Some people just stick in your mind, for the nicest of reasons and sort of just catch your attention from time to time. Tracy Saulino has this affect on me, so I asked her if she wold like to share some of her thoughts on Clumbers with us. Tracy lives in Washington State, USA, and has had Clumbers for over 15 years now. As she says, “I started in Clumbers as Tracy Weeks, and my legal name currently is Tracy Weeks Saulino as I took my spouse�s last name a decade ago.”
“Why Comedy as a prefix?. I came up with that originally when I also had a Keeshond and thought I might breed them too. I wanted something alliterative, short to give more available letters to registered names, and something that applied to both breeds. The only thing I could come up with is that both have a sense of humour and you need to have a sense of humour when living with them � Comedy.
Ch. Comedy�s Stellaluna WDX CGC JH SH
Tracy says there is nothing interesting about herself without her dogs (which, by the way isn’t really true!), “I was born and raised in the Great Pacific Northwest and was never allowed to have a dog growing up. See where that leads, parents! I have a Bachelors Degree from the University of Washington (GO HUSKIES!) in Social Psychology and an Associate in Applied Sciences in Computing Security from a local Community College. I currently earn kibble and entry fees money as a computer tech geek for the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.
“My better half and awesome partner in everything I ever do is Jeni. We have been together for a remarkable fifteen years come August 31 this year. I had Clumbers already when we met, and within about fifteen seconds of Jeni meeting Molly, our foundation bitch, Jeni became Molly�s Person. Jeni is a vital part of what Comedy has become, and makes certain we adhere to the fundamentals I committed to when starting in this breed. Jeni also works for State of Washington, though in a different agency.
“My maternal grandmother is a naturalized citizen from Australia, Brisbane area I believe. My grandfather was one of the 41st Infantry ‘Jungleers’ sent as the first US Division to deploy overseas following Pearl Harbor. I guess he had stopped with some buddies at a coffee shop and he noticed that the waitress (my grandmother) was the only one working that evening, so he stayed and helped her wash the dishes and clean up after closing time. They were later married and she came to the US on what I think was called ‘The Bride�s Cruise’. I am ridiculously proud of my Aussie heritage.”
Pacific Northwest Clumbers entered at the hunt test 2001
I asked Tracy what it is about the Clumber Spaniel that really appeals and defines the breed for her? “It is absolutely that Clumbers are not separated into a ‘working type’ and a ‘bench show type’ like so many of the other spaniels are. A terrific hunting Clumber here in the States is almost certain to also be a show dog. I heard a quote once that of all the titled hunting Clumbers in the US, better than 80% are also bench champions. I think that is fabulous and defines the breed.” I asked her when she got into Clumbers and the motivation behind her decision, “I think it was 1990, and I was watching the group ring at an outdoor show with my Keeshond puppy when a young Clumber came out of nowhere and leapt on my lap. His owner was, of course, apologetic and in chatting with her, we found out he and I had the same birthday. His owner turned out to be Leslie Connell of Cameo. I had been curious about the breed before, and being up close and personal just intensified that. They seemed like such an honest ‘what you see is what you get’ breed, and they were not split into bench/working. I am a research junkie, so spent the next year or two learning everything I could about them � pre-internet you understand!”
Comedy�s Ramona the Brave WDX CGC/TDI JH SH
Ch. Comedy�s Stellaluna WDX CGC JH SH
So we turned to Clumbers as a breed, “I don�t think I have met the ideal Clumber yet. If I had to pick one that was the closest, it would be BIS Ch. Cameo�s Trumpet CD JH TD. I had the great fortune of getting to know Trumpet, and I will always adore him and hold him in my mind as the sort of dog to aim for.
the famous Ch Cameo’s Trumpet CD JH TD (photo courtesy L Connell)
“Generally speaking, an ideal Clumber looks like a TANK equally from both ends. His front should be muscular with good angulation � able to lovingly slam his owners in the back of their knees and take them down to the floor with style. His head should fit a thick, strong neck with a noticeable occiput, great pendulous jowls � perfect for slobber-swinging and holding still an angry rooster with sharp spurs. His skull should be able to knock you out cold when you make the mistake of leaning over his head while he is coming up to see you, and be able to part the thickest of blackberry thorn bushes immediately upon entry. Vitally important to me is that his rear matches his front. Too many Clumbers of both genders have mismatched halves. A dog with a powerful front still won�t last in the field if their rear is under-developed, without muscle definition, and too straight. I want to see a dog�s rear match his front and make me sure that his rear could easily power him right through a brick wall. Also important to me, a Clumber should have that ‘dour’ personality, but still hide a silly jokester side too. Especially the boys, but the girls too. A perfect Clumber temperament is staring at you with ‘Yeah, so what?’ on his face but with his butt wagging like crazy!
