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Mary Strom | Snow Wind Parson Russell Terriers

Mary Strom's Parson russell terrier puppies


Interview with a purebred Parson Russell Terrier breeder Mary Strom of Snow Wind Parson Russell Terriers, by Allan Reznik.


Where did you grow up? Do you come from a doggy family? And if not, how did your interest in breeding and showing purebred dogs begin?

Mary Strom: I grew up in Raleigh Hills, a suburb just outside of Portland, Oregon, although I was born in Crescent City, California. My family had always had dogs, primarily Poodles; everything from Miniatures to Standards. My interest growing up was horses, and I spent most of my time at the barn or at horse shows all around the state of Oregon.

In my teens my mother decided to purchase a Sporting dog for my father. She was hopeful that a Sporting dog would be a great hobby for him. She bought an Irish Setter from Jay and Kelly Zirkle, who were well-known Irish Setter breeders out of Creswell, Oregon. My father named his Irish Setter puppy Travis Frances Oshay, a good Irish-sounding name. His registered name was Dunbrook’s Devonaire.

We kept Travis until he was a year old—he was a handful and had lots of wanderlust. I remember chasing him all over the neighborhood as he had zero-to-little in the way of recall. It was nose to the ground, and away he went. It would take me hours to round him back up and get him home.

The Zirkles came up to see how Travis had matured, and they were very impressed. They asked to take him back, and we agreed that it was probably best for the dog. Travis went on to become an AKC champion and the sire of several litters. That was my family’s first experience with an AKC show dog, but it would not be the last.

With four years of college, marriage, and raising two children, along with lots of moving from place to place, it was quite some time before I came back to dogs. When we moved to Minnesota, I fell in love with Jack Russells and thought they would be the perfect dog for my children and the farm. The only problem—they were extremely hard to find. They had become the darling dog of the horsey set, and there were very few breeders at the time.

My sister had friends in England and one of her friends was able to find us a half-Parson/half-Russell Terrier. We ended up importing her from England, albeit she was not Kennel Club registered. My children named her Jackie, and they adored her. Her only bad habit was chasing the horses and biting their heels, and that turned out to be her demise.

My Arab mare, who was weary of the heel biting, finally kicked Jackie hard, launched her at least 25 feet, and she was unconscious when we picked her up. My children thought she was dead and they carried her into the house and covered her with a warm blanket. Then, after about 10 minutes, she popped up, ready to go after that horse one more time. She lived another few months, and died on Christmas Eve of an aneurysm.

So, back to England I went to try and find another Jackie, knowing that it was very unlikely. What I did find was a registered Parson Jack Russell Terrier named Croxlea Jigsaw, or Spotty. Spotty was in whelp, and while I really knew nothing about properly raising a litter of puppies, I thought it would be a wonderful adventure. Oh my, after one litter of Parson puppies I was hooked. The kids loved raising the puppies, and I began to study more about the breed and its lineage. Finding other breeders in my area was difficult. We lived in Minnesota at the time and this was before the Parson was AKC recognized.

I quickly ended up with four Parson Jack Russells that loved all the natural hunting on the farm. I remember walking out the door to find my four Parsons surrounding a woodchuck, each taking turns attacking it. The poor woodchuck did not stand a chance and it was “game over,” with the woodchuck being the loser.

We ended up leaving Minnesota and moving back to the Northwest, settling into a suburb of Spokane, Washington. At the time of our move I had six Parsons and a very sweet mixed-breed farm dog. While in Minnesota, I had become a member of the JRTAA which was seeking to gain AKC recognition of the Parson Jack Russell Terrier, although most all of the members in the JRTAA were located on the East Coast. AKC recognition of the Parson Russell Terrier was achieved on January 1, 1998; 2,019 dogs went from the Foundation Stock Service into the American Kennel Club main registry. Showing in AKC shows began in April of 1998.


Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their influence?

