Rachel Page Elliott
This year the co-hosting clubs of the National Specialty, Hudson Valley and Long Island, have bestowed a singular honor on one of GRCA's life members. The 54th National Specialty of the Golden Retriever Club of America is to be dedicated to Pagey Elliott. In preparation for the festivities, past president Anne Shannon asked Pagey to share with the membership an autobiographical recounting of her lifetime commitment to the breed and the GRCA.
Dr. Quentin La Ham once introduced Pagey on a lecture tour with the following remarks, "When the history of dogs in the twentieth century is written, the name at the head of the first chapter should be Rachel Page Elliott."
A gracious, gentle woman; a devoted wife and mother; a legend in the breed.
He was a superior hunting retriever, top obedience contender and tracker, and an unparalleled companion with nine points toward his championship when illness took him at the age of seven. But how that brief span of time changed the course of Elliott history! Goldwood Toby entered our lives as an eight-week-old puppy in the fall of 1941 when Goldens were little heard of on the East Coast. He was a surprise gift from my husband, who wanted to fill the emptiness left by the loss of our German Shepherd. Toby not only helped fill the void but laid the foundation for Featherquest Kennel and more than a half-century of adventures in the world of dogs, in research, and in global travels -- and the making of countless friends.
For a bit of bad, I was the youngest of six children in a rather strict New England family who shared their activities and responsibilities with a wide variety of animals. Among the dogs that come to mind were St. Bernards, Cocker Spaniels, terriers, a Collie and a Chow. Cats and horses were always with us, too. The family Shetland pony, after surviving three older sisters, finally fell to my care and was my closest companion during those early years. I knew the name of every horse in town and now and then took it upon myself to upbraid the grocery delivery man for abusing his thin overworked animal. Drawing horses was a favorite pastime and I spent many hours copying the old masters or carving horses out of large cakes of Ivory soap.
We summered in Georgetown, on the cost of Maine, with dogs, cats and usually a pony or two. My father, who was a professor of languages in Cambridge, would come for weekends, traveling by overnight boat from Boston, and always bringing fresh vegetables or the first corn of the season from our garden in Lexington. For a few years my mother ran a summer camp for children and we all helped. She was an authority on herb culture and frequently gave illustrated talks, taking me along to run the slide projector. Her book on herbs was one of the first on this subject to be published in the U.S.
Four years at Radcliffe College, where I began majoring in the field of fine arts but later switched to German literature, fell during the depression of the 1930s. To help defray expenses, I took odd jobs and taught horseback riding at a large summer camp in Connecticut. I don't know how they learned I could play the bugle but that assignment also fell to me. (I'd had good training in the Girl Scout drum corps!) In due time I found myself in camp directing.
Between college and my marriage to Dr. Mark Elliott, whom I was fortunate to meet as his dental patient, I held a position in social work with the Boston Council of Girl Scouts. Here I had the great experience of chaperoning four girls across country in an open Ford for three weeks at a national Girl Scout encampment, where I was assigned the job of trail riding counselor. Most fun I ever had! Back in Boston during this period I found time to further my interest in art by taking a Harvard-sponsored course in sculpture -- just a pleasant hobby.
It was my husband who introduced me to dog shows. He'd swapped a favorite gun for the German Shepherd pup, Tedo of Cosalta, and it wasn't long before I caught the obedience bug. In 1939 I joined the New England Dog Training Club and was well along on the CDX level when Tedo was fatally injured. Another loss, another empty heart -- though a sorrow that was not shared by our postman! So it was not long after when Mark's interest in duck hunting influenced his decision to fill the void with a relatively unknown breed, a Golden Retriever pup from Hank Christian's Goldwood Kennel in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Again, this was a surprise gift for me and a very lucky purchase. Toby descended from strong working Speedwell lines which had been imported into Canada in the late twenties through the efforts of Chris Burton and Bart Armstrong of Gilnockie Kennels. The pup was sired by Ch. Toby of Willow Loch, the first U.S.-bred champion to win Best in Show in the United States. His grandsire, International Ch. Speedwell Pluto, had been the first international winner.
River Road Farm in Carlisle, Massachusetts, was established in 1701. It has been the home to the Featherquest Goldens since hte mid-1940s.
