BREEDER INTERVIEW: DR. ADAM KING, ASKIN HAVANESE
stressed the importance of objectivity when it comes to breeding decisions and puppy evaluations. They taught me that if you can’t honestly evaluate your dogs’ strengths and weaknesses, and acknowl- edge them in others’ dogs, you will never improve your program. Aside from my Havanese mentors, there were many other exhib- itors who supported me in my early years in the sport. Jamie Keller let me show her daughter’s old retired champion Australian Shep- herd to several Group placements before Pete was old enough to show. Doris Clark taught the handling class I attended as a complete novice. Brenda Hulsey gave me every magazine that she received as a judge (and I still have them!). Renee Reiherzer helped my mom and me whelp Gracie’s first litter. Barb and Michele Johannes let me co-own and special their Havanese, Buster. Daryl Martin and Harry Bennett took me more seriously and were kinder to me than most other handlers in the Group ring. Deb Gibbs became my “dog show mom” when I traveled with her and specialed her Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers. Mari-Beth O’Neill let me intern at the AKC Raleigh Office for four summers. Lynn Curtis campaigned several early dogs I’d bred. The list is truly endless, and each person influenced the dog person I am today. The Askin Havanese are widely known, highly successful and well respected. What breeding philosophies do you adhere to? First and foremost, Havanese must have cheerful and gregari- ous temperaments. They are supposed to be “small sturdy dogs of immense charm” and I have zero tolerance for a shy or aggressive dog. While many people are attracted to the Havanese because of their appearance, it is their endearing and ebullient nature that cre- ates lifelong devotees of the breed. Being a veterinarian, health is also very important. Every day at work, I see the result of indiscriminate breeding, and I believe that it is up to breeders to ensure that they do everything possible to decrease the frequency of genetic disease in the purebred dog popu- lation. The Havanese is, overall, a relatively healthy breed, but it is important that breeders keep it that way by breeding only health- tested parents, and not making excuses for dogs that don’t pass. I like to keep a small number of dogs. So, in order to keep num- bers down, I have to keep a puppy only when I think it has excep- tional promise. To keep a dog, it needs to exhibit the six critical elements of Havanese breed type; outline, topline, gait, expression, coat, and temperament. If a puppy doesn’t exhibit virtues in all six areas, I will place it in a perfect companion home that will cherish it. A pretty head is key for me, because if I can’t be charmed by a Havanese expression, it doesn’t need to stay in my breeding pro- gram. I also won’t forgive short or crooked/bowed legs; prevalent problems in our breed that are often hidden by coat. Though I’ve had a relatively limited breeding program, I’ve earned the Breeder of Distinction award from the Havanese Club of America. I tend to mainly linebreed, particularly on descendants of two early influential stud dogs; CH Starkette Pride of Wincroft ROMX (Buster) and CH Los Perritos Wee Pantaloons ROMX (Pan), both of whom were grandsons of the previously mentioned Fievel. I had remarkable success breeding my two Buster daughters to a Pan son (CH Harbor’s A Light In The Night ROMX) bred by Connie Field, which helped set the style of Havanese I aim to breed. How many dogs do you currently house? Tell us about your facilities and how the dogs are maintained. For Havanese, I currently have two bitches of breeding age, a young dog, a puppy bitch I’m showing, and two older, spayed girls. Additionally, we have a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and a Miniature Bull Terrier. We don’t have a “kennel” in the traditional sense; the dogs are all in our house. Fortunately, Havanese are gre- garious by nature, and so during the day, the cut-down girls all
Rita Stern with Katrina’s Charmer of Manfred ROMX, and me with CH Silverdale’s For Pete’s Sake at the 2001 Havanese National Specialty.
Mind you, my parents weren’t exactly on board with adding a dog to a household that already included a veritable menagerie of pets, but that didn’t stop me from spending hours reading every book, magazine, and website I could find about purebred dogs and dog shows. After researching every possible breed, I decided that the Havanese was the perfect breed for me. My Grandma Stafford had a Shih Tzu that I adored when I was growing up, and the Havanese reminded me of that breed—with less intimidat- ing grooming. Not yet fully AKC-recognized and still relatively uncommon, I joined a Yahoo e-mail list of Havanese owners and breeders to learn more about the breed. While many didn’t take me seriously, I was fortunate that Rita Stern of Silverdale Havanese recognized how much I loved the breed. She took a heartfelt inter- est in me. Rita ended up contacting my parents (as I was 15 at the time) and asked their permission to gift me a Havanese puppy for Christmas. This puppy became CH Silverdale’s For Pete’s Sake (Pete), my first champion and my Junior Showmanship dog. I was smitten with the breed immediately, and when we won WD for a point under Michael Dachel at our very first show, I was hooked on dog shows. With my parents’ support, I shortly thereafter add- ed a bitch puppy from the same breeder who would become my foundation bitch, CH Silverdale’s Amazing Grace ROM (Gracie). Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their influence. I will be forever grateful to Rita Stern for giving me not only a really good puppy to start me in the breed, but also a great bitch sired by her top producer, Katrina’s Charmer of Manfred ROMX (Fievel), arguably one of the most influential sires in the history of the breed. Rita’s dogs weren’t the fanciest, but they were typey, sound, and healthy, and I was fortunate to have Gracie as the foundation of my program. Jan Stark (or Grandma Jan as I called her) of Starkette Havanese was the other major influence. She was one of the few breeders who took me seriously from the start as well. Though she was in her 80s at the time, we bonded immediately and became e-mail pen pals. Jan took it upon herself to teach me everything about dog shows, breeding, and evaluating dogs. Some of my fondest memories are sitting with her at dog shows and just “talking dogs.” Both Rita and Jan had extremely strong personalities and butt- ed heads with many Havanese breeders (even with each other at times!). They were straight shooters who sugar-coated nothing, but they were exceptionally kind to a teenager who didn’t know much, but who shared a love for their breed and was eager to learn. Without their support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They both
116 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, SEPTEMBER 2021
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