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Lisa Unleashed: Bardi McLennan — Writer, Friend, First Lady Of Welsh Terriers

Published: November 5, 2017

Writing a weekly column is no easy task. Writing a daily column, nearly impossible except for the gifted likes of one special woman I met long ago with a love of Welsh Terriers and a gift for the written word. Authors are constantly trying to come up with topics to write about, sometimes just hours before deadline. Two weeks ago, fellow dog writer friend, and Newtown resident, Bardi McLennan shot me an e-mail to alert me to The New York Times article about fox hunting in nearby North Salem, N.Y. It was typically thoughtful of her to send me articles about horses and dogs as she knew my love of both.

She sent me this e-mail: “Hello, Lisa. You may have caught it, but I immediately thought of you when the NY Times ran an article on fox hunting. If you didn’t see it, and would like to, I can send you the clipping. (Yes, I still clip!) The Golden’s Bridge club began way back in 1924 and the article is very detailed — with 3 color shots of horses and the hounds. The latter are ‘Penn-Marydels’ (new to me) and are after scent, not kill. Animal rights groups take note. Let me know if you missed it and would like to see it.”

Bardi always added her two cents, which is one of the things I loved about her, beside being smart, she could be sassy. When I asked her to send me the clip, I really expected an actual newspaper clipping since we chatted about how I saved old newspaper clippings too! A few days later I thanked her for the electronic clip and told her that her thoughtfulness to reach out to me sparked my next column idea so we could both learn more about the Penn-Marydel breed. I thanked her for being my inspiration. She replied: “My dear son knows how to do these clever things — like forwarding a newspaper clipping — which I do not, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy the article. Be sure to write up your version for a full page in The Bee — or maybe two in the New Yorker! all best. ~Bardi

I wrote the Penn-Marydel column, which appeared in last week’s Bee. I waited to hear from Bardi to see what quotable quips she might send my way. I cherished her kudos and enduring encouragement about my writing. I was thrilled she felt my words worthy of The New Yorker. I waited but no e-mail came. Not from her. Then one did come from a mutual friend, with a message from Camille DeSantis, the president of the Glyndwr Welsh Terrier Club, “It is with a very heavy heart that we share the sad news of the passing of our beloved founder, Bardi McLennan. Bardi passed away Friday night [October 27], at peace, surrounded by her family. She was 91 years old.”

And then I knew why I hadn’t heard from her. As with the passing of anyone you share memories with, they start to flood your mind and bring tears and laughs. I remember interviewing her for a Bee article and being amazed at what a fascinating life she had lived. Or the time we took a limo from Newtown to attend the Dog Writers’ Association of America Writing Competition Awards Dinner in Manhattan during Westminster Week. We were finalists in our respective categories, and dressed up all fancy and had a blast at the banquet. We went home empty-handed, yet we giggled like school girls the whole way home after having fun arguing with the limo driver that he was lost as he brought us home via the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey to get to Newtown.

I don’t remember exactly how I met Bardi, it seems like I’ve always known her. Maybe it was in the press room at Madison Square Garden during Westminster, or at a dog club meeting, but I know we shared a love of dogs, affinity to our own breeds, and writing, and for that I feel blessed to have known such a kindred spirit. Below is an edited version of DeSantis’s lovely tribute to Bardi, who put into words Bardi’s amazing accomplishments. To read the whole tribute visit http://gwtcwelsh.com.

Bardi McLennan

Bardi was born in Woodbury, Conn., on March 4, 1926. For 18 years, Bardi – while raising her children in Connecticut – was the editorial assistant to etiquette queen Amy Vanderbilt. While working for Miss Vanderbilt, Bardi not only wrote many of the columns, but continued writing them for many years after Ms Vanderbilt’s death. She also wrote several pamphlets on such topics as weddings, letter writing, and teenagers. Bardi landed that job after answering an ad in the local newspaper and soon found herself writing a daily column 7 days a week for 232 major newspapers across the country. Bardi recalled, in an interview with Newtown Bee reporter Lisa Peterson in 2002, “I thought this job might be fun. Amy and I got on like a house on fire. She had the funniest way of phrasing things and I caught on to it and that’s all I needed.”

After she had her fill of etiquette advice, what did Bardi do? She answered yet another newspaper ad for a researcher — for popular novelist Erica Jong. Bardi’s son said she “went from etiquette to erotica.” After this stint, Bardi said she was able to focus on her first love – writing about dogs.

And write about dogs she did. Bardi was the author of more than half a dozen books about dogs, puppies, children, and various terrier breeds. A winner of the 1991 Kal Kan Pedigree Award for outstanding journalism on pet care, Bardi penned the advice column “Ask Dog Fancy” for Dog Fancy magazine for 15 years. Based on those columns, she wrote a book of the same name. She also wrote feature articles for the AKC Gazette and all major canine publications and trade magazines. Bardi also won several awards from the Dog Writers Association of America, where she had been an active member since 1986. We would think that every one of us has at least one dog-eared copy of Bardi’s bestselling The Welsh Terrier Leads the Way. She also had a long-running column in The Newtown Bee.

A longtime breeder and exhibitor of Welsh Terriers since the mid-1960s, Bardi built up her kennel “Bardwyn” to include several top producing dogs. Her dogs have earned American Kennel Club titles in conformation, obedience, and at earthdog trials, and she judged numerous competitions. Her current Welsh Terrier, Bandit, was named after this poem:

“Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief.

Taffy came to my house

and stole my heart, not beef!”

As Bardi wrote, “That, dear friends, is how my handsome Felstead Welsh Terrier came to be named ‘Bandit.’”

It was during her days at Bardwyn that Bardi, along with four other Welsh Terrier Club of America members, formed the Glyndwr Welsh Terrier Club (GWTC) in January 1977. GWTC was her passion and she truly loved attending our events when she could and cheering us all on from her home. She was extraordinarily connected to all things Welsh Terrier – it surely seemed as if everyone either heard of her or knew her. With a mind as sharp as a tack until her last day, she kept tabs on the results of all the shows, as well as all the dog news that she thought we all should know about.

And as Bardi would sign off on every one of her columns at The Newtown Bee…BE GOOD.

Lisa Peterson writes about history, horses, and hounds at lisaunleashed.com. You can reach her at lisa.peterson@barngirlmedia.com.

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