As long as I can remember, I’ve
loved dogs. I’m the only one in the family to love dogs, so no matter how
hard I’d beg for a puppy my parents never allowed me to have one. Instead
I had snails, silk worms, fishes and hamsters, which of course are not
exactly the same as a dog.
When I was 12, I started a collection
of dog cards. That was the first time I saw a picture of a Bobtail. As
I always knew I would have a dog, no matter how long it would take, I began
wondering about it. It had to be a shepherd dog (as I rate sheepdogs the
most intelligent and friendly dogs), a medium sized dog, not too small
nor too big (something around 55-65 cm would do), with long hair (short
coated dogs are not actually dogs, for me …), and light coloured. Given
these “requirements”, my “list” was restricted to only two breeds: Briards
and Bobtails. As Briards were said to have sometimes a nasty temper, and
I liked the white/grey look, I decided on the Bobtail.
first picture of a Bobtail
In the mean time, I finally convinced
my parents to allow me to keep a dog. It was a mongrel puppy bitch (with
some Yorkie blood somewhere) that became my companion and lived to the
age of 12.
- the day she arrived home
When Noucky died, after surpassing the
grief of loosing her, and as I was finally living on my own, I decided
that it was the time to finally have a purebred, Bobtail puppy bitch. It
was not easy though. I finally found out that there was only one breeder
in Portugal, and managed to get his contact. He said that one of his bitches
was going to have puppies soon, so I got really excited. I waited for good
news in the next couple of months until I phoned the breeder again. He
said that the litter was born, that there was only a female and that he
was keeping her. It was total disappointment! After all those expectations
it was hard thinking of waiting a whole year to have a puppy. So, I bought
a French dog magazine and started to look for bobtail advertisements. Luckily,
there was a litter available from a breeder near Perpignan, close to the
Spanish border. I contacted him and soon we were heading towards France
to collect my first puppy. She was to become F.Wendy d’al sola de Bonabosc
(Ch. Amadeus Lover des Korils d’Armor x Up and Down du Moulin du Pont).
As you can see, we had not much care in choosing our breeder, but we were
lucky. M. Danoy showed us the photos of the ancestors and their show achievements,
the commercial that he had made for Pedigree, and convinced us that we
should show our little girl. When we received the pedigree, we found out
a lot of funny names and a lot of Champions too. So we decided to enter
Wendy in a show. Wendy took Best Puppy and I got hooked on shows.
Unfortunately Wendy died unexpectedly when she
was only 6 months old, and I almost gave up having dogs, after losing 2 loved
ones within one year. Of Wendy I remember she was a somehow fat, lazy bitch,
with a sweet temperament. I still remember her, in the back seat of the
car, licking my ears and the feeling of it.
After some thought I decided to have
another try. I contacted M. Danoy again, hoping that he would not refuse
me a second chance. He didn’t, so soon we set off to France again, and
brought Fleur d’al sola de Bonabosc, with Pelajilo and Wenallt blood
behind (pedigree). She was to become my foundation
bitch. She never liked other dogs to enter her "safety
Poodles, the little annoying, noisy white ones – who could blame her?), so for the day-to-day
life it was not so simple to live with. But I always loved her super memory,
her sense of humour, the ability to learn quickly (the things that she
accepted to learn) and the true Bobtail behaviour regarding humans. It
was her that truly hooked me on Bobtails and proved that my choice, how
silly it could be at the start, was absolutely right. Since she was 3 months
old, she went to work with me every day and was adored by everyone. When
we arrived every morning, she would visit my colleagues, who always had
a treat for her. She could smell food from a 20 m distance and liked to
play the “starving dog” act - with great success I must confess.
and Fleur - back in 1991 !!!
made a big impact on me and definitely changed my life for ever (maybe not for
the better ...). The first was "Le Best of Bobtail"
published by the Welsh Corgi et Bobtail Club de France and given to me by
the Danoys. It had a section on the standard and its interpretation that was
very useful in introducing me to dog terminology and dog assessment (up to then I thought, like
all pet owners and untrained eyes, that all dogs looked the same), but the
Champions of France section, with the correspondent pedigrees (with all those
funny names ...), was simply fascinating! Not only there were certain dogs that
appeared in several pedigrees (in particular Ellenglaze Ladies Choice), which indicated they were probably special, but it was also interesting to
see the different breeding strategies. The second book was "The
complete Old English Sheepdog", by Christina Smith (Bailey). The
sections about breed history and breeding kennels in the UK and elsewhere,
including Portugal, made me realize that the dogs we have at a certain time are
a consequence of the work of previous breeders. So my aim from that moment on
was to breed dogs to which dogs in the future could be traced back, and to see
my kennel name appear in a future edition of that book! (unfortunately
Christina has never updated it ...)
When I decided to breed, I began
thinking of a kennel name. As it was a british breed and I was thinking
of giving English names to the dogs, the kennel name should be English
too. Eventually, the affix “SeaLords” was accepted (back in 1992) and
I started breeding under that prefix (with the first litter being born
in the beginning of 1994).
