Search Menu


18 Cubic Feet
Collection processed by Norma Rosado-Blake


A gift from Janet Boyd, Club Archivist (2007) of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.


The collection has been partially retained in its original order starting with the meeting minutes dating from 1972. Meeting minutes starting in 1988 have been removed from their original binders and placed in appropriate enclosures. Other loose material has been organized into several series and sub-series including:

  1. Meeting minutes
  2. Correspondence
    1. General
    2. Subject files
  3. Documents
    1. Subject files
    2. Litter registry
  4. Publications
    1. Annual reports
    2. Books
    3. Catalogs
    4. Magazines
    5. Membership directories
    6. Miscellaneous
    7. Newsletters
  5. Photographs
  6. Audio/Video tapes


The Club

Deyanne Farrell Miller and Herbert H. Miller, Jr., hosted the first meeting at their home in Connecticut on 13 August, 1972. Honored guests included Mr. and Mrs. Sherman Hoyt, breeders and owners of numerous champion Poodles. Mrs. Hoyt, an international judge and expert on the water dog, advised the group on forming a breed club and emphasized the breed’s function and aesthetics. Her interest in the breed grew out of her experience with Poodles; it was theorized that the Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) and the Poodle shared the same ancestors. Collectively, the group agreed that an American PWD organization was desperately needed since the breed’s numbers worldwide were considerably low. Executive officers were elected with Herbert H. Miller, Jr., as president and corresponding secretary; Joseph Gratton was named honorary president; Frank L. Parks was elected vice-president; Dora Badgett and James M. White were elected treasurer and recording secretary, respectively.

From the beginning, there was a close relationship between the American contingency and the Clube Português de Canicultura, or Portuguese Kennel Club (PKC). Carla Molinari, secretary for the PKC, was an honored guest at several meetings and acted as liaison and translator. Dr. António Cabral, president of the PKC, was also involved with the American organization during the early years and later would provide the Millers with one of the most famous PWDs, Ch. Charlie de Alvalade.

The club only had a handful of members, and they were very busy with registrations, breed promotion and shows. Their first fun match was conducted in 1974, and another one occurred the following year. They also conducted a specialty fun match on 7 August 1977, which boasted an entry of 300 dogs. By 1985, they conducted their first AKC sanctioned B-OB specialty match where Farmion Zephyr, owned by Doug and Sheila Parker, took the title of best adult dog. Conformation shows were important, but the club wanted to showcase the breed’s water skills.

Club members conducted informal water work in the early years. However, it wasn’t until two decades later that a formal water trial program was established. The club looked at the water trials of the Newfoundland Club of America as a benchmark of their own. Once guidelines were established and approved, the first water trials were held in August 1991. The following year, the first AKC National Specialty Show was held, where 352 dogs were entered. Best of Breed went to Ch. Pinehaven’s On The Town.

During the 1980s, the club and breed flourished. Registration numbers for the PWD grew steadily. The club, deeply committed to preserving the breed’s health and overall welfare, created several permanent committees to explore such issues. Beyond that, they joined forces with leading research institutions to create genetic databases to monitor health problems, such as Addison’s and storage disease. As evidence of their commitment, the club hired a veterinarian geneticist, Dr. Jerold Bell, to create a blood test for storage disease. Later he headed up several genetic studies and research on a variety of diseases for the club.

In 1996 the club collaborated with the University of Utah to create The Georgie Project to study the genetics of the PWD. Its goal:

  1. Determine the genotypes and phenotypes of the PWD population.
  2. Analyze genetics of simple and complex traits.

The project, named after a PWD “Georgie,” who died from an autoimmune disease, was developed to further study illnesses, such as canine hip dysplasia and Addison’s disease. By 2007 the club had formed nine committees to address other issues such as cancer, eye diseases and gastrointestinal conditions, among others.

The club was dealt a blow when, in 1988, Deyanne Miller passed away; it was a profound loss for the club. To honor her memory, members established a scholarship fund, The Deyanne Miller Scholarship Fund, to provide monetary assistance to members or children of members with outstanding academic records. Since then the club has remained indebted to Mrs. Miller’s efforts, with respect and fondness for all that she has done for the breed. The quote below is from their first national specialty catalog from 1992. “…her tenacity, her devotion, and her strength of character never wavered as she took the breed…to where it is today. We dedicate this first National Specialty to Deyanne in recognition of all she has done for the breed and as a sincere thank you for what she has contributed to each of our lives. In life she was the driving force behind the breed’s success. In death she has become our guiding light.”

Deyanne Miller’s legacy touches almost every aspect of the club, including, The Courier, which she began in 1972 as a one-page newsletter. The newsletter remained nameless until 1979, when club members were asked to name it. There were many suggestions including, ‘A Chama’, ‘Portuguese Portsides,’ ‘Portuguese Portholes,’ but the club soon settled on The Courier. The newsletter is now a magazine that has garnered several national awards for writing and design since the 1990s.

