SANCTUM is not a very well-known kennel, but it has produced some very well-known dogs (well, well-known to us, anyway, and to people in this general area), and it has produced some excellent working dogs for us. It started as a whim with someone looking for a mixed-breed dog. I had no desires for great show titles. I didn't even know that show titles existed. But with my first dog, I began learning. I'm still learning over 20 years later. I will still be learning 20 years or more from now. But that's not important now. Now I'm going to start talking about the amazing dogs that we've been associated with over the years. (And when I get started talking about my dogs, you'd better watch out!)
Our first dog was Pepper:
Pepper, CD, TDI, CGC was a nice little mixed-breed dog that we got from the animal shelter in Jefferson County, Kentucky. He was a beagle/cocker mix, fairly small, but not tiny. He was quiet and well-mannered in the dog run where he was living in the shelter. I figured he would be a great addition to our home. And he was, at first. What we couldn't tell and what the shelter workers didn't tell us was that he was a four-time loser. He had been dropped off several times for various problems. Dogs who have been left over and over usually have problems. They have multitudes of problems! The problems we found out about were all associated with being abandoned, over and over. He was convinced that whoever picked him up this time didn't really want him either. The last three or four didn't, so why would this person? When we left the house, he had no idea that we were ever coming back to him, so why should he get attached?
Pepper was very destructive. He did untold damage to our house. We finally moved him outside to an outdoor kennel while we were gone to work as a last resort. But hey, what reason was that to stop chewing things up? He chewed through the chainlink fencing. His teeth didn't last very long doing that. Neither did the fence. We reinforced the fence, we put a concrete barrier around the bottom of the fence and wired the fence into it. He started going over the fence (and he was only 15 inches tall. He wanted out!). We finally bought him a dog crate and kept him inside the house again. The crate didn't last either. It got chewed to pieces as well. We put him outside in the garage. We came home one night to be greeted by Pepper with his head though a large hole he had chewed in the main garage door.
We, being very new to dog-owning (Pepper was the first for us as a new family), had no idea what to do, so we looked up "dog-trainers" in the phone book and sent him to a "kennel" that promised training for "problem" dogs. What we didn't know was that he was "trained" to do what the trainer told him to do and nothing else. He was great for the trainer, he did nothing for us. Many years later we learned that this was to be expected, but we didn't know that then. We did everything like new dog owners who had no knowledge of dogs or how they thought. We had gone to trainers, but they didn't seem interested in how dogs thought either. They just knew how to get dogs to do certain things for them.
So after great expense, and a lot of time, we found that we had accomplished nothing again. So what to do next? Of course! He was lonely! We'd get him a companion! Enter Polly! (Another mixed-breed. But she came from a family that we thought we knew a little better than a dog from a shelter. Ha!)
We found, after much trouble, that Polly had even more problems than Pepper had. She came from a home that once again, knew nothing about training dogs. She was a mixed-breed from a family that thought that by adopting a family of mixed-breed puppies, they were saving the dogs. And they had kids, kids that did anything they wanted with the dogs, and to the dogs. Fortunately, they decided to let Polly come to us, for a nominal price, of course. Come to find out, she was the size she was because her brothers and sisters wouldn't let her near the food bowl, and she was starving. The best we could figure out, she was a German shepherd dog/husky mix, and she was under 17 inches tall at the withers, and weighed about 20 pounds. It took us a few weeks to convince her that she could eat when we gave her a food bowl. (Many years later, we finally decided that she was probably a German shepherd dog/elkhound mix, from her color, her size, and her behavior.)
She was also terrified of people. We found out that she ran loose around the property she came from. When we went to pick her up, it took them about a half an hour to round her up from ouside. But by the time she was good and moved into our home, we had decided to move to Cincinnati, for Ed's job. I found a good dog training club to join; it was Kuliga Dog Training Club. It was not an AKC club. I had found out that AKC clubs could be kind of snobbish when all you had were mixed breeds, and Kuliga was a mixed-breed club first, although they did do some AKC things. Now, after many years training dogs, I have found that not all AKC clubs are snobbish. It's just some AKC people and some clubs. But most are great with all people and dogs.
