Me and my now husband first came across flatcoats in 1991 when I started my first job as a veterinary nurse trainee. As the newbie it was part of my duties to phone sit the out of hours phone if the boss was out. Here we met Hugo, the most handsome, gorgeous and friendly soul you could ever wish to have as your first flatcoat encounter. Hugo was a Riversflight boy. We fell in love and at that point promised ourselves we would have our own one day. We already had a golden retriever bitch, Chelsea that Shaun had bought for me for my 18th birthday the previous October to give me some company as my mum had passed away only a few weeks before. Time passed and in 1994 we had our only golden litter, we had liked Hugo's boyish charm so much we decided to keep a boy - Zac. In the June of the same year Lauren our eldest daughter arrived and so they grew up together. In 1997 Courtney arrived and instantly made the same bond with the dogs that Lauren had but more so. Courtney could very often be found asleep with one of them in the dog bed. We tentatively made the decision that once Chelsea reached the age of 12 (never been ill ever), and both girls were at school we would fulfil our dream of a flatcoat. Unfortunately in September 2001 Chelsea passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. Her son Zac was beside himself and started to go down hill rapidly. I had never seen a dog pine so badly. We decided that we needed to get another dog for his sake. I couldn't get another golden as Chelsea had meant so much to me so we decided we were in the right place for a flatcoat.
We contacted Shirley Johnson and she filled us in completely on the wonderful breed. There were very few litters at the time, they were either too far away or hadn't been born yet. We felt that if we waited we could possibly lose Zac and so Shirley found us a litter that had one little girl left not too far away, and they had also been born on the same day as Chelsea had been. I phoned the breeder the same day and was allowed to travel down to see her at 2 weeks old (benefits of being a veterinary nurse i think). She was lovely, they had named her Mouse because she was the smallest in the litter (not small tho by any means) and she had the most amazing shiny coat, you could easily pick her out above the others. She had the most beautiful head so that was it we were getting our first flatcoat. (Colleenor Ptarmigan X Parsifal Paris of Exclyst)
I couldn't envisage shouting Mouse across the fields and so she was named Willow - (Mum had always liked Willow trees and had 3 in the garden). She certainly made herself known but settled in with Zac very quickly much to his disgust to start with. She was only ever going to be a pet but after my golden stud dog owner saw her she was very impressed with her. We joined the FCRS and spoke to the local area representative at the time. He too said she was a very nice bitch and taught us how to groom her for shows. Willow being Willow though decided shows were not for her. She had such a fantastic temperament and was just great to live with, though looking back after being a few more flatcoats down the line I am sure she got away with more than they do now.
In 2004 we decided we wanted to have a litter from her so contacted Brenda Phillips who owned Willow's dad. She spoke to me at length and recommended Ann Kilminster as she had a beautiful stud who could match very well. After speaking to Ann we drove up to see what she thought of Willow. She too thought she was lovely and agreed that we could use her gorgeous boy Withybed Drummer.
On 22nd August 2005 our puppies were born. We had decided that we might like to try our hand at showing properly so Ann came down to help us choose which one we would keep. And hence arrived Echo. She had the sweetest nature you could ever wish for, and you really didnt know you had her. Unfortunately not long after her arrival I became ill and was unable to take on the show training etc that I would have wanted. In November 2006 we also lost Zac. Echo was nearly 2 before I was well enough to start showing her and much like Willow she really didn't enjoy it that much. The shows they entered they always did very well at. Ann helped us a lot at our first shows as did all the other loveley flatcoat people, giving us a benching chain and show lead to be going on with. We shopped a lot those first few shows. Ann then suggested that Courtney try junior handling as she seemed a natural. She qualified for Richmond Semi Finals at her first show. Unfortunately Echo came into season so Ann allowed Courtney to use Blazer - Withybed Blue Jeans, although not placed they had a great day.
Courtney's interest in showing was increasing but Echo's enthusiasm in the show ring was waning. In 2009 we had chosen our stud dog for Echo and had decided to keep a boy from the litter that Courtney would take under her wing and show from day 1. And so arrived Murphy (Willowswind Mischief Maker X SH CH Benvellyn Nephrite Jade of Seaheart). He oozes personality and is such an affectionate lad, he reminds me very much of that very first encounter with flatcoats we had nearly 18 years before with the personality that we fell in love with. Courtney and Murphy learned together with Ann Kilminster and Gill Smitherman taking us under their wings and teaching us the ins and outs of the show circuit. He did very well as a puppy and gained his Junior warrant at just under 18 months old. It was more than we ever imagined. We look forward to the future with him. Murphy sired his first litter in September 2011 an 2nd a second litter in July 2013.
Echo had her 2nd and final litter on 2nd November 2011 sired by Greenbayhill Black Tuxedo . We kept a bitch from this litter and called her Maia. She arrived 8th in the litter and fought to be with us, she has been fighting ever since and is a very independent little lady. We look forward to watching them grow and to showing our own Willowswind Maias Wish.
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I first started handling when mum was too poorly to really show Echo. Although Echo didn't really enjoy showing that much she learned very quickly and coped with the handling classes better than the breed classes. She was always very good and was especially good at being shadowed, she wouldn't move at all. One of the best days was when I got first place with Echo at the southern counties champ show out of a large class of 18. I qualified for the richmond semi finals at my first show but due to Echo being in season, I used Ann Kilminsters Blazer. Although not placed I had a great day.
When Echo began to dislike showing more and more and we decided to breed from her, I asked mum if I could have the puppy in partnership and show him from day 1. And so when murphy arrived I started the training staright away. I found it difficult to show him in the handling classes as the manoeuvres I needed to do weren't always easy when I was so small and he was so big. I actually preferred the breed classes anyway because I felt people were looking at murphy rather than me. I still like to compete in the handling classes at the flatcoat shows to support the breed and I have qualified for Richmond every year since starting.
I have had the pleasure of handling SH CH Withybed Blue Jeans in both handling and breed classes. Also Benvellyn Cape Little Karoo in junior handling when she got her RBCC at FCRS Champ Show 2010 and was thrilled when I was given the oppourtunity to handle her again and she took the CC and RBOB at URC 2010. Many thanks to both Ann Kilminster and Gill Smitherman for entrusting me with their precious friends.
I am very often drafted in last minute to help out and really enjoy the experience of handling different dogs. When I am needed, I also handle Coedylan viste d'arte and dogs from the Starball and Benaaron affix on a regular basis. Mostly though I show Murphy - who gained his junior warrant in December 2010 and his sister Sorrel who has qualified for crufts 2011 and 2012. I get such pleasure in them being so happy. I am really looking forward to handling the new babies Maia and Hunter in 2012.
I just want to thank every one who has let me show their dogs whether in the handling or in the breed classes, it is such great fun and a great experience.
x Courtney x