Always know for their warm hospitality and spirited discussions, the Elliott's have been hosts to legions of GRCA members over the years.
Orin Benson, a storyteller without peer, told me how Toby of Willow Loch used to wait patiently outside the town saloon for his owner, who enjoyed a rather notorious reputation with the bottle. On leaving the bar, the owner would call Toby to him and that faithful dog would take him gently by the hand to guide him home. Orin also told me that the sire of this dog, Ch. Rockhaven Rory, was an unusually powerful swimmer and he used him to demonstrate the dog's shoulder action.
We believe Goldwood Toby was the first Golden to hunt the marshes along the coast of Maine, where he stimulated strong interest among the natives of the importance of using retrievers for the conservation of game. Even at the age of one year, Toby amazed the duck hunters with his willingness and ability to retrieve.
Though I loved the training end of field work, sitting in a duck blind was not my favorite sport. I vividly recall a particular dark, cold morning, years later, when we were crossing a channel to reach the blind up the marsh. The tide was rising and my rubber boots were just short of the water's depth. Mark was entrusted with the guns and strong of decoys while his rugged partner, Ray, offered to carry me across. Mark made the other side of the channel safe and dry, but Ray found me heavier than he had figured and dropped me halfway across. No matter. The highlight of the morning was when Toby's son, Tennessee's Jack Daniels, took off after a cripple that had flown out of sight around a point up the marsh. He was gone so long we began to worry. After twenty minutes or more, he reappeared, tired and muddy, carrying the injured bird that would have faced a lingering death had it not been recovered.
Toby would have been proud of his young son, Danny, who took his place by Mark's side in the duck blind. I trained and handled Danny to become the first New England-bred retriever to qualify for Limited All-Age field stakes. I almost didn't attend the trial where he qualified because he'd not been working well in training the week before. I guess we were both totally relaxed and he won handily over forty-four entries. We wish we'd been in a position to keep on in the trials, but with Mark building up his dental practice after the war, a growing family and the struggle to keep up with a mortgage and grocery bills, it just wasn't possible.
To back up in time, World War II took us to Stout Field in Indianapolis where Mark served as base dental surgeon for three years in the Troop Carrier Command. Our year-old daughter and Toby, of course, went with us. There I joined the Indianapolis Obedience Training Club where Toby was the first Golden the members had seen, and in a short time his precise performance and happy attitude won him admiration and many friends. Utility exercises at that time included speaking on command once, twice and three times -- not an easy thing to teach a quiet dog.
It is hard to believe that at that time there were only two Goldens competing in obedience anywhere in the country. Both were top performers but Toby luckily won the distinction of becoming the first to achieve the Utility Dog title. A few years later his son, Featherquest Trigger, became the first UDT, and a little brother, P:ay Dust, became the first of a number of Featherquest show champions.
Toby was particularly adept at scent discrimination, and at special events where he was asked to perform, a special exercise was selecting the letters of his name from twenty-four wooden alphabet blocks. I'd toss the four blocks that I had handled in among the others and he would bring me one after another -- of course, modestly requesting help with the proper order. He would also open a large packing box to gently retrieve a live duck secured for the occasion or bring me raw eggs without breaking them.
When our evangelist landlady in Indianapolis finally consented to our bringing another dog into the house (she was sure I was not going to heaven because I paid so much attention to dogs!), Mark hitched a ride to Minnesota in a C-47 to purchase a bitch puppy from the Bushaway Kennels in Minnetonka. The C-47 had been commissioned to pick up a glider in St. Paul and on this glider Mark returned to Stout Field with Banty's Pluto of Bushaway on his lap. Chip, as we called her, was out of FC Banty of Woodend, the first Golden of her sex to win this title. She was sired by Ch. Goldwood Pluto, quickly earned her CD title, and became a wonderful, productive member of the family.
About this time daughter Betty, now three, had become intrigued with the way our vigilant landlady called everyone "sister," even her cow. Each day as she was milking the patient animal, we could hear "Whoa, sister, whoa , sister." Not long after Chip had her first litter, for which she had an abundant supply of milk, I found her tied to a doorknob and there was Betty busily tugging at her underparts saying "Whoa thithter, whoa thithter." Monkey see, monkey do!
