Canine Cartels

How Do Teams of Owners Make It Work?

Co-ownership: The longest four-letter word in the dog world. Their tales of horror are the stuff of late-night showground campfire ghost stories, told between claps of thunder and ending in every listener’s oath to never co-own a dog. Especially a show dog. And most especially a top show dog.


So when the rankings came out last year, with the Number One spot held by a dog with not two, but four, co-owners, it begged the question: Really? Visions of contracts, backers and businessmen arose in my mind, a canine cartel to rival any Derby hopeful’s. That was before I ran into Mary Walker at a show. It was a while into the conversation before she mentioned she co-owned the black Cocker Spaniel. A while longer before I realized she co-owned THE black Cocker Spaniel. And eventually she mentioned she was there with all the co-owners, all fellow Cocker folk, to root ‘Beckham’ on — something they occasionally did just to get together. There went my image. 


It turns out that Beckham is not the only dog with a team of owners. How do these teams make co-ownerships work, under what must be the most stressful of circumstances, when so many others can’t manage a co-ownership between two people? Do contracts spell everything out? Who does what? And how do they keep from killing — or suing — one another?  We contacted several teams (dogs owned by four or more unrelated people) of prominent dogs; six replied, but three of them backed out after not all the owners could agree either to participate, or who would reply, or what to say! Fortunately, three teams agreed to share. 


Team Beckham 

GCh. Casablanca’s Thrilling Seduction
Black Cocker Spaniel: No. 1 Dog of 
All Breeds 2011
Breeder: Linda G. Moore
Owners: Bruce Van Deman, Carolee Douglas, Mary Walker and Linda G. Moore
Agents: Mike and Linda Pitts

Meet the Team

Bruce Van Deman: Bruce started with Cocker Spaniels more than 30 years ago, and now also shows and breeds English Toy Spaniels — consistently campaigning dogs of both breeds to national rankings. Says Bruce: “Beckham is a stunning animal with an exuberant ‘merry’ attitude that is a constant gift of joy for all of us.”


Carolee Douglas: Carolee came into dogs through obedience. She continues to exhibit Cocker Spaniels in obedience and has added agility, hunt and tracking — earning more than 100 performance titles on Cockers she’s also finished in conformation. Carolee has owned or co-owned a number of top-winning Sporting dogs. She sums up: “With a great dog, a great handler and lots of hard work Beckham has continually brought all his co-owners lots of joy, and he has been a great ambassador for the breed, breaking some records along the way. What a ride we’ve all had!”


Mary Walker: Mary has owned and bred Cocker Spaniels — including a number of BIS and SBIS winners — for 32 years. “Owning Beckham has been a thrill,” says Mary. “Being a part of Team Beckham with the other owners and the Pitts has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
 Linda G. Moore: Beckham’s breeder, Linda, has shown Cocker Spaniels since 1988. She also has English Cocker and Pug champions, as well as a black Standard Poodle from Poodle rescue that “rules the house.” An attorney, Linda helped establish the American Spaniel Club Foundation. “Breeding and owning a dog like Beckham is more than I ever dreamed of,” she says, “and then to be able to share the joy of his merry personality and his career with the other owners and the Pitts has truly been unbelievable.”


Making the Team


All four owners had bred and shown Cocker Spaniels, and known each other, for many years, but it was the Pitts who brought them together. The Pitts asked Bruce Van Deman to come to the July 2009 Cocker National to see a young dog, then owned solely by his breeder Linda Moore. He liked what he saw. About six months later, Carolee Douglas was at a Texas show watching groups with Linda Moore when she commented, “That black Cocker is going to win the Group” — not knowing that it was Linda’s dog. Shortly afterward Carolee told Mike Pitts she’d like to become a co-owner of Beckman. Mary Walker didn’t see Beckham until early 2010, even though Mike Pitts had told her about him as a puppy. As soon as she saw him she wanted to be involved. Another co-owner, Weimaraner breeder Cindy Cassidy, was on Beckham’s owner list through most of his first year as a special (2010). Cindy stepped down to concentrate on her Weimaraner she was also campaigning. 


DIR: How did the decision come about to aim for the top? 
Linda Moore: “Since Beckham finished 2010 as the No. 5 Dog All Breeds, the logical goal for 2011 was to try to be No. 1. Linda Pitts planned the strategy to reach that goal and fortunately Beckham was No. 1 all year. Near the end of 2011, as Beckham got closer and closer to the BIS record for Cocker Spaniels, we all decided to go for the record.” 

DIR: What was the year like going for No. 1? 
Bruce Van Deman: “As I stated at the Pro Plan/DIR dinner where Beckham was Sporting and Best in Show Dog of the Year, the year was drama free. Beckham became pretty ill in the spring which was scary, but the Pitts and Beckham’s vet were right on it, and luckily after several weeks he recovered.”


