Interview with Hound Group Breeders Brenda & Ciara Cassell – Signet Kennels
Where do we live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: We are located outside of Fort Worth, Texas. I am a second-generation breeder and exhibitor. My parents purchased our first Basenji in 1974. To date, we have bred 136 AKC Conformation champions. We also have had many successful exports. I am fortunate to have a talented daughter to carry on this tradition, and we are anticipating our fourth generation in the sport soon.
What is our kennel name? How many dogs do we currently keep?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: Our kennel name is Signet Kennels. We are currently at about 15 Basenjis, which includes five exceptional puppies kept from last year’s breedings. Placement of retired show and breeding dogs is important in order to honor these wonderful dogs who have served us faithfully. This allows us to continue to develop the next generations. We usually offer one or two retirees to lucky families every couple of years.
Which show dogs from the past have been our noteworthy winners?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: MBISS CH Kibushi Hifalutin of Vasia, aka “Violet,” was a quarter African bitch and the first red bitch to win a Hound Group. She was co-bred and owned by Jon and Vicki Curby. I handled her during her specials career and co-bred her to another great dog that I handled, MBIS/MBISS CH Reveille Boutonnière JC.
MBISS Am./Can. CH Nyanga Signet Sweet William JC was my first big winner and the son of the above dogs. Together we won many Hound Groups and Specialties, including the Basenji Club of America National Specialty as a Veteran.
My most recent pride and joy is MBIS/MBISS GCHG Signet Meisterhaus Gossip Girl. She was selected for campaign by Erin Roberts and shown under the generosity of Buster and Sandra Middlebrooks to the number one slot in Basenjis for two years. It was my greatest thrill to pilot “Gigi” to two Best in Show awards and her National Specialty win. I am deeply appreciative of Tad Brooks of Meisterhaus for allowing me to co-breed and to choose this spectacular bitch from this stellar litter, which included another National Specialty winner.
Which have been our most influential sires and dams?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: I’ve had great success with most of my breeding stock, but one of the most influential dams is CH Signet ‘Tis-A Gone With The Wind, who produced spectacular quality in each of her litters. She is the dam of CH Signet Southern Comfort, who is consistently the best-producing dog I have had and the sire of BIS winners. “SoCo” is only six years of age.
Can we talk a bit about our facilities? Where are our puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: We have a 13 ft. x 20 ft. kennel building with nine indoor/outdoor runs complete with heat and air-conditioning. Each run has a Kuranda hammock, indoors and outdoors, for lounging. The outdoor runs are topped with wire and a shade cloth, and are 4 ft. x 15 ft. Additionally, we have three large play yards for our dogs, one gravel and two grass. Our kennel has bathing and laundry facilities, which makes clean up easy.
Puppies are whelped in the house and remain in the kitchen and dining room until about 6 weeks. They are then moved to the kennel where they have access to go outdoors, and they continue to come into the house daily to sleep and play until “gotcha day.”
We feel it is important to ensure that our puppies have a wide variety of experiences, and our grandchildren come to play with them when they are old enough to receive visitors. Once vaccines are administered, we do allow limited visits with our new owners. The first car ride to the vet for eye testing is also a good experience for puppies.
What is our “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do we make our decisions?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: We choose from the bottom up. As the puppies grow, the companion puppies are selected first as we continue to watch show prospects. Between 6 and 8 weeks, we can identify which puppies we will allow into “companion only” homes. By 9-10 weeks, we grade and select the show puppies. We always keep a minimum of two puppies from each litter, including the best dog and bitch.
How do we prepare our pups for the show ring? Does our breed require any special preparation?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: It’s important to get Basenji puppies out at around four months. We start puppy class once all vaccines are administered and we try to take puppies to shows in pairs, to observe and learn the routine. Socialization is extremely important, especially with other breeds of dogs.
Can we share our thoughts on how our breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: Ours is a breed that is mostly presented by owners and breeders. We groom minimally and present the dogs in a more natural state. They should be gaited at a moderate trot.
Are there any health-related concerns within our breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: The Basenji Club of America has worked closely with researchers to identify the Fanconi and PRA gene. With the available testing, there is no reason to produce these genetic diseases. Our breed is in a really good place right now. Generally, Basenjis do not require any special nutritional care.
In our opinion, is our breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: We are in really good shape right now. I do not see any trends that concern me.
Is our breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own our breed?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: They can be wonderful family dogs. Basenjis require structure, disciple, and a strict routine. As a working Hound, they also need plenty of exercise and are not well-suited for apartment living. A tired Basenji is a good Basenji. We find the best candidates are folks who are structured in their daily activities and are athletic-minded.
Do we feel that our breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: Sadly, no. There are only a handful of us left, and many are aging out of active breeding and exhibition. We try to encourage new owners to get involved in Conformation or Coursing sports. I am fortunate that one of my three children is active and involved in my breeding program, and handling dogs professionally.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing we’ve ever experienced with a Hound?
Signet Kennels – Brenda & Ciara Cassell: Living with Basenjis is constantly amusing. They are unlike any other breed.