As often happened in the early forties, bench show entries were small. At one event where Toby was a single entry, the judge said as I entered the ring, "I'm sorry Madam, I have already judged Labradors." I corrected him as tactfully as possible.
During the 60's and 70s, Pagey's curiosity about how structure related to movement led to several movies made for breed clubs on the subject. She also embarked on a world-wide lecture tour that was heralded as "second to none."
By the time we moved back to New England at the close of the War, Goldens were gaining a foothold on the East Coast through lines new to me. Imported from England, the appeared to be heavier in bone, squarer headed and lighter in color. I swallowed hard when strangers mistook my beloved dark Toby for an Irish Setter, and a later Golden of ours as a small St. Bernard. But both dogs retrieved ducks equally well so I accepted the differences in type as just another interesting feature of the breed. But then a third dimension crept into the picture -- and the alarm went out. A handsome twenty-seven-inch Golden, light in color, won top honors in a large show, with Best of Opposite Sex falling to a dark twenty-inch female. I overheard a spectator at ringside asking, "Are those dogs the same breed?" I thought she was joking. She was not. Following this incident, an advertisement appeared in a popular dog magazine describing mats large enough for 27-inch dogs. Occupying one of the mats was an enormous, blissfully contented Golden Retriever. About the same time a family of tall, setterish-type Goldens, soundly built and flashy movers, began winning consistently in another part of the country. It was time to bring the sides together and, with the support of a few concerned members, we stirred the Golden Retriever Club into action that resulted in cautionary changes to the breed standard. I was probably the gadfly on the committee so the job was eventually turned over to me as chairman. That was in the late forties and early fifties. Since then the breed standard has undergone even more refinement as the need for education and the awakening of greater intellectual curiosity among judges has become more apparent.
From the beginning we held to our goal of promoting good-looking working Goldens, and shortly after moving to this farm we began holding informal breed matches here as well as field meets. Sled dog races and horse shows were also welcome.
It was our good friend Ted Rehm of Taramar Kennel who invited a group of field enthusiasts from Long Island to come to Carlisle to put on a demonstration -- a fun day. This led to the formation of the Colonial Retriever Field Trial Club, the purpose of which was to conduct training classes and field trials in the interest of using retrievers when hunting for the conservation of game. Mark Elliott was president for the first two years and many of the club activities took place here. To begin with there was a predominance of Goldens but, as time went on, Labradors became prevalent. I'll never forget how, in one of our training classes, the instructor was much put out with a Lab owner who came faithfully but whose dog never seemed to improve in performance. The owner later confessed to me that the trainer never suspected that she brought a different dog every time!
Because of the anti-hunting pressure, Massachusetts was reluctant to pass legislation permitting the holding of shoot-to-kill field trials out of the hunting season. So in the interest of conservation, Mark and I wrote letters to the conservation departments of many different states to collect statistics on game losses based on crippled birds that were never recovered. The figures were staggering and as a result of our study, together with the support of other sporting dog organizations, we pushed the legislation through.
I guess all this was what led to my taking an active role in the GRCA, from about 1948 on, serving on the Board of Directors and, in due course, holding every office but treasurer (heaven forbid!) The New England Golden Retriever Club held its first matches here on the farm, in a disorganized sort of way, and we had great fun. When the American Kennel Club later closed the perimeters for membership, this group consolidated into the Yankee Golden Retriever Club and is going strong today.
My interest in canine structure and movement began in earnest when serving on the GRCA committee to review the breed standard, as we were not only trying to standardize the height factor but also come up with a good description of gait. In the back of my mind was always the comment a judge had made about Goldwood Toby after placing him fourth in the Group. This judge liked his sound, balanced structure with a topline so smooth that a glass of water would not have spilled as he trotted. Why? And why was it that some of the dozens of horses I'd ridden were more comfortable than others, especially on long rides. My curiosity was aroused!