DIR: How do you split up responsibilities? 
Linda Moore: “People assume we have a detailed agreement between us, but we don’t. There is nothing in writing. All the owners split the expenses.” 


DIR: How are ribbons and trophies dispersed?
Linda Moore: “Any of the owners or the Pitts can have any trophy or ribbon they want — they just ask. I did order the Group First ribbon from his 2011 win at Westminster for all the owners and Linda Pitts.”


DIR: Who gets Beckham when he retires? Which of you does he like best?  
Linda Moore: “Beckham will remain in everyone’s names and will go back to me (Linda Moore) when he retires. We have discussed working on other titles for Beckham. Carolee has obedience, tracking and hunt trial Cockers, so it would be fun for Beckham to go on to other titles. Beckham is very much a people dog and likes all of us, but there is no question that the person he really loves is Linda Pitts. He obviously loves Mike Pitts, but it is funny that there are other handlers and assistants he likes and looks for at shows. He particularly loves Dottie James, Michael Shepherd’s assistant, and if she is at a show he can spot her a mile away.”


Team Peyton 
GCh. Wynmoor Champagne Supernova
English Springer Spaniel: Currently No. 4 Dog of All Breeds
Breeders: Billie and Erin and Charlie Kerfoot and Ruth Kirby
Owners: Celie Florence, Beth Fink, Dr. Erin Kerfoot, Dr. Ken Goodhue-McWilliams and Delores Streng
Agent: Robin Novack

Meet the Team 
Delores Streng: Delores founded the Telltale English Springer Spaniel line in 1966, making it one of the oldest ESS kennels in the country. “She is our mentor and teacher and guide,” says Beth Fink, adding that Delores continues to offer “her gentle and elegant influence over our philosophy and the breeding program at Telltale. Delores is our inspiration.” It should be noted that Peyton comes down from a long list of Telltale dogs. 


Celie Florence: Celie started with Welsh Springer Spaniels, but that changed in 1985 when Mary Ann and George Alston suggested she might want to get involved with Delores Streng’s English Springer, Ch. Telltale Royal Stuart. “That started a partnership, friendship and becoming like family,” says Celie. “Delores and I thrive on our trust and honesty. We have had many successes in our breeding program and have above all stayed loyal friends.” 

Beth Fink: Beth was raised with Sporting dogs; her father and grandfather hunted birds over Irish Setters and Springers dating back to the 1920s. “I learned to walk by hanging onto dogs,” she says. Beth was a breeder and exhibitor “on a very small local scale” for 35 years. In 2008 she co-owned MBIS, MSBIS Ch. Tiffany’s ESSpecial Imagery (‘Stanley’), and followed with GCh. Windmoor Superstition (‘Stevie’), the breed’s first AKC Grand Champion. Stevie is a son of Ch. Telltale Salute, and Robin Novack specialed him between the campaigns for Stanley and ‘Peyton.’

Erin Kerfoot-McGlothin, Ph.D.:  Erin, whose Ph.D. is in neuroscience, was the top ESS junior handler for four years. She showed Peyton to his championship and took him to the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship twice. Erin and her parents (Billie and Charlie Kerfoot) have bred the Wynmoor Springers for decades; they, along with Ruth Kirby, are Peyton’s breeders.  

Kenneth Goodhue-McWilliams, Ph.D.: Ken has shown and bred under his own Circle Games prefix for many years. He met Robin Novack and Monica Bowers (Tiffany and ESSpecial English Springers) years ago, and they became very close friends, co-owning and co-breeding several dogs out of the Tiffany and ESSpecial lines. Ken is Professor Emeritus at USC-Fullerton. “He exudes wisdom and kindness,” says Beth, adding, “and we think he likes the male-to- female ratio of the team!”    

Robin Novack, of Tiffany and ESSpecial ESSs, is Peyton’s handler and considered a member of the Telltale family. “When George and Mary Ann retired, we moved to Robin Novack — at the time a young handler just starting out on her own,” says Florence. “In addition, we are thrilled to welcome Laura King, Robin’s partner.”