The Breed

During the late 13th century, a Monk witnessed a dog retrieving a dying sailor from the sea and described it as having, “…a black coat of rough long hair, cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail.” This common quote is long believed to describe the Portuguese Water Dog. In its homeland of Portugal, the breed can be traced to the Algarve region on the southern coastline, which was one of the last areas captured by the invading Moors in the 13th century.

There are many theories as to how the breed got to western Europe. One in particular theorizes that the breed originated in Asia and migrated with the conquering Moors. By the mid-16th century, the breed served as messengers for the Spanish Armada’s fleet. When the Spanish Armada was defeated off the coast of Ireland, the dogs on board swam ashore and mated with other breeds to produce today’s Irish Water Spaniel.

It is thought that Christopher Columbus owned this breed, although in many references his dog is referred to as a Mastiff. There is a high likelihood that he owned the breed as he did, in fact, sail for Portugal. Added to that, as an explorer, he probably found the breed’s water skills useful; their webbed paws, coat and stamina make them natural sea dogs.

The breed’s water ability was also employed by Portuguese fishermen. They worked on the boats and were paid wages just as any crew member. They became indispensible to the fishermen. They retrieved nets, dove for lost items, served as messengers and acted as an alert signal when danger was present or when fishing opportunities arose. However, technology soon brought this bond between dog and fisherman to an end in the 1960s. With the need for the working dog diminishing, the breed’s numbers dwindled to as few as 20 dogs in Portugal. However, the interest in the United States helped the numbers recover and bring it back from near extinction.

It was Deyanne Farrell Miller and Herbert H. Miller, Jr., who took interest in the breed after a few trips to Portugal. During their 1968 visit they viewed a day-old litter at the Al-Gharbe Kennels. They fell in love with one puppy, soon-to-be-named Renascence do Al-Gharbe, and imported it eight weeks later. The dog would become part of the foundation stock for the Miller’s Farmion Kennels in Connecticut. The following year, the Millers imported another puppy from Portugal. And in 1971 the first Portuguese Water Dog litter was born in America.

By 1975 there were 66 registered PWDs in the United States and 85 worldwide. Although these numbers seemed promising, the fact remained that the breed was still very rare. In fact, in 1981 the Guinness Book of World Records listed the dog as the rarest breed. Despite this fact, the AKC admitted the dog to the Miscellaneous Class. According to a news release dated, 21 May 1981, the then president of the PWDCA, Pamela Schneller, stated “…[the new status is] a significant accomplishment for a breed of dog almost extinct just twenty years ago.” In 1983 the breed was accepted for AKC registration. Finally, in 1984 it became a member of the AKC Working Group.

As founders of the breed in the United States, the Millers were instrumental in re-establishing the dog as a viable breed. In fact, they were owners of the most well-known and most accomplished dog. The Millers imported Ch. Charlie de Alvalade, affectionately known as “Charlie Brown.” He earned his champion status in 1984, which was a first for the breed. In the same year, he won the AKC’s first All Breed Best in Show. Additionally, he took Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 1985, 1986 and 1987, an unprecedented accomplishment. Ch. Charlie de Alvalade’s success is an example of how well the breed excelled in the conformation ring in such a short period of time. Furthermore, their intelligence and trainability made them excellent at agility and obedience work.

Their popularity grew within one decade of their arrival to the United States. The table below shows a steady increase in the number of PWD registered with the AKC since 1984.

Year AKC Registered PWD
1984 182
1990 601
1995 919
2000 1023
2006 1454

Their popularity may be attributed to the breed’s agreeable nature. They are loyal, gentle, and loving dogs, which make them wonderful family dogs. Additionally, their playfulness and affection make them ideal with children. The breed’s hypoallergenic coat may have also contributed to its popularity. Despite their popularity they, Portuguese Water Dogs, like so many purebreds, can suffer from serious, life-threatening diseases.

During the 1980s, breeders and owners were baffled by a disease that was killing puppies for unknown reasons. Veterinarians and universities were called on to identify the illness. They identified it as a rare hereditary disease called GM -Gangliosidosis, or storage disease. The disease attacks the nerve cells, which then cause a loss of coordination and body functions and eventually kills the puppy. For breeders and owners, it was obviously a devastating disease. Soon, though, health professionals discovered that the disease was caused by a recessive gene, which meant two carriers would result in a sick puppy. Steps were taken to avoid such disaters. A blood assay test was developed to identify carriers of the disease. The blood test was effective. However, with the advancement of genetics in the 1990s, a DNA test was developed and has been used since.

At the same time storage disease was invading the PWD community, there was another disease ravaging the breed. Addison’s disease is inherited, but unlike storage disease, there is no test for it. A dog is usually diagnosed by a veterinarian once it starts to exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, and weakness. Research on the disease revealed that “…3% of PWD were affected with Addison’s – a percentage higher than most other breeds.” Once a dog is diagnosed, it can be treated with medication and live a relatively healthy life. Unlike storage disease, there is no way to predict which dog will be afflicted with the disease. However, the club, along with the AKC Canine Health Foundation and the University of Michigan, are trying to develop a test for the disease. These studies and initiatives like the Georgie Project provide hope that such diseases will eventually be eradicated or, at the very least, controllable.