“I am not terribly familiar with Clumbers outside of North America,” on thoughts generally about the breed’s progress, “so this will have to apply only to here � I think that we in the US let the breed get far too heavy and large. They were not developed to hunt wildebeest, for goodness sakes, they were developed to go into thick, sticky, thorn-filled cover and get the bird no matter what. A huge and/or obese dog is not able to do that. I also think that we have made great strides in the past ten years or so at bringing the size and weight down, if reluctantly. It annoys me greatly that when we enter our dogs in the bench shows we have to put at least 5lbs on them first or they�ll look like they are starving next to the rest of the entries. All of the Sporting Breeds, in my opinion, should be shown slim � close to hunting condition. Not like whiskey barrels with legs.
“Weight is the most persistent and broad spread breed issue. The easiest to solve, and the one that can lead to the worst lifespan shortening problems. After that, soundness and temperament are what I think the North American breeders need to improve upon.
“I honestly have no preference for either marking colour. I do prefer nice distinct markings � patches verses ticking. One of our bitches, Ch. Comedy�s Stellaluna WDX CGC JH SH, typifies what I like in markings.
Ch. Comedy�s Stellaluna WDX CGC JH SH – photo by Meg Callea
Comedy�s Ramona the Brave WDX CGC/TDI JH SH photo by Bergman
“I don�t think a good Clumber can have a bad colour. However a good Clumber can have colour distributed poorly. I think that Ramona is the best Clumber I have bred so far, but her colouring makes her not popular in the ring. Strangely though, in fieldwork the Springer and Cocker and Pointer/Setter folks prefer her colouring and look at me like I am from Mars when I mention it is not preferred at all in our breed.”
“Hunting with our Clumbers has become nearly an obsession. There is simply nothing better in the world than seeing a dog doing what his very cells know he was bred to do. I have yet to see anything more beautiful than a Clumber bringing a gamebird to her handler.
Comedy puppies and BlueMoon Briggs doing team retreive
“Obedience � well that is another matter, isn�t it. I have yet to pass a leg in obedience competition with a Clumber. I have obedience titled non-Clumbers, though. My first Clumber, Ch. Cameo�s Dream Come True CGC NQ�ed (non-qualified, a minimum score being required in all sections of an obedience test) many times solely because he thought the rules said off-lead ‘tracking’ instead of heeling, and True would proceed to track the judge�s pattern. My spouse, Jeni, and I are trying again with Briggs (Ch. Bluemoon Comedy Briggs Field CGC WD JH) and with Stella this year. Wish us luck! Our goal is to get them both CDs in 2011. Then Tracking in 2012.
“Which brings me to tracking � we have yet to actually enter a tracking test. This is just because of human insecurity not our dogs� abilities. The Keeshond I had was a FABULOUS tracker, and I was taught by the best � Trumpet and Dan Connell � I just need to get off my duff, as it were, and get certified and entered. I think any of our dogs right now could be ready for tracking in a month or two. I love taking them tracking � it is one of those awesome moments of canine magic. How on earth do they do that?!
“Jeni is interested in Rally, also. And we are intrigued with Agility but haven�t yet taken steps to training for it. We have a young English Cocker Spaniel who would be terrific at agility, and I think Stella would love it too. We just haven�t had much exposure to it yet. I am a little nervous about the jumping for such a massive breed with short legs and a long body, but I believe that properly conditioned most should be able to handle it.”, and all this apart from occasionally showing!
