Continuing on the recent theme of owning a first time Show Champion, this week I looked to the owner and breeder of one-time cocker spaniels, who became involved with Irish some twenty years ago. Adopting Georgie from her daughter, at the age of eight months, she thought that she was a lovely girl, who had Sh Ch Thendara Kennedy (Aka Ken) as her sire and Erinjo’s Seldom Sad as her dam.
Prior to adopting Georgie, her owner had bred cocker spaniels for thirty years, with reasonable success at Open Shows. They were really bred for pet homes and, even today, contact is maintained with some of those families, who bought those spaniels. Dog breeding seemed to fill a space when the children began to leave ‘the nest’ and the hobby soon became a new way of life, leading to a business in grooming and, eventually, in to showing.
Irish Setter exhibitors were so welcoming and helpful, offering sound advice and pointing out the need to pay attention to detail that resulted in Atlanta Hawk From Amblin (Aka Georgie) beginning to win B.O.B. at Open Shows. This was such an enjoyable experience that Pam wanted to carry on. Georgie was mated to Danaway Country Boy J.W. From her one litter of eight, born on 24th. July 2001, Pam kept one bitch, Amblin It Wasn’t Me. This girl had such a lovely head that made some judges turn theirs, resulting in her being successful several times and getting to qualify for Crufts several times. Both dog and handler were thoroughly enjoying themselves and again a litter resulted. This time, the sire was Sh Ch Thendara Corleone. Out of the litter of eight, born on 30th. August 2005, Pam kept one bitch, Amblin Acquiescence (Aka Fern).
Following much the same pattern, Pam decided that, at six years of age, Fern may have a second litter. She knew that Eva Ciechonska liked her and had given her a second at Richmond. Eva remembered her when Pam approached her to ask if her handsome boy, Sh Ch Copper’s Champagne on Ice at Aoibheanne J.W. (Aka Edward) would be available at stud. A successful mating resulted in a litter of seven on 14th. August 2012. Each day, Pam would look carefully at the pups, studying them in every detail and going into the pen to check carefully on their development. Vividly, she recalls the day she looked in and made the best of decisions: “It’s going to be him. Yes, a dog and not a bitch. I love his head and everything about him. He has that something extra”. To be sure, she cut off the curly bit at the end of the tail. How relieved and so pleased was she when Eva came over when they were seven weeks old, looked at them and said, ‘he’s a nice boy’. How right she was.
Pam reflected on what had happened – all those years with cocker spaniels and within four generations of Irish, she believed that she had a championship winning show dog. It was a lovely litter all round and so, at that moment, she decided to stop breeding cockers. She felt that she had been fortunate to have successfully bred cockers, who had all gone to lovely homes and so it was a good time to finish on a high. It did not matter what the new Irish pup did, whether he did well or not, she just did not care. She had made her decision. I think we’d all agree – not a bad one, Pam! This was her first dog and she had always wanted one and what a one! Scrambling the letters in her and Bill’s names, she came up with her affix – Amblin and so the pup acquired his pedigree name of Amblin Sweet William.
I think many of us can relate to the fact that, as a pup, he was so naughty and very playful. He quickly gained a reputation on the fields where they walked as the ‘boisterous, ball stealing setter, who could be identified by the stream of dog waste bags trailing behind him as he ran away refusing to return the balls of other dogs. Such a tease! He was so typical of our beautiful breed because he was so kind and gentle, especially with children and Pam’s grandchildren. He has never had any issues with any other males and is so very friendly. Pam still sees all four boys from the litter, but, from the beginning and to this day, he stood out for her and had everything that she wanted.
Decision made on choice of litter and affix accepted, it was now time to train him at Hemel Hempstead Ringcraft in Ashley Green. A house move to Bourne End took them to a new class, where he frequently won B.P. in Matches. As he grew, the hall was too small for him to move out and so Pam decided to take him to the nearby fields and train him herself. Try as she did, he really was so naughty in the ring as a pup, grabbing the lead and playing up as much as possible. This did not upset Pam, who would say to herself: ‘he’s an Irish Setter, after all’. People around her took the same opinion and don’t we all love their antics, even if they carry them out at the most inopportune moments? He used to stand well, but ‘he was wild on the move’. That didn’t stop him and he went on to win B.P. at Windsor, under breed specialist, Teresa Gisby (Sutersett). He was also short-listed in the Puppy Group to the last eight. Few people knew Pam or her dog because neither had done much. Here was a new face and she was aware that people were asking ‘who is that; from where has he come?’ They soon became more familiar with them because he also won B.P. at Three Counties, under another breed specialist, Gill Dale (Aubanjon).
This was exciting and Pam found it really amazing because she had never done anything like that before. He would also do very well at Club Open Shows, such as under Margaret Davie (Lochfrae). He continued getting placed, although not always first, throughout 2013. People would say that he looked good and stood well. They were always helpful, giving advice and telling her where she still went wrong. This was to pay off so much.
