FEATURE INTERVIEWFeature Interview
with
CAROL GROSSMAN
by:  LISA DeROULET
October 12, 2004
click here to see photos

DANELINKS

NEXT

 


 

 

 

 

 

Lisa:    Where did you grow up?  Did you have dogs as a child?
Clare:  My husband Ray and I both grew up in the Northwest, met in high school and married after college graduation. That summer we moved to Quantico, VA, as Ray was in the Marine Corps Offc. Training program, and I got my first teaching job in that area. Both our families were dog lovers, and I can’t remember a time there wasn’t a dog in our home. Our dogs were not purebred, but Ray’s family had had a Dane at one time that they all talked about as being the smartest and most loveable dog they had as a family dog.

In Virginia Ray saw a litter of Irish Setter puppies bred by the local druggist (they were in his store window), and even though we lived in a second floor apartment, he brought one home for me on my birthday. Our neighbor, a young Marine wife, kept the puppy for us while were gone during the day, so it worked out well, and we loved to take her out to the Potomac and watch her “play hunt” along the river. When we had to leave Virginia several months later, we had to leave her with our friends as we were traveling and unsure of where we would eventually live. We spent a year in the NW and then a year in Anchorage, Alaska. During the winter Fur Rendevous, we enjoyed watching the sled dogs work out every weekend, admiring their drive and attention to business as dozens of dog teams would be lying side by side in harness in the park area in the middle of the city and never bother each other. I’m sure had we stayed in Alaska we’d have become involved with sled dogs, but we returned to Bellevue as we both were to attend graduate school. I taught and after graduate school became a School Psychologist. Ray also taught and was a coach and a Phys Ed teacher.

Lisa:  When did you get your first Great Dane?
Clare:  By the time we left Alaska we had both decided we would shop for a Great Dane. A friend whose husband was just starting out as a vet in the area, introduced us to their Great Dane – a brindle female who occasionally even helped him as blood donor – so I was aware of their size and friendly disposition, and, of course, that was Ray’s first choice.

Even though we were to stay with Ray’s folks until locating a house, we went right out and bought a Dane puppy because we found a litter advertised in the paper and even our vet friend didn’t know of any kennels in the area. There were eleven in the litter, fawns and brindles, at about eight to nine weeks old, and we just picked the one that came to us and didn’t want to leave. (I guess you could say we chose her on temperament). WE DID EVERYTHING WRONG, RIGHT? Everything we now tell others NOT to do when they go to buy a dog.

That first night she kept us up most of the night vomiting, etc., so we took her to our vet friend who told us to take her back, as she might have distemper, as we had not been told about shots, feeding, etc., but we said to treat her – we were not about to take her back to people who hadn’t taken proper care of her. Believe it or not, in that long night with her, we were both already smitten. It ended up that she didn’t have distemper, but it may have been the excitement of a new home and change in food. Our vet suggested a kibble and canned food but nothing else about nutrition, remember it was in the mid ‘50s and nothing much was being said about it at that time. There were also no dog crates or exercise pens at that time or books on dog training, etc. So, we were on our own with that new puppy, as the breeders had offered us no help or information. We didn’t have her cropped because our vet didn’t know of any vets who did it in our area and he wasn’t ready to try it as yet.

Despite the rocky start, I just fell in love with the breed. From the very first day she entered our life, she was so responsive and bright. Of course, having no children and nothing else but our parakeet to focus on, she learned quickly, some of the wrong things, too, but generally we all got along. She was so much a part of our lives that we felt guilty if we came home from work and left again without her. We even began to go to drive-in movies so we could take her, and we planned our vacations around her. We even forgave her when she dug up all my blooming gladiolas in the backyard and when she put huge paw prints in the new grass Ray had planted, which was just coming up and off limits to her. We named her Lincoln’s Golden Juno.

