2010 Pom Review Kennel Visit - Silhouette Pomeranians
2010 marks the 11th anniversary of my obsession with the Pomeranian. I met my first pom at age 15 when, after weeks of persistent phone calls begging to come over to "meet the poms", Judy Green of Razzle Dazzle finally relented and let me come for a visit. Oh, if only she knew the monster she had created by answering my initial phone call—I had by chance become obsessed with the breed after encountering some pom websites a few months earlier, without ever seeing a pom in person! 11 years later, she still can't get rid of me! I can only assume that if my mother had known where this would all lead, she would have made sure I never set foot in Judy's house!
Before I became interested in dogs, I was very interested in breeding—of all things—gerbils! I got my first gerbil at age 12 and quickly began a "breeding program". I think most people don't realize gerbils come in over 25 different colors, since only about 4 colors are commonly available in pet stores. However I quickly became bored with "the usual" colors when I discovered via the internet that there were so many other options, so I set out gathering many rare color varieties from all over the country, some of which were the offspring of European imports! I refused to settle for anything "run of the mill". I like to think I apply this attitude to my Poms as well. It's just a wonder I don't breed colors!
So I set out to discover what was considered exceptional in the world of Poms. What really stands out to me about poms is their characteristic outline – the solid body set atop 4 posty, tight feet, with a high-set, well-plumed tail, the frill of the coat on the bib, the feathering on the back of the front legs, the long pants extending down to the top of the hocks, the high, proud head carriage and distinctive profile of their muzzle and high set ears. That "square inside a circle" look of the rounded coat on the body and of course... their mischievous face that hints at that of a fox! In school when I was bored I would constantly doodle this outline of my "ideal" pom in the margin of my notebooks, and to this day that is one of the first things that hits me about a pom when viewed from across the ring. So, I chose the kennel name "Silhouette" to embody this ideal—and set out to create some poms that fit this mental picture of mine.
I knew from my time in gerbils that a breeder is always rewarded for devoting time to studying their chosen species/breed ahead of time rather than blindly breeding away and trying to luck upon what you're seeking. I spent a lot of time studying pom magazines, especially old ones, websites, collecting pedigrees, going to shows, and that sort of thing, trying to determine what represented my ideal pom and what lines were producing it already (or something close to it). Again and again I kept finding that the dogs who most appealed to me were all descended from Am/Can Ch. Chriscendo Calvin Klein ROMX "Calvin", Am/Can Ch. Chriscendo Classico "Gable" or Ch. Rock N Tradition of Oakridge ROMS "Jake". Not only did these males have some pretty offspring, but it also seemed like their daughters tend to produce well too. So this was the direction I moved towards when I was selecting my foundation dogs. Over time, I have found some new loves, but in the end my dogs without exception end up with these dogs in their pedigrees.
While I was studying dogs, I cultivated a few very important friendships with some breeders whose kennels I admired, and was eventually able to talk Judy Green out of a nice "Jake" granddaughter, a litter sister to her Am/Can Ch. Razzle Dazzle Hat Dance ROM. This bitch produced my first champion, Ch. Silhouette's Slow Dance. But after encountering some difficulties in trying to ship girls out to the boys I loved, who inevitably lived far away—either Canada or (even worse!) Thailand—my friend Jennifer Munn (Achilles) and I decided we ought to try to bring a nice male to Virginia.
We were supremely lucky that we were able to bring "Chad" Am/Can Ch. Chriscendo Communicado ROM home in the fall of 2005 thanks to the generosity of his breeders, Chris and John Heartz. I've always been told there are very few dogs who can truly put a stamp on their offspring, but Chad is certainly one of those few. We put his American title on him, and he quickly began producing some really excellent puppies, especially some beautiful males. He achieved his Register of Merit in 2009 and currently has 10 champions to his credit. Chad's "look" is one that I would like to make typical of my dogs. The logo I use on my website is composed of pictures of Chad and his offspring and the resemblance is striking. Chad is visiting Chris and John in Nova Scotia until September 2010, where he will be more accessible to breeders worldwide than he would be here in Virginia (our international airports are just too far away). They were so kind to share him with us and we felt it was about time he returned to contribute to their breeding program, too.