Mary Strom: My mentor in all things Parson Russell was Sheila Atter, who had the Ridley prefix in Parson Russells and also Cesky Terriers. Sheila was a wealth of information on Parson pedigrees and building a breeding program; she had built a very successful breeding program herself and her dogs were not only show winners but also wonderful companions. The bloodlines she developed can still be found in many of today’s Parson Russells. Sheila was instrumental in gaining Kennel Club recognition for the Parson Russell.

I was lucky enough to own one of her dogs, Ridley Rifleman, aka Perkins. Sheila also helped me to find a very promising young puppy named Heythrop Trailblazer, bred by Roger and Linda Bigland of Evesham, Worchester, England. I brought Trailblazer home at four months of age and he lived up to his name. A true trailblazer, he was the No. 1 Parson in Breed and All-Breed points the first year of showing in AKC. He was also a Junior World Winner. He went on to sire numerous litters, both in the United States and in Europe.

Mary Strom
BISS CH Heythrop Trailblazer, bred by Roger and Linda Bigland of Evesham, England. The Number One Parson in the first year of recognition (2000), owned by Mary Strom.

With Sheila’s help I was asked to be the editor of a book about the Parsons, and also the Russell Terriers, titled the Ultimate Jack Russell Terrier, published in 1999 by Ringpress Books out of England. I had lots of help with the book from longtime breeder Paul Ross (Blencathra), Dorothea Penizek, Pam Simmons (Corn Row), Cindi Stumm (Aristes), and John Valentine, to name a few. It was a fabulous opportunity to learn more about the breed, as well as providing a foundational platform of information to those new people interested in all aspects of the breed—from its development, to grooming, and even art history.

Through Sheila, I met many of the English Parson Russell Terrier breeders. Barry Jones, who was a true, old-fashioned terrier man and bred under the affix of Heliwar, was one of the most colorful. Barry lived just outside of Birmingham and ran a pest control business. He had Parson Russells, as well as Lurchers and ferrets. He spoke both Welsh and English. We had many interesting conversations about the Parsons; I purchased and imported several of his dogs over the years. All were excellent, natural hunters in addition to having great coats, excellent movement, and wonderful dispositions.

My last, and probably best-known mentor here in the United States, was Pat Hastings. She taught me how to look more critically at my puppies and breeding stock. Even if we were evaluating my very favorite puppy, I was learning to be objective and look at how that puppy might or might not fit into my breeding program.

Over the years Pat became my mentor in all things having to do with dogs, dog shows, and advertising—we became very good friends. Bob Hastings, her husband, was also a great teacher and he had incredible hands on a dog. I ended up helping Pat with her books, even doing some photography for her. Sadly, many of my mentors, including Pat, are now gone.


What breeding philosophies do you adhere to?

Mary Strom: My feeling has always been that the art of breeding is meant to improve breeding stock. That goal is a part of the AKC mission statement. No matter how lovely the structure and type are, a show dog’s career lasts only a few short years and the dog still has to fulfill the purpose of being a quality companion. So, I prioritize temperament, trainability, and breed type at the top of my list. As most breeders understand, movement is a subjective issue. Not everyone agrees on what good movement is and is not. But in the beginning and in the end, it all goes back to the breed standard: it is the roadmap we breeders should follow.

I believe that everything begins in the whelping box. What a puppy is to become depends greatly on that early beginning they receive. We give all of our puppies a variety of early stimuli. One of the Parson and Border puppies’ favorite toys is a simple, round balance board that they are constantly practicing on. As they mature, we give them more and more challenging objects, tunnels, trampolines, skateboards, slides, soft stairs, and a large variety of toys. We invite lots of friends and family to play and socialize with the puppies, especially young children.

Because I live in Montana, we have heated floors in the kennel, a full kitchen, half bath, and large kennels with what I call little “cabanas” for our adult dogs. All of the dogs are crate trained and litter box trained; however, they like their little doggie cabanas at night. Feeding is tailored to each dog individually. I am a big believer in supplements; Vitamin C, Cosequin, and dried pumpkin. I am a dedicated Purina Pro Plan breeder. I am not a big believer in puppy formulas, especially for Terrier puppies that tend to mature quickly.