Lisa:  When and how did you decide to become Dane breeders?Clare:  When she was about two and Ray was working long hours coaching and often attending ball games at night, I was restless, so he suggested that we breed her on her next season and keep a male puppy. (Little did he know what he was starting). This time we took a long time looking for the right mate, finally finding one down in Tacoma we both liked. He was a big fawn male who was being shown. We didn’t know about shows until the stud owner took us to one in that area, and we both became interested, deciding we would try to show the puppy we would keep. At that time we discovered a whole world of people interested in our chosen breed, as there was a local Dane club. Through the club I discovered I could buy old GDCA Yearbooks and spent hours going through them to find Danes on our dog’s pedigree. Despite the lack of planning in the breeding of the puppy, we thought there were still some good Danes behind her, some from East Coast breeding, some from California, and the most recent two generations were local with no kennel name. The breeding we were to do was an outcross. We did more Dane information shopping, buying anything we could on the breed (very little at that time), but did find some books on nutrition and articles in the Yearbooks about feeding puppies, etc. We even found a magazine about all dogs called “Dog World”, the only magazine at that time!

By the time we bred our litter, we didn’t know a lot but were probably luckier than most novices in that we had some time to learn a little before our litter arrived. Juno had twelve puppies and eleven lived, born in our unfinished basement bathroom. Of course, we didn’t realize what a lot of work eleven puppies would be, so it was a long winter, as they were born in December (never again). It was an unusually snowy winter, too, so it was difficult to get people out to see them. Who thinks “puppies” in the middle of winter with snow on the ground? We had half the litter in our unfinished basement until early spring, when we finally sold them all after ear cropping. Several of the people who bought our puppies became lifelong friends and eventually bought another Dane from us when they lost their old one. Needless to say, we spayed our bitch and didn’t breed again until we moved five years later to our twenty-five acres.

Lisa:  Did you keep a puppy from that first litter?
Clare:  We kept the puppy we had chosen from the litter at about three to four weeks of age, again on temperament I would guess, but he was just to be our puppy. We named him Lincoln’s Golden Toro. We trained this one better than his mother, and I learned to handle by going to shows and watching what the people who won did with their dogs, and not just in our breed. Some of the moves perhaps weren’t just right for our dog, but he got his first major out of the Puppy Class, and we were thrilled. He won another major at the local Specialty show, and finished his AM. CH at a year and a half. Other than finishing, the most exciting day was at the big Seattle Benched show when he took the Breed, finished his CD title in his third trial, and then took a Group 3, and that was before the Working and Herding groups were split. Of course I will never forget that judge, who was Melbourne Downing. We really didn’t campaign him but did get his Canadian CH.

When I took him to Obedience school, I decided he and I enjoyed it, so I began teaching for the Y for several years, using Toro as my demonstration dog. People used to say, “If she can make that big dog do it, I guess I can make my littler one do it!” He would often come to school with me and the little kids just loved it. He would wander around the room and choose one of them to sit or lie down by and they were thrilled. We used him in school assemblies to teach children how to approach dogs, and many people in our area got their love of the breed due to his gentle temperament and impressive size.

Lisa:  Sounds like you were getting more and more interested in Danes?
Clare:  We had decided to buy another bitch to show and ultimately breed, so we began looking (well ahead this time). We visited two kennels in Northern California, Gladys Jewel’s Ladymeade Kennel and Helen and Jim Blood’s Crockerly Kennel. Neither had puppies nor were expecting them soon, but the Bloods took time to show us all their dogs, four who lived in the house with them, and to talk “dogs” with us. We learned even more from them and took their suggestion to contact William Gilbert in New Jersey, as they said he had some top bloodlines in the three kennels he had on his property.

