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Lonnie & Marsha’Carroll | Bear Hug Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Lonnie & Marsha’Carroll

Interview with Lonnie & Marsha’Carroll, Breeders of Bear Hug Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

  1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder? What is your kennel name?
  2. What is your “process” for selecting show puppies? Performance puppies?
  3. In your opinion, is your breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
  4. As a Preservation Breeder, can you share your thoughts on the sport today? How’s the judging these days? What do you think about the number of shows?
  5. In your opinion, is social media good for the sport? Is it harmful?
  6. What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole today and how can these be addressed?
  7. What are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in the sport over the past decade?

1. We are originally from Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and currently live in Greer, South Carolina. Lonnie graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and was medically retired from the Army. He then worked as an engineer in heavy highway construction for 35 years, before retiring last year. Marsha’ is a radiological technologist working in several different modalities. Currently, she mostly does mammography and bone density. We have been married for close to 26 years and have 9 children, 15 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren. We also love to travel, and last year we went to Alaska, Hawaii, and Yellowstone. Together, we have been in dogs for 25 years and bred Wirehaired Pointing Griffons for 22 years. Lonnie showed his first dog in 1986, an American Staffordshire Terrier. In 1999, we got our first Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Through her we grew to love the breed, and her sixth-generation descendants live with us today. Lonnie went on to become a judge, and as such, he is one of three breeder-judges for the Griffon. Bear Hug is the kennel name we use for our Griffons. For other breeds, we have used the prefix of Ol Gray.

2. We spend a lot of time with our puppies. We put them into many different situations and observe how they handle them. This helps us understand their burgeoning personalities and temperaments. At around seven weeks, we do a conformation evaluation of the whole litter. We also invite others to come in to evaluate the puppies. This will include handlers and other breeders. For performance, as most of ours are used for hunting, we try to look at how the puppies handle situations in the field, loud noises, and their interest in birds. Our goal as breeders is to breed a dog that can do what you want to do and have the form to look good doing it.

3. We feel that the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed as a whole is in pretty good condition. Griffons continue to be one breed and not split between show lines and hunting lines. Most breeders do all of their health clearances and avoid breeding dogs that do not pass these certifications. The breed has always been a healthy breed and continues to be so. One concern we have had in the breed is the trend of oversized dogs being rewarded in the show ring.

4. Conformation shows continue to be a great place to have breeding stock evaluated. When we first started with Griffons, most dogs were handled by their owners. Now the owner-handler seems to be in the minority at most shows. You ask about the judging… because it is a low-entry breed, most judges do not have a great deal of experience judging this breed, and I think that sometimes this can be an issue. Personally, we think the number of shows is still good for the hobby.

5. We have mixed feelings about social media. We use it ourselves and it helps us keep in touch with family, fellow dog people, and puppy owners. But as in most things, be careful about what you read and see on any of the social platforms.

6. Lonnie is currently President of the Spartanburg Kennel Club, and one of the biggest challenges we face as a club is attracting new and younger members. Looking around at the meetings, the club is not getting any younger. Attracting and keeping younger members, and keeping them engaged, is a challenge for everyone in the sport. For the most part, they have other priorities, which include kids, careers, and life in general. Dedicating time to a club may be low on their priority list. We have added some more performance events and will continue to do so, as this has helped to connect us with some of these younger members. I think the club needs to be an avenue for the average dog owner to enjoy doing multiple things with their four-legged best friend.

7. We think one of the major changes we have enjoyed is the introduction of the Nartional Owner-Handled Series competition. Lonnie won the first Owner-Handled Best in Show award in the breed with our girl Mocha. He then went on to win the Breed twice at the National Owner-Handled Series Finals, with a different dog each time. We have also seen more involvement in local Specialty clubs within our breed. This has given the breed more opportunites to be seen, and perhaps, helps to increase the knowledge of the breed.