Purebred Chinese Shar-pei Breeder Cyndi Skinner – Rumples Chinese Shar-pei.
Interview by Allan Reznik.
Where did you grow up?
Cyndi Skinner: As a military/Boeing brat, I grew up a little bit of everywhere. I was born in Southern California, but spent quite a bit of time in Louisville, Kentucky, and Weaubleau, Missouri (along with some short-term postings in the South and Midwest), before finally settling in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, in Washington state.
Do you come from a doggy family? And if not, how did the interest in breeding and showing purebred dogs begin?
Cyndi Skinner: My parents weren’t particularly doggy. For them, a dog was to be a working part of the farm. My father’s family was very active in the horse-racing industry. My grandfather was a jockey turned jockey’s agent. My uncle was a jockey. My grandmother ran the concessions at Churchill Downs. My parents ran horses at both Churchill and Santa Anita. The first horse I ever sat upon was as a toddler, in the winner’s circle at Santa Anita. I rode in Western gaming events into my 20s, primarily as a barrel racer.
Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their influence.
Cyndi Skinner: My maternal grandparents instilled in me a huge love of dogs and introduced me to dog shows and breeding at a young age. My first introduction to dog breeding was through them with Rat Terriers. My grandfather bought me a beautiful American Cocker puppy when I was 8 years old, to learn to groom and show, and the dog show bug bit me—HARD. My grandfather researched until he found the right pedigree and the right breeder: Dorothy Christiansen of My-Ida-Ho. “Corky” was from a breeding that Dorothy and Gloria Geringer put together. They, along with my grandfather, are solely responsible for making me a dog show junkie! We’ve been very blessed to have had champions in all seven Groups.
Your Shar-Pei are widely known, highly successful and well respected. What breeding philosophies do you adhere to?
Cyndi Skinner: My breeding philosophy is very simple. Breed the very best type to the very best structure with the very best health and longevity. This may sound trite to many, but that is it, in a nutshell. Study pedigrees. Be very diligent in exploring not only the immediate generations, but the littermates to those dogs and bitches. You’ll learn a lot about what the true pedigree contains—not just the dogs you “see.”
My breeding philosophy is very simple. Breed the very best type to the very best structure with the very best health and longevity.
How many Shar-Pei do you typically house? Tell us about your current facilities and how the dogs are maintained.
Cyndi Skinner: Right now, I have two Chinese Shar-Pei in residence—“Legion” and “Shimmy.” They free-range our home and protect us from all the squirrels, raccoons, and birds. They are my granddaughter’s best friends. We still have a nice kennel building on the property, but all it houses now are a lot of dog crates, x-pens, and woodworking equipment. My husband had some very significant health issues a few years back that curtailed expanding our breeding program further.
Who were/are some of your most significant dogs, both in the whelping box and in the show ring?
Cyndi Skinner: I have had some terrific Chinese Shar-Pei over the years… but the ones with the most impact have been “Gibson” (Rumples The Brave Just Do It), “Skylar” (Rumples The Skye’s The Limit), “Rhumba” (Rumples Just Room To Rhumba) and “Encore” (Prunehill’s Encore). Encore set the structure, while Skylar (an Encore daughter) and Gibson set the type. If you go back through many of today’s pedigrees, even on an international basis, you will find Gibson in those pedigrees, often several times. All were multiple Group and multiple SBIS winners. Gibson and his offspring produced multiple BIS winners. His legacy has been incredible.
Please comment positively on your breed’s present condition and what trends might bear watching.
Cyndi Skinner: I’m seeing the same trends in Chinese Shar-Pei that we’re seeing in far too many breeds; forgetting the value of keeping a great dog, instead concentrating on the bitch. Don’t get me wrong, bitches are obviously very important to a breeding program. But so many breeders have become entrenched in placing good males and forgetting that they are truly going to need them. So you end up with everyone breeding to the same few dogs, tying up pedigrees, making it more difficult to bring in and mesh lines together. I think, in my personal opinion, that the dogs of 15 years ago were sounder and more consistent. I know the tightening of dog laws and limits on dogs being housed on properties has had an impact on those decisions, as well. We need to be much more proactive on that front.
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?
Cyndi Skinner: It’s true that we’re seeing some declining numbers in the sport itself, but it doesn’t seem to be impacting the number of dog shows we have—they seem to be increasing, greatly. Encouraging and keeping new folks in the fancy has become more difficult, simply because people have much more demanding schedules than they did a couple of decades ago. It amazes me the “schedules” parents put their children through; between multiple sports, school, etc., it doesn’t seem to leave much room for caring for animals. I’m not completely sure what the answer is, to be honest. We need to do a much better job educating the public that showing and breeding a dog is not a bad thing. My granddaughter has been showing her Japanese Chin (McQueen), that she co-owns with Luke and Rowan Baggenstos, in UKC and UKC Juniors. She qualified, at only age 8, for UKC Premier. She will begin showing in AKC Juniors at the end of July, once she is 9. She is determined, much like her mother was at the same age, to continue on… so she gives me hope, especially since she has great mentors besides me, that the sport will continue and encourage more young people.
Where do you see your breeding program in the next decade or two?
Cyndi Skinner: I’m definitely in my “golden years” as a dog breeder. I am tentatively planning one more litter, once Shimmy has finished her championship and passed her health clearances. My daughter, Savanna, has been my co-breeder, co-owner, and partner for many years now, and that torch will be hers to carry in the future. After a particularly bad case of COVID, I no longer have the lung capacity to show my own dogs and I truly miss that part of my life. We still have a menagerie of dogs at home: VooDoo the Pug; McQueen the Chin; Legion and Shimmy the Shar-Pei; and Cowboy and Jane, the Basenjis. Jane is currently the No. 1 Basenji, being shown for me by Luke and Rowan. I still live vicariously watching my dogs in the ring! And I love watching my son and daughter-in-law (Shea and Tiffany Skinner) do well in and out of the ring.
Finally, tell us a little about Cyndi outside of dogs… your occupation, your hobbies.
Cyndi Skinner: Besides reading, crafts, and my granddaughter, I’m semi-retired today. I help my daughter run her grooming salon, and we have a lovely dog show supplies “boutique” trailer that we operate in our tri-state area, called Savvy+Rose (formerly the Savvy Dog). My granddaughter insisted that we had to change the name “because I help, too.” So, in honor of my daughter and granddaughter, the name was changed. We are very active in several all-breed clubs in the area. Those endeavors keep me pretty busy.