Pictured above, Becky, my heart dog.
This is the story of how I fell head over heels into the wonderful world of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels….
I became captivated by Cavalier King Charles Spaniels many years ago when visiting my friend, whose mother raised them. I was immediately taken by the breeds friendly nature, long soft silky ears and who can resist those big dark eyes. They loved to run and play, or sit and cuddle.
I came home and began to research them. They reminded me of my childhood dog. As I researched, I realized their personality would make them a perfect family pet. With seven kids home at that time, and a life style that included homeschooling, 4H agility and lots of other activities they seemed like the perfect breed to mesh with our family. I was emotionally hooked. I wanted to own one.
My friend gave me her older foundation female, Suzie, who was bred at the time. She was our first introduction to living with a Cavalier, and subsequently raising puppies. Later we purchased Lil Tails Beckoning Call, AKA Becky, from her mother. She was a Blenheim female (pictured above) my favorite color. That was it. I was in love. This little dog captured my heart as I watched her bond with my young daughter Emma. Their relationship reminded me of my relationship with my childhood dog, a pekingese named Poochee. Though she was a different breed I saw the same bond between them that Poochee and I had. My heart melted.
When her mom decided to retire from breeding, I ended up with some of her dogs (Amos, Sara and Dora). My research continued as I studied the breed standard and desired to learn more about these wonderful little dogs entrusted to me. Of course I had a lot to learn. This was my beginning.
I began reading about health testing and the importance of getting your dogs from an ethical breeder. I was blessed because these dogs came from generations of health tested lines. I loaded them all up and drove to Detroit to get all of their eyes and hearts checked by specialists again. I also begin looking into showing AKC conformation classes.
My first show must have been so comical to watch. I happened to pick one of the biggest and one of the loudest shows in the state and a benched show (this means you have to stay there the whole day) to enter as my first show. Nothing like trial by fire. I had NO idea what to do, (I watched videos, and read books… but I was still not prepared for this show) and to top it off, I was the first one in the ring. There are no Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Clubs where I live in Northern Michigan and the only conformation training classes at the time were held at our local humane society. Anyone that has raised puppies understands, it is not a safe place to frequently visit as so many diseases can be brought home to pups with immature immune systems.
Then I met my friends sister, Brenda, who graciously agreed to mentor me. This was no small undertaking. I had lots of questions. (I’m sure at times I drove her nuts!) She was involved raising and showing Cavaliers and she also knew from experience how hard it can be to just get your foot in the door with this breed. We became friends. I attended a clinic on handling dogs and structure, held by a downstate club. Finally, I felt like I was learning something! Scribbling and half a book of notes later, I was prepared to practice with my little girl. (This was the same little girl I took to the big show.) As I worked with her I discovered, not every dog likes to show… even if both of their parents did. She hated it and I am sure our first exposure to the shows was a big reason she did not like it. I also learned she did not have strong rear construction. I placed her in a pet home. I had to wait again on another puppy… or find a show potential pup to purchase (not an easy task in Cavaliers).
I continued to soak up everything I could. I was able to attend the ACKCSC National Specialty early in 2012. That was a spectacular place to learn. I learned what to look for in a Cavalier, studied the structure and movement of the dogs in the ring and discovered what styles I liked. I saw some beautiful Cavaliers. I met other knowledgeable people who shared their insight and experiences with me. I came home, and picked apart my dogs. It is easier to know how to compare, when you have nice dogs to compare to. I could then see what nice qualities my dogs had, and what areas we needed to improve upon if I was going to move forward with my goals of showing.
We went from watching at shows to competing in them. I enjoy going to the shows with my girlfriends. We study, plan future breeding’s, talk dogs for days and cheer each other on in the ring.
Cavalier Club Membership & Service
I joined the Great Lakes Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club in 2012. Our club meetings are approximately 2-3 hours from our home in Northern Michigan, so its a commitment for us. Through membership, I have met many wonderful people and been have blessed with some wonderful mentors and friends in the breed. Breed clubs are such an amazing resource to have for anyone who is serious about the breed. It is through these connections that I have have grown. As people get to know you, they see your heart, share your struggles and are there to help advise you. Whether it is researching pedigrees, understanding structure or the small nuances of the breed, it is a valuable resource. Not to mention, you make some great friends in the breed.
Using my background in Art & Design, in 2015 I recreated the Great Lakes Cavalier Club Website (launched in January 2016). This was an excellent opportunity for me. I was able to include many beautiful photos of Michigan that I took. I also collected photos of the many beautiful cavaliers that belong to our club members to use on that site. Since 2015 I have been the Webmistress for our club and have served as the Breeder Referral contact.
In 2015 I received the Great Lakes CKCSC President’s Award in honor of my work creating the new club website.
In 2017 I added to my responsibilities and accepted the position of Club Secretary and serving on the Board of Directors for our club. I am an active member of this club and have enjoyed meeting many others who are equally passionate about this breed.
In 2018 we held our first Great Lakes CKCSC Specialty Show, as a part of the Kalamazoo Apple Blossom Cluster held in May. I was privileged to be able to help in the planning and execution of this event. Our club had a great time hosting this!
In 2019 I changed from the Secretary position, into the Vice President position and I am focusing more on the club advertising and media.
In the fall of 2023, I stepped down from a board position and I am currently an active club member. With my father in hospice and two new grandchildren I am currently needing to devote more time to my family, my own dogs and farm.
In 2014 I signed up as a volunteer for Cavalier Rescue USA after a large commercial breeder was rumored to have over 98 Cavaliers go to auction. We began fostering for CRUSA in Dec of 2014. (Our first 2 fosters came out of that auction). It is my heart to serve this breed well. We have had the privilege of helping some rescue cavaliers in great need.
Our family raises a limited number of puppies each year. We breed for health, temperament and conformation to the breed type. We desire to improve our lines and take the genetics and health behind our dogs very seriously. We have grown a lot over the years in our breeding program. As more information and more testing becomes available, we grow more. Just in the years we have been involved, it amazes me how much new information is available to breeders to help us make informed breeding decisions.
Our focus in breeding is to obtain our own dogs to show in UKC, AKC conformation classes and we plan to venture into performance. Our parent dogs are heart tested annually by a board-certified cardiologist. They also receive their CERF eye tests bi-annually. We MRI our dogs and/or use MRI history as a part of the whole picture desired to make the best breeding decisions. Our dogs are also DNA tested for DE, CC & EF or are clear by parentage. Hips and patella’s and longevity in a pedigree is also important to consider.
If you are desiring to own a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, purchase one from an Ethical Breeder, (Note: Ethical breeders do not place puppies with Full Registrations, they do health test, and have spay & neuter contracts on any puppy they place) or if you choose to Adopt a Cavalier through one of the Cavalier Rescues. Cavaliers are the most wonderful breed to share your life with.
Our family lives on a small hobby farm in Northern Michigan. We have a variety of animals in addition to our Cavaliers, a couple of Xolo’s… (An amazon parrot, horses, a rabbit & chickens) that we share our lives with. Our children were active in a 4H and have enjoyed showing dogs in Agility & Rally for a number of years (all of them are grown now!).
We also now have Xoloitzcuintle’s in addition to or cavaliers. 🙂 A totally different breed of dog, but fun.