My father was a farmer and Border Collies played a large part in my childhood. I got my first German Shepherd, who was a son of Sh Ch Ramacon Swashbuckler, in my late teens but it wasn't until I moved to Brighton and had my next G.S.D. Roland, from Madeline Pickup, that I became involved with Obedience. Unfortunately due to a move this was put on the back boiler and Roland became my shop dog in the jeweller's. When Roland went to the Rainbow Bridge, I got Master from Don and Betty Blows, another move and back came the interest in Obedience which also involved getting a beautiful bitch from Don and Betty - Donna, who had been returned to them. Unfortunately Donna was not with me long enough as she died from bloat very young.
I then did some research and got my first Belgian Shepherd – Groenendael - Zarran and then Guiness. With them and some friends I went on numerous courses, some for the weekend and sometimes for a whole week, and worked with some wonderful people – the late John Fisher, Roy Hunter, John Rogerson and Ian Dunbar, and from the USA Martha Jordan, Gail Fisher and Linda Tellington. At this time I was running a Dog Training School with a friend.
Although when I got Zarran I had no thought of showing her, someone suggested that I did and with some success, in fact she gained my first C.C. By now I was hooked and showing took over. Other Belgians became part of my family. Through our work I met David, he knew that I was involved with dogs and had one! Little did he know just what was in store – but I will leave that for David to tell.
One day a little red merle Border Collie, Frank, arrived on the scene, just as a pal. So things had come full circle and Border Collies were back in my life. I had no intention of showing Frank, but somehow he just got entered and we are so pleased that we did.
David and I were introduced to Australian Shepherds by some very good friends and Tucker joined us. We have been to the USA a couple of times to the Australian Shepherd Nationals.
Our family now mainly consists of Border Collies. I judge all the breeds with which I have been involved and have enjoyed every appointment. The most exciting was judging Australian Shepherds at Crufts in 2003, where my Best of Breed went on to be short listed in the Group.
We have been lucky enough to have achieved some success in each breed we been involved with.
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It is only since Karen and I met that I became involved with showing, training and living with more than one dog. In those early years I attended a variety of one day and residential courses organised by, amongst others, The Anglo American Dog Training Association. This was my first real insight into the behavioural aspects and training skills associated with our canine friends. I also assisted Karen and her friend Lesley to run their dog-training club.
Karen took me to my first breed show, which was the Bath Championship Show. I confess that I was somewhat overwhelmed with the number of people and dogs and at a loss to understand what it was all about. It wasn’t long, however, before I was persuaded to go in the ring. My first show dog was 'Flight' a beautiful Groenendael who will always be very special to me. Amongst her achievements were several Best of Breeds, two Reserve Tickets and the last CC at LKA before the four Belgian Shepherd varieties were amalgamated. Sadly she had an accident, which ended her show career. I continued to show our other Belgian Shepherds and won Best Puppy In Breed at Crufts.
Some years ago we had our first Border Collie and shortly afterwards, with the help of good friends, our first Australian Shepherd, Tucker, who became my best friend. I am proud to have handled Tucker throughout his career achieving numerous Best of Breeds at Open Shows and at Championship level. He qualified several times for the Kent Super Match, winning Best Veteran in Show. I then became the proud owner of Louis, a fabulous Blue Merle and showed him for a number of years. He was awarded his Show Certificate of Merit and also won several Best In Shows. He also qualified several times for the Kent Super Match. Unfortunately his life ended too early and I had no plans to have another Australian Shepherd. One day we had a call to go and see a litter and running around was a wonderful Red Merle. Needless to say he came home with us. He is very lively and follows me everywhere. With the help of an exceptional Junior Handler, we have been showing him for the last 3 years.
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Maria Heskins' superb memorial portrait of Louis
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We added Sarah to our Kennel Name in November 2015, for her 18th Birthday. Sarah is now a full partner.
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What's In An Affix?
Karen explains the origin of 'Bilyara'
Having had an affix in my previous life, when David and I made it official (got married) we felt it would be nice to have one that meant something to us both. So I let my old affix lapse.
As how it came about is not at all romantic or even inspiring, please allow me a little poetic licence to try and make it interesting.
We had bandied names about for a few weeks but nothing we could both agree on. It was decided that we would make a real effort, so we set about the task over a glass or two of wine. The form was duly filled in with four names which we both liked, all four being ships David had served on in the Navy - so I suppose that's the romantic bit, but as far as our 5th and 6th choices a blank was drawn. Perhaps if he hadn't been on the Trowbridge and Indefatigable we might have got there.
More wine was called for and bingo! There it was - BILYARA - right there on the wine label. The sixth choice came fairly easily after that.
So off went the application with us quite confident that 5 and 6 would not be needed - and you guessed it, back it came saying that our first four had been rejected and 5 and 6 were being put through the process. BILYARA was born, which was fairly lucky as number 6 was Wullunga Hill...
I suppose I could just have written that our affix came off a bottle of wine, but at least it might stop people thinking that David's name is Bill and mine is Yara!! Or vice versa. BILYARA is an aboriginal word meaning Eagle Hawk.