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Living the Dream – Interview with Gavin & Sara Robertson

226 – April, 2013

By Fran Reisman of Santa Barbara, CA

FR: I have known you both a long time and I’m thrilled for you. I’ve seen you behind the scenes, at the kennel, working very hard. Winning BIS at Crufts couldn’t happen to two more deserving people. I would like you to answer a few questions so that people in the States and around the world get a better look at who you are.

You both started in dogs at very young ages. Were your families involved in our sport?

Gavin: My parents had a GSD and a pet Beagle. I was about 8 when we got our first show beagle, and I then began doing junior handling.

Sara: We got our first show dog when I was 7 which was a Rough Collie. My dad first started to show her, then someone suggested to let me have a go. I don’t think he ever showed again.

FR: What breeds did you both start out with?

Gavin: Beagles mainly but we got our first PBGV in 1984.

Sara: Rough Collies, then at 13 I got my first Smooth Collie.

FR: Who were your mentors ?

Gavin: I had a few but Marion Spavin of the famous Dialynne Beagles gave me sound advice as did Andrew Brace and Marita Rodgers. Marita taught me how to trim.

Sara: Whilst having Smooth Collies there was only one person, Pat Lister of Newarp Smooth Collies; then when I started showing Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, it was Julie Moyes.

FR: Are you still breeding other breeds or have the PBGVs taken over the kennel?

G&S: We do also have Basset Fauves which we enjoy very much. Similar to the PBGVs, less work on the coat! And I still try to breed a top Miniature Schnauzer!!!

FR: Why PBGVs?

G&S: They are just such a fun breed with so much character. They have gotten completely under my skin. I have been to all corners of the globe to see kennels and certain dogs. Ken Sinclair from the famous Araki Tibetan Terrier kennel persuaded me to concentrate on them more than the Beagles and we have never looked back…really.

FR: You won the group at Crufts 2 years ago. Was that with Jilly?

G&S: Yes. Jilly was attending her 5th ever show when she won her 2nd CC with BOB and then the Hound Group followed by RBIS at the age of 17 months, one of the youngest dogs ever to do that. It’s something we will never forget, it was such a shock. Since then she hasn’t looked back!.

She then went on to be top hound in 2011. She was Group 2 at Crufts and top dog all breeds in 2012, and the top winning PBGV of all time in the UK.

FR: What do you think makes Jilly a “great one”?

G&S: Personally, I think she is beautiful breed type throughout. I love her size, balance and construction, but where she excels above any other PBGV we have had is her style and showmanship. She never let’s you down on the move and has that essential busy, active movement that depicts the true PBGV type.

FR: How many shows was she shown at this past year? For US readers, it probably won’t sound like very many. When Afterglow Woody Woodpecker was in the States, he must have gone to at least 2-3 times as many shows during the year he was up for Top Hound.

G&S: Our system is quite different to the US as we’re a smaller country so there is only 1 show on at any one time, so all top dogs compete against each other on a weekly basis. Jilly last year went to every show except 3, so around 24. They are mainly 3 day shows with an average of 9,000 dogs per show

FR: Would you send a dog to the U.S. again?

G&S: Yes for sure, but we have learned that you need a special type of dog to cope with the travel and amount of shows needed to be a #1 dog or hound. When we sent Woody Woodpecker, he had the correct attitude (and was top hound in the US in 2005!!!)

Ch. Soletrader Donald Duck was a great dog and we personally felt he was extremely unlucky not to have won more top honors. Bill McFadden piloted him to many of his wins and he could cope with weekly shows easily.

Janice Hayes has handled most of our Soletrader dogs in the US for Donna Moore. She is excellent with them and can do the coats well. She took GCh. Soletrader Maggie May to Group 3 at Westminster this year.

Donald now actually lives with Janice which is great; she is keen to be a breeder as well as a handler which is fantastic.

FR: Winning Crufts is thought of as the culmination of a career. You are both very young. Where are you going from here? What are your plans? Gavin, you already judge. What about you, Sara?

G&S: We are both breeders first and foremost, and there is always goals and challenges to be achieved. We have been fortunate to have won the PBGV Nationals 4 times and BOB twice at the Garden. We would love to breed a Westminster group or BIS winner, (but so would most breeders!)

I like many breeds so would never rule out a new challenge in a new breed for us.

We’re coming to Montgomery for the first time this year which will be fun! Maybe I should bring an empty crate?

I really enjoy my judging but would hate for anyone down the years to think that I had not achieved anything in the ring and was just a judge with no background. So I am always keen to produce another star. When I finally hang up my show lead, I would like to think people respected that we bred some quality dogs over the years. We have owned or bred nearly 50 UK champions so far.

I currently judge Hounds and some Sporting and Non-Sporting dogs. It’s a long slow process in the UK but I do enjoy judging, as well as judges education. I only want to judge the breeds I have an interest in so I will never be all breed.

Sara would like to get approved for PBGVs but has no great desire to judge. She loves to show and watch ringside. (it’s a shame as she is a good judge and has an excellent eye for dogs- gr)

FR: Just for fun… where did you two meet? Did you have any idea that one day, not too far down the line, you’d win BIS at Crufts. Was that a dream?

Gavin: We both knew of each other whilst juniors and in our early 20s, I used to think she was posh and too stuck up to speak to me!! But we actually met and got together at a Labrador friend’s birthday party. Now we’ve been together 12 years! (And she isn’t that stuck up now!!!)

We are both competitive and it’s been every man for themselves on occasions when we are in together. Sara is a better handler than me as she is better at baited breeds! But for sure Crufts was high on the wish list for us both.

FR: Do your kids (Sara & Gavin have 2 children – a boy and a girl) ever come to the shows? I know Erin is too young, but does Oliver show signs of wanting to handle the dogs?

G&S: Oliver comes occasionally but with him now being at school it’s a little more difficult. Both of the children love the dogs and they both try and show/train the pups. The one thing with Petits is that they are very full of themselves so can prove to be difficult for someone of 6 to handle; maybe he needs a new breed! He fancies a chihuahua!

FR: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer. I congratulate you again and wish you both many more years having fun in the sport of dogs. And darn, I wish I had been there!!!

Gavin: It really is a dream come true for us both, we thought about it many times and never imagined it would come true. We are truly overwhelmed by the cards, emails, Facebook messages and phone calls since BIS. It was the perfect way for Jilly to retire. Now we look forward to bringing out a Jilly baby in the next 12 months!

Francine Reisman

Santa Barbara, CA

Short URL: http://caninechronicle.com/?p=22088

Posted by on May 17 2013. Filed under Current Articles, In The Spotlight. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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