Interview with Mrs. Heather Harron • Interviewed by M. Ljutic & J. Danilovic
Published in Best in Show Annual 2015
BIS: When have you got involved in dogs and how did you first come across Aussies? Which thing about Aussies was (and still is) so special for you?
Heather: I was 2 when my parents got me my first dog. A Golden Retriever that I promptly named ìGoldieî Heatherís Wish Come True, it was love at first sight and the beginning of my families experience in the dog show world. She went on to achieve her CDX as well as her OD (an award given by the GRCA for Outstanding Dam). Goldie was my companion, my first juniors dog, forever teaching me patience and what undying non-judgmental love was all about, she was a very good teacher.
My first experience with Aussies was in 1986 (I was 17 years old). I owned a rescue Belgian Tervuren that I was doing herding training with. My instructor talked me into going to an ASCA show/stock trial. It was on that day that I came in contact with this amazing breed. Watching the show and the trial, I observed a breed that had everything I was searching for. Intelligence, devotion, strong character, independence and sheer beauty. A ìDO IT ALLî dog without question. I appreciated then as I do still today thatís what attracted me to this breed, they are a ìJack Of A Tradesî, not specializing in any one task but loving every job you give to them.
BIS: Which dog do you consider the foundation of your own breeding program?
Heather: My foundation stud dog BIS AKC/ASCA/CKC Ch. Northbayís Captain Morgan HT was out of our first litter. Pirate was the love of my life and my right hand man. He never failed to impress me everyday with his devotion to myself and my (at that time) only child. He adored every inch of her and took on the job of her constant companion and protector. Although Pirate was a great dog I can say that our true foundation was his daughter ìHaileeî, AKC/CKC Ch. Northbayís Treasure Thí Moment. Who has produced 20 Chís, Multi Agility Chís, SARís and Therapy Dogs. ìHaileeî was pinnacle in our program and after all these years is still a huge part and will continue to be our base.
BIS: How many aussies do you have at home (living with you) and how many you coown?
Heather: I am currently take a hiatus as my 3 children (ages 17, 14 and 11) keep me very busy, thus we have no Aussies that live with us full time due to time restraints. We quite regularly have the dogs/puppies come visit for one on one time for socializing, training, showing or breeding. I currently co-own 14 with multiple families who are training and showing them in various venues. Itís a win/win for all of us including the dogs who are getting the time they deserve.
BIS: How many litters approximately you have a year?
Heather: We try to only have 1-2 litters a year. Now there are exceptions to that rule based on co-ownership terms being fulfilled and in those times we could have 3-4 in order to get those terms met so that we can sign off and the owners move forward on their own with their dogs. We have in the past taken a year or two off from breeding as we are growing young dogs and donít feel we need to have any litters.
BIS: With how many kennels and who are the Kennels you coobreed? How important was cooperation between breeders through the time?
Heather: I currently have a kennel partner, Heather Sells of Xísell Aussies in Indiana. She is young and exuberant, loves to train, groom, show and raise puppies. She does an OUTSTANDING job in everything she does and I count myself very lucky to have her as my partner and friend. In saying that I have to give kudos and a huge shout out to another strong asset to the continuation to my program. Leo Hui of Vulcan Aussies in Ontario, Canada is another person I call a partner, based on our co-breedingís as well as his ability to be a strong sounding board when it comes to all aspects of raising and training our dogs. It is very important to have strength in numbers when it comes to being able to have success in any endeavor, breeding dogs is just one of those in life.
BIS: Who has been your biggest inspiration and support? Did you have mentors and how important was mentoring through the time being a breeder?
Heather: My biggest inspiration and support has come from the very beginning of this crazy life we dog people live. My mother Gail Parson, not only my mom but my biggest fan. Teaching me the reality of the dog world, she would say ìwin some lose some itís the name of the game, and if you love and believe in the dog at the end of your lead, win or lose your taking that dog home each nightî. There have been many times I have wanted to give up, her famous quote and one I have shared with many others in the same place as me, ìIf their talking about you, your a threat, if there not talking about you, your doing something wrong, ALWAYS KEEP THEM TALKINGî. True words to live by, does not mean the talk doesnít hurt but to move forward always and keep living and reach for your dreams. My other inspiration and support comes from my husband of 18 years Brian Herron and our 3 wonderful children. While they do not attend dog shows, they are always the first to call when I am away to see if we are celebrating a win or to share with me a loss. They are eager at helping when we have babies at home, always willing to step up and do whatever needs to be done for them to be healthy, happy and safe.