We did that, and when we went to New York, he met us and spent the day with us. At that time (the late ‘50s) he had three kennels in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey; Bolo’s Kennel, Alanos de Oro’s Kennel, and his own Danes. We were totally impressed, as all runs were immaculate and all dogs well cared for and healthy looking. There were probably sixty or so Danes in several different buildings and outside runs. Many of the Alanos de Oro Danes were beautiful blacks, as they had formerly been cared for by Lina Basquette, who had done mixed color breeding. The fawn and brindles were from some of the top breeding done in the East and had been bred to blacks. I believe that is where the beginning controversy about mixed color breeding began, but I have to say I was impressed with the overall quality of all the Danes I saw there. I was particularly impressed with the pictures and pedigree of a dog named Gregory of Kent, hoping to maybe get a puppy by him, but although he had already been shipped to his owner, Mr. Guirola in Central America, he had been bred to a nice bitch before he left. We also really liked the Gilberts’ house dog who was to be bred later that year. Mr. Gilbert took us to all the kennels, took out many of the Danes, stacked them and told us where he felt each one was strong or weak. He also compared some, telling us which one might finish first and the reasons why he thought this way. He was extremely objective, even with his own personal dogs, and I thought, “I hope I can be like that when we started raising dogs.” We didn’t know him like other people knew him, it was just that one day’s experience, but we were amazed that he’d spend the whole day educating novices who were just looking for a good Dane to purchase. I hoped that I could look at the dogs I loved objectively, think that they are good, but know that they could be better in certain ways! Perhaps lack of such an experience is why so many people fall in love with what they have and can’t see the faults so they can improve on them. The experience with the Gilberts and the Bloods were very helpful to us – as you can see I have never forgotten what they gave to us.

Lisa:  Did you get a pup from them?
Clare:  Well, after many months of waiting, no puppy with a pedigree that we wanted became available to us from Mr. Gilbert, so we ultimately bought a puppy in the local area that was related to Toro on the sire’s side. She was from a linebred litter and I liked the dam. She had been shown when we were showing our male. It was a good choice for us. We finished her, and at around two, we bred her to Toro. We ultimately finished six from this linebred combination. The puppy bitch we kept we named Lincoln’s April, and when she was over two and had finished her Am & Can Ch., we bred her to a Ch. brindle male who was a litter brother to her dam. One of these puppies was then outcrossed to Ch. Ben Von Overcup, a California-bred dog with a lot of elegance. They produced several fawn and brindle Chs. Among them was our brindle Am/Can Ch. Lincoln’s Regal Ruler. He was a very typey dog, beautiful head and neck, bringing us a more classic head, lovely long neck, and beautiful topline, and he became a good sire. He was a very gentle dog but still very showy. He even kept Ray’s dad company for several months after Ray’s mom died, and when he came home after Ray’s dad moved, it was as if he had never left. His only really bad habit was stealing garlic bread if you didn’t watch it – just couldn’t resist it! Also, Ch. Lincoln’s McQ was an important sire in our breeding program.  He was my sister-in-law's dog and the much loved friend of her four children.

Lisa:  Sounds like you were completely committed to this by that time. 
Clare:  In the late ’60 thru the early ‘70s, Danes were the largest entry at the Seattle show, as there could be ninety to one hundred entered. We would often show six or seven of our breeding, and in the later ‘70s we became the top producers of champions in the U.S. for three consecutive years, tying once with a breeder in California. We had also produced three top wining Danes in Canada during that time period, as well as a BIS, Group winning, Top 20 placer in the U.S., and this was before the Working/Herding group was split.  The Lewellen's Ch. Lincoln's Jaeger Von Zarik, novice owner handled to all these wins.
In the ‘90s we again bred a BIS. BISS, and a Top 20 placing Special, Ch. Travis Lincoln, handled by Louise and Mark Van Alstyne, bred by Joyce Hartwig and myself, and co-owned by JB and Sandy Britts, myself  & Lisa de Roulet.

Lisa:  Did you handle your own dogs from the beginning, or hire a professional handler?
Clare:   I began handling the dogs we bred as a necessity in the ‘50s. Not only could we not afford a handler but there were very few available in this area, and it was an enjoyable weekend activity. It quickly became time consuming, but it was a good change of pace emotionally and physically; however, it did begin to dominate our lives.

In the beginning I handled only our own dogs, but eventually I handled others, as it was the only way I could get money to show the ones I felt should be in the ring. My friend, Diane Swanson, a Weimaraner breeder-owner handler, and I held handling classes for our puppy owners spring and summers to get the young ones trained and to hopefully teach the owner how to show the dog. She helped me show my Danes and I helped her with her Weimaraners, too. It was a good association, as we could critic each other’s dogs without the ramifications of competitiveness. Our two families traveled to dog shows together and began traveling world-wide together when we could find the time away from dog shows and work.

