|Preface The Bearded Collie
Bearded Collies began life on earth as livestock workers. After
hundreds of years of hard labor, primarily tending sheep in Scotland
and northern England, the jobs that Beardies had been bred to
do largely disappeared as human workers began migrating to urban
centers. Although Beardies continued to herd in scattered areas
ofthe United Kingdom, the number of actual working Beardies declined
significantly. After two World Wars, cataclysms that brought many
British and European dog breeds close to extinction, the Beardie
was something of a rarity.
The Bearded Collie was re-introduced to the show world and the
general public by the concerted efforts of Mrs. G.O. Willison.
Her Bothkennar Kennels in Iver, Buckinghamshire, produced the
dogs that encouraged a rebirth of interest in the breed. Eventually,
she and fellow fanciers accomplished the arduous task of leading
an ancient breed from the depths of history into the modern world
of show, obedience, and herding competition.
By the time the Lewises and their contemporaries began breeding
Bearded Collies, Beardies were more valued as show dogs and family
pets than as farm stock, and the breed had undergone subtle changes.
The same progress that shaped the lives of Beardie owners-now
driving SUVs to urban offices instead of trudging on foot to rural
fields each moming-had removed the Beardie from the hill farms
and moved them onto the suburban hearth. Beardie coats, no longer
facing daily onslaught from burrs and thistle, were better preserved.
Better food and nutrition added their benefits to stature and
health. As Beardies moved from the hillside to home, their beauty,
friendly faces, joyous spirits and boisterous personalities-rather
than their ability to live spartanly and work sheep-were the primary
qualities that ratcheted the breed from "rare" to one
of great popularity in a relatively short period of time.
This was the Beardie world that Mike and Janet entered. And the
Lewises, over the past several decades, have participated fully
in the continuing migration of the breed from hill to hearth and
show ring. They, along with other contemporary breeders, have
bred, raised, groomed, and shown Beardies of such beauty and conformation
that the early herders would recognise them mostly by spirit,
character, and style rather than appearance or occupation.
But Mike and Janet Lewis' story isn't just about how their kennel
influenced a single breed of canin~. And it really isn't 'just
a dog story," although much of the tale is very doggy indeed.
Their story goes beyond dogs. It's a tale that illustrates how
seemingly unremarkable decisions and innocuous events led two
individuals on a path they'd never contemplated travelling. Their
aspirations and accomplishments would, ultimately, not only mould
their own future, but influence the lives of many other two- and
four-legged individuals as well.
Though this book tells the story of Potterdale Kennels and Mike
and Janet Lewis, it's a story not unfamiliar to every breeder
who has looked at a Bearded Collie and wondered how to breed dogs
equal to the standard set by the most famous Beardies of all time.
Though time changes all things, the Bearded Collie included, conscientious
breeders do not want to lose the dog, Mackensie, about whom John
Buchan wrote in John McNab, in 1925:
He was a mongrel collie of the old Highland type known as 'Beardie,
, and his towzled head, not unlike an extra-shaggy Dandie Dinmont's,
was set upon a body of immense length, girth and muscle. His manners
were atrocious to all except his master, and local report accused
him of every canine vice except worrying sheep.
Contemporary Beardie breeders strive daily to preserve the form
of this remarkable beast. And they never forget the words penned
by Alfred Ollivant in his century-old ode to' Owd Bob. Mr. Ollivant's
prose brings a lump to the throat of Beardie owners everywhere,
and, perhaps, a much larger lump to the throats of contemporary
breeders who have assumed the gigantic task of ensuring that Beardies
like Owd Bob persevere:
But should you, while wandering in the wild sheepland, happen
on moor or in market upon a very perfect gentle knight clothed
in dark grey habit, splashed here and there with rays of moonlight,
free by right divine of the guild of gentlemen, strenuous as a
prince, light as a rowan, graceful as a girl, with high king-carriage,
and motions and manners of a fairy queen; should he have a noble
breadth of brow, and air of still strength born of right confidence,
all unassuming; last and most unfailing test of all, should you
look into two snowclad eyes, calm, wistful, inscrutable, their
soft depth clothed on with eternal sadness-yeaming, as is said,
for the soul that is not theirs. Know then that you look upon
one of the line of the most illustrious sheep-dogs of the North.
These literary Beardies, embedded in the past, also guide the
future. It's the job of modem-day breeders and dog show enthusiasts
like Mike and Janet Lewis to ensure that Beardies in the form
and spirit of Mackensie and Owd Bob survive through this century
and into the next.