I look at myself as a “boutique” sort of kennel. We normally have between 10 and 12 adult dogs. We try not to have more than two litters of puppies at a time. Even one litter of puppies is a lot of work; however, two litters is the maximum that I feel we can raise successfully.

By the term “we” I refer to myself and my kennel manager, Dawn Koretko-Bradford. Dawn is a licensed Veterinary Tech, a Registered Nurse, and a Purina Professional Groomer. She is an integral part of the breeding program as she takes awesome care of the dogs and puppies when I am away. Dawn lives on the property with me, so she sees and cares for the dogs on a day-to-day basis. She often takes the dogs for long hikes or running several miles.

Sometimes going backwards and picking up the older bloodlines can actually be a way of moving forward, and so lately I have been using frozen semen from dogs that I had collected as long as 20 years ago. Going back and picking up these older bloodlines again can open up pedigrees for other breeders, as well as myself.

Mary Strom
BISS CH Snow Winds Best Kept Secret ROM (CH Snow Winds Happy Hooligan x Morningstar Ristra), a Trailblazer granddaughter.


Who were/are some of your most significant Parsons, both in the whelping box and in the show ring?

Mary Strom: SBIS CH Heythrop Trailblazer was probably my first true special. He won several Terrier Group Firsts and was High Point in Breed points and All-Breed points, plus winning several Parson Russell Terrier specialties in the year 2000. He was a PRTAA Breeder Register of Merit dog, which is awarded to dogs that sire 15 or more champions. Trailblazer lived out the balance of his life in Finland, where he continued to sire more litters.

Mary Strom
BISS CH Heythrop Trailblazer (Heythrop Tweed x Heythrop Trouble), bred by Roger and Linda Bigland.

SBIS CH Snow Winds Churchill was bred by me; a specialty winner as well as a Terrier Group winner. He lived in Portugal for a short time where he became a Portuguese champion. After returning from Portugal, Churchill hit the show ring again at seven years of age and he made it into the Top 20 as a veteran.

Mary Strom
BISS GRCH Snow Winds Churchill (CH Snow Winds Full Circle ROM x BISS CH Snow Winds Best Kept Secret ROM) Portuguese Champion & Group Winning Parson

BIS GCH Snow Winds Masked Bandit (Zorro) was my first Best in Show winner and a multiple Reserve Best in Show winner. He was sired by GCH Brillwood Dress Blues, who I showed to Best of Breed at the National Specialty.

Mary Strom
BIS BISS GRCH Gold Snow Winds Masked Bandit (Age 7 Years)(BIS Brillwood Dress Blues x CH Sundaywoods Helen Wheels)

GCH Snow Winds Batteries Not Included (Copper Top) was also sired by GCH Brillwood Dress Blues. Copper Top earned his Canadian and German championships, as well as being a Terrier Group winner. Copper Top now resides in Germany.


Please comment positively on your breed’s present condition and what trends might bear watching.

Mary Strom: When I first started in Parsons some 30-plus years ago, there were so many different types in the ring. The lack of consistency was one of the complaints that I heard from many judges at the time. However, I believe the breed has made significant strides toward more uniformity in both breed type and size. Movement has also improved greatly. It used to be rare that a Parson would earn a Best in Show or Reserve Best in Show; however, now there are several top-winning Parsons that have earned Bests in Show and Reserve Bests in Show. The breed has definitely come a long way since gaining AKC recognition.

One trend that bears watching is that the Parson breed standard states that the breed should have almond eyes, and I do see many round eyes currently. While it may be a small detail, almond eyes are still a breed characteristic and one that is desirable in a working breed. Almond eyes serve as more protection for a working dog, and more than 21 different breeds call for an almond eye in their
breed standard.