I continued to handle dogs until I applied for approval to judge. I still handle dogs we own (except for now with a slow mending broken leg!) and I still enjoy it.
 

   

 

Lisa:  When you think back over the many rolls in this sport in which you've participated, how do you really think of yourself;  a Breeder – a Handler – a Judge?
Clare:  I believe you will agree, breeder describes me best. I still enjoy handling, especially when they are young and still need TLC and more self-confidence; that I can give them.
As to judging, that is the next logical step. I felt we had produced some very nice Danes and it was time for me to give back to the breed, to slow down on the breeding and showing. I enjoyed my first judging assignment – the 1972 Futurity when the National was held at Westchester. I enjoyed meeting the breeders I had only seen or read about in the dog magazines. We stayed at Danelagh Kennels with Nancy Carroll, Hazel Gregory (the other Futurity judge) and my old friends, Brucie Mitchell and Roxanne Bleecker. We visited the Marydane Kennel, didn’t get to Dinro Kennel, but did go to Ree and Don Horne’s kennel in PA. I thought judging was pretty good. Where else would someone pay your way to go and look at the best of the breed you love? 
I did not apply for additional breeds after Danes, Dobermans and Jr Showmanship as we began to travel often, and after so many years spent at dog shows, my husband preferred to "go to another country or take a trip in the motorhome than to another dog show" to quote him, but really I enjoy judging and l like to see what's being bred in other parts of the country. 

I judged at the National Specialty twice, in the ‘80s and again in the ‘90s, both times in PA. It was a great day each time, and even though it rained the second time (more like a deluge), I enjoyed the day. There were many deserving bitches from which to choose. The people putting on both of those Nationals did a wonderful job. I also was asked to judge the Top 20 when it was in Chicago, and, believe me, I felt it was a class act. Moving the National Specialties around has given breeders in all parts of the U.S. a chance to exhibit at one, share the work-load of producing a National, and has given people in different parts of the U.S. a chance to see top Specials compete.

Lisa:  I'd like to change subjects a little now and ask you a few questions about some current topics.  What effect is the Internet having on the sport?
Clare:  The Internet, a "blessing and a curse."  You can get information instantly, but you better be sure it is coming from a knowledgeable person, that it is truly good information. I sometimes wonder at what I hear (I no longer go there) if it isn’t the blind leading the blind. Always check the answers you get with some other sources to be sure.


Lisa:  Where do you think the best Danes are?
Clare:  You can usually find a good one wherever you go; however, when I first started in Danes (the mid ‘50s) the strength was most certainly on the East Coast. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the Danes in the California area really came on strong, with several new people starting their own breeding programs in that area. However, there seems to be ‘down times” when there are few really exciting Danes in the ring. The “up times” seem to be when there is a strong stud or two out there producing winning get bred several different ways.
However, if you ask me, a really good bitch bred to the right male for her is the key to success. Currently I see a lot of strength in the breeding going on in the Midwest area – don’t ask me, ask the breeders there what they are doing. The last time I judged a Specialty in that area I was impressed with the depth of quality in most cases.

Lisa:  What are your feelings about ear-cropping?
Clare:  I have a strong opinion here as our first Dane was not cropped. We had more troubles with her ears than any cropped one we have had since. She often shook her head and scratched at her ears despite keeping them clean, as the ear leather hanging down kept the moisture in the canal. When she would shake, she would often create hematomas on the ear edges. I always encourage ear cropping when someone asks my opinion for this reason; however, I also love the look it gives their head, and the pain they suffer is short-lived compared to ear infections.

Lisa:  What are your feelings about mixed-color breeding?
Clare:  I understand why some breeders have done it in the past – usually the reason, as stated by Rose Roberts as to why she did it, was to get a better, more classic head and elegance. I see that now in many of the colored dogs (not politically correct?) so why continue. I have also seen many mismarks in the past, resulting from breeding harlequins to fawns and brindles – harlebrins or brindlekins? Fawn mantles? Fawns with blue masks and blue stripes down their backs? Tri-colored harlequins? I can’t argue too much if a knowledgeable breeder opts to breed fawn and black, but you do have to know what colors are behind that black. I wouldn’t do it myself, but as long as breeders of ANY color stand behind their dogs and are willing to take responsibility for helping to find a home for the homeless, I won’t argue.
  Ours are always sold on contracts, so we usually hear if an owner has a problem and can no longer keep the dog. However, the Danes we see in this area coming through rescues, are most often the mismarks. Where are the breeders of these Danes??