Oh, and what did the moving do to Pepper's confidence? Oddly enough, it helped. He saw that we moved and he moved with us. We didn't leave him behind. That was a great confidence builder for him. He found that he was worth being brought with us. He wasn't going to be left behind. The obedience training he was undergoing showed him that we wanted to work with him. All he had to do was show a little interest in doing what we asked, and the more he did, the more we asked of him (and the more we loved him). That was very important to him. He had never been loved. And now he was loved, and he was taken with us when we moved. That was the most important thing we ever did for him. We took him with us; we didn't leave him behind. We started leaving him out of his crate when we left home. He wasn't as worried when we left, because we always came back to him. He was an important part of our lives and we never let him forget it.
So after all this trouble, Pepper had won his first dog training class, and by now his second dog training class. I wanted to put him into competition. The people at Kuliga told me how to do that! I could get him into some shows that accepted mixed-breed dogs! After a long time and much work on his part and mine, we finally got his All-American CD (companion dog) title. Pepper was our first titled dog! We had our start!
So what about Polly? She was in an obedience class as well, but she had a much harder time. She was traumatized by the life she had before she came to us. She was always terrified of kids, and she stayed that way. She did become trained to obey a few commands: Come, sit, down, etc. She was very good about them, but she was always afraid of children and strangers. She was never confident enough for showing. We did volunteer her for a job, however. She was a paid model for a pharmaceutical ad. It was an ad for an antibiotic. She had to pose in a couple of pictures with a kid! It was very scary for her,, but she did it, and she did it very well. We have the finished ad framed (both sides; it was a two-sided ad!) on our doggie "wall of fame" at home. And she's the only dog we've ever had that's had a paying job! We've had several that could do it, but she's the only one that ever actually did if. We're very proud of our girl. She did good! See?
The back page of her ad
The front of Polly's two-page ad
The photographer who did her shoot asked if she was a professional and if she had been posing for a long time. We were and are still very proud of our amateur model, even many years after she's passed on. Way to go, Polly! Thank you for a job very well-done!
But after Polly, who was our next special dog? It was Shady, our first elkhound! After hearing for so many years that we needed a pure breed to show and to do all of the wonderful things that we were learning about, we started researching dog breeds. We wanted to bring in a new dog that would fit into our lifestyle and work well with us to do what we wanted to do. Of course, we still didn't know fully what we really wanted to do with our dogs, We just knew that we wanted to work with them somehow and give them something fulfilling to do.
We started by going through dog encyclopedias and researching the breeds available to us. I started off with a list of about five or six different breeds I wanted to get to know. Ed found one breed. We started by going to an AKC show to get to know people who bred the breeds that we were interested in, and to get some hands on experience with the breeds.
The first breed we ran across at the show happened to be Ed's favorite, the Norwegian elkhound. She was a beautiful dog owned by Rai Mai kennels. Her name was Rai Mai's Petticoats and Lace. ("Lacey" to those privileged to meet her). Lacey was on and working at 100%, and she captured Ed's heart forever. We were given the names of some breeders we could contact for further information. Fortunately, one of those breeders was only a few miles north of our new home in Cincinnati, and we contacted her shortly after arriving there. It was Sue Hamilton of Alpha Norwegian Elkhounds. It was the best phone call we ever made.
We talked for a long time to Sue. She asked about our wants and what we could give the dog, about what our property was like and how it could be secured, what the dogs we already had were doing, and how she would fit into our household. After much talk and going up to meet her and Dick, her husband, and to get to know her dogs, we finally decided that we would get a bitch from a litter she was planning out of a beautiful bitch she had and a male that she had bred and placed. He turned out to be the most titled obedience elkhound in history (at the time). That was what I was looking for! Shady was born and came home at the age of 7 weeks. Sue never lets a puppy go before 8 weeks now (and later if possible), but this was a long time ago. We've all learned over the years! Anyway, this is Shady:
"Alpha's Living Shadow," actually. Okay, she's a little pudgy. Hey, I was still learning about elkhounds and getting used to their "please feed me!" looks. My later elkhounds look much better, but I think Shady was beautiful. And she learned very easily, comparitively speaking. Of course, she had many fewer problems to work through! And I had help! I learned how much help an experienced breeder can be to a new dog owner! Sue, thank you so much!