Making the Team

Team Peyton has been in development for years. Streng and Florence first co-owned Ch. Telltale Royal Stuart in 1985. Celie had a Welsh Springer with George and Mary Ann Alston at that time, and she’d admired Delores’ Springer they were also showing. The Alstons facilitated a relationship that has continued — “closer than family,” according to Celie — since. Beth became involved in 2008 when Robin Novack (who took over handling the Telltale Springers after the Alstons retired) was in the final stages of preparing Stanley (BIS, SBIS Ch. Tiffany’s ESSpecial Imagery) as her next special, and she invited Beth to join Celie, Ken Goodhue-McWilliams and Delores in backing him. When Stanley retired, Stevie became the group’s dog in 2008. So the team was already in place — almost — for Peyton. Peyton brought his breeder, Erin Kerfoot, aboard. Says Beth:  “It’s a wonderful thing when the stars align and people are brought together to enjoy something they are all passionate about. It’s an added dividend when those people love and respect each other so much.”  

DIR: How did the decision come about to aim for the top?
Beth Fink: “While it’s the nature of all dog exhibitors, breeders and handlers to strive for the big awards, there are a very few dogs that are destined to play on the big stage. This dog had the makings, and we knew we had the right handler. Robin and Celie had seen Erin and Peyton in the classes, and in late 2009 the Kerfoots brought Peyton for them to see again, now as an adult. The big ring at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, R.I., was empty and almost dark — lit only by a half-moon. Robin slipped a lead on Peyton and moved off across the dark ring. We all stood there in the middle of the ring and caught glimpses of them as they floated around the ring. She came back to us and the dog jumped into a stack, riveted on Robin. We knew right then that this could be something very special! He and Robin opened the campaign with a Best of Breed win at The American Spaniel Club in 2010, and they were on their way.”


DIR: How do you split up responsibilities? 
Beth Fink: “There is no formal written contract. There is a verbal understanding and agreement among us of who helps with what aspect of the job — keeping records of all the wins, the points earned, advertising, handling expenses, photographs, entry fees, travel and because of our complete trust and admiration for each other, and the long association of Celie and Robin and Delores, this understanding is a very comfortable one. This is perhaps a very unusual group of people…in that we trust and admire each other and that we discuss openly with each other.  

“Robin is in charge of ‘all things Peyton’ — his training, grooming, conditioning, his presentation and his breeding activities. Robin guides our advertising philosophy and consults with us all on shows she’d like to enter. Sometimes, we’ll all go to a show and reconnect and have a wonderful weekend together. The team members have taken on specific duties to make Robin’s job and Peyton’s show career run smoothly and successfully.


“Ken speaks with Robin several times a month, offering his calm wisdom, and she relates to him the dog show news. He offers his ideas and impressions generously. He also sends little good luck mementos to all of us — charms for charm bracelets, hand-painted champagne glasses, and even specially commissioned enamel dog pins from artists he knows!  


“Celie, Robin and Delores talk by phone nearly daily. Their ideas and planning for future breedings at Telltale Kennel are the lifeblood for the future. They also discuss and consult on the show schedules for Peyton and Robin.  


“Erin often will fly to shows to help Robin. She can groom, prep and handle with the best! And of course, loves to see her big brown dog!
“One of my (Beth’s) functions is working with Robin on ad concepts for Peyton. We are fortunate to have several photographers who send us candid shots they have taken at various dog shows. I work with Joan Beck of Beck Visual Communications to put these concepts into hard copy for the magazine ads.”

DIR: How do you decide who gets what trophies or ribbons? Stud fees?
Beth Fink: “Peyton at this writing has 24 all-breed Bests in Show, 114 Sporting Groups, 15 Best in Specialty shows, including the English Springer Spaniel National Specialty, and his Best of Breed and Sporting Group 3 win at Westminster. That stack of rosettes is getting very tall! Very often, we will order additional ribbons or rosettes and photos from a special dog show for the team members. When Erin moved from Virginia to Yakima, Wash., I felt she needed some decorating items for her new house, so I boxed up a bunch of Peyton’s crystal bowls, platters and vases and shipped them to her. I am sitting here in my office with a stack of red-white-and-blue rosettes which will be shared with the team members.  


“Stud fee arrangements are probably pretty universal throughout dogsport. I believe a common arrangement is that stud fees go to the handler while the dog is under that handler’s care. Often, there is a “residual,” that is, stud fees inure to the handler for a period of time after the dog is no longer being campaigned. In this day of veterinary technology, many owners, handlers and breeders opt for frozen semen stored in a semen bank. This concept has proven very successful and efficient, as dogs can continue their campaigning without the distraction of having bitches in season near them. Most folks who have a top-ranked dog, in any breed, who is in demand as a breeding animal make use of both frozen semen and fresh chilled which can be shipped out overnight. All those methods have been very successful.”  

DIR: Who gets Peyton when he retires?
Beth Fink: “On retirement, Peyton will go home to Erin for some well-deserved sofa time!”

