Article for Clumber Correspondence written in 1999
A TWENTY YEAR SEARCH FOR MY CLUMBER
By Tracey Garvey
1998 marked a significant milestone in my life. It was twenty years since the search for my clumber began and it was the year that I found her.
I have always lived with dogs in Sydney. There has never been a year when I was without one. Our Labrador, Sandy, was my “nanny” after I was born.. There followed over the years many miniature poodles, a border collie, Bedlington terrier, foxhound, fox terrier, Maltese and in 1969 the greatest of them all, my Old English Sheepdog male, “Fred”.
I was 18 when Fred arrived. I was a professional dog groomer and show handler for a few years while studying Science at University during the evening. Dogs were and still are, my world. There were very few OES in Sydney in those days, let alone in Australia. I showed Fred very successfully to his championship, taking many group and show awards along the way. I also successfully entered Fred in many CD trials. Fred was the star of TV and newspaper commercials as well as being on the wrapper of our leading tinned food manufacturer Pal. In 1972 I started the first Old English Sheepdog Club in Australia. That year I was publicity officer and published our monthly journal, “Bobtales”. The breed grew and in 1992 at our Championship Show to celebrate two decades, we had an entry of over 220 exhibits!
In 1976 I married John and we went to live in Oxford, England for 5 years so that John could continue his medical studies at Balliol College. I left Fred at home with Mum and went on a quest for a foundation OES bitch to eventually bring home to Sydney.
I had no idea that this quest would take four long years. I wanted the best and I was not prepared to rush. I did my homework, visited many dog shows, including Crufts each year and talked to many breeders. I was really very “one eyed” about my beloved Old English .
It was February, 1978 when John and I arrived early on the second day of Crufts so we could watch the OES exhibitors prepare their dogs for the ring and hopefully learn a few tricks of the trade. Anyone who has been to Crufts (this one was in London, not Birmingham) would understand the huge crowds. I remember rushing through the mad throng of people in search of our breed ring when out of the corner of my eye a white flash appeared. I stopped dead in my tracks not knowing why, and looked back to see what it was. A strange heavy white dog with lemon/orange ears and a freckled nose was standing near the entrance of its breed ring ready to be judged. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life. There were, of course, many others Clumbers around but I just couldn’t take my eyes off this one dog. The owner gaited him into the ring amongst several other contenders. To my joy that dog won his class and later took Best of Breed. I went up to his lady handler and asked what breed he was.
That was my first introduction to the Clumber Spaniel. I remember wishing I could buy this dog but on asking was told he was already sold to Australia and was going to Newcastle, just 1 hours drive north of Sydney. I couldn’t believe it. This dog was EngSh Burtonswood Best Beam (English Clumber of the year in 1977) who later gained his Australian Championship but to my knowledge never left any progeny. (What a waste-if only I had bought him instead!) After these few moments of ecstasy we were of course late for the OES judging but I thought at the time, that since he was going to Australia, I would make contact upon my return. Regrettably, we never had time to catch up on the other Clumbers that day.
After 4 years of going to shows and talking to breeders I decided upon my line and in 1980 brought back Pockethall Silver Slippers (imp UK) to Australia. “Daisey” became my foundation bitch and she had three beautiful litters for my “Painswick” kennels. Painswick is a beautiful Old English picture postcard town in the Cotswolds in England where, long ago the OES used to work.
Of course, on my return I immediately sought out Best Beam but had no success. I read all the litter notifications in our Canine Journal each month with hope. I kept a vigil out for any Clumber entries at every show I attended, including our big Royal shows. Occasionally there would be one or two Clumbers entered at the Sydney Royal, but they were from interstate and usually never turned up until one Royal Easter Show in the late 80’s. Two bitches from interstate were entered but they were not the type of Clumber I was after. ( I really took no notice of their kennel names at the time). I decided to contact our Canine authority but they were no help either. I therefore had to conclude that there were no Clumbers of quality in Australia and so I would have to import one some day. Meanwhile, my daughter and son were born and together with my full time work as a Biochemist, my OES breed shows and general hustle and bustle of life I put my Clumber dream on hold.
