A Dogs In Review Kennel Visit: Gleanntan Skye Terriers

Allan Reznik interviews Michael Pesare & Maida Connor of Gleanntan Skye Terriers.

Michael Pesare holding ‘Dexter’ and Maida Connor with Dexter’s daughter ‘Sunny’ on a recent visit to their former home state of Rhode Island. Newport Harbor is in the background. Photos courtesy Gleanntan Skye Terriers

Dogs in Review: Please tell us about Gleanntan Kennels and some of your most noteworthy accomplishments: number of champions bred, number of specialties won, STCA honors bestowed upon you, etc., and some information about the two of you.

Gleanntan Skye Terriers: Gleanntan Kennels was founded in 1970 by Ben and Donna Dale and has been breeding Skye Terriers for 45 years. Gleanntan was based in Gaithersburg, Md., for 20 years before Ben and Donna retired and moved to Gettysburg, Pa., in 1990. While the original founders of Gleanntan have both passed away, the Gleanntan program continues under the guidance and stewardship of Michael J. Pesare, his wife, Maida Connor, and Roxan L. Rohrich.

Michael and Maida are members of the Montgomery County KC, the Columbia Terrier Association of Maryland, Skye Terrier Club of America and Skye Terrier Club of Southern California. Additionally, Michael is on the board of the Skye Terrier Club of America, and he serves as President of the Potomac Skye Terrier Club. Maida is Secretary of the Potomac Skye Terrier Club.

Roxan acquired her first Skye from the Dales in the mid-1980s. She was a close friend of theirs, and now ours. One of her most cherished Skyes, Ch. Gleanntan T’Roc O’Gibraltar, ‘BG,’ was a multiple National Specialty winner. Roxan lives in Medina, Ohio.

Roxan Rohrich with Ch. Gleanntan Glorious Legacy and her pup, Gleanntan Gottaluvme2.

Roxan Rohrich with Ch. Gleanntan Glorious Legacy and her pup, Gleanntan Gottaluvme2.

In 45 years, Gleanntan has bred 113 AKC champions, including National Specialty winners (Montgomery County KC/STCA National Specialty BOB winners in 1978, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1993), numerous regional specialty winners, Group winners and top producers. Gleanntan is known for consistent breed type and excellent temperaments.

Ch. Gleanntan Gee Whillikers, ‘Michael,’ was the all-time top-winning male BIS Skye until the record was eclipsed by Ch. Cragsmoor Buddy Goodman and, more recently, by GCh. Cragsmoor Good Time Charlie. Michael was expertly handled by Lisa Bettis.

Gleanntan was Skye Terrier Club of America Breeder of the Year in 1980, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1993, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2013. We are particularly proud of the fact that 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2013 are the years following the untimely 2001 death of Gleanntan co-founder, Donna C. Dale.

Gleanntan’s 45-year history can be viewed in two chapters. Chapter one of Gleanntan dates from 1970 to 1997, when Ben and Donna linebred on Walter and Adele Goodman’s renowned Glamoor bloodline and the French bloodlines that were behind many of the Glamoor dogs.

Chapter two started in 1997 with the import of two dogs from Finland. In 1997, Donna judged the Skye Terrier Club of Finland specialty. Throughout her assignment, Donna judged and admired a number of offspring of Int. Ch. Mariquita Flashxclusive and Fin. Ch. Skyelight Afrodite in the ring. Before returning to the US, Donna and Ben made arrangements to bring these two dogs to Gleanntan.

This was a bold move for Ben and Donna, as these two dogs would be outcrosses. They also were somewhat different from what Donna and Ben had bred over the years. However, both Skyes were proven producers, and they were very sound. In November 1997, the first breeding between Int. Mariquita Flashxclusive and ‘Rachel,’ Ch. Gleanntan Great Day O’Pataway, a linebred Gleanntan bitch, produced a litter of eight (seven dogs and one bitch). ‘Flashxclusive’ was an impressive, stylish dog that was bred by Mariquita Skyes in England and owned by Finnsky Skyes, where he had already produced beautifully. Donna affectionately referred to the litter as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

The single bitch, Ch. Gleanntan Grandxpose, ‘Emily,’ was greatly admired by both Ben and Donna. They adored Emily’s breed type and her sweet temperament. Emily’s value was to become evident in the show ring and in the whelping box. Nearly all of the dogs that are part of our program today descend from Emily. Emily was bred back to a linebred Gleanntan dog, and Maida and I kept three pups from that 2004 litter: a Westminster winner (2008), a multiple Group-winning bitch and a bitch that produced five champions in her single litter of nine pups, including a Westminster BOB winner (2013). We have been working with the legacy of Emily for the past 15 years, and continue to admire her impact on conformation and temperament in today’s generation of Gleanntan Skyes.

