Famous Dog Pioneers: Rachel Page Elliott

Learn about the contributions of dog breeder Rachel Page Elliott of Featherquest Golden Retrievers.

By | March 1, 2012

Continued from page 1

Rachel Page Elliott
Featherquest Golden Retrievers

Rachel Page Elliott

Rachel Page Elliott (left), with Golden Retriever breeder-judge Laurie Doumaux. Photo Stephen J. Wood

Fanciers in every breed have benefited from Rachel Page Elliott’s contributions as a researcher, author and lecturer. Her insatiable curiosity and many talents led to wide-ranging accomplishments, but they all trace back to her love for Golden Retrievers.

She graduated from Radcliffe in 1935, and married Boston dentist Dr. Mark Elliott in 1939. He introduced her to the sport of dogs and they soon acquired a Cosalta German Shepherd Dog that Pagey trained to CDX level. Mark’s interest in hunting prompted them to purchase a Golden Retriever as their next dog, an uncommon breed in America in 1941.

The Elliotts registered their Featherquest prefix in 1945, and purchased their 64-acre River Road Farm, in Carlisle, Mass., a year later. Over the next four decades they raised a family and bred about 50 litters of Goldens. From the start, their breeding program focused on versatility, producing dogs for obedience, conformation and fieldwork.

They also became active in several clubs. They held match shows and field meets at their farm, helped to found the Yankee Golden Retriever Club and Pagey eventually held every office but treasurer in the Golden Retriever Club of America.

After WWII, Golden Retriever imports began arriving from England. Many of them were substantially larger and heavier boned, differing drastically from the moderate type of Golden popular in the Midwest.

This inevitably confused judges. Although she was fairly new to the breed, Pagey encouraged the GRCA to revise the standard, which was then vague on several key points. She described herself as the "gadfly on the committee,” but other members obviously disagreed since she was chosen as chairman.

In this role, she was determined to ensure that Goldens remained functional working dogs, and she recognized that this required a concise description of correct gait. She began corresponding with authorities like McDowell Lyon, Lloyd Bracket and Laurence Horswell, and used slow-motion 8mm film to analyze moving dogs.

Her resulting insights changed our understanding of canine gait. As other clubs learned of her work, it literally went viral. The resulting requests for presentations led to a 29-year lecture career that took her to three continents.

This led to her classic work Dogsteps published in 1973. In 1974 it was chosen as best book by DWAA, and Pagey won the Gaines Award for Dog Woman of the Year. Dogsteps went through eight printings and spawned several videos before it was revised in 2001.

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