On the mentor side I would say I was an extremely lucky young lady. Being mentored by one Rachel Paige Elliott on structure and movement, the ultimate mechanics of the canine skeleton and the true importance of form and function of all breeds. The others who helped along the way with the art of presentation, grooming and showmanship are world renouned Terrier handler George Ward, George and MaryAnn Alston, Bob and Jane Forsyth, George Murray, Tommy and Andrea Glassford and Brian Still the best of the best when it came to handling and providing the utmost of care and comfort for the dogs. Very important lessons to learn as a young aspiring handler. I am proud to say learning from them helped me to become a well known all-breed handler of many top winning animals. Fortunate on all levels and so thankful to each of them for their time and most of all patience.
As a breeder again my mother comes immediately to mind. Teaching me what we see with our eyes and what we feel with our heart are very separate things. She taught me that type, structure, temperament and health come first, keep those even if your heart tells you something different, that is what makes improvements in your program and ultimately within the breed for years to come.
As far as having an Aussie breeder mentor, I really did not have one in the beginning, I floundered but still produced dogs like Pirate and Hailee. 5 years into the breed we (my husband and I) traveled to our first USASA National where we introduced ourselves to the likes of Frank Baylis (Bayshore), Alan and Kathy McCorkle (Heather Hill), Sheila Polk(Tri Ivory), Leslie Frank (Propwash) and ultimately Alison Smith (Paradox). Through these connections I was able to follow the beliefs of my mentors, sit, be quiet, listen and learn. I did just that and after 20+ years have been the breeder of some very fine animals that I am so proud of. I am always thanking them in my special way and I hope they all know how much their guidance means to me.
BIS: What would be the main characteristics on the dogs you breed? What are your goals in the breeding program?
Heather: I put a lot of emphasis on temperament as 90% of my dogs go to families with children. Keeping the Aussie an Aussie is another very important to me as they are a MODERATE breed across the board in body, bone, coat, size etc.
The goals for my program are to continue to produce dogs that can ìDo It All and Do It Wellî. A dog with a strong work ethic is very important as they have to enjoy what they are doing 100% of the time (being beautiful while doing it also helps). Strong, athletic and versatile.
BIS: Did you change the type of the dogs you breed through the years and if yes why? How many lines did you use by now? How many generations of your own Kennel name you have in pedigree? How many dogs did you bred by now?
Heather: I have changed minor things such as head type. I have tried to bring in several different lines based on hoping to improve type, four of the five worked very well at this point and I will continue to utilize those lines when possible to help my program to improve. I have 6 generations of Northbay Aussies but yet I NEVER say the lines are mine as in the past have out crossed or loosely line bred my girls on strong producing stud dogs. This year I am working within the pedigrees of my girls and boys (Northbay/Northbay) to tie in more solid MY foundation.
BIS: How did the Aussies change over the time since you first got involved with the breed?
Heather: I would say that in my mind the influence on the breed has been beauty before all else. Dogs with extreme size, bone, coat etc has been the overall impact. I am very saddened by this based on our breed should be Moderate in ALL aspects. Moderation in coat, size, bone and movement are what are important. A truly versatile breed, not in any extremes.
BIS: Is there something which you would like to change/improve in the breed in general?
Heather: I would say that the breed is in trouble overall based on judges interpretation of the breed standard. Our breed is based on breed type and moderation above all else. That is being over looked by many forces, big coats, big bone and handlers bringing a big force to what what our breed is today based on what it was 20+ years ago. I would like to see judges go by the standards written and our dogs back to MODERATION on all levels, structure, bone, coat and movement at a range that the dogs depict what is appropriate for them as individuals.
BIS: What do you consider your greatest achievement as a breeder?