So Shady learned from my teachers at Kuliga DTC, and from me, and from Sue, and she did fairly well. But I was still working from the "you train all dogs the same way" method of dog training, and poor Shady had to go though that with me. I had learned that you had to show a dog something about a hundred times. Shady eventually taught me that you had actually had to show an elkhound something about twice, but hey, I learned. Shady became the number two nationally ranked Norwegian elkhound as she earned her CD. And she was shown at all breed shows with all breeds competing. The number one elkhound that year was shown at elkhound specialties exlusively, with only elkhounds competing. I didn't yet know that it was much easier to beat elkhounds than it was to beat border collies and goldens, so Shady had fewer beaten dogs in her statistics, but she had a bunch of dogs beaten anyway. She was able to come in second among all elkhounds being shown! And she wasn't shown at a specialty for her CD, either! Of course, over the years, elkhounds and elkhound trainers have increased their skills a bit! But I'm really very proud of Shady.
Of course, over the years, many people have been showing Norwegian elkhounds in obedience and learning that if you do it right, they can become obedience trial champions just like the goldens and poodles, and all the other "obedience" breeds you see in competitions. But we stayed away from training for OTChs. I was happy just to have CDs and CDXs! And Shady won her AKC CD and CDX. Then I got into UKC training, and she earned her U-CD and U-CDX! So what next? Try Canada! So I got her nose printed and we went off to Canada and earned her Canadian CD in the first set of shows I took her to. That was great. I had gotten her AKC CDX, so I decided that she could earn her Canadian CDX as well, and I took her to Canada again expecting a quick CDX. It didn't happen. We had just earned her AKC CDX, so I was sorely disappointed. But I had already gotten a Canadian CD, so that was good enough.
After all this obedience training, I finally decided that I needed to spread out a bit. I started training for Temperament Tests and Canine Good Citizen tests (that's what you do in the AKC before obedience training, but it came out after I started obedience, so I just added it on after), and I started Therapy Dog training after I discovered it with Shady. When she started visiting nursing homes and I found out how rewarding that could be, almost all of my dogs have been therapy dogs. So Shady ended up being U-CDX Alpha's Living Shadow, CDX, Canadian CD, TDI, TT, CGC. Quite a lot of titles for a little dog, huh? But I really wanted a show dog, a dog that could get a Ch. before his name. So I had to have another dog, because Shady was spayed early as she turned out to be a little small. We went back to Sue for another elkhound, and she set us up with McGee:
This is Alpha's T'aint Funny McGee. Are you starting to notice a pattern in our dogs' names? Yep, They're all named after radio programs! He was shown to four points, a CD, a TDI, a TT, and a CGC. But he didn't work out as a show prospect. That happens. From the best breeders, you don't always get a show champion, but he did great. He was an especially good therapy dog. He was Volunteer of the Month at one nursing home where he worked. He was a great boy, very sweet, easy to train, and we loved him very much. But I still wanted a champion! (You learn after years of working that champions always aren't the greatest things to have, but you have to learn that slowly! And I was...and am... still learning!)
Next we come to the greatest "free" treasure anyone ever had, Sunny!
This is SANCTUM'S Time to Shine, CD, TDI, TT, CGC, or Sunny. Ed went out one morning to walk three dogs, and came home with four. Sunny was a mixed-breed. She was about three months old, and she had probably been thrown out of a car. She had four kinds of worms, two kinds of mange, and was in an advanced state of starvation when we found her. We cancelled our vacation, took her home and to the vet's office, and took care of her until she was well. She turned out to be the best investment we ever made! (And it was an investment...her vet bills cost a small fortune!) She was the kindest, sweetest dog I've ever met, no exceptions! She passed every test we ever threw at her, and she passed each one of them very well. She was a good, kind soul who never met anyone she didn't like. She did therapy work until two days before she died of cancer, which we never knew she had until she fell down with the symptoms. We loved you, Sunny, and we always will. I hope to see you again. Stick with Daisy, and we'll see you all again!
