An Interview with Barry Truax, Glenfraser Scotties
(from The Scotsman, Newsletter of the Scottish Terrier Club of Greater Denver, Sept. 2005)
"Friends from north of the border, B.C. Canada"
Q. Who was, and when did you get your first Scottie?
A. It was actually my partner, Guenther Krueger, who wanted a Scottie back in the early 1980s. I had no history or interest in dogs, and certainly no knowledge, but he had done some research and contacted Ann Bower of Barraglen Kennels in Grants Pass, Oregon, who remains one of my mentors to this day. As it turned out, the litter he had a deposit on in 1982 didn't materialize, and then we heard about a local litter here in the Fraser Valley and went out to see them. We were offered the pick boy if we promised to show him. Now, as it turned out, the breeder wasn't showing, the dam of this litter was mediocre at best, but the breeder had had the sense to use the best sire locally available, an English dog imported by a judge, Sally Bremner, named Tambrae Tarquin whose father was the great Eng. Ch. Mayson Monopoly!
So, instead of the usual "first Scottie" being an embarrassment it was we who were the inept novices, not knowing what we were getting into. The breeder hadn't even told us there was any grooming involved - but it didn't matter, we were in love with "Bailey" whose personality hooked us on the breed. After he returned terrified from his first visit to a groomer, we decided we'd have to learn how to do it ourselves, and it turned out that I was the one who got fascinated with grooming and showing, and to make a long story short, over the next 5 years we ended up with our first Canadian and American Champion, Can/Am Ch. Ross' Bairn Bailey, who won 3 Terrier Groups, and had 14 other Group placements in Canada - of course with a lot of help from many people along the way.
Q. How did you start breeding?
A. While learning the business of showing Scotties with Bailey, we also were trying to get a foundation bitch from the Barraglen Kennel. The first one we got was a nice brindle girl who I finished in Canada, but when it came time for her to be bred, back in Oregon, she never took. So in 1987, we went down there to see two girls they had, and to my everlasting gratitude, Ann Bower offered me a co-ownership on the elegant one, who became Can/Am Ch. Barraglen's Bramble Heather, sired by Am. Ch. Whiskybae Yanky Stunt Man, owned by Jane Phelan. "Rosie" was a large but very elegant brindle girl, extremely intelligent who, interestingly enough, appealed to older judges. She ended up being #4 Scottie in Canada in 1988 and dam of 5 Canadian and 2 American champions, but not right away. She had to overcome a case of pyometra, and had two unsuccessful matings to Ron Schaeffer's Am. Ch. Schaeffer's Redson. Finally in 1990 she had her first litter, which was a test breeding to one of Jeannie Passmore's dogs, the best result of which was my first two co-owners, Sherrie Creekmore in Denver, and Kay Veinotte here in Vancouver who is also the co-breeder of many of my dogs - two wonderful women who have a great expertise with dogs.
Because I admired Schaeffer's Am. Ch. Perlor Playboy sired Redson (and all of his line) so much, but had been unsuccessful in breeding to him (largely because of the distance in shipping either the female or the semen - we tried both), I was thrilled to learn that a Redson litter had been born in 1990 in Nova Scotia to Betty Shatford's female, Am. Ch. Brookhill Firemist, whose father was also Perlor Playboy. I flew there to see the litter and a few weeks later when she was old enough, the girl that Betty generously offered me, Can. Ch. Shatscots Rose O'Glenfraser ("Kippen") arrived. She had the famous Playboy head, and a really solid body and, as it turned out, the longevity gene. She was also the most un-neurotic Scottie we've ever had, always happy in the present and I've often thought that contributed to her long and healthy life. She finished easily as a Champion but didn't have the drive to be a campaigned dog. However, she was a great mother with just two litters, and from those came 3 Canadian and 1 American champion.
Q. Where does the name "Glenfraser" come from?
Fraser is a name attached to the history of Vancouver, as Simon Fraser (I teach at the University named after him) was the Scottish explorer who first crossed the Rockies and found a way to the coast in the early 19th century (you could call him the Canadian Lewis & Clark). My partner grew up near Glen Morris, Ontario, and Glen is a common Scottish prefix. The funny thing, though, is that neither of us has any Scots blood in our ancestry, at least as far as we know.
Q. How did your current breeding program come about?
I've told you the story of how we got our two foundation bitches, Rosie and Kippen. We hadn't intended to get two, but I now realize that it was fortuitous because then we were able to breed each of them to the same male and compare results. The first pair of matings was to a Playboy grandson, Am. Ch. The MacGregor, and there were several nice results. But these were also "pay back" litters, so by this point I had come into contact with Betty Cooper, another invaluable mentor, who had recently imported Am. Ch. Balgownie Bulletin. I fell in love with Max the first time I saw him - his soundness and his temperament in particular, and of course his elegant head - and so we bred both our girls to him. We got two wonderful litters, arranged co-ownerships on the pick boy and girl from each litter, and eventually bred these two pair and I kept the two grandkids, Toby and Thistle. So what Max essentially did for us was to bring our two rather dissimilar foundation girls together into a middle ground that I think captured the strengths of each, which I would summarize as a balance of substance and elegance, combined with a steady temperament which I think is very important when you're living with these dogs.