Pam was quick to admit that one turning point came at a breed Open Show. He was playing up and didn’t want to move. She couldn’t offer him a treat to coerce him because he had been so naughty. Along came Hannah Bouttell (Ixia): ‘Give him to me’. She played with him, gave him her special treat of liver and in a trice, he was off – in more ways than one. Not only did he move around the ring, but he started moving up the cards, winning lots, with Pam always making sure that she had that special treat in her pocket. Pam has never forgotten that and has often said: “if it hadn’t been for you, Hannah, we would never have done that”. Fabulous and great to hear one fellow exhibitor helping another to go on to lots of wins and placings.
In 2014, at Crufts, sheer delight was expressed when he won Yearling and got second in Undergraduate under judge Irene Munro, who went on, that day, to give his sire the R.D.C.C. too. Pam just couldn’t contain herself and was just so excited, while admitting to not being very professional. She remembers telling herself to calm down and yet she loved it especially as lots of her friends were there to support her and encourage her excitement. After all, she had won out of a good, large class. Again, I am sure those memories and feelings of elation can be revisited by many. Pam has spoken since to the judge and once asked if she remembered her. ‘Oh, yes! I remember your face!’ Says it all really. For much of the rest of the year, he was found in the cards, with a few good firsts in Graduate – Windsor , under Sandra Sturrock (Forfarian) and at Southern Counties, under Richard Morris (Lascoed). “ For the rest of the year, he did O.K., winning his way out of Graduate”.
He also won his way out of Postgraduate, too. Now came Mid-Limit, “where everybody seemed to like him, but it was hard and a struggle. We were up against so many well-known breeders with very good dogs, like Jill Holley, Dee Milligan Bott and Diane Stewart Ritchie”. They were never in the line-up and this seemed to go on for ages. Finally, Gerry Condron (Covarney) gave him a first. Hoorah! Now he began to win, win, win his classes, but again never anything else until 2016.
It started with the I.S.A.E. Open show on 3rd. June 2017, with Maureen Elkins (Avacet) as the judge. He not only won his class, but she gave him B.I.S.
“I was absolutely elated. I was so proud because he had won against some wonderful dogs. Colin Waddell took some beautiful photographs”.
Still in Limit, on 11th. June 2017, he was entered at Three Counties, under another breed specialist, Sandy Waterton. Pam remembers the day so well. “It was a hot day and Sandy had done so well to be there because she had the worry of a sick dog. It was a huge class and I was really nervous. I knew that she liked him because she had given him a second or third before. On the day, I had quite a shock when she gave him first in Limit. I was so pleased, but then Helen Cohen’s dog, Sh Ch Caispern Lorenzo With Shushana, won Open. Well that was that, or so I thought. It was absolutely amazing when he got the D.C.C. and Sh Ch Caispern Lorenzo With Shushana got the R.D.C.C. I was so proud of him. He had had nothing and then he did. Anyway, it was fantastic. Yes, so lovely”.
In all he got eleven wins in Limit, but nothing else until 21st. October 2017, when he received the R.D.C.C. at the North East of England Irish Setter Club Show under Jean Walters (Deneil) and again on the 29th. October 2017, at Midland Counties, under Julie Driver (Stearnwood). Just over a month later, he was entered at L.K.A. Those of us who went questioned whether it was wisdom or folly that got us there that day. In my case, a promise. Pam questioned whether to go or not. I am not surprised that she was so glad that she decided to go because, under Becky Box (Fernstart), he got his second D.C.C. Pam’s face was an absolute picture of sheer joy and made that horrendous snowy journey so worthwhile.
A month later, at Boston, Diane McDonald (Chugerra) not only awarded him the D.C.C., but also B.O.B. “There were eight good dogs present in the Open Class. It was difficult, but then he got first. Now for the line-up. I thought to myself that he was in with a good chance. He did behave, stood well and I moved him. Looked at my friends who gave me the thumbs up. I stood him and saw Diane go to the table and pick up that green and white card. With a huge smile on her face, I could hardly believe that she was handing it to me! Wins at Crufts had been wonderful, but this was something else. All around the ring, the atmosphere was electrifying. A loud roar went up and such loud clapping and cheering when he got his crown. It was exhilarating and people were just so kind, genuinely pleased for me, encouraging me to enjoy it. It was an absolutely wonderful day”. Pam admitted that she very nearly didn’t enter him, but then thought again and “ I did and WOW, it was one of the best days of my life. I just couldn’t get it into my head that I had made a champion – a homebred champion. I just couldn’t believe it that she walked to me. My own home bred champion, that I had picked, trained, groomed and shown – Sh Ch Amblin’s Sweet William“.