Lisa:  What about the GDCA?
The GDCA must be the guardian of our standard and our Code of Ethics. If the MAJORITY of members wish to change these basic things, that will happen. However, a vocal Minority should not be able to change these basic things!! I really liked the gradation of faults as described in the standard I was first given – the listing such as minor, serious, very serious, etc. It was well thought out by the old breeders, as I discovered through the years, that the serious and very serious faults were much more difficult to correct in breeding than the minor. I think this information is really important to people who decide to breed their dog or bitch. I think the idea of a Breeders’ Seminar at the Nationals is very healthy and am glad it has finally been put in place.

Lisa:  How do you feel about the emphasis being placed on Dane Health Issues?
Clare:  Focus on these issues are long overdue. Our Danes born in the late ‘50s and in the ‘60s lived to be eleven to twelve years old, and now they are dying at such early ages it is scary and such a devastating loss to loving families. Just when you get them mellow and an important part of your family they die! We didn’t see bloat or heart problems from the ‘50s to the ‘70s, but three things changed about that time, and we questioned whether it was the FEEDING (lots of supplements, etc., added to the foods, and it was difficult to find just a baked kibble), the BREEDING (around that time we bred out to Danes from other bloodlines in different parts of the country – what did they bring in? No one could or would tell you) – the SHOTS (more combinations of several different shots, parvo reared its ugly head, and shots were given with greater frequency – what that do to the already stressed fast growing Dane puppy?)
Attending to health issues is important, but we must remember that vet health clearance may only be valid for a short term, except for CERF and OFA at age two, so don’t take it for granted that all is okay in other areas a year or even a month from now. Hopefully the genetic studies being done will be helpful, but much more needs to be done. Hopefully stud dog owners will share important health related information about their dogs with perspective breeders.

Lisa:  I know you have co-owned and co-bred sometimes with others.  Was it usually a good experience?  Any advise you would offer about that subject?
Clare: DON’T do it unless both or all parties fully understand the agreement. I have co-bred with several people and for the most part it’s been a good experience, someone else who cares to share the joys as well as the disappointments that often come with breeding, not to say the expenses and hard work of raising a litter. The joy comes when those puppies begin to make their mark in the show ring. I have co-bred and co-owned dogs with long-time friend Brucie Mitchell, with long- time friend Joyce Hartwig in Canada, with my sister-in-law Shirley Lincoln, with Lisa deRoulet, with Sandy and JB Britts, and with others on a limited basis of one dog or so. It can be a good experience, but take time to spell out the agreement before problems occur.

Lisa:  You have served on the Board Of Directors for the GDCA.
What were some of the accomplishments during that time?
Clare:  I served on the Board of Directors three years in the early ‘90s and during that period was Chair of the Code of Ethics. Our committee was given the task of bringing it up to date, and I chaired the (3 year) yearbook. Let’s hope it never drifts back to that again as it was. And it was very difficult to get people to pay for putting a picture of their long dead champion in it and to get advertising. I approved of the way it is being done now. I did not run again for the Board, as I have become very active in our community, in trying to keep the animal activists from controlling our county.
I have been serving on the County’s Animal Advisory Board since 1991 and have become the AKC Delegate for our club. I am currently a member of the Dog Show Rules Committee. It has been a valuable learning experience. I do hope that the GDCA Board pays particular attention to the animal activists agenda in the coming year!