We went back to Sue and Alpha Kennels supplied us with our greatest treasure ever (so far, anyway), Gracie:
This is Gracie, or rather, Ch. Alpha's Say Goodnight Gracie, CD, TDI, TT, CGC, SAR, ACE, VNE. Yes, I finally had my champion! It took a lot of years, but she did it for me. She started out with about 4 points, and she stopped winning, so I stopped showing her. I found many other things that we could do with her and it was more fun than not winning, but I showed a picture of her to a friend who felt that she could "finish" her, so I said if she could I'd be glad to get her to the shows, but she had to do the showing. She agreed, and when we could find time around her search & rescue training, she showed her to a championship! I was very proud of her, but she had found her true calling a few years before. She had become a search & rescue dog (that's the "SAR" after her name).
After viewing a news program that had an article about a lady that was recruiting a new team for search & rescue work, I suggested to Ed that he take Gracie and try out for the team. Gracie had shown an aptitude for "nose work" around the house. She was always looking for things and sniffing them out, and he was interested. He hadn't shown much interest in doing "doggie" things, but this caught his interest, and he took her to the meeting place. They weren't really encouraging, as they hadn't had much experience with training elkhounds in scent work, but they were very kind to let her try out for the team anyway. Ed had no experience with showing dogs, so he took her to the try-out on a leash with a flat collar, not a training collar. That's all he had, just a leash and a flat collar. But Gracie was the only dog that made the team that day! They did simple obedience (she had the training, just not the title yet), gave her a try-out at scent work, and being an elkhound with an elkhound's nose, she did great at that, and they chose her to be on the team!
Two weeks after making the team, she had her first call-out! It was the flood of '97 and she was called to Falmouth, Kentucky to search through some flooded areas for possible suvivors and victims. She found two victims (one that they didn't locate immediately because my husband was a brand new handler and couldn't read her signs yet, but they found him where she had indicated he was, after Ed and Gracie left the area) and a pet cat. Not bad for her first outing! And this was before she had any any training! Over the next few months, she got the training and she became an excellent search dog. And Ed bacame an excellent dog handler, too! As with anything, it takes experience to learn, and that was what they were both getting, experience. He had finally found something that he was interested in! And he dove in and learned all he could. And that was a lot!
Anyway, Gracie learned search work, and Kathleen managed to get her to enough shows to finish her. Her last two shows were back-to-back 5-point majors at the Louisville Kennel Club cluster of shows in the spring.
She looked great, didn't she? No wonder the judges picked her over the large group of competition she had. They were 5-point majors, after all! (That's Karen Hamilton showing her here.) She went Best of Winners as well! But after her championship wins, she was back to search & rescue training. But wait! I wanted to get her out to obedience shows as well. We had to have that CD after her name, after all. I could only get to a single cluster of shows on the same weekend, because most of her time was taken by the S&R training. But I found the cluster, and I took her. I figured it would go very fast because of all the training she had (she went to obedience training every week at Kuliga and with a friend from Kuliga who was teaching his own classes at a local pet food store. She was working at about a 195 level. Joel was an obedience intructor and a judge who could give a fairly good approximation of what to expect at a show. So we went to our shows.
To say it was terrible was putting it mildly. She did qualify, but barely. She even had a couple of scores in the 170s! (You have to score at least 170 to qualify. Her high score was 192, but next highest was 187. She was not on, to say the least.) Years later, I think we have discovered what she was doing. I hadn't been in show ring for years, and I was kind of unsure of myself. Gracie read that through the leash. She was trying to put me at ease! She was even walking backwards in the ring. She was in heel position, but backwards! She'd lag, she'd make faces, she'd make up to the judge, she did every thing except fail an exercise. She made sure she did everything correctly, mostly! We got the CD, she qualified at all four shows. But geez. She just barely qualified. But qualify she did, and we had the CD after her name. And we did it all in a single weekend. We had earned my first "director's award." Whew! That was done...at last!
But what was next for our Gracie? Well, I knew what I needed her to do for me. I needed a service dog. Wait a minute. You mean I haven't told you yet that I have MS? Well, I do, and I needed some of Gracie's skills now. I started training her for service work. I thought it would take about a year or two. It took only three months! Gracie was gifted, she really was. After I had her certified, I took her to Disney World. What better place to get her accustomed to about anything she would ever run into? She was great with all the people, the rides, the parades, the shows, the gatherings, the costumed characters (her scent work with S&R took care of that I'm sure!). Let me show you how well she did:
That's my Gracie, getting acquainted with Chip, with her mama sitting proudly behind. That's pretty good, as far as I'm concerned! She looks happy getting hugged by the Chipster! And Chip looked pretty happy as well.