In 2005, I fell madly in love with another beautiful dog who happens to be a cousin of Chad's, Am/Can/Thai Ch. Tokie The Legend Continues "Dutchy". He is a "Gable" (Ch. Chriscendo Classico) grandson just like Chad. I just fell head over heels in love with that dog beyond all reason! I made it my mission to have something sired by him—no small feat since he lived in Thailand and sired only a handful of litters while in the USA showing as a special (he won BOB at Westminster in 2006). Fortunately one of those litters was bred by my good friend Doug Stratton who had helped me find my first show dog a few years before, and he sent me the bigger of the two girls in the litter, "Adia", Sunterra Sweet Surrender. It turned out my faith in her sire and her pedigree paid off, because she turned out to be a fantastic producer, a free whelper and great mother (I should add: "Just as Doug predicted"!). She has been bred to some of the breed's leading sires: Ch. Starlight's Fun Times, Ch. Chriscendo Call to Arms, Ch. CR Tuff Guy of Isabella and of course, my own "Chad", and produced quality puppies every time. She has offspring who are champions in Russia, Canada (3 going on 4 of them), Thailand, a Brazilian Best In Show winner, and a group placing, specialty winning American champion. Her most recent litter blessed us with just one little girl, the last puppy sired by BIS BISS Ch. Pufpride Sweet Dreams ROMS. Needless to say, I have a lot of high hopes for this little one.
Breeding Adia to Chad produced my heart and soul, Gibson, BISS Am/Thai Ch. Silhouette's Speakeasy. I knew from the time he was 5 weeks old that he was something special as he just oozed type, was super short backed with a beautiful head and attitude galore. We had some fun in the ring together, winning group placements and of course, his Best In Specialty Show. I am looking forward to seeing what my first Gibson litters will produce. He has already sired a Best In Show winner in Thailand, Thai Ch. Fon's First of June. Gibson's litter brother, Brazil/Can Ch. Silhouette Say It Right "Spencer", is owned by Chris and John Heartz of Chriscendo, and has been producing some nice puppies for them too. He recently completed his Brazilian championship with multiple Best In Show wins while visiting Carlang kennel in Brazil this spring.
Adia and Chad are the cornerstone of my breeding program and in the years to come I hope to expand on that foundation and incorporate some other dogs I admire. I am looking forward to using Chad a few more times this fall as well as a litter or two from Gibson. I breed about 3-6 litters per year. I feel this is few enough that I can devote time to planning and raising each litter, but not so few that I am not able to have a selection of puppies to pick from to continue my breeding program. This gives me the flexibility to pick what faults I can tolerate and what I can't, rather than having to settle for whatever I get. I also don't limit myself to just using my own stud dogs, I've bred out many times, sometimes at great expense and great inconvenience, but I always try to go with my gut and do what I feel is the best breeding even if it's not the easiest. I guess it goes back to my days in gerbils, I was never afraid to go out on a limb to get what I wanted! In fact I have recently imported two bitches from overseas due to the difficulty I had in finding suitable girls from the lines I was looking for. Many of the European and Asian countries are producing poms regularly that are of equal or better quality to what is available in the USA due to the dedicated breeders there who have been importing some of the best for years.
I discovered after a few breedings that it was not in the cards for me to have a breeding program composed of one unbroken chain of fantastic producing bitches. I had several of my favorite girls wash out as mothers because they failed to get pregnant, lost their puppies or produced nothing big enough to keep—you name the reason, they never gave me a daughter suitable to keep for my breeding program, although I have produced quite a few pretty boys in the process! So I have resigned myself to the fact that for the time being, my males will be what makes my breeding program distinctive. Thinking about it, Chriscendo began with Ch. Millamor's Rock Medallion, Sunterra is based heavily around Ch. Chriscendo Classico, and Tokie around Ch. Tokie's Mercury, just to name a few examples in my own pedigrees, so maybe it is only fitting that I have Chad to fill that void in my program. So lately I have tried to obtain girls that I like, whose pedigrees I love, who cross-fault well with my boys (or other boys I would like to incorporate) and who I think have the potential to click with what I have.
In buying bitches I try to keep an eye on what the males I like most are producing and the bitches the puppies are out of. If I notice they go particularly well with certain pedigrees then I sometimes try to incorporate that myself. I noticed Chad seemed to click with Parker and Dutchy daughters, so this is something I have looked to incorporate more of. He also seems to reduce size, shorten backs and produce pretty faces. I try to buy girls from free whelping dam lines as I'm not one to throw up my arms and give up on the idea of a pom free whelping. I have only had one (elective) c-section, all the others so far have free whelped. I want thrifty, strong puppies and good mothers who produce plenty of milk. I have had strangely good luck with having "no muss no fuss" puppies that don't require a lot of coddling, and I would prefer to keep it that way. While I won't rule out a c-section bitch entirely, it's definitely factored into the equation when I decide whether a girl should stay or go in the long term. It would depend on whether she was a good mother post-section and the quality of her puppies (of course). That said I don't think you can predict a free whelper purely based on size, but certainly I am a bit less antsy during the whelping of a 4.5-5.5 lb bitch than I am a 4lb one, rightly or wrongly!