Donna’s untimely passing in March 2001 from a pulmonary embolism broke our hearts. Ben decided that we should carry the name on and continue breeding under the Gleanntan prefix. Ben asked Maida and me to become co-owners of the prefix, along with Roxan. In the 15 years since Donna’s passing, we’ve had the No. 1 Skye (breed points — Skyes defeated) in 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2010; the Westminster BOB winners in 2008 and 2013; and a number of regional Specialty winners.

Gleanntan cofounders B. Nolan Dale with Ch. Gleanntan Monkey Business and Donna C. Dale with Ch. Gleanntan Ticker Tape in September 1975.

Gleanntan cofounders B. Nolan Dale with Ch. Gleanntan Monkey Business and Donna C. Dale with Ch. Gleanntan Ticker Tape in September 1975.

When we are evaluating litters and discussing breeding options, we always consider the Dales’ breed priorities as well as our own foundation of knowledge and attributes that we hold of paramount importance: sound conformation, health and sweet, loving Skyes. At the same time, we know that Ben and Donna would never have wanted us to simply “keep a few lights on and the heat at 50 degrees.” They would want us to move forward decisively using our own vision. We like to think they would be quite proud of our family of Skyes and the fact that Gleanntan’s lights are burning brightly.

DIR: Did either of you come from dog-show households? If not, what was your introduction to the sport and to Skye Terriers? How did your relationship with the Dales come about?

GST: Maida’s childhood included a Saint Bernard, Malamute, Westies and a beloved Old English Sheepdog, while my first dogs were a Wire Fox Terrier and a Yorkshire Terrier. Neither of us had a background in showing.

When we purchased our home, we knew we had to have a dog. Our introduction to the Skye Terrier was happenstance. Maida purchased a copy of Greyfriars Bobby for a niece while visiting Scotland in 1990. Intrigued by the story, I did some research and found a copy of Dr. E.S. Montgomery’s superb book, The Complete Skye Terrier, at the local Providence Public Library. The fact that this rare 1960 book was there was fateful. As a student of history, I found Dr. Montgomery’s detailed and well-researched history of the Skye to be of great interest. Soon, we made an appointment to visit with a breeder in Massachusetts. I remember our first meeting with her Skyes and how enchanted we were.

We acquired our first Skye, ‘Brindle,’ in the summer of 1990. Since the breeder asked if we might show him, we started taking him to handling classes and matches, and we had some early success with this promising pup. As is often the case with newcomers, these early successes solidified our interest. Soon after, we met a longtime Skye owner who lived in Newport, R.I. She became a dear friend as well as a mentor, and she introduced us to Ben and Donna in 1991. The Dales became our mentors and then “family.” They often commented to mutual friends that Maida and I were like the children they never had. When Maida was offered a position to lead a community college foundation in 1997, we moved to Pennsylvania and purchased a home close to Ben and Donna’s Gettysburg home. We enjoyed many special times together with them.

After Ben’s passing in April 2010, and with great soul-searching, Maida and I acquired Ben and Donna’s home in 2011. In each room, 20 years of memories called out, tears fell and eventually, surrounded by mementos and our Skyes, we knew that we had made the right decision.

DIR: How many adult dogs do you typically keep at home? How many litters do you breed a year?

GST: Generally, we have 10 to 12 Skyes in our home. We also have a Borzoi, ‘Posh,’ who does a superb job of socializing our puppies to be confident around larger dogs. Since Donna’s passing in 2001, our numbers have fluctuated, as some Gleanntan owners have passed away, and their older Skyes have come home to us. We recognize that this is not a strategy or a lifestyle that everyone can follow. We are thankful to be able to offer our Skyes a warm, loving home with lots of time to play and hang out with us on the couch or on the bed.

Perhaps this is our nod to the heydays when kennels were proud to house a family of dogs with some diversity of breeding options. Donna was always focused on her Gleanntan family of Skyes more than any one individual star in the ring. With our small gene pool, we feel it is important to have a well-rounded family of Skyes under our own roof. One ancillary benefit is being able to attend any number of public education events with three generations of Gleanntan Skyes.

We breed, on average, one litter every 12 to 18 months. When we breed a litter, we have a small, bright room just off our kitchen where we can carefully control the heat and keep the room quiet. During this period, we spend many hours in the room with the pups and their mom.

