Ric Plath and Ellen Bergfeld of Castiron Kennels will be traveling to Europe in a few weeks to attend the 2023 Picardy Spaniel Breed Club Show in Amiens, France. Prior to the show they will be meeting with breeders in Germany, the Netherlands and France to discuss future breeding plans, genetics and the current status of the Picardy Spaniel in North America. Over the past ~10 years Ric and Ellen have been in communication with many European Picardy Spaniel breeders and owners, and they view this trip in the same way they did their 2022 trip to Sweden. An opportunity to finally meet face-to-face with the people who have gone out of their way to support efforts to establish the Picardy Spaniel as a self-sustaining breed in North America. It will also be an opportunity to reconnect with the friends they made in Sweden, to expand their knowledge of the breed, and to learn more about European training methods for Picardy Spaniels. Ric and Ellen are also looking forward to seeing more Picardy Spaniels in one place than there are in all of North America. They are also quite excited to see Dior, aka Denali, a puppy from their most recent litter (Manny/Cleo D-Litter) who now lives in France. Stay tuned for daily updates and photos starting ~23Apr23.
Ellen and I have just arrived in France after spending a few days in Germany. While in Germany we had the good fortune to spend some quality time with Beate and Martin Bonke discussing their breeding program and meeting their dogs. The Bonke’s were kind enough to arrange a small gathering of people who own Picards from their breeding program. We met 3 generations of Picards from the vom Wietesch bloodline! The Bonke’s share our passion for the breed, and for doing what we can to expand genetic diversity within the breed. Two of our Picards, Cleo and Whiskey, have vom Wietesch bloodlines and it was so interesting to see common traits in their cousins, aunts, uncles and great aunts. The picture below is of Amy vom Wietesch, Donna vom Wietesch and Bliss vom Wietesch. Ellen, Ric, Beate and Martin as well…
Ellen and I also had the good fortune to meet Ocho, a Picard from the Netherlands that sired the Bonke’s D litter. Ocho is a very powerful dog and one we had hoped to meet on this trip. We were able to spend several days with Donna from this litter and it is certain that she will be an excellent all-around dog. She is quite active outdoors and she has very strong prey drive. Donna also has the “off-switch” indoors that is so common in the breed. We also met Diego aka Jango and although we did not have as much time with him as we did with Donna he is much like her. Structurally sound, cooperative and a true hunter. The picture below is of Dexter.
As with our trip to a Sweden last year we continue to learn more about the breed from our European counterparts. And, we continue to establish new relationships with breeders and owners alike, relationships that will help us become better breeders and trainers of Picardy Spaniels. One thing we continue to confirm is that these dogs have amazing heart and drive. As well as a willingness to partner with their owners. The picture below is of Amy vom Wietesch…almost 10 years old and still going strong. Look at that point!
We are looking forward to the breed show where we will see ~130 Picards in one place. That’s approximately half of the total number of Picardy Spaniels we have in North America. Stay tuned for more updates and pictures!
40th Nationale D’Elevage Club des Epagneuls de Picarde & Pont-Audemer Amiens – 29Apr23
One week ago Ellen and I attended the French National Breed Show in Amiens, France. To say that this was an amazing experience would be like saying the Tour de France is “just another bike race.” Or that the Picardy Spaniel is “just another hunting dog.” There were ~130 Picardy’s on exhibit and the show wildly exceeded our expectations. And it all started in the parking lot!
We had the good fortune of arriving at the venue at the same time as Whiskey’s sire, Omer des Falaises de L’Ailly and Christophe. This was the first time Ellen and I had seen Omer in person and it was quite obvious that he was an excellent choice to sire Whiskey’s litter. This was a wonderful chance meeting and it set the stage for the rest of the show.
As neither Ellen nor I speak French beyond rudimentary basics we relied heavily on Google Translate and “speaking with our hands and feet,” as one of our French friends so aptly put it. Where there’s a will there’s a way. We arrived early so we could observe, and in many cases, scrutinize as many Picardy’s as possible. The set-up was such that we were able to walk between kennels to look at dogs. We weren’t even 10 steps down the first aisle when someone stood up and said: “Plath?!?” It was David Moret, one of the many European breeders who we’ve corresponded with for years. I said yes and he stood up, smiled and gave me a big hug. This warm welcome was only one of so many we experienced while attending the show.
David had several dogs in the Exhibition so we were not able to spend too much time talking, but we were able to have a good look at several of his dogs. One of which, Olive, finished first in the Female Champion Class. Ellen and I continued to walk down the aisle of kennels and we were met with the same level of warmth and enthusiasm everywhere we went. It was beyond humbling to have been greeted in such a manner by so many Picardy owners and breeders. We kept our visits short out of respect for everyone who had dogs in the show so they had time to prepare properly. But, we kept our eyes and ears open as we walked the show floor. There was so much to learn.
As soon as the announcement was made that the show was starting Ellen and I positioned ourselves at the junction of the designated male and female rings so we could watch both throughout the show. Honestly it was a bit overwhelming trying to keep track of dogs, breeders and owners in 2 different rings. We did our best, and at the beginning we kept up pretty well.
As the day progressed we found it more and more difficult to keep up with the pace of the show. At least in terms of taking notes on most dogs and talking to breeders/owners. There was just too much going on. Some chance meetings turned into long conversations and some planned meetings were shorter than we had hoped. The contest for the best young female went off first and we spent more time looking at this group than others. It wasn’t our plan, but that’s the way it worked out as the show got much busier as time went by. I was quite surprised to have picked 3 of the top 4 females in the category.
As the show progressed we found ourselves having more and more conversations with breeders and owners. In addition to meeting all of the people we had been corresponding with for years we had hoped we would learn of planned litters that would have genetics that could help broaden and deepen the gene pool in North America. I’m happy to report that we accomplished both goals. If all works out as planned a male Picardy puppy will be heading to Wisconsin late summer ’23.
During our trip to Sweden last year we met Hayabusa’s Braveheart aka Falco and his owners. Falco won Best of Show last year, and Whiskey’s dam Amber vom Hernsteiner Forst aka Amber won Best of Opposite. Both Falco and Amber competed again this year, and we were quite pleased to watch them both in action.
Toward the end of the day we were able to watch Iron and Justus compete in the Veteran’s class. It was quite interesting to see them both in person after only seeing them in pictures. I apologize for the lack of quality of the picture below. It doesn’t do justice to either dog, but it’s the best I have.
The day progressed so quickly and was so full that neither Ellen nor I took time to eat. Before we knew it the show was over. We didn’t meet everyone we had hoped to meet, but we met people we had never met before. Apologies for those we didn’t manage to spend time with during the show, and thank you to everyone who took the time to talk with us and show us their dogs. The list of people and dogs we met is too long to mention, so please accept our sincerest thanks to everyone who took time and made us feel so welcome. We are truly humbled by your kindness. And, we look forward to continuing to work with all of you to help establish the reputation of the Picardy Spaniel as a solid hunter and a loving family dog in North America.
We plan to visit Europe again next year to continue to learn more about Picardy Spaniels and to meet more of the people who are so committed to the welfare and wellbeing of the breed. See you all next year!