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She stopped, turned around, and smiled so big I could feel it all way through me. I introduced my young daughter and we talked about Collies. She told me she hadn't bred any litters for several years and I asked why. She had no answer for me, but I knew: Jackie was losing interest in life.
Well, that wasn't going to happen. Not if I had anything to do with it. If there's one thing I know, it's how dreams keep us alive. It didn't matter to me that big Victorian house in Manheim was now crumbling; that flowers shared their beds with weeds; that classy sign in front of property had long since fallen down. These things could be fixed up. And over next ten or fifteen years, Jackie and I planned a new life for Lochranza Kennels.
By this time, Jackie was retired and could spend all her time on Kennel. She did, in fact, become an heiress at this point and delighted in carrying $20,000 certificates of deposit in her purse, knowing she could buy anything she really wanted to. What she wanted was best Collies in Breed and she knew she would have to create them. Collies were losing type, she decided. They didn't move like they used to. Their muzzles were becoming too pointed; necks were short. There were a few scattered around country that still pleased her. And there was one in particular. If we could only send our best females to him for breeding, Lochranza would have kind of puppies she wanted. But, Jackie didn't trust sending her dogs away to be bred.
News that she had bought one of most valuable show dogs in Breed at height of his career made headlines in international Collie community. The arrival of Ch. Amberlyn's Bright Tribute (A noble Mahogany Sable known simply as "Kane") from Alaska sent shivers through her competing kennels in Eastern United States. She didn't stop there. Driven by a bigger picture, she searched whole country and bought mates for Kane as well. I didn't realize it at time, but she was selecting dogs for me, and they were final foundation stock on which to build Lochranza breeding program.
One afternoon, I received a call from "Glamorous sister." Could I hurry to Jackie's house and see if she was all right? She had been taken ill day before and refused to stay at hospital. "The dogs need me." The ambulance crew drove her home, sat her in her favorite chair, and left. I found Jackie in that same chair next afternoon, still alive, and begged her to let me call ambulance again. Only when I promised I would take care of Collies did she allow me to make that call. She never returned home again.
Before she died, Jackie left kennel to me and told me how to manage breeding program. It isn't often that a kennel lives on into a second generation in this way, but American Kennel Club worked with me to transfer ownership and continue Jackie's labor of love. I took Kane to her funeral and his image is carved on her grave stone. The marker says, "Famed Collie Breeder."
Today, all Lochranza Collies are related to Kane. Some trace to him as many as ten and twelve times within a six or seven generation pedigree. What are we finding? First of all, you must realize that all of our original breeding stock was tested for health before we started line breeding program. So, health of Lochranza Collies has been maintained. Yet, I can say that our pups today are better in some respects than original stock.
This past weekend, we showed two littermates that are ten times Kane. They are among heaviest-boned Collies you will ever see. And huge coats! They move free and easy. The judge, a woman in her sixties, said she hasn't seen Collies like this in many years.
"Did you hear that, Jackie?" I want to ask. The chills running up and down my arms tell me she did.
Ron Hevener Lochranza Kennels 1338 Mountain Road Manheim, Pennsylvania 17545
Phone: 717.664.5089 Fax: 717.665.4651 Email: Hevener@dejazzd.com Website: www.ronhevener.com
Mr. Hevener is author of "The Blue Ribbon" (Pennywood Press) which can be ordered through Barnes & Noble bookstores everywhere.
Author/Artist RON HEVENER specializes in animal sports and entertainment. An accomplished artist, Hevener figurines and prints from his novels are bought and traded throughout the world. Mr. Hevener is currently on tour, speaking at bookstores, libraries, theaters, schools, gift stores, pet stores, dog shows, art shows and horse shows throughout the country.