Toby is Can/Am Ch. Glenfraser's Lochinvar Lad, and has been our most successful show dog to date, being one of the top 20 Scotties in Canada in the last 20 years, winning 74 group placements including 11 Group 1st. He was in the top 5 of the breed in Canada for three years. We tried a tight line-breeding to his aunt and that produced 3 Champions, including Ch. Glenfraser's Morgana ("Jessica") who was bred to Darle Heck's Ch. Beinnein's Devils Advocate ("Danny") and produced 3 champions (and counting) from a litter of six, including my current Specials dog Ch. Glenfraser's Morgan Devil ("Oban").
Thistle is Ch. Glenfraser's Talisker Thistle who was also bred to Darle Heck's Danny and produced Bob and Charlene Gann's Malena who recently had a very impressive litter sired by Larae Shafer's Lance.
Q. How did you come to show Scotties?
A. I've been showing Scotties since 1983, starting almost by chance when the breeder of our first Scottie wanted him to be shown. It seems that whenever I get involved in something I can't just half do it - it's all or nothing - and because I'm stubborn like Scotties (and a Taurus) I just don't give up, even if the going gets rough as it always does in the show ring. I'm also involved in the arts - Scotties are my hobby - so I have to admit that the aesthetic appeal of a well groomed Scottie is a big reward for all the time it takes. Of course it took years of learning before I felt I could groom a Scottie properly, including seminars with Ric Chasoudian and Bergit Coady. And of course showing is like a musical performance, and like any performance, showing Scotties has a lot of risks of mistakes, but when it all comes together, you, the dog, the grooming and the showing, it's a real high, whether you win or not.
Q. How does showing Scotties differ in Canada compare to the U.S.?
A. Well, our shows are a lot smaller and friendlier, and basically more fun. The system of championship points is a lot more generous, being just 10 points and no majors, with the same point schedule for all breeds. You also get more points for Best of Winners, and you get points for group wins from the classes. As a result, there isn't the kind of pressure and game playing that goes on in American shows where everyone's so serious and obsessed with majors. Any good dog can finish (and probably some poor ones do too) whereas in the U.S. it's like an endurance test. Also, you don't have to be really rich to campaign a dog to a national standing.
We also have puppy competition in parallel with Championship point wins, from Best Puppy in Breed through to Best Puppy in Show which can be a lot of fun. So that encourages us to get our young ones out there early and the unpredictable puppy antics keep you humble. A good one usually finishes as a puppy, gets lots of prizes, and then you can decide if you want to special the dog and/or let it grow up. All this encourages novices and co-owners to get involved, whereas the American system is so tough I worry about what happens to newcomers.
Q. Who is your favorite all time famous Scottie?
A. I love Scottie photographs - and have made a lot of them myself, as you can see from my website - and so I'm just as much in love with the pictures of some famous Scotties (from long ago) as I am with the ones I've seen "in person". I'm thinking of those classic photos by Tauskey, such as Ch. Carmichael's Fanfare (on the cover of John Marvin's book), Ch. Deephaven Red Seal and Ch. Balachan Nighthawk. Not only are the photos classical and timeless, but so are the dogs, so beautifully proportioned with none of the exaggerated (but impressive) grooming we see today.
Q. What are your ambitions for the breed?
A. For our own kennel, it's to improve on what we started with, and after 5 generations, I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, we are achieving that. My ideal is a dog with substance and elegance combined (a much trickier combination than one might think), that moves well, is intelligent and steady in temperament, and of course as healthy as possible.
Q. Who has been your favorite from your kennel?
A. I guess I'd have to say my foundation girl "Rosie" - she really was "my" dog, and I always look for her influence in the new puppies.
Q. Do you have any new big "hopefuls" now?
A. Well, my Denver boy of course, Glenfraser's Knight of Gallica, better known to one and all as "Dan Patch". He's got the greatest potential I've ever seen in a puppy and I'm having a lot of fun with him. Just look at his webpage: www.sfu.ca/~truax/DanPatch.html and you'll see what I mean.
Q. What would your advice be for new breeders?
A. Get some good mentors that you're comfortable working with and learning from, but also, try to develop your own "eye" for what you want in a Scottie, what you value most. Pay particular attention to observing movement and structure. There is such a range of types (and I believe in breeding type to type) that you have to make some decisions about what you really want to emphasize in the breed, and go for it.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with us that I haven't asked you?
A. I'd like to mention how fortunate I've been with all of my wonderful co-owners that have really made the Glenfraser kennel a possibility. We can only have two dogs in our city, and in fact we only want two, so our entire breeding program has been built on establishing relationships (and in most cases, lifelong friendships) with our co-owners. You've probably heard lots of horror stories about failures in co-owning, and it's not for everyone, but I'm convinced that if you do it right (and as a breeder treat your co-owners right), the benefits of creating such a "clan" are enormous, also for the breed as new folks are brought into it.