How on earth, do you fit your days into 24 hours? “Borrrrr-ing. I am at work four days a week for 10 hours, so not much doggie gets done M-Th. I did recently change my work schedule so I get out early enough to work the dogs, now if the weather here would just cooperate! Jeni has a more typical five days a week, 8 hours a day schedule. Sometimes I can bring a dog with me to work, especially if I am going to be visiting one of the Veterans Homes. I like to bring Ramona since she is a certified Therapy Dog and the veterans ADORE her, and she them. On the weekends, which for me are Friday to Sunday we try to run the dogs at the training area less than a mile from our house (we bought the house mainly for its location to that training area), or do obedience work, or whatever. In season we love to take them hunting for Ruffed Grouse � the sisters Ramona and Stella are just death on Grouse together. We figure that all the local Grouse Post Offices have Wanted posters up with our girls� photos on them. Briggs is great with pheasant, but not as much with grouse. When grouse hear a freight train charging through the brush, they leave town while the pheasants usually just hunker down further. We like running two dogs together, and are hoping that our newest pup, P!nk (BTrue’s Dot Dash Dash Dot at Comedy also known as ‘Dot’ to her co-owner and breeder, Melissa Wilste),
P!nk’s first intro to birds (BTrue’s Dot Dash Dash Dot at Comedy)
What books or other resources would you recommended on training?, “Training, in my opinion, is best learned from experience. I have heard a saying that you always ruin your first dog � and that may be true but you also learn a ton for your next dog, and then even more for the next one. Different individual dogs always have different issues and motivations, and I love that. If I could somehow go without having to train owners too, I would love to be a full time trainer. We always keep an ‘oddball’ breed to remind me that I can so train dogs! since the Clumbers have a way of making any trainer wonder if they have just been fooling themselves. Currently we have the English Cocker. Prior to that we had a German Shepherd, and previous to him the Kees. I think our next oddball will be a Doberman.
“My favorite training books though are :
Hup! Training Flushing Spaniels the American Way by James Spencer, ISBN 157779043X
Urban Gundogs: Training Flushing Dogs for Home and Field by Anthony Roettger & Benjamin Schleider ISBN 1594110506
General / Obedience:
Any of the Diane Bauman books, I especially enjoy Beyond Basic Dog Training ISBN : 0764541641
Clumber specific :
I like the Rae Furness book and Edie Donovan�s is good for new owners to the breed.”I enjoy GunDog maagazine, though it can be a little bit Pointer/Setter centric. Online I really enjoy Upland Journal. The Ruffled Grouse Society puts out a very nice magazine, as do Pheasants Forever, but they, too, are more focused on the Pointers and Setters. There is a lot to be learned from the ‘it�s over there, Boss’ breeds though. Even if they do just stand still.”
Ch. Comedy�s Stellaluna WDX CGC JH SH and her first Blue Grouse
The conversation turned to the breeding protocols at Comedy, “In the States there aren�t laws, per se, about screening dogs that are bred for health, just laws in various jurisdictions regarding proper minimum care levels. We do OFA checks on hips for dogs we are considering breeding, as well as CERF (eye) and PDP1 testing. We may start doing OFA elbows with the next litter. We only consider dogs with happy temperaments and good bites, since both of those things are forever to get out of a line once introduced. I am a head and side-movement person, so a dog needs to have both of those to get my attention.
“I love raising puppies,” Tracy exclaimed, “it is my favourite thing in the world! We try to ‘hyper-socialize’ our puppies to all sorts of people, especially young children. We don�t allow them to be afraid of anything, gradually encouraging them to ‘check out’ whatever startled them and then praising them like they just won a lottery for us. We give them basic obedience such as walking nicely on lead, coming when called, sit, down, and we start all of them on field training, including exposure to birds and sudden loud noises, as well as table training. All pups who leave us are crate-trained, as well. We feel that the first few days a pup spends with their new family are stressful enough without it also being the first time they are expected to be alone in their crate. So we go through those awful crying/howling/tantrums for our puppy people. I think that when you give a Clumber an outstanding start they will always retain that. We recently had a dog returned to us (divorce) at six years old. Without our prior knowledge he had spent the past four or more years alone in a kennel run outdoors, just brought into a crate at nighttime. At his new forever home he fitted in immediately to being a proper Clumber � underfoot, sleeping on the bed, tossing drool loogies to the ceiling, and being spoiled like crazy. He reverted easily and smoothly to the life he had been prepped for as a puppy, and we feel like that really validates our puppy-raising strategy.
