Talking to Bill & Taffe McFadden: Part 3
Dogs in Review’s founding editors Bo Bengtson and Paul Lepiane talked to Bill and Taffe during the Del Valle weekend in Northern California on October 18, 2013.
Bo Bengtson |
Posted: November 11, 2014 10 a.m. PST
Successful handlers Bill and Taffe McFadden sat down with Dogs in Review's founding editors Bo Bengtson and Paul Lepiane during the 2013 Del Valle weekend in Northern California. In part three of this interview, learn more about Bill and Taffe McFadden's breeding program, how they decide who shows which dogs and the famous Kerry Blue Terrier 'Mick.'
The Breeding Programs
Seven years later at the same show, Taffe and the Giant Schnauzer 'Spirit' celebrated the same achievement under judge Mareth Kipp. How many well-known dog people can you recognize? Photo MyDogPhoto.
DIR: How much of a breeding program do you have?
BM: Oh, I have about 20 Wires, plus seven or eight more I have with my co-breeder friend in Indiana, Paul Gyori. I breed two or three litters per year. I brought over this dog from Germany, Ch. Diamant v. d. Schönen Bergen, and bred pretty much anything I could to him. He’s a total outcross and worked really well with our bitches. In the last litters I’ve had, there’s only been one puppy that had anything wrong with her. She was undershot, and we gave her to this wonderful family in Boise, Idaho — they brought her to the show when we were there last week. They have four kids and just love her.
DIR: So what’s the best Wire you’ve bred?
BM: I think the best one I bred was in my first litter, which is kind of sad.
DIR: You mean the Westminster Group winner, Ch. Random Reaction?
BM: No, this was before that — Ch. Random Request. She didn’t win a whole lot, but I always loved her. Maybe it’s just my memory. Bobby Fisher showed her for Barbara Keenan and won a Best in Show with her.
DIR: And which are the best Wires of all you’ve ever seen?
BM: Up close and personal, I’ve seen Ch. Aryee Dominator, Ch. Sylair Special Edition and Ch. Killick of the Mess. I loved Ch. Galsul Excellence and so many of the Louline dogs. There was a bitch Bobby Fisher showed, Ch. Glanrob Crimson Velvet of Purston, that was so beautiful, as was Ch. Dynamic Super Sensation.
DIR: Taffe, what about your breeding activities?
TM: Well, I am co-breeding Havanese. They are great little dogs, other than the fact that you have to brush them. There are no topknots, which helps. They are cute, happy and get along with other dogs. I love them. I co-breed Havanese with Mary King, and I also co-breed Shih Tzus with Therese Forman.
DIR: So in effect you get paid to show dogs you’ve bred?
TM: Yes, it’s wonderful. Some breeders do that. We don’t show all the time, and my co-breeder is thrilled with where we are now. And we’re really selective about where we show them.
Dealing with Conflict
DIR: That brings us to how you decide who shows which dogs and how you deal with conflicts. Do you have a lot of angry owners who are unhappy because you don’t get to their dogs?
BM: We just basically wing it and do the best we can.
TM: There are dogs that Bill primarily shows and other dogs that I primarily show, but that’s not usually something that the client determines. It’s what works best for us, and the clients trust us on that. Obviously our specials are a high priority, but Bill has always said that as far as Group competition goes, the dog has to earn his priority. Just because someone has gone and bought the best dog in the world that doesn’t mean the dog doesn’t have to earn its priority.
BM: We make out a schedule, and sometimes it looks like hell, and sometimes it’s really smooth, and sometimes just having a judge hold up his ring for 10 minutes for whatever reason will throw everything off.
DIR: How many assistants do you have?
BM: We have three who live in and one who lives nearby. We have had a lot of good kids and a lot of, let’s say, unusual kids, and several that are a combination of both.
DIR: Is there a difference between the foreign and the American kids?
BM: Basically just that the foreign kids usually don’t speak such good English.
TM: No, there’s also a different style of handling, a different approach.
BM: There’s a girl who lives in Canada, Jamie-Lee Larkman, whom we bring down for big weekends like this one. She’s great, knows our routine and can fit in and work with anyone. It’s awesome when she comes.
TM: She automatically knows the priorities.
DIR: Doesn’t Conor work for you now?
TM: Not this weekend. He loves working for us. We love having him, and the clients love him.
DIR: So tell us about the routine. Say you get home from a show on Sunday night. What happens next?
BM: Well, then we take the week off and drink champagne until the next show, of course.
TM: On Monday you unload the truck, bleach everything down, and reload it. And then you start grooming. We have a lot of breeds that require a great deal of grooming.
BM: With the Terriers, that’s a constant. You start on Monday grooming for the next weekend. But Taffe has finally started to realize she can only do so much.
TM: If I wake up on Monday morning and my body tells me I’ve got to quit, I listen to my body because otherwise I can’t make it to the next weekend. We’re both trying to go to shows pretty much every weekend.
DIR: Do you get any time to yourselves? What do you do for fun?
BM: Well, I go antiquing sometimes. And I used to go to a lot of movies, but not so much anymore.
