ALWAYS THE TOTAL DOG MAN
Interviewed by Barbara J. Andrews October 2016 - mouse over images for more information
It has been a while Wayne! Inquiring minds want to know. Can you catch us up on what you are up to and what’s going on at UKC?
Thanks for asking BJ. Good questions; two quite different topics, but I’ll give it a go.
Let’s start with the important stuff. Cheryl and I are enjoying every minute of a happy, healthy, vibrant retirement. We have a lucky life! This year, I spent most of my time in the woods building a little writing cabin. I’ve never built anything like it, a different world from building guitars, so lots to learn and a few sore bones. Some thoughtful offers to help, but I wanted to learn by experience so did it myself. It was a great way to stay active and keep my mind out of the past and into the present. It’s been an interesting couple of years to say the least.
In addition to building, we’ve been spending more fun-time with a couple of new dogs. We sadly lost some great seniors in the past few years, including a beautiful 15-year-old bitch from our last Pointer litter, and were down to one beagle, who is now 14. The plan was to eventually have only one small dog so we could travel more, but you know how that goes; we’ve added a very nice young beagle bitch and her unlikely sidekick, an 8-month old Irish Wolfhound pup, both of which have stolen our hearts. Another beagle pup arrives in a few weeks. Back in the puppy saddle.
Are you planning on showing the new hounds?
Not too likely; after more than half century of showing, we’ve been re-learning to be “pet people” instead. I never would have imagined taking our dogs to “play camp” before, but they go for a few hours twice a week. It’s been great for socializing, fresh-air exercise, and fun (note: there are good and bad camps - we found a great one). We’ve ventured into everything from off-lead trail hikes to trips to the beach where the pups meet up with their buddies to swim, fetch, get dirty, and just be dogs. Every day, when I see their joy, I’m reminded why I’ve spent my life in the dog world. You never know, though, they are both really nice looking hounds.
How about breeding, still have the whelping box?
Cheryl and I thought those days were over but it’s still a part of who we are. Not sure about whelping litters anymore, (well maybe one or two more beagle litters) but we’ve been extremely fortunate to have an amazing friend up in Enderby, BC, Lori Crandlemire, with whom I co-own a few nice beagle bitches. One of them, which Lori and her daughter Kaitlyn bred, is Miss P, the 2015 Westminster Best In Show winner. Miss P had a beautiful litter in June at Lori’s so we’re hoping for the best. Lori has a great eye for a dog and is obviously a really bright breeder. Living up in BC, not many Americans outside of beagles knew just how talented she was before Miss P. They know now!
I didn’t realize you co-owned Miss P! What’s the story there?
Well, I do now but it was our son Brody who was her co-owner for most of her career. I won my first ribbon with a beagle when I was six. My dad, who is 94, bred and showed some good beagles in his day, so we thought it would be fun to have our son Brody on board as the third generation of beaglers. Will Alexander introduced me to Miss P when she was a youngster and I fell in love with her. She came out flying in Canada and when she matured, Eddie Dzuik joined the team and we decided to show her in the states. Of course, Eddie was a perfect addition: he’s a great dogman and all around great guy. Miss P won Quaker Oats for Top Hound and really got on a roll. We decided to take my son’s name off for the rest of the campaign for reasons I’d rather not get into, but we’ll all always be part of an amazing team of friends. I cannot say enough about the harmony of that team. No one was in it for the fame, we just wanted the world to see a great beagle, and I guess you could say it worked out pretty well.
Did any of your decisions involve the AKC’s view of your success at UKC or maybe the HBO Real Sports show you appeared in?
Hah! I can’t comment on AKC’s curious view of my success, but I’d be glad to talk some about the HBO show.
Fair enough. It was a bold move to participate in the HBO show and speak out on exaggerations in pure-bred dogs. How did it start and what has happened since?
It was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make but I really feel strongly about the topic. I’d worked in television long enough to know that the positive things I said repeatedly about good breeders and the hundreds of thousands of healthy purebred dogs in America could be left on the cutting room floor. I also knew I’d end up being the AKC’s scapegoat, but you’ve known me long enough to know I’ll accept that roll every time for a something I believe in. Of course, I wasn’t the first one to see exaggeration as a concern. Some pretty high-profile dog folks wrote about it long before I did and since the show aired, I continually hear from active, high-profile, AKC judges and breeders that agree that exaggerations in many if not all breeds are an issue we need to discuss. If we don’t understand and admit where we can improve, we will never change the public’s perception of purebred dogs, no matter how many spin-masters and PR firms are hired.
What was the response?
As expected, the general public and veterinary community were unanimously and overwhelmingly supportive. It’s impossible not to agree when you step outside of our show world and look in without blinders: gradualism is real, it has changed a lot of breeds, and not always for the best. Gradualism has created exaggerations in such tiny increments that it can’t be seen by even the most caring breeders because the closer you are to something, the more difficult it is to see. But the public sees it and the veterinary community sees it.
Some dog show purists didn’t like it much, especially those who didn’t see it, which apparently was most of those who had an opinion. Instead, some based their response on an editorial in Dog News, an unfortunate editorial written from 100% false second-hand accounts. The HBO transcript is clear, there is zero argument about what I said which clearly was not even close to what Dog News reported, and to top it off, they chose not to run my response. I’ve known Matt and Gene most of my life, so was disappointed and surprised they didn’t fact check or call first. I’ll never know if their editorial was an error for the sake of speed or if it was intentional. As far as I’m concerned, however, that’s water under the bridge, just one blip in a lifetime of knowing each other.
