Am.Ch. Gleanngay Holliday ROM
DOC - A RETROSPECTIVE
I knew almost from the beginning that Doc would be special. Even before he could stand I noticed that his head looked almost too big for his body. Early on Doc wore the "blue" collar signifying that he would probably be my pick male, in spite of my sense that his coat was "suspect". My litters are always color-coded and I put a question mark next to the color blue on the weight chart, probably more out of wishful thinking than knowledge, indicating that I wasn't certain about how his coat would turn out. In those early days, for me anyway, coat was not a primary concern and I felt we had a long way to go with outline and structure. Coat could come later.
Doc was born on April 8, 1977 in Williamstown, MA, one of nine pups, eight of them males. It was a strong, healthy litter, four of them obviously show quality. A fifth, unbelievably handsome, a clone of Doc with a beautiful coat, alas was a blonde with poor pigment. Less than two months later I moved, lock, stock, barrel and pups, to Sellersville, PA where Doc would spend the first half of his life.
How well I recall his ring debut at Montgomery when he was a scant six months old. I thought he was magnificent! Janet Turner Dalton reminded me recently that he looked more like an Airedale. It was true. His stature - length of head, neck and legs - required more coat than any typical six-month-old Wheaten pup could possibly carry. However, my memory bank pulls up a picture of every exhibitor's nightmare ... I can still feel the panic as I frantically dashed across a soggy, rain-soaked field (the ring set-up was different then) in the pouring rain, Doc in my arms, arriving ringside just in time to watch the sweepstakes judge make his four placements. Somewhat redeeming was the fact that Doc's brother, Henry Buttons, placed second and Doc went on to win a large 6 to 9 puppy class later that day.
My deepest regret with regard to Doc was one that I could not possibly have foreseen because of my own inexperience at the time. He was a victim of being over-worked at handling class ... it was a bitter lesson and I remember vividly when it happened. One too many up-and-backs, the bait came out, Doc took one more look at it and, in his infinite wisdom, said with every fiber of his being, "How many times do you expect me to act excited over that little piece of liver!" His tail dropped to half mast and from that moment on he remained a difficult dog to show. I showed him to his championship, which was achieved a month shy of his first birthday, and my good friend Penny Belviso showed him, with a few exceptions, as a special.
Doc, for the most part, was a serious dog. Penny said at times he had no sense of humor. None-the-less he was capable of displaying brief fits of the "giggles" before pulling himself together and saying, "enough of this silliness!" Penny and I worked up a strategy which worked quite well. In brief and simply put, I was the "work" figure and she became the "play" figure. I did all the grooming and trimming, delivering him ringside at the very last minute with Penny taking over just prior to entering the ring. He loved her and his joy at seeing her would usually keep him up and animated for the duration of the judging. Although this procedure worked well, there were times when the judging was lengthy and Doc would let down. It was never fun. Penny always had her work cut out for her and she did a truly admirable job. As a result however, Doc's career as a special was shorter than it might otherwise have been.
Certainly his career as a stud dog and sire is far more noteworthy. He was used for the first time when he was under a year of age and for the last time when he was 15 1/2. During that time he produced 125 champions, his line of championship descendancy filling 77 pages and his line of top-producing champion descendants alone quite impressive. Marjorie Shoemaker said the "good 'Doctor' had a cure for the commons". Doc was an exaggerated dog in a breed which calls for no exaggerations. The truth is that every breed needs an exaggerated dog from time to time. Doc undeniably stamped his get without imparting exaggeration. He never once produced other than black pigment and his coat fortunately proved to be recessive.
He was a perfect gentlemen in the house until well into his 10th year and even then it was an infrequent slip. I suspect the former presence of dogs (show and breeding stock) in his final home proved to be more than he could deal with. He was an incredibly steady, self-assured dog (he didn't lift his leg until he was close to a year old). In retrospect I realize that this, coupled with his more serious demeanor, called for different training in order to allow him a chance at super show-dogdom. He came too soon for me to know that. What I do know and knew even then was that this steady, self-assured gentleman was what the breed needed, not just structurally but attitudinally as well. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier must before all else be a loving and pleasant companion. Perhaps in the end this will prove to be Doc's greatest gift to the breed.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America paid a very special tribute to Doc when it chose him as the breed's most influential sire in the AKC Gazette's special Stud Dog issue (February, 1993). The tribute includes mention of his five ROM ancestors. Even more impressive, however, is the list of his ROM descendants.
Should Doc be considered a gift to the breed or not, he was indeed a very special gift to me during a period of great personal upheaval and tragedy. My marriage of 22 years ended when Doc was but a pup of 6 weeks and I lost my 27 year old son when Doc was 7. He saw me remarried in his 13th year and moved with me three times during his fifteen and 3/4 years. His gift was one of stability in my life. But more than that, just knowing him was a delight. Paradoxically, he had a very unique, high-pitched bark which I found quite amusing in light of his roll as super-stud; there was an arrogance about his demeanor and yet, as Carol Carlson will attest, he would quake at the sound of thunder. He was keenly aware of his place in the pecking order, demanding to be fed first. He also knew with great certainty which crate indicated top-dog status!
I can't remember when Doc stopped jumping up into my arms. It was a trick Penny taught him, easily no doubt as Doc was always an accommodating dog. Anyway, when he knew you wanted him out of the x-pen he would sidle up to the edge and simultaneously, as your arms went down to lift him up, he would raise himself to meet them, making himself as light as a feather with all four legs leaving the ground at once. He weathered his life well, making his final trip to Montgomery in October, 1990 at 13 1/2 years of age and siring his last litter on February 18, 1992 at almost 15.
It was, as is so often the case, my painful decision that Doc leave us on December 28, 1992. His eyes were dulled and he was so very frail that my heart ached. On December 30th I wrote, "In many ways I feel that Doc had already left me ... could it be that animals, because of their purity of spirit, are blessed in the end with the ability to choose their own time to leave us after all?"
Gay Sherman Dunlap