“We will be breeding both our litter sister girls, Ramona and Stella, their next seasons. (Ramona is actually away at her Romeo�s place as I type this.) We also have another litter in mind in about a year if the dam passes all our checks.
“I want Comedy to be a part of bringing our breed back to where they started out � as sound hunting dogs. Dogs that will find any bird, any time, anywhere and flush it up. And just as importantly � looking awesome and gorgeous while they do it. I want our breed to be held high as the standard of what Sporting breeds should be � beautiful AND bird dogs in the same body. Hence our motto :
Given the thought and planning Tracy and her partner have put into Clumbers and breeding, I delved into what advice they would give a newcomer, particularly when getting into the competitive dog sports, “Don�t listen to the haters or complainers. Ringside close your ears and don’t hear ‘my dog didn�t win’ when someone is complaining about a judge, politics, another handler, whatever. All they are really saying is ‘my dog didn�t win.’ Go have fun and realize that you will always be taking the best dog home with you. Clumbers will make you humble, accept that as a quality. Rejoice in it. You have a built-in excuse. Even when you blow a qualification due to a handler error, you can always shrug and say, ‘Clumbers � what are ya� gonna� do!?’ and come back next time and knock their socks off. Have fun � your dog will too!”
Would you share your thoughts on great books, and other resources, “No additional books to my answer above. Meet as many dogs from as many lines as you can. Stick to the breeders you admire the most like a pebble in their shoe. Ask questions, but more importantly listen to them and pay attention. I know absolutely that Leslie and Dan Connell were occasionally annoyed by my eagerness to watch, learn, and just be around, and I owe them beyond just one lifetime�s worth. Nothing beats having a great mentor.”
Now we turned to topics some interviewees choose not to discuss in public, so my sincere thanks to Tracy for her interest in this topic. I asked her which of her own dogs (bred or bought in) that really claim her admiration as being the top ones. “Tough one to answer � I suppose Briggs (Ch. BlueMoon Comedy Briggs Field CGC WD JH) is our top winning dog. He had an amazing 2008 � with very limited showing (THANK YOU to his handler, Melissa Wiltse!) and he was invited to the Eukanuba Invitational where he earned the second Award of Merit, and he also earned the Clumber Spaniel Club of America�s Sporting Dog Cup, and finished his Junior Hunter title.
Ch. BlueMoon Comedy Briggs Field CGC WD JH photo Roberts
Jubilee, who just turned 13, was our first hunting dog and she taught us sooooo much, and then produced a litter that combined for seven American Kennel Club titles so far, with only four pups. Incredible dog, we are so fortunate to have lived with her for 13 years, so far!
Ch. Cameo’s Wild Cherry Jubilee CGC WDX JH SH
CameoComedy Maddie photo courtesy Bob and Julie Wickwire
Ramona and her new Jeep
Ch. Cameo�s Dream Come True CGC at the USA National 98
“Of course my first Clumber, Trueman (Ch. Cameo�s Dream Come True CGC) remains super special to us. He took several Group placements and was the start to everything in Comedy along with Molly, Ch. Cameo�s Good Golly Ms. Molly CW, who was best buds with Jeni. We miss them both, and it is so cool to sometimes get a glimpse of each of them in their great-grandkids here.
Ch. Cameo�s Good Golly Ms. Molly CW at the USA National 98
the superb and justly famous Ch. Cameo Comedy The Divine Ms. M WD JH SH MH photo courtesy Bob and Julie Wickwire
“Finally, I have to mention the Great Maddie. Ch. Cameo Comedy The Divine Ms. M WD JH SH MH was the first Master Hunter in the breed and was in our first ever litter. Now THAT is a high bar to set! If we never did anything else, we certainly made the grade with Maddie.”
