Interview with Cathy Burleson, Breeder of Stonehaven Cairn Terriers
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Cathy Burleson: I live in Jackson, Tennessee, and Nashville, Tennessee. My parents got our first Cairn Terrier in 1965. They were inspired to get a Cairn by a friend who was from Scotland and had Cairns. I have been a breeder continuously for 20 years; off and on before that.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Which breeders have provided the greatest influence on my decision to breed dogs?
Cathy Burleson: My dad. He spent his career as an OBGYN, but had farming in his blood. He raised Beefmaster cattle, wild turkeys to release, and even peacocks, as well as being a breeder of Cairn Terriers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
Can I talk a bit about my foundation dogs? How have they influenced my breeding program?
Cathy Burleson: I would have to say that Stonehavens Put A Ring On It (MarryMe) is the bitch that has contributed the most to what I have going on now. “MarryMe” consistently contributed beautiful length of back and neck, lovely fluid movement, pleasing expression, and impeccable temperament. She was my home-bred Cairn from two Scandinavian imports.
What about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Cathy Burleson: My home is my facility. Puppies are whelped in different rooms of my house. They are hand-raised in the home.
Do I have a “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?
Cathy Burleson: Show prospects must meet a tall order for me to keep. Only the strongest show quality ones stay with me. Years ago, I heard an experienced breeder say that only approximately one in 40 puppies is exceptional show quality. If you asked most breeders if they had an exceptional show dog, they would name just a few. So, I knew then that just because two parents come from good pedigrees doesn’t mean all the offspring are suited to be shown.
I prefer that my puppies go to super pet homes to live out their lives better than I could provide among the numbers I have in my home. And as a preservation breeder, it is key to place pups that represent the breed well. I make my decisions at 12 weeks initially and my final decision at about 12 months.
How do I choose the homes for my puppies? Is puppy placement important to me as a breeder?
Cathy Burleson: A lot of my pet people are repeat clients. They’ve proven to be exceptional owners and have shown loyalty to the breed by coming back. That is important to me. Most of my pet people are newly retired.
Yes, puppy placement is important, but it has become fairly easy to discern a good pet person because I don’t mind doing the communications, i.e., I have time for it now that I’m retired.
Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Cathy Burleson: There is way too much attention given to the size of the Cairn Terrier. Recently, a judge withheld four ribbons in the show because of size. Flabbergasted is my only word. There is nothing in our standard that faults a Cairn for being larger than the standard, yet that is all you hear from fellow breeders, judges, and social media discussions—way too much attention. The standard for the Cairn in the United States is unique to the United States. The rest of the world observes the country of origin standard and it is for a larger Cairn. Ironically, those larger sizes are what we commonly see in the show rings here.
The attempts to come in-line with that country of origin standard have failed numerous times with club members, unfortunately. We have much to strive for, to improve in our breed, with regard to structure, and yet, so many only see the size of the Cairn. Size can be altered in one generation. However, good fronts are hard to achieve and easily lost if we don’t give it more focus as breeders. A good front is one aspect of the Cairn that I constantly watch on my own, and it’s hard to keep that focus when folks can only talk about size.
Are there any health-related concerns within my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Cathy Burleson: The Cairn Terrier is a healthy breed overall. However, there are minimum recommended health tests given by the parent club that need to be followed by its members. Occasionally, we will find a kidney abnormality at our club’s kidney ultrasound clinics. Health testing is an important part of preservation breeding, and we must be diligent to achieve the best health possible. And the public needs to be diligent in asking about health-testing. There are no special nutritional needs.
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Cathy Burleson: Yes. We have lost some significant breeders in the Cairn Terrier club over the pasta couple of years, but we still have some enthusiastic breeders, new and old. The sportsmanship and camaraderie are still very positive, and I hope we can keep that going. As for trends, the age of our active breeders is always a concern. Also, I believe that the AKC can do more to support the efforts of those in the parent clubs to remain active and supported. For example, the AKC Marketplace has dropped the box to check if the breeder is a member of the breed’s parent club.
Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Cathy Burleson: Yes, they are best with children above 5-7 years of age, depending on the child. The Cairn is “the best little pal in the world.” The two words that every breeder should state as their main focus in breeding are health and temperament. When you find great temperament in a dog you use it in breeding—you never want less.
As for the best candidates, everyone will say “active people,” those who have time to engage their dog. My preference is as follows: active retirees, couples where one partner works from home or doesn’t work and is fairly active; and finally, families with only one child and the child is wanting to be involved with caring for the dog. Families with several children tend to get too busy with the kids.
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Cathy Burleson: No. We are dwindling in number. Again, I believe the AKC could do more to support preservation breeders on their Marketplace.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with my breed?
Cathy Burleson: I think the craziest thing I’ve ever done with regard to my Cairns is when I took my college-aged daughter to England, Scotland, Ireland, and Denmark one summer with the intent of bringing home two Cairn pups from highly acclaimed Scandinavian breeders. I didn’t tell my daughter that intent because I didn’t want her to think my priority was to pick up puppies.
She, in turn, didn’t tell me that her ulterior motive for the trip was to find anything and everything that had to do with Harry Potter. Oh, what a trip! This is one of our fondest memories as mother/daughter. The camaraderie of Cairn friends is strong and always includes light-hearted and endearing stories. Laughter may be good medicine, but Cairn Terriers make the best little pals.
Are you looking for a Cairn 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 Cairn 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.
Cairn Terrier Dog Breed Magazine
Read and learn more about the cheerful Cairn Terrier dog breed with articles and information in our Cairn Terrier Dog Breed Magazine.
Cairn Terrier Breed Magazine - Showsight