Dogdom series: My life with dogs – Part1

A unique sport and wonderful hobby – Part 1

I was interviewed recently by Ante Lučin in his popular weekly program on Facebook. Click to see the interview  –  TALKING DOGS WITH ANTE

It was a 2-hour interview but when I listened to it the other day I realized that there were more things that needed to be said.  So, this is an attempt to augment my story in dogs…

Early days
I grew up with German Shepherds – called Alsatians those days but it was only in 1972 when we moved to Coonoor in the Nilgiris, India that we started living with our own dogs. We began with a pair of locally bred Silky Terriers, not knowing where to start, but it put me in touch with Mrs. Goldsmith and Baba Mathews of the Kennel Club of India and that is how I got connected with the dog game. Who knew at the time where these Silky Terriers would take me?!

From 1972 onwards I have kept or bred the Doberman, Dachshund, GSD, Lhasa Apso, Beagle, Whippet, and Greyhound, as well as, an Indian Sighthound known as the Caravan Hound. For a while Maharaja of Baria’s Saluki and a pair of Calahorra Afghans lived with us.

I am happy that our children have continued their interest in Dogs – but they have not been bitten by the dog-show bug! Our daughter who lives in Santa Clara, California has an English Cocker Spaniel, and a most loveable Chocolate Labrador puppy, while our son has a Labrador and a Blue Great Dane in Minneapolis.

Before I go on with my story, I need to give my readers some context.

You are aware that India was the jewel in the crown of the British empire. Whatever new was started in the UK would be followed up in India before long. The Kennel Club in the UK was formed in 1873 and there are reports that the Kennel Club of India began in 1890. The Indian Club must have started in Calcutta, which was where the East India Company was headquartered. Past records show that for some time the KCI office was in Lahore, which is now in Pakistan and then moved to Hyderabad in India. The rule of thumb was that the Club moved wherever the Honorary Secretary resided.

By the time I came on the scene in 1972 the KCI office was in Coonoor as the Secretary Mrs. Odette Goldsmith, a French lady married to an Englishman, was living there. She was assisted by Baba Mathews a knowledgeable dog man.

The Club members, who were few in number, were from all over India. The managing committee consisted of nine members, who were elected annually. The committee then elected a Chairman from among them.

On a visit to Kuala Lumpur in 1971, we stayed with friends who had a Doberman. We instantly fell in love with the breed. In 1972 we acquired an Indian bred Doberman, which went back to the Tavy bloodline in the UK. We met with some success picking up one Reserve CC before Trigger was a year old. Then one day Nawab Nazeer Yar Jung dropped in. Nawab Nazeer was a legend and at one stage had around 150 dogs in his kennels. He had a lot of breeds under his Paigah prefix but his favourites were the Labrador, German Shepherd, and Dachshund. He also bred excellent Caravan Hounds which he used for hunting Black Buck, a fleet footed member of the Deer family. Later, I was privileged to get a Caravan puppy from him.

I asked Nawab Nazeer for his opinion on my ‘prized’ Doberman. He said he liked the dog very much. When I pressed him for the ‘honest truth’, he said, “Philip, he will be a wonderful pet, but don’t waste your time taking him to dog shows all over the country!” Shows were expensive to go to as they were few and far between, generally held in the major cities of Calcutta, Bombay, Hyderabad, and Bangalore. The South of India Kennel Club in Ooty, which was the summer capital of the Madras Presidency, was also amongst the oldest clubs having been started at the turn of the 19th century.

I was stung by Nawab Nazeer’s remark and was now determined to find my niche in dogdom. I decided to import a Doberman bitch from the well-known Kimbertal Kennels in Pennsylvania, USA.

Once the British had left India, the dog game was continued by Maharajas and the very wealthy. It was too quaint a hobby for the common man. Also, since India is predominantly a Hindu country, people were largely vegetarian and did not permit meat to be cooked at home. Cows and goats took precedence over dogs and cats!
This was, therefore, not the environment to have a successful dog breeding program. No one wanted your puppies. The rich would import top dogs from the West to win at the Indian dog shows. Others wanted just a ‘watchdog’!
When I started breeding Dobes, I had to give the puppies away to friends and ‘good homes’. I realised that I had no future as a breeder in India as it would be expensive to keep importing dogs to maintain the gene pool that was required in any worthwhile breeding program. I had to be either very rich or very foolish and I was neither!

But I enjoyed my Doberman, Ch. Ebony Princess of Kimbertal, and showed her with success beating the then top bitch in the country.
So enthusiastic was I with my new passion that I made a trip to Holland to meet Mrs. Knijff-Dermout, to look at her famous Neerlands Stam dogs and buy a puppy. Unfortunately, she had a waiting list a yard long, which included Peggy Adamson of Damasyn Kennels in the US. She however gave me some valuable tips on the breed.

I then moved to the Lhasa Apso. I bought a male which was brought to India directly from Tibet. He had the perfect texture of coat but not the length that you see now. He also had a beautiful head, but he was like a villager, masculine and fearless, but without glamour. He however got his 3 CC’s and became a Champion. In FCI the breed is in Group 9 along with Toys but the Lhasa Apso is not a Toy. KC London has them in the Utility group which I feel is more apt.
I bred a couple Lhasa litters – and had the same experience, but I was overjoyed when HH Jaideep Singh of Baria asked me for a puppy.

My next breed was Dachshund – Standard Smooth. We took a lifelong interest in this breed. We had a lovely red long hair dog out of top Australian stock.
I currently have a young Dachshund Smooth (Miniature) called Oliver. He was bred by Sheila Naharwar in Mumbai out of a beautiful pair she imported from Formula Uspeha, a top kennel for Miniature Dachshunds in Russia.

I also bred a couple of litters of Beagles. These were from the Catherine Sutton’s Rossut line. Beagles are a lovely breed to look at but people forget that they are pack dogs, bred for hunting!

To be continued….

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