So I wrote to McDowell Lyon, author of that famous book The Dog In Action. He sent a courteous reply saying we were definitely on the "right track" with the definition of gait we were proposing for the breed standard, and he would be in touch again when he returned to the States. I was devastated that he died before we could meet. I then turned to Lloyd Bracket, whose series on structure and movement began appearing in Dog World Magazine. Unfortunately, he, too, died before we met (had I cast a spell?) so after that I sought the help of Laurence Horswell of Dachshund fame, who was continuing the series Bracket had begun. Mr. Horswell became a good friend and taught me much for which I shall always be grateful. He was keenly interested in the slow-motion movies I'd begun to take of dogs gaiting, primarily to illustrate for our puppy buyers some of the things to look for in selecting puppies. The study included different breeds and I was soon asked to show the film locally. One particular strip showed a team of racing Siberian Huskies leaving the starting line at a brisk trot and then breaking into a gallop, but returning with their heads low, most of them with broken gait and packing -- an excellent illustration of the "fatigue gait." I've always believed observing other types of dogs helps us to better understand our own breed. When Laurence Horswell asked me to share the podium with him at a seminar sponsored by the Professional Handlers Association in 1968, my lecture "career" was launched.
Two or three years later, that old 8mm film wore out (I'd made no copy) and, because requests for talks were on the increase, the time had come for a new production of a more professional quality. So I started over, and with my husband's generous encouragement (and cash), I purchased a 16mm Beaulieu camera with a 12-1 Angenieux zoom lens, with features for slowing action at 48 or 64 frames per second. I also purchased all the necessary editing equipment and a special projector with varying speeds, stop and reverse action. Being a rank amateur, more film went into the wastebasket than ever appeared on screen, but I've since learned this is not unusual, even in the professional film world. What began as a hobby became almost a vocation (except it was never self-supporting!) that took me to many different countries.
When viewers began asking for material to take home after my talks, fate gave me the needed boost in the form of a letter from Ellsworth Howell Bookhouse Publishing Company in which Mr. Howell asked me to author a book ont he Golden Retriever. I declined on two counts. First, I knew that Gertrude Fischer had begun work on a Golden book ten years before, to which I had already contributed a chapter on the breed standard and many early photographs pertaining to the origin of the breed from my own collection. Her efforts had bogged down due to some sort of litigation with the publisher, so the book had not taken shape. Knowing Gertrude was an able writer who had endless contacts countrywide and overseas, I urged Mr. Howell to pursue working with her. He did, and her book became one of his best sellers. My second reason was that I wanted to try my hand at a book on structure and gait, illustrated with line drawings based on sequence film frames from my 16mm movies. Mr. Howell was immediately taken with the idea and encouraged me to go ahead with the project. So began nearly four years of preparation that culminated in the publication of Dogsteps, Illustrated Gait at a Glance. Mr. Howell became a wonderful friend, helping me every step of the way.
Ch. Featherquest Morning Sunray (Ch. Synspur Irah of Featherquest ex Featherquest Golden Diana) pictured with Pagey.
As the endless strips of sketches grew showing the sequence of footfall from every angle, both correct and incorrect, I began taping the strips to the walls of my study. The room soon resembled a gaiting frenzy but using the walls proved to be a great idea for objective viewing. Dedicating the book? Who other than to Mark, the man who had sat through so many hours of repetitious listening, always in support of his wife's efforts. So I decided on the following, "To my husband, whose patience made it possible." When he read this nice tribute, his response was humbling. "Honey," he said, "You've spelled 'patience" wrong." As I wrote at the beginning of this article, my husband is a dentist!
In 1974 Dogsteps won the Dog Writer's Association Award and the same year I was honored by receiving the Gaines Award for Dog Woman of the Year. The book became a best seller, thanks to El Howell's promotion. After eight printings, it was updated with a new edition in which I refuted my support of the 45-degree shoulder layback and included many new sketches based on my research in bone and joint motion through moving x-rays.
I guess my incentive to delve deeper into the study of canine structure and gait evolved while I was a member of the GRCA committee for the study of hip dysplasia, in which Vern Bower was a leading inspiration. Her determination to educate breeders about the importance of breeding away from this often crippling abnormality was basic to the organization of the GRCA Council on Hip Dysplasia. One of our advisors -- my own veterinarian, Dr. E.W. Tucker, former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association -- stirred the national association into action. A national meeting was called and an illustrated booklet was published on the subject. Not long afterwards, as other breed clubs began showing their concern, the GRCA Council on Hip Dysplasia was absorbed into the founding of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Vern served as a founding member and director until her death. I also had the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors for fifteen or more years and have just recently retired.
