Buffy Stamm discusses stud dogs, outcrosses, and her 55-year reign of terrier.
On the day I was notified of my selection as the 2008 AKC Terrier Breeder of the Year, I confess, my first thought was not of the honor of the award, but the horror of shopping for a formal dress for a very little, old lady.
That problem, like so many others, was solved by my longtime friend and Anstamm Kennels partner, Cindy Cooke. She tracked down a dress shop in nearby Holland, Michigan, and within minutes of entering the shop, I had the perfect dress. Now I could relax enough to contemplate my more than five decades in this sport.
In the 150 years since the first dog show, the rules for founding a successful kennel have changed very little (with one exception, which I’ll discuss later). Nearly every newcomer to the sport is told, “Buy the best bitch you can’t afford.” At Anstamm, it was done a little differently.
Anstamm was originally the kennel name of Anthony Stamm. Tony sold me my first show bitch, and then, as the late incomparable terrier handler George Ward used to tell it, he married me to get her back. In any event, for several years Tony and I bred good bitches with some degree of success. It wasn’t until we imported English Ch. Bardene Boy Blue, however, that we realized that we could build a more successful breeding program based on stud dogs.
Boy Blue was the first of the Bardene dogs to be imported to the United States. English Ch. Bardene Bingo, Boy Blue’s most famous son, was imported by Bob Bartos for Carnation Farms, and then we imported the Bingo son Ch. Bardene Bobby Dazzler. These three dogs were widely used by breeders all over the United States.
The Second-Pick Strategy
Tony and I decided to ask for a second-pick puppy from the bitches bred to Boy Blue and Bobby Dazzler, instead of a stud fee.
The idea was a novel one, but it was popular with breeders for several reasons. First, it meant that a breeder didn’t have to lay out a big stud fee up front. Second, breeders knew ahead of time that they could keep the best puppy in their litters. Third, the breeders knew that the second-pick puppy was going to a kennel where it would be shown to its best advantage and have a good chance at becoming a champion.
For us, the advantages were many. In most cases, breeders wanted to keep a bitch, so some very fine dogs were available as second pick. Taking the second-pick puppy, and often making it a star, caused breeders to view us as generous and helpful. In addition, by bringing in the outcrossed bitches and breeding them to our stud dogs, we were able to maintain a very distinctive breed type without painting ourselves into an inbred genetic corner. Over the years, this plan enabled us to dodge a few bullets when faced with health issues.
Sigh of Relief
The first dog show took place in Newcastle, England, in 1859. That same year, Darwin published The Origin of the Species. Dog breeders didn’t know it then, but the study of evolution and the role played by genetics was going to lead to that one big change I alluded to earlier.
No breeder can be successful today without paying attention to the ever-changing application of genetics to canine health problems.
When I first started breeding, there was only one genetic health problem that affected Scottish Terriers. Everyone knew about “Scottie cramp,” but no one talked about it. No one ever admitted to producing it, so breeders worked in isolation trying to figure out how to avoid producing Scottie cramp and what to do with the affected dogs. By the time the second major genetic-health problem cropped up, I and other Scottie breeders, realized we had to try a new approach.
Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD) is a bleeding disorder. When the first Scottish Terriers were diagnosed with this disorder, we and other breeders in Michigan, many of whom had never produced vWD, decided to contact the researcher who had identified the disease and work with her to develop a test to identify carriers. By today’s standards, that first blood test was crude and somewhat unreliable, but it represented a huge first step in changing the secretive culture of dog breeding.
It’s no accident that the first DNA test for a genetic dog disease was the DNA test for vWD. Our experience in helping to develop the vWD blood test prepared us for future work with the researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan who developed the vWD DNA test.
At Anstamm, we submitted our first vWD DNA tests and held our breath. Our premier stud dog, Ch. Anstamm Happy Venture, was at that time the leading sire in the history of the breed. Our stud force included him, his sons, and grandsons. If he were a vWD carrier, we would have been in serious trouble. Fortunately, he and all his sons, save one, were clear. We breathed a sigh of relief that lasted until 2007.
Outcrosses to the Rescue
A few years ago, our most promising young stud dog had already sired the Best of Winners at two national specialties. One of his offspring was among the top Scottish Terriers in the country. We were riding high when we got the dreaded phone call from a breeder who had used him. He had produced a puppy with cerebellar abiotrophy (CA).
This was a newly discovered condition in Scottish Terriers, the first having been diagnosed in 2000. On the advice of Clinical Associate Professor of Genetics Dr. Jerold Bell, our club had established an open database where the pedigrees of all known affected dogs were published. There was controversy about participating in the database. Many breeders feared that admitting to having produced CA would cause other breeders to stop using their stud dogs and buying their puppies. Our decision to participate in the open database was a hard one. The carrier dog and his sons made up most of our stud force. For the first time in 50 years, we had to depend on our bitches to help us reduce our risk of producing CA.
As predicted, of course, stud services at Anstamm initially fell to an all-time low when we posted the name of our stud dog on the open CA database. This, however, was where our policy of keeping outcrossed bitches worked in our favor. While most of our stud dogs were at high risk for producing CA, so far, at least, our bitches were fairly low risk. With a couple of well-chosen outcrosses, we have bred low-risk males who are just starting their show and stud careers. These dogs will make it possible for us to continue to produce healthy but also typical “Anstamm” Scottish Terriers for the years (or months) remaining until we have a DNA test for our latest genetic disorder.
A Breeder’s Creed
As the oldest active Scottish Terrier breeder, I feel a real obligation to set a standard for ethical conduct. I believe that our production of hundreds of champions, including many specialty, group, and Best in Show winners, would be meaningless if we failed to take responsibility for producing the healthiest dogs possible. I’m proud of the small role that Cindy and I have played in encouraging openness about health issues, and look forward to continuing the challenging job of producing healthy Scottish Terriers with correct breed type.
Miriam “Buffy” Stamm has been breeding Scottish Terriers for over 55 years under the Anstamm prefix and is the 2008 Terrier Group recipient of the AKC Breeder of the Year Award.