ShowSight Interview: Julie Hamlin Luther, Cespa Lhasa Apsos

From the May 2019 issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe.  Pictured above:  "My first Specialty BIS winner, Multi SBIS Ch. Cespa’s Dizzy Dance."

1.) Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Elmira, located in New York’s southern tier, close to the beautiful Finger Lakes region.

2.) Do you come from a doggy family? And how did your particular interest in breeding and showing Lhasa Apsos come about?

My mother, Sue Hamlin, had the Ninth Turn Afghan Hounds. She is known for having bred Ch. Ninth Turn Argus, who was an all-breed and Specialty Best in Show winner in the early to mid-1970s. She became a judge, compiled and edited Afghan Hounds in America, an important reference book for the parent club in the early 1970s, and was active in the Afghan Hound Club of America, first as Secretary, then Board member, and later as editor of Topknot News, the club newsletter. Now in her early 80s, she is still very active and has written and/or edited several books.

I loved the Afghans (we also had a pet Whippet) but I was a little kid and while I tried showing them, felt they were just too large for me to handle properly. I fixated on a different breed every week until I came across Lhasas, and they just stuck. We were fortunate to live near Ann Hoffman of Tal-Hi Lhasa Apsos. She had a litter out of Ch. Kasha’s Tsonya of Tal-Hi, sired by Ch. Chen Korum Ti (one of the top-winning Lhasas in the early ‘70s) and I was able to get a really nice puppy bitch from this litter. I ended up finishing this bitch when I was an 11-year-old kid, beating handlers and well-known, longtime breeders. I was hooked! My bitch was Ch. Tal-Hi Pret-Ti Celeste. Unfortunately, she never produced any puppies, but was my constant companion and lived until she was 17 years old. Celeste’s nickname was “Cespa” and I later learned that Cespa means “beloved” in the Tibetan language.

A side note: Carol Strong of Bihar Lhasas had a litter sister of Celeste’s and that bitch produced BIS Ch. Bihar’s Revenger of Sammi Raja (“Tux”).

Below: The first of many achievements in the ring, with my sister and Ninth Turn Mirage. I think I was 8 years old.

3.) Who were your mentors in the sport?

My mother was, and is, by far, my No. 1 mentor and cheerleader. Ann Hoffman really nurtured my love for this breed. My current line started with a bitch from Janice Tilley of Solitude Lhasas about 25 years ago. She has always been a source of helpful advice, and has an encyclopedic memory when it comes to pedigrees.

4.) The Cespa Lhasas are well known, successful and well respected. What breeding philosophies do you adhere to?

I typically have a litter every two to three years. My focus is on quality, not quantity. I only breed when I’m ready to keep a dog to show. The other pups have almost always gone to pet homes where they are spoiled and stay forever. A few have gone to show homes, as stud fee puppies. I’m an artist, therefore a phenotype breeder. I linebreed with an occasional outcross.

Pictured below: Who wouldn’t be hooked? 7 months old, 10 years old and Best in Match! I still use that platter!

5.) How many dogs do you typically keep at Cespa? Tell us about your current facilities and how the dogs are maintained.

I keep just enough dogs that each one gets individual love and devotion. I have placed adults occasionally when I believe they need more personal attention than I can give.

My dogs are all pets, first and foremost. They live on a variety of surfaces. I believe their quality of life is more important than a little extra coat length. They take turns spending time in the family room, but when they aren’t with us, they play together in their own dog room in the walk-out basement. The dogs all have individual kennels inside with platform beds, fresh water and tons of toys. Outside is a fenced area covered with concrete pavers. There is a lower level and steps to an upper level, including a huge boulder to play on. I also have a grooming room downstairs. The dogs in show coat are bathed every five to seven days. We’ve also had several Whippets over the years. We did lure coursing with them about 25 or 30 years ago but the current, elderly Whippets are just pretty couch potatoes.

6.) Who were/are some of your most significant dogs, both in the whelping box and in the show ring?