Why “SeaLords”? I think that the
affix should have something to do with the dogs you breed, with the breeder,
and/or the place he lives in. For those who don’t know, back in the 1400’s,
Portuguese sailors set out from this little lost country in small ships
to discover the world, which was really a great feat. For 3 centuries,
Portuguese sailors were truly the Lords of the Sea (hence SeaLords, as
an homage to those heroic people). The logo is also based on that. Behind
the Bobtail profile, you see a triangular (or latin) sail, which allowed
sailing against the wind, and was a revolution in sea sailing at the time.
In the sail, you see a cross – named “Christ’s Cross” - as
you could find in the Portuguese flag at the time (as well as in all documents
and even monuments). And the letter “O” is actually an astrolab, an instrument
of arabic origins that the Portuguese improved, that allowed to measure
the height of the stars and so to determine the position of the ships when
they were in the middle of the sea.
For me, dogs are man’s companions.
I think that a dog’s life is not complete if it is not shared with the
owner. So, my dogs live as normal family dogs, that is, in the house, and
sleep in my bedroom, around my bed (OK, sometimes on my bed, which is not
so simple as they like the pillows as much as I do). But when I’m away,
they stay in a sheltered place (you can hardly call it a kennel), where
they are protected from the sun, the rain (and the neighbours …). It is
in that place (that measures 14 m x 2 m) that we play ball, their favourite
activity, that keeps them fit (the kennel was also used by the kids to play,
I think the “police-prisoners” thing …). Besides the “kennel”, and when
I’m at home, they may roam around the house, but normally, if I’m not playing
with them, they prefer staying quietly inside the house with me (which
is very puzzling to my mother, who really doesn’t understand why the kennel,
which is supposed to have dogs inside, is always empty).
There are 3 things I have in mind
- the standard: The standard
is our Bible as breeders and the aim is to breed dogs as close to the standard
as possible. So,
all the bitches I use
have been rated as "Excellent" by breed specialist judges and/or have won at
least one CACIB at an International Show.
- health: a good dog is a
healthy dog. Our breed was a working breed, so a sick or a cripple dog
would be of no use. All
are X-rayed and free from hip dysplasia.
Since 2004, I'm using both the FCI grading and the PennHip evaluation. I also
screen my dogs for hereditary eye diseases until a final diagnosis can be made (hereditary
cataracts can appear until 6 years old and PRA until 9 years old, so any
certificates issued before those ages are of limited value ...) and keep a record regarding longevity
and any health problems of my dogs.
- temperament: the vast majority
of our dogs end up as pet dogs, living with families that probably don’t
have a deep knowledge of canine behaviour and how to deal with it. So the
aim is to breed dogs that are “easy to live with”, that is, dogs with stable temperaments, and the true bobtail sweet, playful disposition.
The bringing of PCD to the spotlight in 2008
was to me a big eye opener. Though PCD was refered in all veterinary literature as a genetic
disease of OES at least since the 1990's (contrary to what you see written in
many OES pages it is NOT a new or recent disease, and this in fact just
shows the low knowledge of many breeders, that tend to worry about things only
when they knock at their own doors ...), it was being misdiagnosed/swept under the rug
Chris Beirendonck started her fight against the disease. By putting together the
pedigrees of the carrier/affected dogs, it was evident right from the start that the
disease was present and had been spread in the OES population by the (winning
...) line(s) everybody was revolving around for the last 20 years, so
obsessively that nowadays it is virtually impossible to find a dog without these
lines in the first 3 generations. In fact, it is amazing that "only"
15-20% of the european OES population was estimated to carry the defective gene when it
was discovered ...
More or less at the same time, a concern
about the genetic health and lack of genetic variability of pedigree dogs was raised. It is now obvious that if
breeders insist in outdated theories and practices from the 19th century soon
all the Kennel Clubs in Europe will set for them limits on inbreeding and number
of litters a dog can sire, much lower than what is common nowadays. Our
present aim is therefore to keep variability without losing quality, avoiding
the overused lines and instead using dogs/lines that are absent from the
majority of pedigrees in Europe. This
option seems to be paying as the dogs that we have had analyzed by Genoscoper
have genetic health indexes above average (see Health).
I only breed occasionally (one litter
every 2 years, in average), and in order to keep a puppy for myself, to
continue my line. So litters are carefully planned. The puppies are born
and reared in the house, where they get a lot of attention and contact
with the noises of the day-to-day life (TV, vacuum cleaner, etc). They are all
important to us and they are treated as individuals, not as numbers or colours,
so they all receive a pet name, normally given by my daughter (that I guess gets
her inspiration mostly from animated films), even if most owners opt later by
their own chosen pet name. They are properly
dewormed and vaccinated and are registered with the Portuguese Kennel Club (FCI
member) - so pedigrees are fully recognized by the other FCI members
and also by the KC, AKC and other non-FCI members.
I assume a lifelong commitment
with my puppies and their owners, so, besides being always available to
assist the owners with every problem they may have, regarding feeding, grooming,
training, etc, I'm also prepared to take back any dog, at any time, for