I keep roughly 10 adults at any given time. I don't really have any ambitions of having more than this number as I live in a small, 3 bedroom house in the suburbs. I periodically retire my girls to pet homes when I am through breeding them in order to keep my numbers low. The dogs have the run of the kennel room, dining area and kitchen, which are all floored in something easy to clean—vinyl or laminate flooring. Girls in season are kept in a spare bedroom and moms with puppies are in one of the other bedrooms. I raise puppies in a separate room until they are about 7-8 wks, when I take them down to the kennel room so they can experience the hustle and bustle of the house. They get loose time in the kitchen just about every day, without the adults around, too, to get them used to being around people. I think a puppy that is used to following you around and interacting with people makes a much easier show dog to train than one who has only ever seen people peering down at them in a pen. I work full time outside the home as a computer programmer for a NASA contractor, but we have very flexible leave policies that make it very easy to run home and check on the puppies and take time off for whelpings and dog shows. I also use a webcam to keep an eye on mothers due to whelp or young puppies from my office.
Because I was in college the first few years I showed dogs, I didn't really start my breeding program until about 2007. Since then I have produced several dogs I'm very proud of in just a few breedings. Among them are:
- BISS Am/Thai Ch. Silhouette's Speakeasy, finished from BBE and has multiple group placements
Of course I'm proud of all of them, including several more who are on their way to their titles in Thailand, Canada and the USA. My project for 2010 has been a pretty little bitch sired by Dutchy during his visit to Chriscendo last year, Silhouette's Suburban Legend "Bree" who needs just a major to finish. She was co-bred with Judy Green who leased me her mother, a daughter of Ch. Starlight's Dream Come True (a Parker son). Judy is also the co-breeder of BISS CH. Razzle Dazzle Panic at the Disco "Ashton" and my first champion, Ch. Silhouette's Slow Dance. She has been a devoted friend and mentor to me for 10 years, in a sport where very few friendships last even half that long. I would also like to thank Chris and John Heartz (Chriscendo), Pam Dodsworth and Larry Fox (Foxworth), Doug Stratton (Sunterra), Toby (Tokie), Bev Carter (Damascusroad), Jackie Moore (Luminesque) and Celeste Solano (CR) for their contributions to my breeding program over the years. I've also enjoyed many good times with other friends of mine as they have established their breeding programs around the same time as I have. I find there are many struggles that are almost unique to being a "newbie" that many longer-time breeders forget about and it's great to have friends of the same "graduating class" to commiserate with. Becky Johnson (Stealurheart) is always there when I'm in a jam or need to vent, Christine Crane (Dee Little) has endured many very long road trips and hasn't killed me YET, and Nady Godbout (Mythical) is always happy to remind me not to take myself so seriously sometimes. I think without the ability to network with other breeders, your breeding program is pretty much dead in the water. I try to give back to those who have helped me achieve what I have by sharing in return whenever possible. I also wouldn't be able to do all the showing I do without great people like Arlene Ladusky, my trusty pet sitter, and Ellen Parkin, who has also puppy-sat for me on several occasions.
- BISS Am Ch. Razzle Dazzle Panic at the Disco, finished by winning Best In Specialty Show over 7 specials, owned by Celeste & Bob Solano
- BIS Brazil/Can Ch. Silhouette Say It Right, multiple group winner in Canada, owned by Chris & John Heartz
- Can Ch. Silhouette Surrender to Chriscendo, BOW at the 2009 Pomeranian Club of Canada Specialty and a group winner in Canada, owned by myself & Chris & John Heartz
- Thai Ch. Silhouette's Secret Agent, finished his Thai title at just over a year old, owned by Joob, Pakara Pomeranians
- Can Ch. Silhouette's Stuff of Legends, finished with multiple Group 1s from the classes, breed over specials and Best Puppy In Shows, owned by Andrea Noel
- Am Ch. Silhouette's Stop The Presses, finished with 3 majors, owned by Joan Behrend
- Am Ch. Silhouette's Slow Dance, my first champion, finished from BBE
Ours is not an easy breed, that's for sure! I have had my share of frustrations, heartbreaks, dashed hopes, long sleepless nights, high vet bills and stressful days that make me repeat the mantra "this is my hobby, I do this because it is FUN...". I'm sure you know what I mean. I remember going through a particularly bad period a few years ago where nothing seemed to be going right. I remember gritting my teeth and saying to a friend, "This sucks. But you know what, this just makes me WANT IT MORE." And that is the attitude you have to have to breed Pomeranians. You can't take the failures to heart. You take them as lessons learned and move on more determined than ever.
Thank you to the Pom Review and Celeste Solano for asking me to share my story. If anyone would like to learn more about the Silhouette poms you can visit my website at www.silhouettepoms.com