I was a beginner once; and in the VERY beginning, there was a VERY plain dark brindle bitch we named De-Miro’s Tarnished Tuppence. We had been looking for a boxer for quite a long time with very little success. We owned a home on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are not many fences on St. Thomas, not even for the goats (which were of far greater abundance than dogs of pedigree!) In all fairness, though, my inquiries rarely got as far as fenced yard discussion. I was usually cut short following, ‘Hello, my husband and I are looking for a boxer pup. We live on St. Thomas ......hello? ......hello? Oh yes, I was a beginner then.

One blessed day, AKC gave me the name and number of the ABC referral who in turn introduced me to (believe it or not) a fellow island person, and my life was forever changed. Armando Miro had only the one pup left from his Gian Carlo litter. They were sired by CH Marquam Hill’s Traper of Turo (SOM), out of CH De-Miro’s Rosa de Lejos (DOM). Sometimes God smiles on beginners. Tuppy was 12 weeks old. She had the most beautiful expression, and when I first saw her she was wearing a little styrofoam cup on her head, which somehow made her look quite regal! Our flight home from Miami was late in arriving, and to this day I can see that crate on the baggage belt with my little queen staring out at the world, totally fearless, but most indignant at having been treated just like a ...... dog? Today I would call this typical boxer attitude, but I was a beginner then.

Now, in those days, there was no limited registration, and I was not asked to sign a spay agreement. Just as well, as my husband and I had decided that we would like to breed ‘a’ (as in one) litter. Now let’s see, what reasoning did we use? Whatever it was, I know that today I’d be tarred and feathered, and I know it had nothing to do with the pedigree. Boy was I a beginner then. Shortly after Tuppy turned a year old, we moved to Maryland; and as luck would have it, one of the first people I met in Maryand was a boxer person (a now fellow ABC member, Lee Morris) I had randomly walked into a pet store (for food) and while there just happened to inquire after boxer stud dogs. (And what a beginner I was!) This is now my first introduction to inner sanctum boxer breeder sainthood, a very closed caste indeed. Now begins the third degree. You know the script, ‘why do you want to do that?’ ‘what’s in your line?’ ‘what are you looking to achieve?’ ‘have you thought about the trouble, time and expense involved?’ ‘are you ready to make this kind of commitment?’ We had no debate then about health testing issues; but, nevertheless, I was on the receiving end of some very intense interrogation, from which I could only escape after agreeing to return with my bitch’s pedigree (though nary a name could I remember!) Yes, I did nerve myself up to return with the pedigree; and, yes, Lee being (I’d like to think) duly impressed by the great names thereon, agreed that we would do well to breed this bitch and she gave me a name and telephone number. So it was that I met Col. and Mrs. James Jackson, and so it was that shortly before Tuppy’s second birthday she was bred to CH Omega’s Tycoon. The breeding didn’t take. Remember, I was a beginner then. What did I know about patience and vaginal smears?

Oh well, Tuppy was a ‘once a year’ kind of girl, so I had more than a few months to learn patience. By the time the following May rolled around we were more than ready. Our x-ray told us to look for 6 pups, and we were vigilantly counting days and keeping a record of temperatures. So it was that the morning of August 2, 1989, the first Haywood litter started to arive. In some magic way, during those few hours, a whim became a passion and I just haven’t been the same since. Mr. Webster defines prepotent as ‘the greater capacity of one parent to transmit certain characters to offspring: a concept now discredited.’ Pooh....by 5 that evening we had five little squiggle worms in that whelping box, and each looked just like Tuppy. I was so tired (having been up most of the night before, of course), that I crawled off to bed about 9. Tup was no longer in labor, and it seemed obvious to me that the x-ray lied. Remember, I was still a beginner then. Got up to check the new family at 2 and found (to my great surprise) not 5, but 6 little squiggle worms and one was a golden brindle with a beautiful white paint job. T.T.’s Tumbelina had been born. I’d never been to a dog show, but I knew I had my first show dog! Six happy, healthy pups. No problems (beginner’s luck!) plenty of milk......I learned my ‘teeth and tits’ lesson, and moved right on to weaning at about 4 weeks. By 6 weeks, Tup was VERY happy to be back in her own space, and the pups were very happy having taken over a VERY messy kitchen. At about that time we were invited to a birthday party (on St. Thomas) that I really didn’t want to miss; and (after all) everything was fine, and we’d only be gone for the weekend. Arrangements were made for kids (with baby sitter) and dogs (with house sitter), and off we went. So oblivious does one become to the world outside one’s little sphere of baby dogs! We never heard of Hurricane Hugo until we landed. We were the last plane in. Having planned to be gone three days, we were away three weeks. I know you all would never leave 6-week old pups, but please remember that I was a beginner then, and (I guess) because I was a beginner, everything worked out just fine!

Spring came, and with it, the Cherry Blossom Circuit. My first dog show: -- Shawnee Kennel Club, where you park miles from the show site and there is always mud up to your ankles. But what fun! A red ribbon has never since carried quite the same ecstasy. The rest of the family knew I was quite mad, but I was just a beginner.

On Mother’s Day we were blessed with our second litter of six. Two flashy pups from this litter became champions 1 and 2 (TT’s Shazam at Wit’s End and Katandy TT’s Whistle Stop) These two beautiful pups began their show careers with blue rosettes at ABC 1991. What a feeling of complete and total joy! Gee, this show ‘business’ is not so difficult after all. Imagine, three years had passed; and I was still just a beginner!

Of course, the time comes when the frustrations start to overtake the accomplishments; when the heart aches seem to outweigh the fond memories and the grandiose plans. I guess that’s when you don’t feel like a beginner anymore. It could be something terribly ‘trivial’ like having to face the fact that your beautiful bitch will grow old sitting on 13 points and needing that one elusive major; trying to justify decisions made or not made, money spent, time lost; and still you’re no closer to breeding the ‘best.’ What if you have to sell your favored one because you can’t afford not to? Oh yes, and then there are the tears.....the tears you shed for the first puppy you lose despite all you did and every dollar you spent. Still the guilt lives on in your heart because you just ‘know’ there was something else you could have done. Your vet looks at you as if you were daft and says, “Breeder Person, face reality. One pup out of five will die.” You turn around and leave that office and never look back. You know that one out of five of your pups will not die. More tears for the pup you put down with a severe hair lip and cleft pallet. Tears of frustration after your bitch has still not conceived following the third attempt at that perfectly planned breeding. A pet you placed to a ‘wonderful’ home comes back to you. A pet you placed to another ‘wonderful’ home is lost under the wheels of a car. Who can forget the total devastation you feel taking your best friend to the veterinary office that one last time knowing one of you won’t be going home. The last hug, the last breath...a bit of you dies too. The list goes on. What do you do when after a difficult labor, you’re forced to have a c-section to retrieve the single remaining pup. What if she’s white? How hard do you work? Do you work at all. What if, realizing she was white, your vet said, “What shall we do?” and you said, “Do everything you would for a colored pup.” Would lightening strike you down? You try unsuccessfully to revive the pup. More tears for this little life that never was as you cover her with a clean towel. Some time later you stop to say one last good bye, and your heart stops when you realize that her’s has started. Some angel gave her life when you could not. We are not Gods; but it is good to be reminded. We are ever, always and foremost, beginners, living life, learning from experience, and even ‘sometimes’ being rewarded with small blessings.

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