Well, Gracie has pretty much done her part as search & rescue dog, as a therapy dog, as an obedience dog, as a Champion, as a temperament tested dog, as a service dog, as a friend, and as a wonderful dog! She's the pinnacle of our training program, and of Sue's breeding program. But hey, we're not done yet, not by a "fur" piece!
We were also the recipients of Alpha's XXs and OOs:
We adopted Zöe after she had hurt her rear legs jumping on the fence and Sue needed to place her somewhere that she could get away from the fence. After taking her in, Ed decided that he wasn't going to part with her, and Sue decided that she didn't need to come back; she had a good enough home. She was relinquished to us on a contract that she was to be shown, and she was shown through 4 points, until she developed an eye problem. We had to have her spayed, but we kept training her. She never liked having her picture taken, and she left the staging area for this one as soon as the photographer's photo had snapped. But she was corralled soon after taking off. She was doing pretty well, and although we kind of got taken up with all of Gracie's training, Zöe became quite the S&R dog herself. Her only problem was that she was very noise-sensitive. However, she earned her MT-3 and her MT-2 titles. It was hunting season during the test for her MT-1, and the gunshots spoiled the test, but she went through it anyway, and finished by finding her person. She would have passed, but the gunshot went off as the test began and spoiled it. She finished it by passing it with flying colors, but not until the gunshot mucked it up. She was always our best tracker though! And she was also an accomplished therapy dog! She was quite the accomplished girl, and we'll always love her.
Which brings me to Bisbee. I finally went to Vin-Melca kennels in search of another champion. I managed to get one of Marketta's two sons. (You know who Marketta is. She won the Hound group at Westminster two years in a row...) One son went on to become a heavily titled champion. Bisbee was gorgeous, and could have done the same thing, but he was a bit too high on himself. He had to undergo some training to learn that he didn't run the household; he was a member of the household, not the master. That kind of short circuited his show career. He passed his temperament test, but he did not become a therapy dog. His early temperament problems saw to that. He worked the first year or so, and he worked really well, but the problems he had did not resolve themselves very quickly, so he discontinued Therapy work. He did great at learning search work, but he never did very well at wanting to search. Some days he wanted to do it, some days he didn't. And that doesn't work for search dogs. Anyway, here he is:
See? Vin-Melca's Hit the Mark, TT, is gorgeous, but he had to be neutered and trained early, and by then it was too late to finish a title on him. He finally settled down into a good boy with a TT after his name, but he was always my boy and nothing more than that. Which was more than enough! He was my watch dog around the house. He always made me feel safe wth him at home! He was a "dam fine boy," and I was very happy with him. I couldn't have asked for a better pal. Thanks, Pat, for giving me this excellent fella.
It's about half-way through 2008, and I'm sorry to report that Bisbee has lost his battle with his kidneys. He passed away at the emergency vet's office at the beginning of this year. Rest well, Biz. We miss you. You were a good boy. Thanks for all you did for me.
And last, but definitely not least, is our final Norwegian elkhound (so far), Alpha's Heavenly Days, TDI, SAR:
She's a beauty, and she's now my service dog since Gracie sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of 13. 9 years old. (She was almost 14, but she didn't quite make it. But she went two days after her last trip to Disney World, where she saw friends for the last time and got to go on her favorite ride, "it's a small world," one last time!) Daisy still has many things to learn, but she's learned everything she needs so far. She's also a fine search dog and she works well in therapy too. But she's happiest as a service dog, I think. She stays by my side at doctor's visits, she's not afraid of the doctor's visits or the needles or other instruments she brings out. She's even there during my IV Solu-Medrol treatments. She seems to know that I don't like the IV part of it, and she stays right by me. She doesn't show any fear of anything any doctor has done for me (or to me) so far. As long as I'm there and am telling her everything's okay, she's willing to take my word for it. (She'll learn!) The doctors are all okay with her being there (so far, anyway!). So at least she's staying out of the way; that's great! Most dogs are really curious, and tend to stick their noses in the wrong places trying to see what's going on.
