Icons of the Sport: Myrtle Klensch

Learn about the contributions of dog breeder Myrtle Klensch of Salutaire Manchester Terriers.

Myrtle Klensch

It’s impossible to discuss Manchester Terriers without mentioning the phenomenally successful Salutaire bloodline founded by Myrtle Klensch in 1975.

Born and raised in Richmond, Calif., Myrtle loved dogs from the start. Because her mother wouldn’t let her have one, “she did everything she could to be near them and learn about them,” says Corie Herbert-Thorsland, who founded her Toria breeding program on Salutaire.

As a kid, Myrtle walked to local shows. She met Peter Rank in this context in 1952 when both were 14. “The only way we could learn to show was by offering to take dogs in when people needed help handling,” Peter says. The pair began exhibiting Peter’s first litter of TMTs. “We showed for eight years before we got our first group placement. It was that hard to win with Manchesters back then.” Thanks to their determination and perseverance, that changed. Retired professional handler Joy Henderson met Myrtle in the late ’70s and subsequently campaigned eight Salutaire Manchesters to BIS in Canada. Together, Myrtle and Peter made Manchesters into a very competitive breed, winning countless BIS and specialties in both varieties.

 “The breed was much smaller then, and we just learned through experience,” Peter says. Myrtle was a quick study. Grooming and handling skills she picked up at shows soon put her on par with professionals. A straight-A student in high school, Myrtle turned down a scholarship to UC Berkley. “She had to support her mother, and did so for the rest of her life,” explains Peter, who attended Stanford and law school while Myrtle held down the fort. Rank paid the show expenses, and Myrtle managed the breeding program. “We never had anything in writing but our partnership lasted 47 years.”

Salutaire quickly evolved into a consistent type, admired for temperament, color, outline and breathtaking head type. According to fellow Northern California exhibitor Jan Carson, “It was common knowledge if you wanted to build a good head on a Manchester, you went to Myrtle.”
Salutaire’s top-winning TMT, Surely You Jest, came from an accidental Toy/Standard breeding. When her husband broke the news “Myrtle’s first words were ‘ Surely you jest,'” Peter  explains. Breeder/owner-handled alternately by both, Jessy racked up 22 BIS and 99 groups and became 1982’s top Toy. She won her fourth national specialty at age 12 and was also the top obedience TMT.

Salutaire’s lasting contribution has unquestionably been to the development of the Standard Manchesters. The first homebred Salutaire champion, Real Dilly, produced Ch. Salutaire Word to the Wise, the top Standard stud and sire of 60 champions. “Whiz was an outstanding show dog that produced outstanding show dogs and slept in Myrtle’s bed until the day he died,” says Joy, who handled Ch. Salutaire Foolhardy, Canada’s top-winning Standard Manchester Terrier with a record of 25 BIS, 104 groups and numerous specialties.
 “Myrtle bred over 300 champion Manchesters, and her breeding won over 100 BIS, but it wasn’t just a selfish thing with her,” Peter says. She consistently promoted education and was the primary participant in a 1989 UC Davis study on the inheritance mode of Legg-CalvŽ-Perthes in Manchesters. “It is still hailed as one of the seminal works on LP and is cited in all modern investigations of the disease,” says Amanda Kelly, breeder of Fwaggle Manchesters.

Myrtle was active in many northern California all-breed clubs and served as president of the AMTC. “For years, Myrtle’s Tuesday night handling class was the biggest thing in this area,” Jan says. “She was very tough. We called her Madame Klensch, but if she knew you were serious, she did everything to help you.” Myrtle may have redefined the phrase fierce competitor, but Joy remembers her as thoughtful, generous and loyal. “Even with her crazy busy schedule, she never forgot birthdays and always called if you were not well.”

In August 2000, Myrtle’s demanding schedule and worsening diabetes led to a car crash while driving to a show. CHP witnessed the accident and attempted to rescue her dogs. Tragically, their crates broke apart. One was killed on the highway. The other was never found. Myrtle died on the way to the hospital. Her memorial service at the Sir Francis Drake KC attracted 2,000 mourners.

“Salutaire remains the predominant basis for a large swath of today’s SMTs including most of the biggest winners in recent years,” Amanda says. “One would be hard put to look at too many SMT pedigrees without finding Salutaire there somewhere.”


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

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