One extra bonus, for which Pam is so proud, is the receipt of the Breeder’s Certificate from the Kennel Club. She didn’t mind admitting that when it arrived, she cried – “I had bred a champion. I didn’t even know that such a thing existed. It was lovely”. Eva had also played her part by encouraging Pam and giving her advice all the way to the title. Two friends, who figured greatly and have helped immeasurably are Shaun and Julie Nicholls, as well as her husband, who has always supported her. In return for car sharing, Pam would groom their dogs. They often go to shows together and stay over, having plenty of fun and laughter.
Sh Ch Amblin’s Sweet William has won some Open classes and then been beaten by some lovely Limit dogs. Pam does not care and still goes and tries. Now at seven and a half years old, he has won two Veteran classes before lockdown put a halt to everything – in 2019, at L.K.A., under K. Richardson (Carlequin) and, in 2020, at Boston, under Rob McMaster (Wearvale). Pam is keen to continue showing him for as long as he is fit and well, despite the few grey hairs. Lots of us know about that, Pam! Proudly she states that he has been a complete joy to have around. He has so much personality and is very cuddly. Unbeknown to her, when he got his crown, Lyn Muir spoke to Pam’s friend, Julie. Colin Waddell’s photos from an Open Show win under Maureen Elkins (Avacet) were made into a collage with the addition of Champion and was the top dressing of a 12” x 12” cake presented to Pam at Manchester Championship Show. “Incredible”, was all she could say and I think that we would all agree. Such good, thoughtful friends. Thirty congratulatory cards were also received. Julie, her friend of eleven years, went one further by compiling photographs from Facebook, his critiques with captions and presented it in book form as a birthday present shortly after he gained his title.
Understandably, it was quite obvious that Pam had been touched by the kindness and generosity of fellow exhibitors wanting her to succeed. Teresa Gisby (Suttersett) was the first. The judges who liked him as a puppy, have liked him in Limit and Open, so make a note of them, is the advice she offers.
Besides his success in the ring, he has sired six litters – 4 in U.K. (x Danaway Desiree, Danaway Sweet Dreams, Jonola Secret Love at Lochfrae and Irish Melody Kiss Her To Bits), 1 in Germany and 1 in Hungary. Pam would like to have had one of his pups, but the time was not right for her when she was asked and she has not been asked since. She does worry though. She worries that the puppies will be fine. When the time comes for the pups to leave for their forever home, she really worries. Many questions have already been asked especially about working and caring for a puppy. She will not agree to letting them go when the dog is left on its own. In all her years of breeding, with only one puppy returned because of a frightened toddler, she always asks directly if there are any young children in the home. Priority goes to those who have had an Irish before. Two or three visits are encouraged and, in reality, that same ‘gut instinct’ that so many of our successful breeders describe comes into play for Pam Mitchell, too. Happily, Pam could recall one of her grooming customers (and owner of Megan’s litter brother) recollecting a conversation with another friend, who had bought a pup from Pam some thirteen years previously. She clearly remembered the cross examination that she had received from Pam, who was really happy that she had left that impression on the new owners.
With it being her seventieth birthday last week, (congratulations!), Pam has thought about judging and decided that it’s not for her. She was well into her sixties when she got her Irish Champion and if she had gained more success in her fifties, then things may have been different. She stands at ringside and picks out good dogs. She understands when she has ‘hands on’ a good dog when she is grooming them. As a worrier and being somewhat under confident, she thinks a move to judge is not on the cards because it is too late. Really? She just loved breeding and would have the bitch and her pups in the bedroom. She still has an eleven-year-old Cocker Spaniel and a two-year-old Maltese. Openly, she states that she adores the breed.
In the meantime, she knew that she wanted another Irish and has become one of those new owners. She has bought a puppy from Judi Frampton (Strathmead) – Strathmead Tatiana With Amblin (Aka Megan), who has already had success by being placed at Crufts. “She is so naughty, and although William was naughty as a pup, she beats them all, hands down”. So promising, though. Well done!
Showing her adorable Sh Ch Amblin’s Sweet William has brought her many new friends. Best of all, she gets to share her love with a two hourly walk every day with lots of people with lots of dogs that all get on. “It’s fantastic”.
So it seems is life with her lovely boy, Sh Ch Amblin’s Sweet William (Aka William), who is now a kind, well behaved gentleman, sociable with children, adults in general, and male and female dogs. Pam cannot fault him except that he is still a ball thief and does slobber a bit these days. He is such a dear boy, who is adorable, resting his ‘old’ head on Pam’s lap and giving that Irish expression that melts your heart. It’s not surprising that she absolutely loves and adores him. After all, Sh Ch Amblin’s Sweet William made Pam’s daydream come true. Marvellous.
Thank you, Pam, for sharing your interesting journey to getting your home-bred show champion. The absolute pleasure that you have enjoyed on the way has been plain to see and is inspiring. So many can relate to different aspects of that journey, which is so encouraging. Clear, for all to witness, is that special bond that you have with your loveable boy – Sh Ch Amblin’s Sweet William.