A favorite place to walk the Skyes: the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, dedicated to America’s first American-born saint. Also pictured is the Borzoi ‘Posh.’

A favorite place to walk the Skyes: the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, dedicated to America’s first American-born saint. Also pictured is the Borzoi ‘Posh.’

As the pups get older, they are moved into a pen in the kitchen where the intensive socialization begins. Much of our socialization efforts revolve around exposing the pups to a wide variety of stimuli and lots of holding. Our goal is to send them off with a loving foundation and the confidence to handle a range of new situations. From here, it is the new owners’ responsibility to continue the socialization to ensure that the pups build on the foundation that we provide so that they can be a loving companion for life.

A number of our dogs are seniors over 10 years old. We run them in groups, and nearly all of them are in the rotation for regular walks. It is not uncommon to find four to six adult Skyes hanging out together in our kitchen, and often this group represents three generations of Gleanntan Skyes. The dogs that are being shown run on a large deck, while the non-show dogs often run in our large fenced yard, complete with big rocks to climb on.

DIR: Is it easy to find good homes for Skye puppies? How do you screen your buyers? What are your terms for sales and co-ownerships?

GST: We get many inquiries, some from people that have visited the AKC website, the Skye Terrier Club of America website or the Gleanntan website. I created a website for Gleanntan in 2001 (gleanntan.com), and this site has been kept up to date weekly since 2001. Not many breeder or club sites can state that they have been updated weekly for 14 years without interruption. Admittedly, the site is a resource for me, and it is enjoyed by those who own our Skyes, as well as those who might like to own a Gleanntan Skye. Many of our buyers are people who have owned our Skyes previously. Others have owned Skyes bred by others. Owners of our Skyes appreciate the fact that our dogs are well socialized.

To acquire a Gleanntan Skye is often a lengthy process and requires patience. We breed first for ourselves to ensure the continuation of the line. The vetting process typically starts by email and on the phone, but we also plan to meet the interested prospective owners. We have a questionnaire that at least provides a starting point for our conversations.

We have a clause in our contract that states that if the dog cannot be retained by the original owner, the dog must come back to Gleanntan.

We also keep in touch with the owners of our dogs. As Donna often said to puppy purchasers, “You are not only getting a Gleanntan Skye, you are getting an entire family.” This is a philosophy that we continue today. We are blessed that many of our dearest friends are owners of Gleanntan Skyes.

The challenge that we face now is that prospective owners are not as well versed in animal husbandry skills. The overall animal husbandry skills are diminishing, and they are so important for owning a terrier.

DIR: Describe your kennel facilities, if you have them. What is your “kennel routine” — sleeping, feeding, exercise, grooming, socialization? Do you have kennel help?

GST: Our kennel prefix is registered with the AKC but we are not a “kennel.” All our Skyes are house dogs. However, they do not have unrestricted access to the house. We use gates to reserve some rooms in the house. We are sticklers for a clean environment for ourselves and our dogs. Our home is warm and welcoming, and pays tribute to the Skye in art and in real life.

The Gettysburg home of Gleanntan. For more than a quarter of a century, Gleanntan Skyes have been born and raised here.

The Gettysburg home of Gleanntan. For more than a quarter of a century, Gleanntan Skyes have been born and raised here.

Our day starts at 4:45 a.m., as we both work full-time, and we want the dogs to have plenty of time to exercise before we go to our offices. We feed once a day. During the day, the dogs are in pens or crates. In the evening, we spend time with all of the dogs and regularly walk one to three at a time. Our walks are 2 to 3 miles at a brisk pace.

Grooming and bathing occurs weekly for the Skyes that are being shown, as well as others that we wish to keep in full show coat. Our retired seniors are bathed every two weeks. We do all of our own grooming. We have a setup with a bathtub raised to waist level. The bathing area has good lighting and heat in the winter. We do not shave our retired dogs.

We do exercise our Skyes regularly with walks at the local outdoor outlet mall or the nearby, perfectly maintained grounds of the Seton Shrine. Additionally, we have about an acre of the 6-acre property fenced, and our dogs run on a large deck running the full length of the back of the house.

We do not have kennel help, but we do have a friend and her daughter who come to our house to stay with the dogs when we travel. They own one of our Skyes and know our routine. We could never do what we do without their help. The dogs love them, and they love the dogs. It is a friendship that we cherish.

DIR: How many shows do you attend each year? What are your favorites?

GST: We attend 65 to 85 shows per year, and we’ve been adhering to this schedule for the past 14 years. Favorites are Montgomery County, Bucks County, Great Western Terrier Association and Westminster. As for smaller shows, I have a great fondness for some of the smaller rural outdoor shows that are becoming less common as we move toward the larger cluster shows.

