Beth Kirven of West Columbia, South Carolina, has always had Sporting dogs — her first dog as an adult was an English Cocker. But once she married and had children, she decided to ditch the grooming and go for some smooth operators: namely, Pointers, acquiring her first from the late Susan Thompson of Solivia Pointers (with whose children Dennis and Katie she still collaborates), and later Vizslas. A Platinum Breeder of Merit who breeds under the Malmason and Solaris prefixes, respectively, Kirven also shares her home with two American Hairless Terriers that happen to be coated — “oxymorons,” she calls them.
Here, she talks about Pointer popularity, the pluses of social media and the perils of bathtub photos.
Compare and contrast: “When you have a Pointer, you can go to the bathroom by yourself. They’ll open one eye, say, ‘OK, there she is,’ and are fine with not following you. But when you have a Vizsla, they are stuck to you like glue. They truly are Velcro dogs.”
Population implosion: “It’s not easy to find good homes for Pointers. Everyone is under the impression that they’re only bird dogs. So, considering they can have huge litters of 10 puppies, you could keep them until two or three years old by the time you’re done placing a litter.”
Keeping it real: “I don’t let dogs rule the day. I just don’t. We don’t have to have the same opinion for us to work together and like each other. I can’t think of any friendship that I’ve ever had that I’ve let be ruined by dogs.”
Vizsla vices: “The breed went through a phase with straight-as-a-stick fronts and no forechest. And sometimes I still see judges putting up straighter fronts. A dog that has to work in the field all day long needs to have some angulation, enough reach and a proper front assembly. Otherwise, it will wear itself out.”
Pointer problems: “Some Pointer fronts can have a hackney gait. That comes from having an upper arm that is too short or too straight. Again, that dog might be able to run a 15-minute brace for a hunt test. But if you were dependent on him to find dinner, you’re in trouble.”
Color me surprised: “I just finished my first solid Pointer — and a liver, too. I thought it was going to take 10 years to finish him, but I was shocked that I didn’t meet any resistance. Judges bent over backward, tracked me down at the dog show and said, ‘Oh, my God, I love this dog.’ I’ve never had anybody do that before.”
Breeder of Merit merits: “It shows people that I’m not just dedicated to breeding dogs, but that I’m dedicated to breeding health-tested dogs. You don’t get to be a Platinum Breeder of Merit in just a couple of years. You immediately think longevity, and you know it’s someone who works at it.”
Get off the couch: “It’s important that a dog be part of the family and go with you to soccer practice with the kids, but those are things you enjoy. At some point you need do things that your dog enjoys. If you have a dog with a lick of bird sense, it doesn’t take much to get a Junior Hunter title.”
Buyer, be aware: “Call and ask about the puppy from time to time. Ask for an up-to-date photo. If you notice things in the picture, like really long toenails, remind them why it’s important to keep them short. If their 3-year-old is riding the dog, tell them why that’s not OK.”
Get social: “Social media has really been a huge benefit to keeping up with the puppies and their families. I start Facebook chat groups for each litter so when one person asks a question, they all get the benefit of seeing the response. And they start to share with each other, too.”
Return customers: “I have people who have owned four and five dogs from me over the years who just keep coming back, and I have sold puppies to their grown adult kids. There’s a family that currently has two Vizslas that I co-own with them. When they got their first Vizsla from me, they sent me a photo of their toddler son in the bathtub with the puppy. He’s now a pilot in the Air Force. When he turned 21, I posted that naked picture of him in the bathtub on Facebook and wrote: ‘Happy birthday … I remember the first time I met you— here’s what you looked like!’ I’ve known that whole family for 23 years — and it all started because of a Vizsla.”