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John Naimo

John and Libby Naimo, owners and breeders of English Springer Spaniels, found each other through their love of dogs. It’s little wonder that they ended up naming their kennel “Kismet,” a word that is synonymous with fate and destiny, which nails the heart and soul of their story since the 1990s.

Crossing Paths in the Dog World

English Springer Spaniels played a huge role in the Naimos’ connection and eventual marriage. Four decades ago, both were English Springer breeders who competed against each other numerous times in the Northeast without even realizing it—professional handler Diana Mason handled John’s dogs, while Libby handled her own.

John Naimo

Both their lives as they knew them came to a halt in the 1990s. Libby’s husband passed in 1995, and two years later, John’s wife died. These tragedies are what connected them initially. “I felt I could offer support to a fellow Springer person,” Libby recalls. “He lived in Jackson, New Jersey, and I was a 4-¾- hour drive away in Mendon, Massachusetts.”

An Unexpected Connection

Zoom was not an option and John did not have a computer, so their communication was mainly over the phone. “I knew he was lonely, so I would take his calls and we would talk for an hour maybe twice a week. Eventually, he shared that his ‘weekend dog person’ had given notice and that he only had two weekends left that he could go anywhere. He didn’t know what to do or where to go.”

During those phone conversations, Libby learned John liked saltwater tropical fish. She suggested he visit her, and they could go to the New England Aquarium in Boston. “I had no interest in him at that point other than just as a friend. But when he arrived with a bouquet of roses, I thought to myself, ‘Hmm, what a nice man. Maybe when he’s ready to date, I would consider it.” As it turned out, foul weather meant the pair never left the house that visit. “We spent the weekend talking dogs, shows, breeding, history of our prior relationships, etc.,” recalls Libby.

“Dogs are such good judges of character! I was making a home-cooked pot roast and while it cooked, I went to sit next to him on the loveseat. He was alongside my favorite dog of all time, Hershey. When I went to sit down, Hershey took his paw and gently pushed me away,” Libby laughs. “I had taken Hershey with me on two dates and in both cases, he put his head and tail down to let me know he did not approve of the men at all, and here he was, telling me in no uncertain terms he liked this man!”

Libby Naimo

“Solo” No Longer

At the time, Libby was self-employed, while John owned a business in Staten Island, New York City. As their relationship blossomed, Libby moved in with John in New Jersey, as her job was more flexible, location-wise. Later that year, they purchased a larger home in Jackson before marrying in 2002. They have since moved to a smaller home on an acre in Ellendale, Delaware, where they operate their kennel.

Their English Springer connection is built on substance and spirit. Both were attracted to the same two English Springer bloodlines—Canarch and Ridgewyn—which were recognized for their temperament, sturdiness, and health. Their breeding strengths melded nicely, acknowledges Libby. “Since we were using more or less similar bloodlines when we bred my dog to his bitch, we got two lovely champions. The bitch from that breeding is behind what we have today.”

The couple’s top show dog today is 4-year-old “Solo,” campaigned by two-timer Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show-winning handler Kellie FitzGerald. Solo has one Best in Show and one Reserve Best in Show and will be retired later this year. Libby and John attend only Solo’s shows that are within two hours of their home. “With a house full of dogs and fish tanks, it’s difficult to find good dogsitters,” Libby explains.

John Naimo

She characterizes Solo as “the sweetest dog you will ever meet. He has not a mean bone in his body. He can run all day and then morph into a couch potato when it’s time to chill. In essence, he is a goofy boy who loves to play, retrieve, and hug his humans.”

Solo was a singleton in his litter. Libby recalls, “Out he came, and I was sad when he was dark without the customary blaze and wide white collar of a Springer. Being a fan of reggae music, it seemed obvious we would name him after a Bob Marley song, Kismet One Love One Heart. He has gone on to prove the adage breeders say, ‘Often the single puppy is so good, you don’t need others.’ ”

Related article: How Does a Dog Win a Dog Show?
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