Like Mother, Like Daughter – Heather Robertson Miller & Ashley Miller
Like mother, like daughter. And sometimes, perhaps even more so, in a way. Such has been the case for Heather Robertson Miller and Ashley Miller at Windmill German Shepherds. Heather grew up in a number of places across the world, including the tropical paradise that is Hawaii. But she gave it up for the love of the dog. The German Shepherd Dog, to be exact. And the way it all happened was a
“I didn’t grow up with dogs. My parents wouldn’t even let me have one,” Heather says. “I had a couple of close friends who had German Shepherds, which were great dogs. I knew that one day, that was the breed that I would own.”
Heather bought every magazine and book about dogs and read them cover to cover. She watched Westminster every year and went to a dog show in Hawaii. The rest is history as she bought an imported German Shepherd Dog from Australia, not knowing that he was not show quality.
Not long after that, Heather moved to the Mainland, to Wyoming, joining a kennel club there and learned by what she calls “trial by fire” in dogs. As most people new to shows do, Heather started off with dogs that weren’t quite up to par where show quality is concerned.
But her kennel, Windmill German Shepherds, has vastly improved and has caught national attention throughout the dog show world, with Best in Show winners like “Rock” and countless others in the breed that have improved it in every respect.
Heather and Ashley have also added Cardigan Welsh Corgis to the mix, where they have had some similar successes with Group-placers like “Dayton.”
“I have been in GSDs for more than 30 years now,” Heather notes. “More than 10 years ago, we became involved with Cardigan Welsh Corgis. We meant to only get one to show… but they have slowly taken over my heart.”
Due to knee issues, Heather is largely unable to show German Shepherds anymore, but that’s no issue with having a built-in handler in daughter Ashley, who Heather jokes may have ended up loving the sport and dog breeding even more than she did.
“I got into showing because we were going to shows as a family for as long as I can remember,” Ashley says of her start in dogs.
Ashley started showing at some of the local matches and handling classes in the early 1990s with some of their older German Shepherds, and Siberian Huskies owned by close friends of the family. Before she eventually developed into a successful professional handler, there was a learning curve—and literal growth—that’s become something the family looks back and laughs at a bit.
Plus, anyone who has ever tried to show a German Shepherd Dog in Juniors (or really, at any point) knows just how difficult the breed can be to handle because of their high-strung personalities and overall drive.
“It was always the joke that I was the smallest person at class with the biggest dog,” Ashley says. “I first showed in the actual ring at nine years old with a friend’s move-up German Shepherd special, and then, the very weekend, I turned 10. I started my Juniors’ career with our CH Happy Mar Nash Bridges Of Nordlicht. I ended up showing in Juniors till I was 14 and he was nine.”
Ashley says the first major highlight of her career was going Best Junior Handler at the 2002 GSDCA National at just 11 years old in a field of about 15 Juniors.
It was in that moment that Ashley says she knew it was her passion. She is proud of what she has accomplished, helping her mother to build a successful breeding program while also piloting several dogs to their championship titles with multiple Group placements and Best in Show appearances. The personal connections, though, are more valuable than anything.
“As a handler in the (German Shepherd Dog) breed, I enjoyed handling for the late Nancy Schnieder of Schniederhof GSDs and helping her finish a significant number of dogs out of her ‘Zoey’ (Liberty’s Dress Rehearsal ROM), who is the dam of more GSD champions than any other bitch,” Ashley explains. “I enjoyed our partnership and was gifted the last male I showed for her from the family after she passed away.” Moving forward, Ashley hopes to continue building on her and her mother’s accomplishments.
“As a handler, I want to earn more big wins with any breed,” Ashley says. “As a breeder of both GSDs and Cardigan Welsh Corgis, we have some long-term goals we’re looking forward to. My dream goal for GSDs is to win the GSDCA Lloyd Brackett Award (be a breeder of 15 champions; check, we have bred 29 currently and have 10 of them be at least ROM, Select, AOE, or Best of Opposite in Futurity/Maturity at the regional level.” But, at the end of the day, all of this is about so much more than just winning ribbons. It’s about the betterment of the dog.
“While we have cut down the number of German Shepherd litters that we have, we will always have a passion for the breed and continue to strive for its betterment,” Ashley notes. “Heather and I have used our success in our GSDs to create a very successful Cardigan program over the last decade. Not many people can have success in two breeds in their early 30s like I have, of course. I will always thank Heather for starting our family passion.”