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A record of our first whippet litter, whelped June 24, 2000
When my daughter and I got our first whippet in 1992, I'd been showing and breeding collies on a small scale for nearly 20 years. I hadn't always been active in the show ring--I took two breaks for having children—and bred very few litters. But I'd whelped and raised a number of pups for my collie mentor, Anne Cross of Shadowmont Collies, and I stayed in touch with the dog world, even during my "sabbaticals."
My daughter and I had been showing collies very actively during the late '80s and early '90s. She was much better at it than I was and often helped people show other breeds. One day she announced that she wanted her own breed. "No matter how long I have collies, you will have always had them longer," she explained, with indisputable 14-year-old logic. I didn't exactly agree to the addition of another breed, but she began the Great Breed Search.
Every weekend on the way home from dog shows, she pored over the show catalogs. In the back of each one is a list of all AKC-recognized breeds. She crossed through the ones she knew she didn't like and the ones she knew for sure I wouldn't approve. Weekdays, after school, she spent afternoons in her room studying books about the breeds remaining on her list. At the dog shows, she would disappear for hours and I'd find her talking to the owners of various breeds. I didn't pay a lot of attention to what she was doing. After all, she tended to get pretty obsessive about things for awhile and then go on to something else. I also think I was in denial. I really couldn't imagine owning any dog other than a collie.
One day she announced her decision: She wanted a whippet. "A whippet?? For heaven's sake, dear, they are skinny and have no hair to speak of and they have their tails tucked all the time! I'd be forever trying to feed it and make it happy!" She just smiled. "But they're very sweet, Mom." I doubted that. They didn't look sweet to me. They looked, well, aloof. I figured that was the end of the matter.
Then I went out of town on a business trip. Her father took her to a dog show while I was gone, and I came home to find a skinny little white dog with big reproachful eyes curled up on our sofa. Sporting Fields Hamlet had arrived. She had effectively talked Jan Swayze, of Longlesson Whippets in Atlanta, out of him. I'll never know how she accomplished that.
Hamlet taught us about showing whippets, introduced us to the whippet fancy, and, although he never finished his championship, they eventually became a very successful Junior Showmanship team. More importantly, he won my heart.
Fast forward over the next few years: her father and I divorced (Nothing to do with that whole Hamlet thing. I'd forgiven him that.) and my daughter got married. She has a wonderful husband and lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with Sporting Fields Airborne (Alexis). Alexis, incidentally, arrived one year after Hamlet. It's true that you can't have just one.
I moved to Lexington, Virginia, in 1998 to marry Walt, whom I'd met on a dog email list a couple of years after my divorce. Smartest thing I ever did...Walt is as devoted to dogs as I am and knows a great deal about genetics and breeding issues. We think that between us, we "get it right" at least most of the time.
Though Walt and I will both always love collies, our last senior died in the summer of 2004, and I'm afraid the whippets have taken over. Old Hamlet with the reproachful eyes lived with Daughter and Alexis until summer of 2003, and then he came to Virginia to live with Walt and me. He's still reproachful, a bit grumpy and a little arthritic (Hamlet, not Walt), but still as much a snugglewhip as ever and we're delighted to have him gracing our sofa for as long as he can.
Though I've never met a whippet I couldn't love, they don't all need to be bred. Walt and I didn't breed our first litter till 2000. It took us that long to acquire whippets that we honestly felt had something to contribute to the breed's future. On the following pages is a chronicle of the Litter 2000 experience.
By the way, I was right. I do spend most of my time feeding the whippets and making them happy.