I had for some time been curious to see what went on in the moving pelvic assembly in dysplastic dogs and was trying to figure out how this could be photographed when an unusual chance came my way at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology. They had specially designed equipment for fluoroscoping and photographing animals the size of large dogs as they moved at various speeds on a treadmill. The technique is called cinefluoroscopy, or cineradiography, resulting in 16mm black-and-white film showing moving bones and joints, like moving x-rays.
The door opened when Dr. Farish Jenkins, head of the museum and professor of anthropology at Harvard, became aware of my interest in canine movement and asked if I might supply him with a few dogs for his own study. The greyhounds he'd tried to use would not adapt to the treadmill. I had no trouble finding a few subjects for him, thanks to willing friends who shared my interest in the project. In return, Dr. Jenkins gave me the opportunity to study different kinds of dogs on my own. I think he opened the door a little wider than expected, as I found dog after dog whose inside structure I wanted to see. Each trip to the museum meant making special arrangements to reserve the lab in between student use and securing the help of x-ray technicians who were familiar with the lead-encased camera on one side of the treadmill, the fluoroscope on the other, and could at the same time control the varying speeds of the treadmill. The slight time during which the dogs were exposed to radiation on the treadmill was considered harmless, but the technicians and I were always draped in heavy lead aprons. Whether being a Radcliffe graduate helped, I don't know, but the museum staff were very cooperative and I shall ever be grateful. Dr. Jenkins would often refer to my breed selections as "Pagey's canine exotica." This film study offered graphic and indisputable pictures of bone and joint motion that challenged some erroneous notions that had been held far too long in the dog fraternity. Most importantly, we know without question that the 45-degree layback is but a myth and mechanically impossible. This statement had been made in a Dutch book as far back as 1942, and Dr. Tony Musladin had said the same in an early article on Beagles -- but few, if any, readers had paid heed.
Owing to the interest and efforts of Dr. Al Corley, some of the funds for this research came through the generosity of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. The study added a new dimension to my illustrated lecture program and is no doubt what contributed to many requests, not only on this continent and Hawaii, but overseas. Though I'd been in England before, my first speaking tour there was sponsored by the Golden Retriever Club of England, under the guidance of Elma Stonex, Joan Gill and Daphne Philpott. Needless to say, the experience enriched by life through the making of many Golden friends and visits to famous old kennels. Good times and much laughter and many weary nights following long drives after meetings. Especially remembered was an event where the sound equipment broke down, and another when we found the audience lined up outside the meeting room because no one had remembered the key. It was a year or two later when addressing the British Veterinary Association that the take-up reel on the rented stop action projector failed spilling yards of film on the floor. That took a little bit of fixing, but we managed. Something even more exciting happened when I left for Norway and had just begun lecturing to the Golden Retriever Club in Osio. I tripped when leaving the platform after a few opening remarks and managed to break my hip. The sympathy card I received from my friend Kathy Liebler, who had been with me in England, was brief and to the point, "I knew you couldn't get along without me!"
Funny about broken hips. By sitting absolutely still beside the projector and moving only my hands to control the varying speeds and stop action, I was able to complete the two-hour program. The audience was far more worried than I. It was midnight by the time four red-coated paramedics carried me down three flights of stairs (the elevator wasn't working) and off to the hospital. The language barrier was a problem but I somehow persuaded the lab technician to let me see the x-ray. When I exclaimed "At least I don't have hip dysplasia!" formalities were dropped and those on the hospital staff who shared my fondness of dogs became attentive friends during my 14-day stay. The prolonged visit in Oslo was not to easy for my hosts, Diane and Ray Anderson, and I will never forget their gracious concern and care, nor how comforting it was, with my husband so far away, to find their personal physician by my side as I came out of the anesthesia following the hip operation.
The fall of 1980 took me to Australia for eleven presentations throughout the country under the sponsorship and planning of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales. Australia has a reputation for unmatched hospitality, but I was unprepared for the wonderful experience awaiting me. It meant a great deal being included in the spring fair activities put on for judges from all over the world, and I will long remember the magnificent spring dog show, not to mention conducted tours to the Taranga Zoological Gardens and the Sydney Opera House.