Over the years, temperaments have been variable, which is a concerning trend. It’s one of the reasons our standard is very clear about temperament—so much so that “overt aggression toward another dog” is listed as a disqualification. Parsons should never be quarrelsome, and are to be bold and friendly, athletic and clever. In the last few years, we have had a few dogs excused for issues of temperament. For that reason, I believe that the temperaments that are being bred, and breed socialization as a whole, do bear watching as we go forward.

It used to be rare that a Parson would earn a Best in Show or Reserve Best in Show; however, now there are several top-winning Parsons that have earned Bests in Show and Reserve Bests in Show. The breed has definitely come a long way since gaining AKC recognition.


The sport has changed greatly since you first began as a breeder-exhibitor. 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?

Mary Strom: In the early years, 2000 to 2010, majors were relatively easy to find. But as the years have gone by, we have lost a great many of our foundation breeders. We are now on the low-entry list, as are many of the Terrier breeds. Terriers being what they are, none are what I would call “easy” to groom. Mentors for grooming are not easy to find. In fact, anyone wanting to even keep their pet dog in coat has a struggle to find a groomer who will hand strip a dog. Veterinary costs have escalated greatly—a Caesarean section that used to cost $500-$600 is now well over $1,000.00 in many areas.

Then there are the state and county rules for breeders. In looking at homes and farms here in Montana, I was very surprised about how many HOAs expressly prohibit dog breeding. When I lived in Oregon, it was just as challenging.

I had to jump over many expensive hurdles to get a kennel license: I paid $600.00 a year to the county and had numerous inspections. I paid $10,000 to get my farm declared as “low value” farmland because the State of Oregon at that time prohibited breeding dogs on high value farmland. The State of Oregon also demanded septic capacity for the 20 dogs I was allowed to have, even though we did not dispose of dog waste via a septic system. We had six septic risers in the front of my barn, far more septic capacity than would ever have been needed.

With the increasing amount of rules and regulations, it is not surprising that we have lost breeders in the process. Your land is no longer your land to do with whatever you desire.

As to increasing the interest in breeding, I believe that it will take many more people willing to mentor and work closely with new people coming into the sport.

Mary Strom
Snow Winds Amazing Grace – 7 weeks old. (Outfoxed Sneek A Peek x Snow Winds Blast from the Past) Grace is a second generation puppy from a frozen semen breeding. Her mother was sired by BISS CH Heythrop Trailblazer (Bromo).

With the increasing amount of rules and regulations, it is not surprising that we have lost breeders in the process. Your land is no longer your land to do with whatever you desire.


Where do you see your breeding program in the next decade or two?

Mary Strom: I do see myself continuing to breed dogs, but on a smaller scale. I still thoroughly enjoy raising the puppies, socializing them, and watching them grow. I do a limited amount of judging, as I am currently approved for only five breeds.

Currently, I am working on crafting an illustrated standard for the Parson Russell, with the help of the PRTAA Judges Education Committee. As anyone who has ever worked on an illustrated standard knows, it is a very long process and I estimate it will take at least another year to complete.

I give Parson Russell Judges Education seminars and have an upcoming seminar in Arizona this spring. I am also an approved breed mentor for the Border Terrier Club of America. The combination keeps me busy, even with a smaller-scale breeding program.


Finally, tell us a little about Mary outside of dogs… your occupation, your hobbies.

Mary Strom: I currently live in Kalispell, Montana, and am retired. I own three horses, George, Rocky, and Rhett, and (weather permitting) my partner and I love to go trail riding. I also enjoy starting a garden every spring, though our growing season is a little short here in Montana. So, the next step is building a greenhouse.

In the winter, there is cross-country skiing, hiking, knitting, and lots of reading. I train at the gym twice a week at minimum, and that keeps me in shape to be as physically active as I am. I belong to a local wine guild, so there are always educational get togethers to enjoy. The towns of Whitefish and Kalispell offer a never-ending variety of events to participate in. As I write this, the Holiday Stroll that kicks off the winter festivities will soon be taking place.

Mary Strom
Mary Strom of Snow Wind Parson Russell Terriers



Are you looking for a Parson Russell 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 Parson Russell 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.


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