The Kelly Girls

Wendy and Amanda Kelly remember Fwaggle’s origins and anticipate the future.



A breeder’s commitment to her breed is a strong bond. A family’s love for a pet is deep. Juxtapose the two relationships and you have the Kelly family. The Manchester Terrier could not be in better hands than those of Amanda and Wendy Kelly of Fwaggle Kennels in Sackville, Nova Scotia, Canada. 


Mimi the Toy Poodle began the saga in 1982. She was a rescue, the result of a “family situation.” The fire of dog ownership was lit. The following year, Wendy’s father purchased a small black and brown dog from his dentist. He brought it home to be a pet for the children. Nobody quite knew what to make of the little pup, but four days after receiving this little gift, they found out the dog was a purebred Manchester Terrier. The naming ritual followed, and the children agreed on Cupcake. Sean, Wendy’s husband, exercised his parental veto and named the dog Butch instead. 


The following year, a Manchester Terrier was advertised in the local paper for the princely sum of $200. Tara, the eldest daughter and shopper extraordinaire, bargained the seller down to $50, and 7-month-old Curtis joined the Kelly clan. Curtis, in his naming ceremony, became Billy. Fwaggle Kennels was in its infancy.


The family needed a hobby that would catch the imagination of the four young children (Tara, Jaime, Amanda and Kelly) as well as Wendy and Sean. Their neighbor owned Schipperkes and suggested that the family might show Billy. What would be a better hobby than attending dog shows, an activity that promised family bonding and pleasant weekends at dog events? The family brought Billy to a match and entered him in Group Four with the other terriers. Everyone starts somewhere. Who knew so early in the game, that dogs take over your life? Tara and Billy went on to a successful show career. Billy took his first Best In Show handled by his 16-year-old owner. 



Early Days

The children persevered. Wendy and Sean and the four young children took road trips to shows throughout North America. Picture the family, the dog and two tents loaded in a station wagon in Ravenna, Ohio, in the dead of summer. There were thunder storms, Wendy’s 40th birthday, a side trip to Niagara Falls and the addition of two bitches to an already full car. As one handler later recounted stories of “those poor fools in tents,” Sean raised his hand. 


The adventures continued. Although the children enjoyed Junior Handling, all were so close in age that they competed against one another — only one of the four could win on a given day. Over the years, Sean and Wendy refined the system. They took only one child on road trips, making shows a true treat. Tara, the eldest, began the journey. Jaime represented Canada at the World Junior Championships at Crufts. 
All four Kelly girls grew up in dogs, and today all have purebred dogs, ranging from Manchesters to a Whippet to a Golden Retriever, in their homes. Wendy is proud they all learned many life skills as Juniors, and agrees with Amanda that the competition built confidence. The family is very close.




The Formation of Fwaggle

By 1986, Wendy embarked on a quest for a bitch and a kennel name. The former was a project, the latter an afterthought. The kennel name was an off-the-top nod to the children – loosely termed the Kelly gaggle. As Fwaggle began, stories followed. There are some that should remain untold but are too good to leave behind. 


Consider the first litter of Manchester Terrier puppies that the Kellys took to their experienced and dependable vet for dew claw removal. The vet was so experienced, in fact, that tails were carefully docked to Miniature Pinscher length. Wendy had already taken the puppies home when she looked and realized what had happened. The vet, who remained their vet until retirement, purchased the litter, and the family gave away the puppies.


For many reasons (not the least of which was that there was no market for a rare breed) the Kellys gave away more puppies in the early years than they sold. By the late ’80s, they had put a breeding program in place. 


During these early years, the family forged great friendships with other Manchester breeders. These resulted in opportunities to share experiences and to travel and show as a group. All these breeders traveled together during the summer and enjoyed venues throughout eastern North America. There were very few Manchesters being shown during the early years, with the most notable, Salutaire Can We Talk, enjoying an unprecedented amount of attention when she became the No. 1 Toy dog. Wendy, ever helpful and with the best of intentions, wrote to her owner and offered use of Billy … The letter appeared to have been lost in the mail. 




Notable Fwaggle Dogs

The first Fwaggle-prefixed Manchester to go Best In Show was owned by a barber. Its name was Fwaggle’s Don’t Snip It — Clip It. The foundation bitch for the kennel, Golden Scoops Toni, came from Elsie Puello. Wendy notes that the dog’s soundness was a cornerstone of the fledgling program. According to Amanda, Toni was the best Manchester ever for a little girl who loved to dress up dogs and parade them in doll carriages. The Kellys then purchased Renreh Unrivalled from Rod Herner of Pennsylvania. A stylish dog, he made a great complement to Toni, and this combination produced Wendy’s favorite dog, Fwaggles’ U Wanna Dance (Tango). 


