Monday 8 September 2014


Great Dane
In our “Sculptors” series we ask blue breeders questions to provide some insight into the various schools of thought found around the world. In this article, we interviewed Lileen Dunn of Shiloh Valley Farm in Brooksville, Florida, USA. She is a longtime member of the Great Club of America.

BGD: How did you get started in Danes?

LD: I got my love of animals from my dad. We were into the horses and I didn't understand why I couldn't have a horse as a bed partner. (I was VERY young at that time) so the Great Dane was the closest thing to having a horse in my bed. Seriously, I have had Danes in my life as companions, always. Being at horse shows late at night, in not the best part of towns, I always felt very safe with a Dane by my side. When I had my first Kidney Transplant in 1987, it was a Blue Dane, "Guardian Angel",
that saved my life. I got her from Jill and Jerry Wiechens as a pet to keep me company The rest is history.

BGD: Who has helped you the most in your time with Danes?

LD: As far as pointing me in the right direction for showing Danes, I have to say that I am thankful to many who helped. It's a very long story.

BGD: Is there a particular dog or bitch you felt epitomized what you were striving for in your breeding program?

LD: I'm still looking and striving for that one. I don't mean to sound flip but Epitomize is a strong word. When I look at TOMMY, at 7 years old, HotZ's sire, he comes darn close and he's Blue to boot.

BGD: Who was your first champion?

LD: From the early '70s I did obedience with all my Danes on a local level. I didn't show dogs in conformation until I decided I wanted another Dane after my "Angel" died in 1991. That was 10 years after she was physically gone from my life. I had been searching with the help of the internet and found Linda Arndt. It took about 2 years to find exactly what I was looking for. It helps to have bred and shown World Champion American Saddlebred horses and top winning cats. I have a good eye and that is a gift you are born with. You can develop your knowledge of confirmation and learn by studying and doing but a natural good eye for a great animal is a gift. I wasn't ready for a Blue even though it had been 12 years. When I found New Years KISS, I knew she was the one. After many conversations with Georgia Hymmen and Edie Lind, she came to live with me. Jeff Lawrence handled her at the National Futurity and she won a HUGE class of fawn puppy bitches. It was between KISS and a 3 month old bouncy, adorable puppy for the bitch win over 89 puppy bitches. KISS did her DIVA act and the young puppy got the nod. KISS was my first show dog and Champion that I didn't breed. Her son CH SVF's SHILOH THE ONE N ONLY was her first born and my first homebred champion.

BGD: What has been your greatest achievement to date?

LD: Putting KISS in the TOP TWENTY and living through it. All of KISS's produce, except for one, are pointed or finished. Two having won AB PBIS and having her son, SHILOH, win multiple BOB over many specials from the puppy class. He took BOB over high ranking top dogs on more than one occasion. He finished from the puppy classes. This is what it is all about. Breeding for a better animal in health, temperament and performance.

BGD: Greatest challenge?

LD: Educating people to the scientific knowledge we have at our hands and getting them out of the dark ages of dog breeding. Taking on the BLUES and Natural ears in the show ring has to rank high up on the challenge list. I love the look of a cropped ear when done right but I adore the natural ears.

Also, finishing my first Blue, CH Wiedanes Too Hot To Handle SVF and seeing the young potential champions from her.

BGD: What health testing, if any at all, do you think should be performed on a Dane? Why or why not?

LD: There's no question of why not health test. The question is which tests are valid to perform. Heart echo-cardiograms, thyroid and general chem. screens and CBCs on a yearly basis are a MUST with this breed.

These are the basics. I also do titer testing as I do not vaccinate after the first year. I have done this for over 10 years and my dogs all have shown a good immunity. And then there are the hips. This will open up a big can of worms but it needs to be said. OFA is passé. There was a time when that was all we had but we need to move up out of the dark ages. PennHip is
a scientific method that is a measure and not some ones opinion. I liken OFA vs. PennHip to how Cancer was diagnosed and treated 40 years ago. We have made quantum leaps for diagnosing and treating Cancer. I would want to be diagnosed with TODAY's methods not the methods of 40 years ago that couldn't tell you at all or until after it was too late. Look at the survival rates of today vs. just 10 years ago. That says it all. Change is difficult for most people but we need to keep up or die on the vine. (I don't think my inbox will be able to handle all the emails. I can hear my phone ringing already.)

BGD: Do you have any advice for someone getting started in the Dane world?

LD: Yes, don't argue with success. If you want to make a difference in the breed and enjoy a GREAT dog, then do your homework. Remember we are human and we all make mistakes, learn from the mistakes others made and don't make them yours because in this game it is our wonderful dogs that suffer our mistakes. And don't forget to ask God for help and give thanks for all your successes and challenges along the way.

BGD: How do you feel about cross-color breeding?

LD: I think we are doing a disservice by not crossing colors due to the limited gene pools we generate. I don't mean to just take any color and breed to any other color. It must be done with thought and consideration of what it is we are trying to achieve. I was told by a legendary cat breeder/judge, "First you build your house, then you paint it." I think that sums it up very nicely.

BGD: At what age do you evaluate a litter to decide a "keeper"?

LD: It depends on the litter and the pedigree. There is no set rule in my book for doing that. Different lines develop at different times. That is yet another good reason for doing your research and studying dogs in the ring. Looking at the get of a dog and produce of a dam for consistency is yet another avenue to study.

BGD: We know you have an extensive cat breeding/showing background. How does breeding and exhibiting Danes differ from doing the same with cats?
LD: I had the number one All Breed cat in the country until, at the end of the year, I had to have a Kidney Transplant. We still ended up in the top 5 AB position for the year.

There are subtle differences in the breeding aspect of animals. Dogs, cats, horses, it all comes down to knowing intimately the lines you are working with. Of course the physical differences are obvious. In 20+ years I bred over 30 litters with many firsts in CFA. As with the Blues in Danes being difficult, I took on the Shell, Smoke and Shaded Persians. I had many Grand Champions and National Winners.

I also have a bit of horse breeding experience since 1988. With the horses we do embryo transfers and one mare can have a litter of foals in the same year with different stallions. It is all very high tech and extremely fascinating.

As far as showing, well that is entirely a different story. All cat shows are benched and you are a captive audience. The cats are not performing as we think of performing. The judge takes them and sets them on the judging table. Part of the show is getting their attention with various toys and feathers etc. The exam for conformation is about the same; comparing the cat to a standard of perfection. It never ceased to amaze me at how trained a cat could be. One thing I like very much in the cat shows is the amount of care in cleaning that goes on in the ring. The cages are ALL disinfected in between each and every cat. The judge sterilizes their hands in between EACH cat. There is little room for spreading disease by direct contact. As Show Chair for many All Breed shows I also made sure the show hall was thoroughly disinfected before and at the end of each day. I also had vet inspections of each exhibit prior to allowing them in to compete. I would like to see our dog shows adopt some of these good habits.

In closing I want to say thank you for this opportunity to reach those who are thinking of getting into this magnificent breed of dogs and allowing me to share some of my personal insights and thoughts. It has been a journey of gathering knowledge and friendships along the way that have been and continue to be priceless.

No comments:

Post a Comment