Lisa:  What do you enjoy doing other than your dog activities?
Clare:  Travel. We began in the mid ‘70s with a trip with dog friends to Europe – just rented a van and spent six weeks wandering with time to meet the Magnusson's (Airways Kennel) in Sweden, and to take in the Peterborough Show with them while in England. In the ‘70s we also went to several countries in the Far East. In Japan we met some Dane breeders for a day on the outskirts of Tokyo. In the ‘80s we toured New Zealand and Australia with a group of friends, and while there managed to meet with Dane breeders in Melbourne, Cairns, and in the Brisbane areas. A few years later the Swansons and Ray and I went to Brazil where Diane judged a Weimaraner Specialty and I judged a Dane Specialty. The best trip, however, was our Safari in Kenya with our friends – a surprise Ray planned for my birthday. We also cruised the Nile River, visiting tombs and temples along the way and the Valley of the Kings. We were very glad there were no Danes to look at in Egypt as life seemed very hard for all animals there.
For fifteen years we were avid snowmobilers and frequently spent time at our river cabin in eastern WA; river rafting in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter, and always took a dog or two with us. 
Other than travel, we like to spend time in our favorite place in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta. The condo we rent is right on the ocean, and sitting on our balcony we can watch the whales and dolphins swim by, and the Pelicans and Frigate birds working for food. No Danes there, though.

We both enjoyed attending Dixieland Jazz Festivals, listening to Glenn Miller-type of music, and reading mystery stories…………..

Lisa:  Who do you admire?
Clare:  I have to say Patti Strand, who is an AKC Board member, and Dalmatian breeder, exhibitor and judge and a member of an Oregon All-Breed Club. She is also president of the NAIA, the most effective organization fighting the animal activists on all fronts in our country. You want to know what’s going on in any part of the country, just contact her!

Lisa:  Who are some of the dogs you have admired? (past & present)
Clare:  The picture of the two Dinro Danes, Aslan and Aeleric, in a very old GDCA Yearbook. Ch. Big Kim Of Bella Dane – I never saw him but tried to breed to him but he was always on a circuit with Lina Basquette, so I finally bought one of his last sons.
More recently I fell in love with Ch. Tinker’s Tulip Time v Brislyn, from the Midwest – she was a lovely bitch, as was Ch. Challenger's Allegra v Avanti.
I also liked Ch. Abner Lowell Davis, Ch. Jecamo's Caesar Of AAA, Ch. Sham's Sacerdotes, as well Ch. Longo's Primo D'Aquino and Ch. BMW Architech Of Jericho who were the epitomy of their color. And the Doberman Ch. Brunswig's Cryptonite.

Lisa:  How has the breed changed since the 1950s?
Clare:  BREED REGRESSION: They have lost correct front assemblies. Therefore, movement suffers – NO REACH.

BREED PROGRESSIONS: Rears are better overall. However, they drive to nowhere because of the unbalanced front assembly.


In assessing movement in Danes, my priority is SIDE GAIT, even though they must come and go cleanly. Side gait gives you the entire picture of the dog, neck into shoulders, top-line, reach and drive.

Lisa:  What's the best advice you could give to someone starting in Danes?

Clare:  Get a mentor who has a proven track record in the breed. Breeding costs are expensive and you never get your money back if you do it to better the breed.  Find the best bitch you can, finish her, and then search for the best male for her - not necessarily the current top winner, but the male who compliments her physically as well as her pedigree.   We do believe in line breeding, and then outcrossing when you find other qualities your dogs need, and in order to do this you need to learn structure and movement, and must never neglect temperament.  That is why we suggest that people just beginning should watch other breeds, too, and stay for the groups as there is so much to be learned by doing this.


Lisa:  What is the state of the Judging at shows?
Clare:   Leaves a lot to be desired. I miss the OLD all-arounders, like Alva Rosenberg, Larry Downey, Melbourne Downing and Robert Waters. They all had a grasp of the total dog and had no single hang-ups about a breed.  Many of today's Judges have not spent there entire lives in dogs like so many old all rounders, and are often not patient enough with newcomers to the ring who might have a nice dog and might ultimately add to the sport.  Perhaps they have forgotten what it is like to be on the other end of the leash.

Lisa:  Can you say a few words about Lincoln Great Danes?
Clare:  THE LINCOLN GREAT DANE: From start to finish the Lincoln Great Dane evolved from a well-balanced, large-boned, less elegant dog, to a more typey elegant, balanced, sound animal, and continued to maintain size, movement, and correct head type.

Lisa:  Thank you Clare Lincoln.