On my arrival in Sydney my hostess was Jann Trout, whose gorgeous Ch. Balandra Delta Darius took my breath away. Jann has the most consistently beautiful Goldens I have yet seen. One of the highlights of my visit with her was watching an exhibition of the magnificent Spanish Andalusian Dancing Stallions at El Caballo Blanco. Another point of great interest was visiting a farm where Dingos are raised and trained for obedience by a family who are endeavoring to have these fine animals accepted in today's world of dogs. I'm sure Bob Curtis, my tour guide, must have been exhausted looking after me throughout our travels, which took us (always by air) from Sydney into the back country; to Canberra, capital of Australia; to Tasmania; to Adelaide, Brisbane, and points in between. He even arranged for an exciting visit to a large Connemara pony farm in the sharp, rugged hills of Queensland. His courtesy and thoughtful attention took the worry out of traveling and gave me needed rest between assignments.
A later trip to England -- I was beginning to feel very much at home in that country! -- fell under the auspices of the World Congress of Kennel Clubs meeting in Edinburgh, where I upset the applecart by insisting on a screen with better reflective quality than the one provided, otherwise the cineradiography could not be shown to advantage. It was a Sunday when all rental agencies were closed, and the chairman was quite unhappy, but somehow they managed to find the radiant screen I needed. I think that trip may have tied in with the invitation to judge an Open Golden Retriever show in Wales. For me this was the largest entry I'd ever judges -- about 225 -- and thanks to their efficient steward, John Clark from Scotland, I coped fairly well with a class system quite new to me. Nortonwood Checkmate caught my eye from the start and was my top choice. Not then a show champion, he won that title shortly after. I would have loved to take him home, but two years later I did find a daughter of his when visiting Madge and Ron Bradbury. This was Nortonwood Carna. She became a delightful addition to the family and an excellent producer.
A stimulating acquaintance in England was Mr. Tom Horner, well known judge, writer and author of the book Take Them Around, Please, who livened things up by challenging the concept of a dog's tendency to single track that I was illustrating in my talks. Nothing could dissuade him from his opinion that the limbs should move parallel and perpendicular, despite evidence to the contrary shown in analytical slow-motion film. He wrote several articles challenging my presentation -- and I responded in kind, as did a supportive member of my listeners. It was an interesting and, I like to think friendly, confrontation. One of my friends wrote the following poem:
"The Ballad of Tom Horner"
Mr. Tom Horner stood in his corner
Watching the little dogs gait.
He fumed and he fretted, and plainly regretted
That none of them trotted quite straight.
"Take them around, please," said Tom with a frown,
"Around," he continued to urge,
So they trotted quite wide, stride after stride,
For no dog would dare to converge!
Now outside the ring, sitting neat as a pin,
Was Rachel Page Elliott, the "pro;"
She squirmed and she squiggled and
now and then giggled,
And thought, "My, what he doesn't know!"
So after the class, up stands this brave lass
And spoke, before good friends could warn her:
"You surely must know that dogs' legs won't go
Like pendulums, dear Mr. Horner."
But as Tom was the judge, he just wouldn't budge,
His confidence quite unaffected -
"My dear, you're quite wrong for, in moving along
I meant parallel - just when collected."
But lest you should fear, let me make myself clear
And do not have doubt in your mind;
Opinions on gaiting are most stimulating,
No two better friends could you find.
Goldwood Toby UD, owned and trained by Pagey, was the first Golden Retriever to achieve the Utility Dog title and the first dog entered in the Obedience Dog Hall of Fame. In addition to these distinctions, Toby was one of the breed's early good will ambassadors.
Footnote: After spending an evening with Rachel Page Elliott and Tom Horner, Kathy Liebler sent this to the England publication Dog World -- and it was published!
The following year I took part in a series of seven seminars sponsored by Pedigree Chum, from southern England north to Glasgow. As one would expect, with Eric Smethurst and Bill King in charge, the itinerary and all plans were worked out in every detail, even to an intercom hook-up in the event that Kathy Leibler and I were in need as we drove from place to place. They were glad that this close friend could be my driving companion as it freed one of their company staff from the awesome responsibility. I really don't know how they trusted us -- because we made the most of the opportunity to visit Golden friends wherever possible, including the famous Elma Stonex, whom Kathy had never met.