Interestingly, in the show, I’m asked how many friends I’d lose by speaking out. My quick answer was “none.” If I lose a friend because of my opinions on dogs, we weren’t friends anyway. The dog show world is a family, sometimes a dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. We agree, we disagree, we argue. It is, of course, a sport based on passion and objective opinions and we all have some of both. At the end of the day, though, we all love dogs.
Interesting and provocative as always! Would you be willing to move on to talk about what the heck is going on at UKC?
I’ll be glad to tell you what I can.
So, what is your current relationship with UKC?
None. I was officially retired last October. Mixed emotions but all good things must come to an end. I wouldn’t trade those 16 years for anything but it was clearly time to move on. The UKC exhibitors and breeders are amazing. They understand the core mission and my strong personal beliefs about promoting purebred dogs by focusing on the Total Dog approach, dogs that do more than look pretty. Those breeders and exhibitors will carry the Total Dog torch, I have no doubt about it.
But don’t you own UKC? Have you sold it? What’s going on up there in Kalamazoo!
I’ll be happy to tell you what I am liberty to tell. The UKC has been a privately held company since it was established in 1898 and remains so today. Privately held companies can have one owner or more and it’s the owner or owners who decide whether or not they want to disclose ownership. I am currently not the decision maker or part of that decision making process; therefore, it’s not my place to report who now owns UKC, but I can say who does not: I am no longer a shareholder in, or the shareholder of, United Kennel Club or any of its affiliates. I want to make it clear that this is no way diminishes my respect for the UKC, its charter and mission, and the core of its devoted staff and constituency. I will do whatever I can to support the Total Dog philosophy until I’m pushing up daisies.
As European footballer Theirry Henry once said when asked if he was retiring: "No, because retiring means stopping. If I wanted to stop, I would have stopped. I’m looking forward to what my kids can accomplish. Hayley received her Doctorate from Northwestern University Medical School and Brody received his Baccalaureate in Psychology from Miami University, both she and Brody have bright futures."
So what you’re saying is that the UKC has new ownership and you are not involved?
Please pardon me asking for clarification but I don’t recall any formal announcement of it being under new ownership or even of you retiring?
There was a press release announcing my retirement in October, 2015; I read it before it was sent. I wasn’t there but as I understand, the new President announced my retirement to the employees at the end of a staff meeting prior to the press release being sent.
Was it sent to the dog magazines? I must have missed it. Was there a tribute in one of the UKC magazines or on the website, or at least a retirement party I didn’t get invited to? I mean, after 16 years, it’s a pretty big deal, isn’t it? How did I miss this all this?
It’s all good, it’s all good. Every administration has its own way to do things and the right to announce such things as they see fit. I did it my way when I was there and the new President does it her way now.
The website lists the new President as Tanya Raab. I know the name from your magazine department but is she anyone we would know from the sport?
Ms. Raab was promoted from within by the new ownership. She has been at UKC for more than 25 years and is very familiar with the daily operations in Kalamazoo.
What’s her breed and what’s been her involvement in the sport?
She’s not participated in any dog events at UKC or any other registry but she has attended many events over the years as a UKC employee. I know she loves dogs and had adopted a shepherd-cross years ago that was her home companion. She didn’t have a dog when I left but I understand she recently purchased her first purebred dog and wants to participate in events. I’m not sure how that would work but I’m sure someone at UKC could give you a more complete answer.
Are there any dog people left in UKC management?
Yes, a few, and some key members of staff also. Tony Vacha, who has shown and bred some really nice dogs, is there in the IT department. Todd Kellam and Sydney Suwannarat are still there, both of whom also have solid dog experience and are well respected in their respective sports. Todd is a heck of a dog man. He currently has an English Setter and German Wirehaired Pointer and has very successfully branched into bird dogs. He oversees all of the hunting programs. Sydney Suwannarat oversees the non-hunting dog events. She worked for AKC before joining UKC. Her specialty is obedience, where she has had great success. She has Rat Terriers and a Standard Poodle that has done well at every endeavor, including hunting, as they should! Cool dog. Sydney is a very bright individual who recently completed her training and is very proud new member of the United States Air Force. Some key staff members with dog experience include Vicki Rand, Allen Gingrich, Beth Anglemyer, Andrea Hunderman, and Nicole Esio.
Anything else you’d like to say about your career there?
My sixteen years at UKC were the best any dog person could ask for. It was a life dream fulfilled; I was able to do what I love and to pursue a mission with passion. Most of all, it was a great opportunity to contribute to real change, some that may have even seemed radical in their time. I’m most proud of the changes that made the UKC unlike any other registry, changes that I hope will have a positive and lasting impact on the sport and the world of dogs.
I have no plan to ever stop working towards the betterment of all dogs, in any way I can. At this time, however, I believe I can better serve that purpose in other ways. At this point, I would hope it goes without saying, but to avoid further speculation, I want to make it clear that I did not leave UKC to work for another dog registry in the United States or for that matter, anywhere in North America - nor do I have any plans or interest to do so.
I learned more at UKC than I could ever imagine, from both failure and success. I've met spectacular dogs and amazing people. I’ll miss working with those on the UKC staff who I am honored to still call loyal friends, passionate dog people who are dedicated to the UKC mission.
With UKC in your rearview mirror, does that mean you have no “conflict of interest” and can be reinstated as an AKC judge? I know a lot of good dog people who would like to see that happen!
It’s probably best we wait for
a “Part II” sometime for that answer, it’s a long story.
I miss not seeing the UKC faithful exhibitors as often. They are the heart and soul of the UKC, the center of a culture that dares to care and is committed to creating a better world for dogs.
And finally BJ, thank you for your time, support, and interest as always. Stayed tuned for the next chapter. You know me, there will always be another chapter!