Despite its health issues, the PWD has thrived in the United States and worldwide. According to AKC registration statistics, the breed was ranked 69th of overall registered breeds. The following year the number of registered PWDs increased to move the breed into 65th place. This is a huge accomplishment for a breed near extinction more than three decades ago.


The collection contains a comprehensive club and breed history as they developed over the course of 30 years in the United States. The meeting minute series is probably the strongest part of this collection. It provides the most information about the breed and the club in the United States. The minutes, originally housed in oversized binders, were removed and placed in appropriate enclosures in date order. In addition to the minutes, each folder may contain correspondence, memorandum, and other documents.

The correspondence series is divided into two sub-series, general and subject files. The general sub-series contains primarily notices to club members and highlights of meetings dating from 1975 to 1999. They also contain other important items such as breed standards and the occasional newspaper clipping. The second sub-series contains subject related items, such as The Courier, genetics, hair loss and committee related files; they begin from 1975 to 1990.

The document series contains the bulk of the collection. It contains some of the earliest records on the breed in the United States, including the litter registry, beginning in 1971. This series also contains two sub-series, including subject files, which are arranged in alphabetical order, and litter registration, which is organized according to date with the first in 1971. The litter registrations were originally housed in files containing important handwritten notes, which have been photocopied onto acid-free paper and placed in a folder. Folders marked memorandum contain sensitive financial information of recent years. Bank statements from these folders, which contain account numbers, have been removed and placed in a separate closed file. Access to these files can only be granted from the archivist and executive secretary.

The publication series contains several sub-series, including annual reports, books, catalogs, magazines, membership directory, miscellaneous, and newsletters. This series contains various PWDCA-type publications and other publications including, magazines, newsletters and catalogs, to name a few. The first sub-series contains annual reports from 1997 to 2005. The second sub-series contains two books; Cães Portugueses or Portuguese Dogs, which is in Portuguese and English. The second book is The Complete Portuguese Water Dog published in 1986. Because of their cumbersome nature, each book has been placed in an envelope without a folder. Catalogs and membership directories from recent shows have been placed in acid-free boxes and retained in their original binding. These include catalogs from the following shows: 1992, 1998, 2003, 2004 and 2006. Older catalogs from the 1980s were placed in acid-free envelopes and in folders. In addition to the catalogs, there is the occasional premium list from the 1980s. Membership directories from 1990 to 2006 were retained in their original binding; they go as far back as 1975. The magazine sub-series contains a variety of dog and non-dog related publications including, Highlights, the children’s magazine, House Beautiful and Dog Fancy. The magazine years are random but primarily date from the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s. The newsletter sub-series start with the PWDCA Information Update from 1993 to 1997 and one newsletter from 1974. The series also contains other local PWD club-related newsletters, such as, the Cruise Line, a bi-monthly newsletter with an emphasis on PWD owners in the western United States. There is also The Dixie Courier, which focuses on those in the southeastern U.S. The Navigator is the newsletter/magazine for the Dixie PWDC. All three newsletters contain more than four or five issues and are housed in their own folder. However, single newsletters from local clubs were comingled together into one folder.

The photograph series contains win shots from the National Specialty Shows from 1992, 1995, and 1997 to 2001. Each photograph has been removed from its binder, original plastic casing and placed in polypropylene enclosures. Letters from the official photographer have been retained and placed in each folder.

The Audio/Video tape series is made of VHS tapes of the National Specialty Shows from 1992 to 2001. Any videotape originally housed in cardboard has been removed and placed in proper VHS tape casings. Audio tapes and compact discs from their meetings start from 2002 and end with August 2005. There is also one compact discs that contains copies of all agendas and transcribed meeting minutes from 2002 to 2005. One other compact disc contains a postcard created for the 2004 annual meeting. Each audio tape has been retained in its original casing.

The last box contains commemorative pins from national specialty shows starting with their first in 1992, which is made of pewter.

The oversize boxes contain a variety of items. Of note in oversize box one is a flag with a PWD silhouette. Oversize box two contains ribbons/rosettes won by Ch. Charlie de Alvalade, including a few Best in Show ribbons. In oversize box three, there are several noteworthy documents, including the Miller’s Renaschenca do Al-Gharbe’s pedigree and registration papers for Ch. Charlie de Alvalade. The box also contains some of the earliest registrations of PWD in the United States.

1 The Courier, July/Aug. 2002: 41.
2 “Goals,” 13 Feb. 2008
3 Many breeds before the 18th century were referred to as Mastiff-type dogs.
4 Correspondence, Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, October, 1975.
5 American Kennel Club News Release, 21 May 1981.
6 “AKC Dog Registration Statistics,” AKC Gazette, March.