The crisis on that tour was a major one. It happened in Glasgow where, according to schedule, we met our guides Eric and Bill for the last seminar of the tour, only to find them in deep despair. All of the seminar equipment had been stolen from the transport car, including two projectors, booklets and advertising material. Their greatest worry however, was about my films. Fortunately, it was my practice never to let anything so essential out of my hands when traveling and it was safe with me. There was no trace of the stolen goods, but with their usual efficiency, the Pedigree Chum staff located replacements, including the only other projected in the country with the special features I needed for my program. All was flown up from London in time for the opening of the seminar the next day.
After saying good-bye to our friends in Glasgow, Kathy and I headed north toward Invernesshire in the hope of locating the famous Guisachan estate where lay the roots of Golden Retrievers. Our British friends did not seem to know the exact location, as none of those we'd met had ever been there -- although Elma Stonex had said it was near Beauly. By luck Kathy came across a paragraph in an old travel book for hikers that pinpointed the location and it wasn't long before we were walking on those hallowed grounds. The wife of one of the farmers greeted us outside the ancient sprawling stone barn and directed us up the lane to the crumbling remains of the Victorian mansion where Lord Tweedmouth and his family had entertained sportsmen, political dignitaries, artists and otter members of the aristocracy. Royalty was no stranger to them.
Before we left Guisachan, we were shown an octagonally shaped building known as the milk house, designed after a similar structure at Windsor Castle. In the center of the room was a fountain, long since dry, that had once served as a cooling agent for milk and cream. At the time of our visit, this milk house was being used for the storage of broken furniture and miscellaneous household goods. The high upper wainscoting was lined with dust-covered paintings and old prints. One in particular struck my eye, even though only part of it was in view. But that part showed a magnificent black horse and a retriever-like dog that could have been a progenitor of today's Golden Retriever. Absolutely fascinated, I held a rickety stool for Kathy to stand on to photograph this print. On my return home, I wrote to the caretaker of the estate, Mr. Donald Fraser, explaining that this was a lithograph from an 1839 painting by Edwin Landseer, the subject being Victoria and Albert at Windsor Castle. Landseer had often visited Guisachan as the art teacher for Tweedmouth's daughter, Ishbel Marjoribanks. Because of the interest I had expressed in Guisachan, Mr. Fraser sent the print to me as a souvenir. Needless to say, I was ecstatic!
My final overseas lecture was at the International Congress of Kennel Clubs in Amsterdam where I shared the podium with Dr. Quentin LaHam. We had become good friends through meeting at various seminars in the States and our thoughts coordinated along the same lines regarding structure and gait. Quent might be described as a dramatic acrobatic speaker, while I more sedately illustrated my message with slow-motion movies. Because of our emphasis on the mechanical impossibility of a 45-degree shoulder layback, proven beyond a doubt by the moving x-rays, one writer for a Dutch dog magazine withdrew an article he had just contributed in order to update it with this new information. Daughter Betty was my companion on that trip, having agreed to look after her doggy mother provided we could take a homeward detour through Ireland to visit Connemara pony farms. We did just that, and what a delightful detour it was, making new friends with another common interest, and reestablishing our faith in this wonderful Irish breed, not too well known in America. The Connemara is a rugged, large pony, or small horse, useful for cross-country riding, jumping, driving and even farm work. We raise a few here at the farm.
To back up in time, 1956 was when I began a more than ten-year correspondence with Mrs. Elma Stonex about the history and origin of Goldens. Like so many others, I had always loved and accepted the story of the Russian circus dogs as forebears of the breed -- until the mid-fifties when my good friend Leila Sears showed me a startling article totally disputing the long-accepted story. It had appeared in a 1952 issue of Country Life Magazine, authored by Lord Illchester, a descendant of Lord Tweedmouth, who felt it time to set the records straight. He had found among Tweedmouth's papers a pedigree of the first recorded litter of Yellow Retrievers, dated 1868, in which a now-extinct breed, the Tweed Water Spaniel, was listed as dam and another one was mentioned a little later. When Elma Stonex read the article, she immediately contacted Illchester and stopped the press where the manuscript of her new book The Golden Retriever was being printed. She knew it was important to include this new and revealing information.