I asked for a little more background on the Comedy kennel, for example, what other breeds had Tracy been involved with and had experience with? “My first ‘showdog’ � and be sure to leave the quotation marks there � was a tricolour Shetland Sheepdog. She was Rosewood�s Love �n Calamity CGC CD, known to her friends as Calamity or Calley. She was the best possible show dog ever born and the top dog to EVER walk the earth … in her own mind. In the real world she had very little about her that was a conformation show Sheltie. She was too small, though oddly no one ever asked the judge to wicket her. Her head was snipey. One ear would lose that ‘top third bend’ if the weather was cold. Her eyes were just not right for a conformation Sheltie� and yet she actually won several big puppy classes when I showed her. Never any points, I presume because judges actually do know what they are doing most of the time. Haha! She taught me a lot though � the dog knowing it is a SHOW DOG can get you somewhere. Even if you have a nice dog, you want to make sure they love to show too. She was my first dog to get an AKC title, though in Obedience. In fact, she won top score in Novice A at a Sheltie Specialty when she finished her obedience title.
“Next up was an actual show dog in that she could have finished. A Keeshond from the famed Windrift kennels of Joanne Reed. Strange turn of events that she was a gorgeous dog, but hated showing and thus didn�t win anymore than the Sheltie had! Unfortunately, Holly daBear�s bite went weirdly wry at around 14 months old. A canine dental specialist thought it was from prenatal injury, but regardless it ended her conformation career though the gap made giving her pills quite easy! Registered as Windrifts Secret Ballot CGC CD. She ended up being my Soul Dog as they say, and very best friend. She left us at about 14 several years ago and I will still start sobbing if I think about it too much … I miss her.
“I got involved with Clumbers while I had Holly daBear and that started my preference to always have an ‘oddball’ breed along with the Clumbers. That way I can be reminded that I am a good dog trainer, dangit! It�s THEM! Not me! Heh heh! It also is nice to be able to have a dog in the house we don�t need to worry about their coat or otherwise worry about, really. After daBear was gone, we got a German Shepherd, a grandson to the greatest show dog I have ever seen in person. River was Zorago�s Bad Influence, and from a show breeding but he wasn�t up to full snuff conformation wise. He became Jeni�s Soul Dog and our pack bodyguard. We lost him about two years ago at 11.
“Currently we have a gorgeous blue roan English Cocker Spaniel� Ch. Perdrix Gambel�s Quail at Comedy. Yes, that is a Ch. Yes, I did say that we like to have an oddball we don�t have to worry about their coat. His breeder is a friend of like 200 years, and somehow she used her Jedi mind-powers on us and KAPOW! we have an English Cocker. He ended up her first bench Champion in her 20 plus years breeding. Let me just say that ECS coat is a bazillion times harder to keep in show condition than any Clumber coat. He is newly neutered now (we have no interest in breeding ECS) and we shaved his coat off (in a solemn but joyful ceremony!) so we can begin his field career this year! Strange to say that I think having an ECS has increased my love for Clumbers as a breed.
“I have also been involved in all-breed rescue where I trained every dog crossing my porch up to at least CGC level obedience and trained out any manners issues that may have led to their ending up in the shelter. I have, then, had over 100 dogs on a leash ranging from a Smooth Fox Terrier to a Basset Hound to a white Boxer. We don�t currently participate so directly in rescue due to our household set-up, but we contribute dollars regularly and we plan someday to start doing rescue more directly again. I do believe that if you are going to be a breeder, you also need to directly assist and support rescue.
“My time working in and managing boarding kennels also naturally put me in contact with thousands of dogs of all breeds and mixes of breeds I can think of. Experiencing other breeds, especially so hands-on, has made me a much better trainer, even of the �Snow pigs� who are so challenging. Our youngest pup right now, P!nk, actually brought a famous upland trainer nearly to tears about six months ago. They *are* that much harder to train than other breeds! I believe they are also that much more rewarding!”
Just to wrap up a superb interview, and a fabulous photo gallery, I asked Tracy if she collected anything, “No, not really. Tail feathers from hunting trips.”
Well I loved putting this interview together, and the extra chats Tracy and I had while we were getting everything organized, I trust the readers really enjoyed it too, and I hope for the breed’s sake more people will undertake the Clumbers interviews with such gusto and relish.
Jenni Saulino with Stella
Tracy Saulino with Briggs
6327 190th lane SW, Rochester Washington, 98579, USA
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