Team Webber 
GCh. Avalon Frontier Sleepnlady
Bouvier des Flandres; No. 3 Herding Dog 2010
Breeders: Sherrod McDaniel, David N. Calhoun and Lee L. Calhoun
Owners: Judy McConnell, Sherrod McDaniel, June Guido, Larry Fenner and Suzanne Garcia
Also contributors and part of Team Webber: Peter Partnow, Stephanie Kesler, Scott and Heidi Dulebon, and Lisa Rone 
Agent: Larry Fenner

Meet the Team

Judy McConnell: Judy, of Sleeping Lady Bouviers in Anchorage, Alaska, bought Webber as an 8-week-old puppy. She previously owned the No. 1 Bouvier for 2001 and 2002, Ch. Sleeping Lady’s Fion. Judy is also the American Bouvier des Flandres Rescue League Alaska coordinator.  

Sherrod McDaniel: Sherrod, of Avalon Bouviers, is Webber’s breeder. She’s had Bouviers for 28 years. Webber’s dam, Ch. Avalons Aurora, was previously the No. 1 Bouvier — as was Webber’s sire. 

June Guido: June Guido is a longtime Bouvier breeder, and chair of the Bouvier Health Foundation. Her emphasis on Bouvier health is what drew her to Webber. “Webber brought an impeccable seven-generation health certification with him. We sometimes forget when we’re campaigning a dog: What are we doing this for? People think winning is the important part — but it’s health. Webber represented to me the ultimate in both health and the breed standard.” 

Larry Fenner: Larry, Webber’s handler as well as co-owner, has been a Bouvier exhibitor since 1989. He breeds under the Black and Gold prefix. A professional handler, Larry had previously handled Sherrod McDaniel’s dogs.   
Suzanne Garcia: Suzanne has bred Bouviers for more than 30 years under the Pennrico prefix.  

Making the Team

Webber was initially co-owned by Judy McConnell and his breeder, Sherrod McDaniel. He earned his championship with Judy in Alaska, and also had his first big win — the Alaska Herding Group Show — there. He continued to get attention in Alaska, and then hit the big time with a 4,000-mile trip to Westminster. “He surprised everyone by winning first Award of Merit there,” recalls Judy. It was there that Larry Fenner saw him. Larry, along with co-breeder Lee Calhoun of Frontier Bouviers, had helped Sherrod evaluate Webber’s litter (Webber was second pick). Larry contacted Judy a month later, saying he wanted to show Webber. “I was very reluctant to give up my baby. So the answer was ‘No way!’ But after much coaxing from Larry, his wife Lori and Sherrod, I relinquished him in March and said I was flying out to California the end of April because I knew he could not survive without me. When I got there Webber was happy to see me but Larry was his everything — it was so obvious they were a team. I flew home, and the rest is history. 

“Now there was this money thing,” Judy continues. “Sherrod contacted June Guido, a good friend, who said she would help. I then contacted my good friends who were not show people but owned Bouvier pets of my breeding. They (Peter Partnow, Stephanie Kesler, Scott and Heidi Dulebon, and Lisa Rone) all contributed substantially. They made his campaign possible. That is why his campaign was called Team Webber. The final co-owner, Suzanne Garcia, is a show person who helped me years ago in 2001 with Ch. Sleeping Lady’s Fion. Everyone donated to reach a desired amount — some more, some less. Entries were paid separately. We had the treasurer who received all contributions and paid Larry monthly. It was not easy. Team Webber was the most generous, terrific people all wanting Webber to succeed. There was very little advertising and very little traveling. Webber and Larry were their own stars. It can be done on a shoestring!”

DIR: How did you split up responsibilities? 
June Guido: “I was the ‘Chief Financial Officer.’ Judy was great at asking her puppy people for money; we were all good at raising money from outside the five of us. Nobody knows the exact figure we spent —we hid it from our husbands! But I call this dog I have here my $70,000 stud fee puppy! But really, as for why we did it, bragging rights at the bar, for one thing! The thrill is to be there and actually see him win a Best — and we got to see a few. As for making the team work, the key is to have a like common denominator; the rest is just trivia. I would do it all over again tomorrow.”


DIR: How does income from stud fees get dispersed? What about ribbons and trophies?
Judy McConnell: “Stud fees came to me and immediately went to Larry as part of his fees. All trophies and ribbons were divided amongst owners and since he received 18 BIS and more than 90 Group Firsts non-owners also received BIS ribbons and trophies.”


DIR: Who got Webber when he retired, and who decided when that would be? 
Judy McConnell: “There was a contract saying Webber would be returned to me and timing would be Larry’s and my decision. Larry made all decisions for shows and it was a mutual decision to stop after 18 months. He was at the top — time to retire and come back to the Last Frontier. Webber was my boy and came home.”


From the July 2012 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the July 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.

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