Being unfamiliar with the Tweed Water Spaniel, the author of the 1952 article requested information should anyone come across a description of this dog. As much as I resisted the uprooting of the Russian legend, I felt challenged to search for information. By chance, in the dark and dusty recesses of our local library, I came across an old Dalziel book in which the Tweed Water Spaniel was described. With a little hesitation I sent this description to Elma Stonex thinking that she, of course, had seen it. She had not, and her appreciative response was the start of a long and informative correspondence. The letters are now a part of the Golden Retriever Club of America's archives along with an original oil painting of a dog identified as a Tweed Water Spaniel, that I had purchased from Gerald Massey, the renowned world authority on sporting prints and books. An incurable collector, I have since acquired many old photographs, other prints and records from descendants of the Majoribanks (Tweedmouth) family, as well as priceless memorabilia from Mrs. Stonex. Thus came the title of the "Club Historian". Elma became a close and highly valued friend. My visit at her home in Taunton, and her extended visit with us in the United States, are among my treasured memories.
After Gerald Massey's death, another literary authority and author came into my life: Clifford Hubbard from Aberystwyth, Wales. How I wish I had know of him when my sister and niece and I just happened on a sheepdog trial in that town during my 1964 trip to England! Clifford (or "Doggy Hubbard") seems to know every page and illustration in his 25,000 volume library, and he can often identify original editions just from what you describe. He always stays a few days with us when he visits the States to run his book concession at dog shows -- though I have to admit Mark is ever wary of his visits because he fears I'll succumb to one or more books for my growing library.
The time finally arrived when it was advisable to slow down in my traveling. The airlines were becoming crowded and I was no longer permitted to take my valuable 16mm projector on board. This model was not available in rental agencies so had to go with me as cargo. One three occasions it was badly damaged, interfering seriously with my presentations. Besides, Mark was getting tired of driving me to the airport! So, after more than twenty years on the lecture circuit, I decided to transfer the lecture material to video. For two years I worked with a patient professional editor (who in the process learned more than he wanted to know about dogs!), and with the financial backing of the American Kennel Club, the program was finally restructured and updated, still under the title Dogsteps.
I'd already produced three other videos, one for the Collie Club of America, one for the Cairn Terrier Club and another for the GRCA. However, having learned what was involved in the making of a video, both in time and money, I hesitated to take on the project for the Golden Retriever Club, especially because the idea had met with some resistance from a few members. But then came a near-midnight call from Anne Shannon, whose persuasive charm caught me at a sleepy moment, and my resistance was shattered. The video eventually came to fruition with the help of many friends who offered their dogs to illustrate particular features, good as well as faulty. I have to admit that its reception has been gratifying and I share the credit with all who cooperated in its completion. Since then, I have consolidated much of the cineradiography into video form primarily for the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, and have given the original 16mm film, together with work print copies, to Tufts University Veterinary School. Dr. E. W. Tucker worked with me on the script and lent needed authenticity through his narration. I've received suggestions that I do a video on the anatomy and gait of horses but am saving this project for my next life.
Mark has been with me every step of the way, sitting patiently by my side hour after hour in the editing studio -- though he much too often sided with the editor anytime there was a question of deleting or shortening certain strips of film. And in the background of all these projects -- my traveling, writing and making the videos -- has been our faithful friend and housekeeper, Alberta White. Without her help and the moral support of my husband, and the tolerate of three understanding children, I could have never succeeded. Alberta says her claim to fame has been bringing up the children, then the grandchildren, and now she's bringing up the grandparents.
Recently, in defiance of the adage "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," I've taken up a new hobby: cutting wooden jigsaw puzzles. This is an old craft revived, for me an absorbing avocation that has already developed into a comfortable cottage industry. Mark still isn't off the hook, however, because I need him to help polish each piece of every puzzle. He contends this keeps his hand in practice in case he has to return to dentistry.
One can never foretell what the future holds, but we keep busy and content with horses, dogs, cats, grandchildren and all the attendant activities around this old farm. And we are ever mindful of the wonderful friends who have influenced our lives and made the years so rewarding with a store of treasured memories.