In 1997 I was doing some research at our local library when I hurriedly brushed past some books and one fell onto the floor. I knelt to pick it up and nearly fell backwards when I read the cover, “Clumber Spaniel-Australasian Handbook “ by Jan Irving. Could this really be true, Clumbers in Australia? My heart was racing when I sat and read it through from cover to cover. I looked at the inside jacket and was not surprised that, although acquired in 1987, no one had ever borrowed the book. Therefore I pleaded with the librarian to purchase the book but alas a curt refusal followed. I borrowed the book twice over the next few months. How could I trace Jan? The book was written 10 years ago! There was an address in the front jacket - Upper Beaconsfield- where was that? I decided to bite the bullet and try to find this mysterious person by telephone. Thanks to a friendly telephone operator, Jan’s number was located in the State of Victoria. I dialled the number and I was actually talking to the author!
Jan was terrific. She was very sympathetic to my story, understood my plight and immediately put me on her books. A lovely letter arrived a few months later with three litter notifications and photos. I was ecstatic when Jan offered me a show bitch. Jan thought one from the alphabetically sequenced “I” litter would suit me, so I flew down to Melbourne in March 1998 to select my Clumber. With Jan’s great directions I arrived in a rented Tarago. A very large farm house with huge, rolling paddocks greeted me. Jan and her Mum were standing outside the front porch to welcome this stranger who would shortly take one of their precious Clumbers back to Sydney to start her new life.
Nothing would prepare me for what I saw next. Jan showed me through the back garden and down to the kennels. There before me were countless Clumbers- the most magnificent sight I have ever seen. Not only did I meet the litter mates but also mum and dad, CH Erinveine Union Jack and CH Erinveine Zephyr Rose, together with more than twenty others. I was also introduced to Jan’s newly acquired import, Clussexx Life Down Under who seemed quite at home in his huge run with many other clumbers to play with. He was a real sweetie and later that afternoon, while we were having lunch, his first Australian pup was born.
I became the very proud owner of Erinveine Imperial Rose, aged 5 1/2 months. I called her “Honey”- the name came to me suddenly as I was driving back to the airport. I remember looking out from the airport lounge and making sure she was loaded onto my plane before I took my seat. “Honey” had been carefully lead and car trained by Jan and fortunately seemed unfazed by the trip. I was so excited when I brought her home. Honey was a little nervous at first but when I introduced her to my two Old English, she thought all her Christmas’s had come at once and she rolled and played for hours with them.
Today I have only one Old English, Chelsea, a grand daughter of my import, Daisey. Chelsea is six and I am about to get her desexed as I have not succeeded in finding a suitable stud dog to compliment her lines. (I never breed a litter unless I want a pup myself). My last Champion OES was Ch Painswick Call Me George who was humanly put to sleep in October 1998, aged 12 years. Honey and Chelsea are inseparable and the best of mates - they sleep on the same bed although they have one each. Oh, I forgot Calico, our Persian chinchilla, whom Honey adores and gives lots of licks to each morning and our other cat, Perdue, a black and white long hair. Often I see Honey and Calico Cat asleep peacefully together on the back door mat.
My twenty year search has ended and I am now totally contented with my beautiful family and looking forward to another dream - that of breeding a great Clumber male from Honey to help carry on the Clumber dynasty down under.
CH Erinveine Imperial Rose, “Honey” achieved her title of Australian Champion at just 2 years of age. Honey has been given the great honour of appearing on the cover of The Kennel Control Journal in Australia for the month of September 2000. This is the second time a Clumber has been given this honour. This all breeds magazine is the reference journal for dog shows and includes such things as upcoming shows, results, championships, obedience, tracking, breed articles, breeders directory and litter notifications.