I want to first take the opportunity to thank the Pom Reader and Jeff Meyer for originally asking me to do this feature; and Randy Houston, for saying, “Yes, of course I still want you to do it!” But, most of all, I need to thank my husband, Steve, who is always there for me, whether it be kennel construction, pom-proofing a yard, making our home-made dog food, financial backing, or just plain tolerance of me and my furry obsession!
I live just outside of the Tri-Cities, WA which is located in the south-eastern part of the state. It is NOT green and lush here, as most would picture Washington state, but a desert climate, with a lot of sage brush, tumble weeds, and yes, a few rattle snakes! A couple of months ago, we sold our home within the city limits, and bought acreage in the county. All of this because? We needed a place where I could continue to develop an honorable breeding program, and not disturb neighbors or exceed our “4 dog limit.”
So here we sit, on 2 ½ acres of dirt, with the only grass being in the Pom yard. You know the Poms always seem to come first! Needless to say, it’s going to take some time to make our new home look like the beautiful desert oasis that I hope for it to be.
Before diving into my favorite subject (Poms), I’ll describe just a bit of the journey that brought me to this point. I was raised in Washington State, and continued to live here until I joined the US Air Force in l980. I was stationed in Texas, California and Colorado, during my eight years of service. I loved my time in the military, but when they told me I needed to go overseas for 18 months, without my small children, kids won over career. I left military service in 1988. The Air Force had actually managed to transform me into a teacher in the Electronics field, and I continued in the civilian sector with that for almost 16 years.
Steve and I moved to California in 2000. I decided that I was tired of the male dominated field of electronics, and got a Cosmetology license. Guess what I ended up doing?!! Teaching, again! I couldn’t seem to get away from it. I thought men were challenging! You should try motivating and controlling a room full of teenage girls! Teacher burnout was inevitable, and I then proclaimed, “Early retirement, yeah, that’s the ticket.” Steve knew me better than that, and said, “Won’t you be bored?” I said, “I want to get a couple of Pomeranians and become a breeder…..it will be great honey, I’ll make some money while I’m at it!”
OK, be honest….how many of you had a similar conversation with your significant other when this idea of breeding first entered your head. Ignorance is bliss? Well, not exactly. So I started searching out a “nice female” that came with breeding rights….yeah, right! After weeks of searching on the internet, loads of e-mails, loads of phone calls, I got exactly no where! I told my husband, “These people are snobs! No one will sell me a dog that I can breed!”
I finally stumbled upon several kind breeders that took the time to mentor and share. They explained pedigrees, the Pomeranian standard, and planted that first seed of showing in conformation. The bug bit me!
Now, I’m quite the perfectionist…some would call me anal, but I prefer “perfectionist.” Of course, we all know that every Pomeranian is perfect. We all know that every Pom breeder interprets the standard in the exact same way! So, in the beginning, I couldn’t understand why every “show prospect” I purchased didn’t miraculously turn into the perfect show dog. Unfortunately, several of these prospects ended up making very beautiful pets for deserving homes. Frustration began to set in…
A mentor told me, “Vicky, it’s just about impossible to ‘buy’ a show dog. You’re going to have to make one!”
My response was, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a Sow’s ear!”
told me “breed your bitches to the nicest stud you can afford.
That’s the best advice I can give you right now.”
I said, “What would you charge me?” Well we dickered over that one (especially over whether or not she’d let me use him), and I ended up promising 2nd pick puppy out of the litter.
Two weeks later she saw my brood, Piper, for the first time. She was very quiet. She called me that evening and told me that I needed to “pet that bitch out.”
It was my turn for silence. I said, “But, you promised. How am I ever going to produce better if you don’t let me try?”
Well, Shelley decided to hold up her end of the bargain, and Piper gave me 5 beautiful pups. I kept the girl, RuffRydn’s Jail Bait, aka “Juvi.” Shelley chose “Shaq,” RuffRydn’s Livin’ In Sin at MaiRyms. Juvi is now a gorgeous brood that may very well end up in the ring, and she has already produced a very nice show prospect for me, named “Big.” Shaq is half way to his championship, and has one of his majors. He is a gorgeous, sassy cream package that has made me very proud of my first breeding!
I took Piper to another beautiful champion for her next breeding, Ch Gemini’s Rockn’ One Nite Stand. We were rewarded with 4 gorgeous pale cream pups, two of which were show prospects. RuffRydn’ I’m Your Ice Cream Man, aka “Baskin” will be entering the ring this fall. His sister, RuffRydn’ Cream Ale, “Ailish,” has already taken a 3 pt. major this summer at 10 months of age, going WB and BOW under the expert handling of Lori Solomon of SoMe Poms.
Believe me, I do understand that pedigree and type in a brood is the most consistent way to produce nice “typey” pups.
However, sometimes a champion sired, modest looking brood, like Piper, can be a consistent source of very nice, sound get. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve selected complimentary studs VERY carefully. And I actually prefer a total out-cross in this situation, or an extremely low coefficient of inbreeding.
Piper is just one of the girls in the Ruff Rydn’ stable who has produced nicely for me. I also have several young Champion sired broods that will be making their debut in the whelping box this winter.
My advice to the brand new, whether you are breeder or exhibitor….”Fail fast. If you are constantly looking behind yourself at the dogs that didn’t work out, you’ll miss the new possibilities in your future. Get over it. Move on.”
There will be those dogs that touch your heart…..you want soooo badly for them to be the perfect one! Unfortunately, a fantastic personality and beautiful head can’t stand in the ring alone. You could show this dog thirty or a hundred times, but it ain’t gonna happen! Be honest with yourself. Honor the breed.
So, who really is Vicky Roarke? I’m cynical and sarcastic; I love to laugh, and I’m painfully honest. And you know what’s really funny? My husband says that I’ve turned into a “Pom snob!” No, I’m not… but, I do understand now. You can’t work this hard to get a breeding to take, deliver live pups, get them through weaning, and cross fingers for great type and that next show prospect, to simply hand over for the asking.
One day Steve asked me "So where's all this money we were supposed to be making raising these pups?" My response was "Oh honey, we're not going to make any money. These are show dogs." His response was "Something must have changed when I wasn't looking." I realized in that moment, this was another typical 'Vicky'. I have moved from wanting to raise a few puppies and make a bit of money, to wanting to have an amazing breeding program, producing dogs I can be proud of in the ring. As usual I have discovered that there is a larger more fulfilling goal than to just produce puppies. I have to do my very best; which is the way that it should be, always seeking just a little bit better.
Some of you have held my hand taking me through the baby stuff until it became second nature to me. I have to thank several for the sound advice, mentoring and education. For trusting me, allowing me a shoulder to cry on when my heart is broken, for all of the many other assistances, and just plain good friendship: Trish Inman, Shelley Weimer-Martin, Christy Murphy, Sunny Shawley, Susan Plouff, Celeste Solano, Lori Solomon, Lori Cole, Robin Reiman, and I'm sure I've inadvertently left someone out! You are all so very special to me. I look forward to making many new Pom friends in the future!
One of my favorite quotes comes from Mark Twain. I find it to be profound solid advice: “Work like you don't need the money. Dance like you do when nobody's watching. Love like you've never been hurt.”