Among the best known of the Fwaggle Manchesters is Fwaggles Tapman At Burmack. This great Manchester won the U.S. National six times, is a multiple Best In Show dog in the U.S. and has set many Manchester records. His sister, also a lovely example of the breed, finished her U.S. championship twice, first in Bred-By (entered under a Canadian number so all points lost [three five-point majors]), and then by three more five-point majors once the American Kennel Club requirement for U.S. registration was met. 


From a breeding perspective, Wendy notes that living in Nova Scotia is a true advantage. There is no such thing as a “convenient breeding.” As a result, you work hard at the best breeding every time. Almost all Fwaggle litters are bred using frozen semen, and phenotypic breedings are the norm. In 2010, they decided to lease and import two Norwegian dogs from Kirsti Kahrs, who had imported a Fwaggle bitch several years earlier. This acquisition and subsequent breeding was done expressly to expand the gene pool in North America. The kennel offered all but one puppy (at pet price) to North American breeders interested in doing the same. 




Currently, the Kellys have seven dogs, which is the norm for their home-based kennel. Included in the seven is a spayed Toy Fox Terrier, two visiting Manchester Terriers, one senior and the leased bitch from Scandinavia. Working with co-owners, there are bitches in homes who may return for a breeding. For example, Pixie (GCh. Fwaggle’s Black Orchid) is the BIS-winning girl who went BOW at the American National and now resides in a home where she is titled in both agility and obedience. 


With all of these accolades, there is still excitement at Fwaggle. Amanda recounts the stories of their many friendships with a joy that is delightful to hear. Recently, she and Wendy exported the lovely Fwaggle’s Phoenix to Norway to the same breeder who had purchased and done so well with Fwaggle’s Some Like It Hot. According to Amanda, Phoenix left them at the Halifax airport as a Manchester Terrier, and somewhere over the Atlantic, morphed into an English Toy (the name by which the breed is known outside North America). A beautiful puppy, her new owner proudly entered her in the puppy class at the World Show. A middle-of-the-night phone call in a Norwegian accent confirmed that Phi Phi won the breed at this most prestigious of shows. Although still too young to title in Europe, Phoenix is also a BIS winner.
There is a distinct division of labor in the Kelly household. Amanda loves research. She enjoys finding the perfect stud dog. After she does, Wendy then takes over. Mother’s voice is strongest in choosing the show puppy in the litter, and Amanda takes over to train and handle. Disagreements and discussion are constant, but fights never occur. Wendy loves exquisite heads; Amanda is concerned with overall structure. Sean stays home to care for the dogs while the ladies of the house go to shows. 




Representing an Uncommon Breed

Always gracious, Amanda and Wendy note that Canadian judges are perhaps the most knowledgeable in the world of this breed. Amanda and Wendy recognize that with the Manchester’s low numbers, it is not easy to have a comfort level in judging the breed, and the Kellys very much appreciate the consideration given this unique entry. With low entries seen worldwide, it behooves all Manchester exhibitors to present high-quality, well-trained dogs. After all, their points must be gained in the Group because there is generally only the one entry in the breed ring. As a caveat, Wendy and Amanda do note that the breed standard describes a dog that is “wary of strangers.” Judges should keep this temperament trait in mind when examining the Manchester. 


Wendy and Amanda are two of a handful of breeders who have extensive health checks performed on all of their dogs. The Kellys routinely screen for Legg-Calvé-Perthes (a degenerative bone disease), check that their dogs pass CERF tests and have a thyroid panel taken (after the dog reaches its 2nd birthday). 


Manchester Terriers are also prone to a heart condition, juvenile cardiomyopathy. At present, no marker has been developed. Facing such a significant issue in a relatively uncommon breed, they met the challenge head on, began their research and confronted the problem. They worked with a cardiologist at the University of Prince Edward Island’s Atlantic Veterinary College located in Charlottetown, currently the lead on the condition. Etienne Côté, D.V.M., Dipl. ACVIM, needed 10 samples from affected dogs. However, these samples were slow to come because few breeders were willing to send dogs for autopsy. The Kellys persevered. Baseline data has been collected on 10 dogs at a total cost of $8,000, a significant price break. Côté is now in a position to work on any University Teaching Center with respect to this disease. 


