Interview with John and Kathy Garahan, Breeders of Kilgawny Kerry Blue Terriers
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What is your breed? What is your kennel name? Do you have a website? How long have you been in dogs? How long have you been breeding dogs? Who are some of your best-known dogs?
My wife, Kathy, and I are breeders of Kerry Blue Terriers. I am currently the President of the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club and have been for over 10 years. We moved three years ago to Clemmons, North Carolina, from Annandale, New Jersey. Our kennel name is Kilgawny, which is the parish name in Ireland where the Garahans in the US originally emigrated from and where our family descendants still reside. We have been breeding Kerry Blue’s for 25-plus years, with many AKC Champions and Grand Champions. The Kilgawny line goes back to Heritage Kerry Blue Terriers, Carol and Bill Kearney in Yorktown Heights, and to Irisblu Kerry Blue Terriers, Harold and Helena Quigg from Derry in Ireland. Some of our better-known dogs are Heritage Micky Devine of Kilgawny (Micky), Irisblu Mirage (Suki, whom we imported from Derry), and our current special GCHB Kilgawny Take My Man.
As a Breeder, can you share your thoughts on your breed today? Is breed type strong? Are there things to be concerned about? Are there any health-related issues? Have you worked with breeders overseas? Are pet homes typically available for your breed?
Kerry Blue Terriers are a low-entry breed. They were originally all-around farm dogs and would go-to-ground to get badgers. Because of the low number of breeders, we have to watch out for faults if there is too much linebreeding. Coats must be soft, dense, and wavy, with any color of blue permissible. We recently lost one of our great judges who was also a breeder, owner and handler, Anne Katona, who described the coat as a “marcel wave.”
Breed type is principally strong; however, we must take care that our Kerries do not lose their “gameness.” The breed is very healthy, with few health issues. As I’ve said above, I work very closely with a Kerry breeder in Derry, Harold Quigg. We have been very close friends and breeders for 20-plus years. Pet homes have been available; however, we are very particular about who gets our Kerry Blues. Past Kerry owners know what they are getting into. Show homes are fewer and far between.
As an Exhibitor, can you comment on recent entries in your breed? Are majors available in your area? Does your breed often participate in Companion and Performance events? How can newcomers in your breed be encouraged to join the sport of dogs?
The US Kerry Blue Terrier Club has seen a reduction in entries for our breed. Many other terrier breeds are reporting the same. Around 15-20 years ago at our National Specialty at Montgomery County Kennel Club in Pennsylvania, our entries used to be in the triple digits. Now we have been in the 80-90 area. The US club has sponsored Concurrent Specialties to get more opportunities for majors. The US club has also moved our National Traveling Specialty permanently to Purina Farms in May where we also host a Concurrent Specialty and weekend set of shows is called “Kerryfest.” The St. Louis Chapter Club also has two Specialties that weekend, so everyone benefits by larger entries.
We have 45-55 entries for the shows. Majors can be had many times during the Florida circuit in January, KerryFest at Purina Farms, and at Canfield, Chicago, and Michigan during the summer. Of course, as I’ve said, the largest turnout is still Hatboro/Montgomery County Kennel Club weekend in October. Kerry Blues do participate in Companion and Performance events. The one that seems to have caught everyone’s fancy is Barn Hunt, and Agility has seen an upswing in participation. More and more Kerries participate and the US Club, and the St. Louis Chapter Club co-hosts a Barn Hunt event at KerryFest. Junior Showmanship is a great way for newcomers to get into the breed and they are the lifeblood of our sport. Therapy Dogs are another way for newcomers to get involved. Kerries are wonderful Therapy Dogs. I have had two Kerries who have become Reading Therapy Dogs for children.
What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole and how can we address them? And finally, what are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in your breed and in the dog show community as a whole over the past decade?
We find that our membership in the US Kerry Blue Terrier club is declining. We have an aging membership and we need new participation. We have recently lost two local Chapter Clubs because of declining membership. Our breeder community was located primarily in the Northeast US, Chicago, and West Coast. The Northeast is down to only two or three breeders because of age and people moving to better climates (retirement). The AKC is trying to help get participation up. The Grand Champion program, Meet the Breeds, podcasts, etc., are all ways to support the sport. Parent clubs must start to get the word out about their breeds. Advertise. Make the sport fun for everyone. Thank you.