Bringing Home Mick
Mick won his 100th all-breed BIS, shown by Bill, at the Sacramento KC show in 2002 under judge Houston Clark. Friends and competitors stayed for the photo session. This Callea Photo immortalized the moment..
DIR: Bill, you showed Mick, the Kerry Blue Terrier Ch. Torum’s Scarf Michael, which just may be the greatest show dog anyone has seen in America, and probably anywhere else, too, for that matter. The story that everyone wants to hear is how Mick came to America. How did that happen?
BM: Well, we have a client who’s also a good friend named Nancy Han. She owned the Bedlington that Taffe showed, Ch. Willow Wind Tenure, and she came back from a visit to England and told me about this Kerry Blue puppy. This was before he was a big winner and before the show world at large was aware of him — he may have been around 14 months old and maybe he had a Junior Warrant, but that was it. Anyway, Nancy loved him and kept telling me how great he was. I just lovingly and laughingly patted her on the head and didn’t really listen much, but then this dog started to win big over there, and I figured out that this was the puppy Nancy had been talking about. Lots of people began telling me about him, but I didn’t see him until I went over there for Crufts.
I had another client, Marilu Hansen, who owned Tristan, the Giant Schnauzer Ch. Skansen’s Tristan II, who had been No. 2 all breeds in 1999, and she wanted another dog, so she set it up for me to go and see the dog at Crufts. I went, and I immediately got stuck at the Wire Fox Terrier ring, which was next to the Kerry ring. The crowds were really thick, but every time there was a whole lot of noise or people were clapping, I’d stand up to catch a glimpse of Mick in the next ring. I have to say I was not totally that impressed by him. His regular handler, Geoff Corish, was judging at Crufts that year, so Michael Coad was showing Mick, although I’m not sure that made any difference. I was expecting to be blown away by this consummate show dog, and he really didn’t look to me like he was. He had a son there who was like a circus pony, though, and did everything right, whereas Mick was on the verge of being out of control! My brain, or maybe it was my heart, I’m not sure which, was telling me I should buy the son instead, but of course I’m glad now I didn’t. (The son, Ch. Kensbridge Karbon Copy, came to the US, too, later on, and Peter Atkinson did a lot of winning with him.) To be fair, I wasn’t watching every minute, so maybe I missed the best part of Mick’s performance.
Anyway, then Mick won the Group, and he won Best in Show, too, but I still didn’t know if we were going to get him or not. The Ramsays are great people, but they were very noncommittal, and I really didn’t know what was going on. This was in March, and we didn’t get him over here until sometime in June, and I showed him for the first time at the Great Western Terrier specialties. There were two or three bad incidents before I got him. I remember some English lady wrote an article in the American dog press that ripped him apart.
DIR: So there were some detractors?
BM: You bet there were.
DIR: I have never come across any dog that was as universally admired as Mick was. He appears at the top on pretty much everybody’s all-time favorite list. I didn’t know there were exceptions. So when were you yourself finally blown away by him?
BM: The first time I walked in the ring with him at Great Western. No, that’s not true. Probably the first time I really trimmed him and walked him over for Taffe to see. She had the top Terrier in the country at that point, the Bedlington, and she was like, "Oh my God!”
DIR: So Taffe really saw his quality before you did?
TM: Yes, I did, and everyone kept telling Bill he had to start showing that dog, how wonderful he was and how he could be Top Terrier, and of course I was feeling, "Well, hello? What about us?”
DIR: But you stayed Top Terrier that year with the Bedlington anyway, didn’t you?
TM: Yes, we did.
DIR: Bill, after back-to-back Best in Shows at the Great Western Terrier shows, you didn’t show Mick again until that fall, right?
BM: We took him to Morris & Essex in October of 2000, and he won Best in Show from the classes there, too. Then he was beaten for BIS by a really beautiful Standard Schnauzer the next day.
DIR: Yes, Ch. Charisma Jailhouse Rock, who was No. 2 all breeds to Mick the following year.
BM: So many memories. He was a hard dog to show, but he was so charismatic.
DIR: Taffe, did you ever show Mick?
TM: I think I showed him maybe one time in the breed. He was just solid gold, the most amazing dog. Did you know that Mick was lost on the flight coming from England to Los Angeles? Bill got on the plane in England, so he didn’t know anything until later, and the airline called me. Somehow the dog had gotten sidelined to Philadelphia. I was a nervous wreck before we finally got him.
Anyway, when they got here, Bill took Mick out of the crate, let him go outside, brought him in the house, and he walked over and lifted his leg right where the sink is in the kitchen. I said, "MICK! Don’t you DARE do that!” and all he had to do was turn around and look at me, and I went, "OK, never mind. I’m sorry.” He was a pretty unique dog.
DIR: He was a house dog, wasn’t he?
BM: Sometimes. He really was very good in the house. Well, except that one time.
TM: I remember one of the cats walked up to him, and I was sure this would be death, but the cat just walked around between his legs and hit him in the face with his tail, and Mick just let him. The cats loved Mick!
Go to part four of this interview, where Bill and Taffe McFadden talk about dog shows today, their breakthrough dogs, the people who influenced them and what they see in their future.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
From the 2014 Annual issue of Dogs in Review magazine.
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