter noses.” The Maltese is an old Mediterranean breed. They are supposed to walk on Carrara marble in the palazzi in the post-siesta sunshine!

But the most important feature of the Maltese is their adorable disposition, which is very easy to judge: Happy, loving, playful, and audacious. Never shy, afraid or snappy… always “up,” interested, elegant… and unmistakably Maltese!


Ingela Gram passed away on March 21, 2018. Originally from Norway, she arrived in the US in 1990 accompanied by her Maltese, Pomeranians, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Scottish Deerhounds. Ingela’s many contributions to the sport included editorial that appeared in TNT and SHOWSIGHT magazines. We are grateful to share this unassuming account of her experiences with Maltese, which first appeared in the August 2013 edition of SHOWSIGHT, for the benefit of both new and longtime readers.


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