MARY MERLO, EVERGREEN IRISH SETTERS
Four generations from left to right: Ch Evergreen Smoke N Mirrors; Evergreen Kinvale Can Do; Ch Evergreen Chase The Clouds, JH; Ch Evergreen Best Kept Secret, CD.
Firstly, I think of the style of Irish I want (phenotype) and what dogs have that style. Dogs that I have considered always had to have a good front-end assembly, which includes all parts of the front. The dogs must have one-piece silhouettes and make your eye flow from head to tail. They must also have a cor- rect, long side head profile with proper expression. Next, I try to find dogs within the pedigree (genotype) that adhere to those qualities. I try to match up the following combinations: grandparent to grand- kid, niece to uncle, or nephew to aunt. I have found the most consistency in those combinations. I will keep the puppy that adheres as closely to what this purposeful breeding hoped to accomplish. I also like to produce a stud dog that is heavily linebred so that he can produce those qualities of the ancestors. Using a dog like this often helps to stamp type and style...and the odds are in your favor to produce what that dog embodies. Lastly, there is luck...and we all need it. How many dogs do you currently house? Tell us about your facilities and how the dogs are maintained? Currently I share my home with six adult Irish (the oldest being 13 and the grand dam of the house), a toy Xoloitzcuintli, a Sphynx cat and an African Grey parrot. When searching for my new home in North Carolina, I wanted a ranch with a connected garage that would become my kennel. I have four indoor runs with doggy doors that each go to an outside 20-foot run. The area is also fenced for some free running time. The facility is air conditioned, heated and has a stand-up tub...and, of course, a TV for our listening pleasure. My house is set on five acres and has plenty of trees. Who were/are some of your most significant Irish, both in the whelping box and in the show ring? From my first champion, Royal Irish, Joanie, Dana and I bred to another Courtwood dog named Courtwood Manuscript. That produced Ch. Kinvale Evergreen Destiny that won many Groups with me handling him. While this was happening, I bred a litter, using Ch. Cucuhullain Good Fortune, whom I had seen win the Stud Dog class at the National, with every pup moving with the same ease and carrying that gorgeous outline. Seeing that sealed the deal and I used him on Ch. Evergreen Best Kept Secret, CD. This pro- duced the beginning of the Irish I really wanted, Am. Can. Ch. Evergreen Chase The Clouds, JH—my Flavio, whom I named after the great handler, Flavio Wer- nick. That dog had the greatest headpiece and front assembly, and went on to win many specialty Bests, Groups and even a Best in Show, my first. Unfortu- nately, he went sterile after one litter. Luckily, I had kept a bitch from that litter. I designed all my breedings to try and concentrate on Flavio to bring him forward, and took a bitch that was his granddaughter and bred her back to Fla- vio’s sire, Ch. Cucuhullain Good Fortune. This produced Ch. Evergreen Good Intentions (Vincenzo) that was the number four Irish Setter for two years,
future Ch. Kinvale Royal Irish, that would go on to become my foundation bitch. My very first dog show was the 1978 Irish Setter National Specialty in Elyria, Ohio. The pups were three days into being six months old. Annie Clark was judging bitches. In a huge class, we walked out with a second place and her litter sister took fourth. Now there was no stopping me! When it came time to breed my first champion, I talked at length with my mentors, Joanie and Sue. Neither one pushed me in any direction. They allowed me to pursue what I thought would be a suitable breeding, always asking why and making me verbalize my thoughts. As it turned out, I chose the dog of my dreams, Ch. Courtwood Summer Forecast, that was a full broth- er to Royal Irish’s sire. In those days we shipped our bitches to the sire, and when Sue saw Royal Irish in the flesh she commented that she did not think Simon was the right stud dog for her. I was devastated and in tears. Sue recommended another dog, Ch. Charl- ton’s Moon Lover, that was a son of Summer Forecast. After composing myself, I called Sue back. Who was I to question what she thought to be a better breeding? After all, she was a successful breeder and I had never bred a litter. That breeding produced my first Bred-By cham- pion, that won two specialty five-point majors from Ted Eldredge of Tirvelda fame, including a Best of Opposite Sex over champions. I remember that day, and the honor was all mine to be showing with fellow successful breeders of the time like Rose Ross (Mead- owlark) and Penny Nunnally (Scarlly) in that same class. I hoped to get a fourth in that kind of competi- tion, but Ted took us all the way to BOS. I remember calling Joanie and she kept asking me for the color of the rosettes...it seemed so incredulous. I was support- ing the entry, the second time Ted had her at the AKC Centennial weekend. I did not think he would put her up, but he did. He told me she was every bit as good as what he bred. My heart swelled. The Evergreen Irish Setters are widely known, highly successful, and well respected. What breeding philosophies do you adhere to?
54 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, AUGUST 2020
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