The puppy bitch that I got from Janice Tilley, Ch. Cespa’s Tara Huff Chanel, was my foundation bitch. She produced my first SBIS Lhasa, Ch. Cespa’s Dizzy Dance (“Lizzy”), sired by Ch. Solitudes Shambala Follow Me. (Ch. Cespa’s Crazy Daizy, Lizzy’s litter sister, was owner-handled to her title by our then 12-year-old daughter Emily, a third-generation dog fancier.) Lizzy was No. 4 in the breed stats back in the very early 2000s when there were many more Lhasas being shown. Lizzy produced multi SBIS Ch. Cespa’s Waltzing Matilda (“Mattie”), sired by Ch. Alastair’s Northwind Anbara Maestro. Mattie was bred to Susan Giles’ “Pete,” Ch. Ta Sen Victory Peyote, to produce Ch. Cespa’s Singular Sensation (“Sophie”). At this point I brought in an outside bitch that I got from the late Ann Burton. This was Ch. Cespa’s Lionhart Desire (“Stella”), and I bred her to Ch. PRK’s Dancing Thru Life (Lois Demers). From this litter I kept my first male show dog, who became GCH. Cespa’s Heat Wave. I bred this male to the bitch, Sophie, to produce my current boy “Parker,” GCHS. Cespa’s Gold Rush. Parker has been a breeder’s dream come true! He is a multiple Specialty BIS winner (including winning the Regional during National week), multi NOHS BIS and NOHS RBIS, RBIS, multi Group-winning and Non-Sporting Specialty BIS. Parker was CC No. 1 Lhasa in breed in 2017, NOHS No. 1 in 2018. Currently he is No. 1 Lifetime in NOHS. We also have GCH. Cespa’s Steal the Spotlight (“Splash”), out of Ch. Cespa’s Dirty Martini, sired by Parker, who is a Group winner, handled by my husband, John.

Our newest showgirl is “Millie,” Cespa’s A Million Dreams (Ch. PRK’s Dancing Thru Life x Splash) who, on her very first day eligible for point shows, won a 4-point major. Millie’s litter brother, “Barnum,” Cespa’s Greatest Showman At KiMik, owned by Lois Demers, Phyllis Huffstetler and myself, will be out in the show ring this year as well. Barnum has also earned championship points at this young age. I finish all dogs that I have bred and kept from the Bred-by class. The future looks exciting!

Pictured below: This was a fun, casual shot I was able to capture in our dog yard. L-R, the future GCh. Cespa’s Heat Wave, Ch. Cespa’s Waltzing Matilda, future Ch. Cespa’s Dirty Martini, her litter brother Gibson (pet home ) behind her, and Ch. Cespa’s Singular Sensation.

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

We are a low-entry breed, which is sad, but just this past year we’ve had a few new people enter the show world. We all try to mentor and communicate via emails, to help build points, share grooming tips or handling advice, and hope these new people catch this wonderful dog show bug. My local club, the Merrimack Lhasa Apso Club (in New England), may be the largest regional Lhasa club left in the US. We have potluck gatherings at meetings and after specialties, and have made many 
good friends.

I do think there are some very nice dogs out there right now, including some imports. I think the breed, as a whole, needs to be more aware of toplines, movement and coat texture.

Our parent club, the American Lhasa Apso Club (ALAC), has just recently revised the standard, to be more descriptive. We are hearing from newer judges who tell us that it has helped them understand what a Lhasa should look like.

8.) The sport has changed greatly since you 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?

When I got into showing dogs in the 1970s, entries were huge. Some of the bigger shows had almost twice as many entries as what we get at our National now. My advice to anyone who can, is to go to Crufts. My husband and I, along with some other dog friends, crossed it off our bucket list last year (2018). Crufts encompasses and celebrates all aspects of dogs, not just conformation. It was eye-opening to us. I think Americans need to get into any activity that involves dogs. We need to find what activities younger people want to do with their dogs. If we don’t embrace new ideas while teaching them the historical importance of purpose-bred, purebred dogs, we will 
all lose.

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

I will continue to breed occasionally. I’m not a high-volume breeder, but as long as I can have puppies and continue to show, I will. I’m always happy to help newcomers.

10.) Finally, tell us a little about Julie outside of dogs… your profession, your hobbies.

I have a small grooming business, and am an artist. I paint and sculpt, usually gifts for friends and occasional commissions. My latest interest is Vintage Campers. I purchased a 1972 Ace Travel Trailer last year and am in the process of rebuilding it, turning it into a Glamper. It will have room for three dogs to go with my husband and me. My plan is to have it finished before the summer shows. 

Pictured below: GCHS Ch. Cespa’s Gold Rush with his daughter GCh. Cespa’s Steal The Spotlight, winning SBIS and Award of Merit, under judge Johnny Shoemaker, at the Regional during National week, 2017

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