One might ask, “Why go to so many shows?” One of the reasons we adhere to this schedule is that we like to keep the Skye in the public eye at all-breed shows. We often see other low-registration breeds missing from these shows and try to do what we can to prevent the Skye from slipping into obscurity. Also, it is generally our plan to have one dog as our “flagship,” and then one or a few class animals in training and working toward their championships.

DIR: Do you show your own dogs or use a professional handler? Do you have strong feelings about owner-handling your Skyes?

GST: Our Skyes are breeder/owner-handled (or owner-handled with the dogs we’ve acquired for the program) almost exclusively, and this is near and dear to my heart. I have always had great admiration for those who fully embrace the sport and the animal husbandry that is so much a part of it: planning breedings, whelping the litters, socializing puppies, training youngsters for the ring and adhering to as high a level of presentation as possible. Legends such as Pat Trotter have been inspiring.

I have also had great admiration for the very best professional handlers and have tried to model myself on them as much as possible. In my view, the professionals that I have admired over the years have possessed certain traits. They are supremely competent, always calm (almost understated), focused on the dog, good sports, supportive of others and open to new information. Peter Green has been an inspiration for years, and he epitomizes these traits.

In our region, I have been able to observe and model myself on such world-class breeders as Cathy Nelson (Pennywise Dandie Dinmont Terriers), Lydia Hutchinson (Wolfpit Cairns), Jaimi Glodek (Mac Ken Char West Highland White Terriers), Marianne Melucci (Fireheart Scotties) and Margery Good (as a breeder of the Goodspice Sealys and occasionally Kerries, and as a professional handler).

2008 Westminster Kennel Club Skye Terrier Best of Breed winner Ch. Gleanntan Gottalookatme (Ch. Gleanntan Going For It x Ch. Gleanntan Grandxpose) breeder/owner-handled by Michael Pesare.

DIR: Do you place your older dogs in retirement homes to keep your numbers down?

GST: Yes, we do this occasionally, and usually it is with someone who has owned a Gleanntan Skye.

DIR: Do you have time for any activities or hobbies outside of dogs? What are they?

GST: We both work full-time jobs. I work in digital learning, overseeing an online platform for professional development of educators and social service providers. Maida is the Executive Director of Advancement at a Catholic high school.

I enjoy technology and history. Maida loves photography and reading. The photography is an interest that we both share. We greatly enjoy setting up a photo together with attention to lighting and capturing the essence of each of our dogs.

Maida and I feel it is important to keep our dogs in the public eye. We participate in the AKC’s Meet the Breeds events, school visits, take our pups to public areas, etc. We take advantage of any opportunity to convey to the public that we are breeders of purebred dogs and we lead normal lives. We strive to present a positive public face for breeders and our breed. We often tell people that we respect those who choose to save a shelter animal. We have dedicated ourselves to saving a breed from extinction which is, in one sense, another form of rescue.

DIR: If you could change one thing about the current dog-show scene, what would it be?

GST: I miss the days when at any given local show, you would see longtime breeders with active breeding programs. Those numbers are dropping as that generation leaves us. The icons in the breed participated at a high level; they were active in their breed clubs and all-breed clubs.

Today, there is much less focus on breeding programs and education. Far fewer people coming into the sport are interested in getting involved that deeply. The focus seems to have shifted away from breeders. I worry that animal rights activists have inflicted damage on attitudes toward breeders and purebred dogs.

AKC is understandably seeking ways to increase revenue. I understand the appeal of the National Owner-Handled Series, and I support those who choose to participate in this competition. I have chosen not to compete in this competition. I have come up in the sport going head to head with the pros, and I have had success. Our Skyes have been recognized at high levels of competition. I will admit that I continue to stubbornly hold on to the older traditions as the sport shifts around us.

I must say that in recent years, I have observed others using Facebook to try to inspire newcomers with tried-and-true pearls of wisdom. I greatly value the posts of John Buddie, Bill Shelton and Billy Miller, among others. I see the value of Facebook as a platform to keep in touch with good breeders around the world. Facebook can be a superb learning tool and a networking tool, if used properly.

DIR: If you were starting over in dogs today, is there anything you would do differently?

GST: Maida and I are forever thankful to have benefitted from the wisdom of our mentors, Ben and Donna Dale. We could not have had better teachers. They instilled in us the confidence to always build our base of knowledge and to always follow our own path. They both emphasized the importance of never letting others determine how you should participate in this sport.

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