Heather: Well this one is easy, Pirate our foundation dog and being from our first litter breeder/owner handled to BISís along with top 5 ratings in both AKC/CKC along with his double grandson ìJaggerî MULTI BIS/BISS Multi Chís Nothbayís Rock On Summit being the #1 All-Breed dog in Sweden 2013 would have to take the cake for me. Along with that winning Best In Breeder Futurity/Best Opposite Breeder Futurity (under breed specialist Alan McCorkle) with litter mates at the 2007 USASA National (making breed history) and also going Best In Sweepstakes (with the bitch that went Best In Futurity) under breeder judge Flo McDaniel – McMatt (Frank Baylis – Bayshore did BIF/BISSweeps with the same bitch ìPradaî) proud beyond words as I also went BOS at that National with their sire HOF AKC/ASCA/CKC Ch. Lyricís Night And Day ìColeî (he was the sire of both BIF/BOSF). It was a year that DREAMS REALLY DO COME TRUE.
BIS: Are there any specific stud dogs/brood bitches in your variety, in your country, or globally, that you think have had an important impact on the breed?
Heather: I can say that there are many from that past that I think had a huge impact on our breed. Sunshine of Bonnie Blue, Sunspot of Windemere and the Fieldmaster/Flintridge dogs are the ones that immediately come to mind when I think about influence and impact on our breed.
BIS: Please mention 2 to 3 Aussies which are not owned, bred or shown by yourself, that you particularly admired, and tell us what you most admired about each.
Heather: HOF AKC/ASCA Ch. Paradox Propaganda ìNashî owned by Alison Smith of Paradox Aussies is the first that comes to mind. I will never forget meeting him. A sweet, kind, loving dog, never meeting a stranger and oh so beautiful to boot. AKC/ASCA Ch. Oprah Winfree of Heather Hill ìOprahî owned by Alan and Kathy McCorkle of Heather Hill Aussies. Oprah was a bitch that all breeders should dream of having, her production record is second to none and will never be surpassed. The legacy she left still lives strong at Heather Hill and will for many years to come. Ch. Carolinaís Rave Reviews ìBronsonî owned by Selina Poplin and Terri Morgan of Carolina/Calais Aussies. I could sit and watch him all day, always eager and willing to do what ever asked of him. He was what a true Aussie should be.
BIS: Every breed has some common problems. Which is the most common problem in your variety seen from a breederís point of view?
Heather: I would say the biggest problem in our breed are the front issues, straight, high at the withers etc. We also are seeing dogs who lack proper proportions and balance.
BIS: What has been the biggest disappointment in breeding and showing for you so far?
Heather: Itís always a disappointment when a young hopeful does not grow out as you had hoped thus having to be placed in a pet home.
BIS: What do you think is the most problematic about Aussie FCI or AKC Standard?
Heather: Judges not interpreting the standard correctly and judges who only judge whoís on the end of the lead and not the true quality or lack there of, of the dog on the other end. I have also heard from many overseas that our very correct dogs here (20-21 inches) would not ever win over there because they are not big enough.
JUDGING THE BREED AND THE DOG SHOWS
BIS: What is the most important point of which you would like a judge of your breed to be aware?
Heather: Always remember the true intent of our breed. A MEDIUM sized dog of MODERATE COAT and BONE. Overall balance and proportion. Our dogs should not be moved fast they should always be moved at a speed which is comfortable and allows the true movement to be seen.
BIS: What qualities do you admire most in a judge?
Heather: A judge who fully and completely understands the breed standard and has no issue discussing with breeders about how to do a better job. Steady, kind hands on our breed is a must. Most of all a judge who is thoroughly enjoying his/her self during their assignment.
BIS: What are the most important characteristics to keep in mind for anyone wanting to become a good Aussie judge?
Heather: Know the breed standard inside and out. Attend breed seminars and speak to as many well respected breeders to gain as much knowledge. Always judge to the standard not to the dogs you have in your yard. At the end of the day it was your opinion, some will be happy with the job you did some will not, always know that you did the best job you could have done on that day and donít second guess your decisions.
BIS: If you were in charge of everything regarding the dog shows what change would you make first?
Heather: For me I would make it where there was no ability to advertise dogs wins in magazines and no professional handlers. Fair judging across the board and never a question as to why a dog won.
BIS: What would be the most important single piece of advice you would give to all serious young breeders?
Heather: ìGood things come to those who waitî. Donít be in such a hurry. Enjoy each moment. Not all dogs who win should be bred and not all who are never shown shouldnít be bred. Find a breed mentor (this is not necessarily the breeder of your dog), a great mentor will share their many years of knowledge and experience, will take you under their wing and show you ways to be successful.