She's learning to be an excellent service dog. As she does it longer, she's gaining confidence, and she's better with every trip to Disney World. It's hard getting used to a different service dog...you learn to trust each other very much and it's hard transferring that trust to another dog, but it can happen, and it is happening. Daisy's a superior friend and an excellent service dog, and I'm very proud to call her my friend.
So that's the story of SANCTUM Educated Elkhounds, et al. It's a long story, it's not always a happy story, but it's my story, and I'm happy with it. We've had a lot of great dogs, and we'll have even more if I have anything to do with it!
Well, I'm happy to report that since Sue's retired from breeding her beloved elkhounds, we've located another breeder, and we've got another puppy planned for the beginning of 2009! He'll be called Elvbend's Too Hot to Hoot. The radio show is Riders Radio Theater. I just love Too Slim, and Palindrome is one of his favorite routines. We'll call him Bob. (Yes, even his call name is another palindrome.) We have great hopes for Bob. Keep your fingers crossed. I'm hoping that he'll be my next service dog at least. Maybe we'll even have a champion obedience dog that's also a super SAR dog, whatcha think?
Well, "Bob's" been born now. He was born on December 12. He's gonna be a cutie, I already know that! His breeder is Amy Peterson, and she's been super at sending me puppy pictures. I've already got his scrapbook started! It's got four pictures in it already! I'll keep you updated as the news develops. He'll be here around the middle of March. I'll see you then!
Well, March has come and gone again, and Bob has been up to a lot! He's been to his first AKC show now, and he's got 3 points! At his very first show, he took a 3-point major! Yay, Bob! I'll let you know how he does as he gets to the other shows! That's all for now, but I'll be back with more good news fairly soon! See ya then!
Well, Bob's been to a lot of shows, but he's not doing that well. He loves tracking live people (he passed both of his tracking tests at the age of 9 months!), but the other stuff he just doesn't care much about doing it, so he doesn't. Oh, well. We'll see how he does when he gets a little older. His dad's going to take him to Disney World this May, and he's got a couple of tracking seminars to go to as well. I think he's going to have plenty to do to keep him busy 'til he gets more into a "showing is okay" kind of attitude! Stay tuned, I'm sure there'll be lots more to tell you!
Well, time has passed (almost 3 years), Bob's growing up and doing VERY well, and we're thinking about getting another puppy from Amy and Jody. She'll probably be called Elvbend's Yodeling Cowgirl with a call-name of Jessi(e) (Ed wants to name her Jessie, I prefer Jessi. We'll see what her name ends up being. Either way, with a breeder like Amy and a mother like Ada, she's going to be a great girl!)
Well, MORE time has passed. Bob's about 3.5 years old now, he's become a CHAMPION, and we've gotten him a little girl! Her name is April. She's only 8 weeks old as we speak. She'll become a show dog when she's 6 months old, but she's got lots of stuff to learn until then. Bob's doing a great job as a big brother. He's playing with her lots, and he's teaching her plenty so far. He's about 5 times bigger than she is, but he's maintaining himself very well. He's not stepping on her or squishing her or anything. She's from Kathy Hamilton. Amy's had lots of bad luck recently with her litters, so we had to go to Kathy to get April. Bob was getting desperate; I'm sure he thought he was going to be an only child forever, but he seems taken with little April, as we are. Good luck, April. You'll do great in the show ring and as a service dog for your Mom, I'm sure!
Here's your first look at April. Adorable, isn't she?
And here's June! She's a little younger than April, but she's really cute too!
Well, April has earned her first title. She's now Ch. Foxboro My Little Chickadee. That's about all I can do for her now, but she is in training as a search dog and as my service dog as well. I'll let you know how she does with that! June's got a little training to do before she can become a champion or a search dog or a service dog. She's physically developing a little slower than April did, but she's going to be just fine. She's started her show career already, and she has a few major reserves to April's wins. When she gets passed her puppy phase, she's going to be gorgeous too. Here's a few pictures April had made of her major wins: