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More than 30 years ago, I first stepped foot into a dog show ring with my first Norwegian Elkhound, Ledgerock’s Sydney Lief, aka Sydney. This historic event in my life with dogs happened at the most unlikely of venues, the Milford Jai Alai Fronton. It was there that I took a chance at dog shows and the gamble paid off. We won Best of Winners and a single championship point. We were on our way to a lifelong passion for the sport of purebred dogs. We were going to become dog fanciers, a group of people who were dedicated to preserving, promoting, and, more recently, protecting purebred dog breeds. At the heart of this mission are dog shows, where breeding stock are evaluated to judge their potential genetic contributions to each and every breed of dog recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Sydney never became a champion, but during his show career in the 1980s, I discovered the joy of being an owner/breeder/handler. I came from the horse show world and as a junior rider, I did everything myself from training to braiding to grooming to trailering my own horse to the shows. I liked doing everything myself. Call me a control freak or an overachiever, but having an intimate role in all aspects of a competition, for me, created a deeper level of bonding with my horse. And when I migrated to dog shows, I wanted to follow the same model. And that meant I was going to have to breed my own dogs.
It all began with a bitch called Mumbles. A knowledgeable breeder had given her to us to start our breeding program. And away we went. During the next 20 years, the Elvemel breeding program (with lots of help and mentoring from Kamgaard Norwegian Elkhounds) produced a direct line of award-winning champion bitches from Roxanne to Brittany to Basia to Stasha to Jinx. In 2006, Jinx was bred to an English sire, CH. Kestos Kriega. The results were a litter of two, a boy and a girl. And the one male puppy we named Linx stayed with us.
Most things in life are a result of “timing is everything” or “being in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time,” or “everything happens for a reasons.” In Linx’s case, the timing for his show dog career was awful. I had started a job at the American Kennel Club that kept me on a long commute to Manhattan, away from my dogs. I quickly became frustrated at trying to do a proper job with Linx without the proper time and resources.
Looking back, Linx didn’t have the best of starts in terms of show dog 101. I didn’t devote as much time to training as I should have, and over the years, it was hit or miss to having a good ring performance. By the time he was 3, I’d only showed him a handful of times, accumulating three championship points. I decided that Linx would be a great pet and buddy for my husband Ray.
Fast Forward to 2014. We got a new puppy named Adele.
I was going to show her. Since I was going to show her, I thought, let’s bring 8-year-old Linx to some dog shows. In 2015, I retired from my AKC job and had loads of time for my dogs. An amazing thing happened along the way. Linx was coming into his own.
At this point, Linx was the sole survivor of my 20-year-old breeding program. His 2006 litter is the last litter I’ve bred in 10 years, and the last direct connection from my foundation bitch going back seven generations. Linx is the end of the line.
But then he began to accomplish a number of firsts for Elvemel. Linx’s first AKC title, the Canine Good Citizen, was accomplished by Ray, the first time Ray had handled any dog to any title. Linx became the first dog in Elvemel history to earn the Bred-By Exhibitor medallion from AKC, meaning all his championship points were earned by his owner/breeder/handler. Linx was the first to earn his championship as a Veteran at 8 years old.
After earning an Award of Merit at this year’s national specialty, Linx became the first Elvemel dog to earn an invitation to the Crufts Dog Show in England. And then this past weekend, Linx, now nearly 10 years old, achieved the first Specialty Best in Show win for Elvemel with his owner/breeder/handler on the end of the leash. And while Linx may be the end of the breeding line, another number of Elvemel firsts include being first in our hearts, usually first on the couch to watch TV, and definitely first in line for biscuits. Good Boy!
Lisa Peterson — lifelong equestrian, dog show judge and award-winning podcaster, communications professional and journalist — writes about horses, hounds and history at lisaunleashed.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.