Improving the Breed
Amanda, the researcher, has nine years of university education with concentrations in history, education and journalism. Not completely satisfied with her career possibilities, Wendy again suggested Amanda pursue public relations, a profession Wendy and Sean had suggested at the end of Amanda’s secondary schooling. “PR is just amazing, and I get paid for doing what I love,” Amanda says. Currently working on her second language, Amanda is a senior communications advisor for the Canadian government. Amanda says that her travel and long hours leaves Wendy with the heavier dog-related workload. 


Still, there is some free time so Amanda has developed the online annual magazine Black and Tan. All revenue is directed to health-related initiatives, including the cardio project and support for eye testing through the U.K.’s English Toy Terrier club. The magazine brings together the global Manchester Terrier community to provide breeder education and support for judges. It is a tremendous resource and available to judges worldwide as well as to aficionados. 


In addition to and in conjunction with the magazine, there have been two health-related initiatives. In 2002, Amanda and Wendy worked with the Canadian and American breed clubs to develop and implement the first breed-health survey. This was followed by a Manchester Terrier mortality survey. Amanda has now turned her eye to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) haplotype testing, expressing a particular interest in increasing awareness of the breed’s population decline and the role population genetics can play in maximizing genetic diversity. 
Looking back over the past 25 years, Wendy notes she and Amanda have met and surpassed many goals. National specialties in Canada and the United States offer trophies prominently engraved with names of Fwaggle Manchesters. There are double digits of Fwaggle Best In Show winners. All of this has been done with a small breeding program in a relatively remote area of northeastern North America. 


The Kellys love to show their dogs and love to explain their breed to others. As a general rule, they offer that the Manchester Terrier is a great dog for little girls. They are tractable, acquiescing to wedding ceremonies in the basement where Jaime played the flute while Billy and Casey Manchesters were united in marriage by a Kelly cousin. 


The Manchester benefits from extensive socialization. All potential owners are encouraged to examine their lifestyles to ensure they have the time to devote to a dog that must be out and about, that will love them but will not love everyone they meet and that — if owners are not vigilant — can become too much a one-person dog. They must be with you when you are home so they must be taught to be independent. That does not come naturally or easily to this breed. 


Keys to Success
Wendy shakes her head at the thought of a magazine being interested in profiling the Kellys. She notes that she was shocked and flattered at the thought. Although proud of what has been accomplished, she feels that it is a small token in the grand scheme of dogs. Both women enjoy the friends they have made, the shows and the shopping — considered collateral damage. Still, success has certainly played a part in the equation. 


“Success breeds interest and a willingness to make both the financial and time commitment to continue in any sport,” Amanda says. “Had we gone to the dog show and won absolutely nothing with Billy (once it was established that he belonged in the Toy Group), it is doubtful that we would have continued. Young families have better places to put their money than into an activity they feel they have no chance of succeeding in. So we try to ensure we provide new people we work with not only with a quality dog but also with a perspective on what their measure of success should be. Mentoring is often about managing expectations and setting goals. That coupled with competition through options like the Grand Championship system are, we believe, really important.”


There are many people who have been important along the way. They have shared knowledge and expertise, shared their love of dogs and offered encouragement when needed. Jim Burrows and Pat Mackesey (of Burmack  Toy Manchesters) owned Jake – the Fwaggle dog who set untold records in the United States. “These two men did for the breed more than we could have dreamed,” say the Kellys. “We are also grateful to them for having allowed us to own Jake’s son, Indy, a dog that has had a profound impact on our breeding program.” Joy Henderson handled Manchesters for the Salutaire kennel. She loves the breed and asked us for dogs to show, doing fabulous winning with several Fwaggle dogs. No longer, showing, she continues to train and share her extensive knowledge. 


At home 

A Quality Future
Finally, there is the legacy of Fwaggle. We can begin with the quality and improvement of the breed. Then there is the ability to look at a family that has excelled in life, using lessons the dog world shared. There is the underpinning of it all: Wendy’s belief in the importance of integrity and respect. When showing is a memory, the Kellys hope to be remembered for having contributed to improvements in the breed and for having treated people fairly, saying that “the highest ethical standard you hold to should be your own. These principles guide you when nobody is looking and are far more important than any scrap of satin won in a show ring.” 


To date, there are 66 champions in the annals of Kelly history. Nine of the Manchesters have performance titles, and 12 are BIS or SBIS winners in three countries. There are 13 BPIS winners and 25 Group winners in North America, all this having been accomplished with an average of two litters a year. Fwaggle Kennels is a success story. So are the people of Fwaggle.


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

Article Categories:
Dogs In Review