A little history...
My first Miniature Schnauzer was an eight-week-old, uncropped, Valentine's present from my husband back in 1974. We named her "Heidi" and she was the love of our life. Of course, we knew nothing about crate-training and she was a naughty puppy! She was great during the day, but if we left her in the evening, she would spread garbage around the room and chew up my husband's shoes (only his - as if it were his fault that we left her).
We enrolled Heidi in an obedience class where we met some wonderful people who encouraged us to enter her in an obedience trial. As a girl growing up in rural Nebraska, I had shown sheep and cattle for years, so showing dogs came easily. Heidi was the highest-scoring terrier in that trial! I won a trophy and ribbons and we were hooked!
In 1975, Galen and I purchased Aljamar Honey Delite (Candy). She was a lovely salt/pepper bitch that we were determined to show on our own. I just knew that I could learn to groom and show. "It couldn't be that hard," I thought. We went to shows where I set up next to the best groomer I could find. Whatever that groomer did, I would do too. I tried to make my dogs look just like theirs.
Over the years, I became more and more successful. I was also lucky to have many super groomers help me out. After two years of grooming and showing Candy on our own, we finally won our first points! She never finished, but she went on to be a Top Producer. her first litter produced our first titled conformation dog, CH Carmel Afternoon Delight. Then she was bred to CH Aljamar Rabbit Punch and produced the first multiple black champion litterwith three black offspring from the mating.
That first champion, CH Carmel Afternoon Delight, was sired by one of Shirley Reynolds' (Far Hills) dogs. I was able to put most of his single points on him and Claudia Seaberg finished him. We specialed him some, and even won our first Terrier Group!!
Our first really nice dogs were those from Candy. Her breeding to Rabbit Punch produced three titles from a litter of three: CH Carmel Cracker Jack, CH Carmel Cinnamon 'N Honey (Honey), and CH Cinderella of Bon Vue (Cindy). Honey then produced CH Carmel Nite Life (Smurfette). Smurfette was the first dog we had featured on the cover of Schnauzer Shorts (June-July 1986). She was the top black and top bitch in 1985. She was also the first black to win Winners Bitch and Best of Opposite Sex at a national specialty. Priscilla Wells handled her for us in Chicago.
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to have several mentors. Shirley Reynolds was the first person to take me under her wing and then later Beverly Verna (Regency). I learned so much from these two women about breeding, grooming, ethics, and just Miniature Schnauzers in general.
After our success with Smurfette we became busy with kids and work. Although we kept breeding and showing on a small basis, it wasn't until I purchased "Cooper" (CH Hi-line's Carmel with a Twist) a few years ago that we really began to be successful. In 2007 we were lucky enough to have three dogs in in the breed's Top 10 rankings all at one time. Two were Cooper sons - CH Carmel Race to Kelvercrest ("Trace" - who was #1 Miniature Schnauzer in the U.S. in both 2007 and 2008); CH Alpine Loft Carmel Gluhwein ("Nick" - shown and owned by Karen and Brad Child), and CH Carmel Klassi Take a Chance - a lovely black dog bred by Betty Blank and me.
But of all the wonderful dogs that we have had - the biggest achievement for me has been "Trace" -- the dog that Vera Potiker (Kelvercrest) owns. It has been a magical ride watching him (with Vera's handler, Gabriel Rangel) win in the ring and I will always be grateful to Vera for giving him the chance and allowing me to ride along! Producing a #1 dog is truly a thrill!
Unfortunately, along with all the good comes some bad as well. My greatest disappointment in showing dogs has been the loss of friends because of the competition. We all love our dogs and we all want to win, but friends and sportsmanship should come first, and often, the thrill of victory has been clouded by the unsportsmanlike conduct of other exhibitors. I think that we often forget that this is just a dog show, and just a sport. I am as bad as everyone else about getting caught up in the winning, but I am truly saddened by the loss of great friends over the years.
Our sport is unique because owners and professionals have to compete against each other. An owner-handler has to really work hard. I don't think it is so much a case of judges putting up the handlers as it is the skill that the handlers have in making any dog they show look spectacular.
Owner-handlers must have really good dogs that are presented very well in perfect condition. That is hard for us (non-professionals) as we don't have all week to groom and train our dogs. Most of us have jobs during the week and anything we do with our dogs is relegated to the evenings after work. Leaving for dog shows after work on a Thursday or Friday, and then driving home very late at night to get to work on Monday morning is often a difficult necessity for the owner-handler. There have been weekends where my friends have literally dropped me off at the school where I teach on a Monday morning as we returned from a show!
Galen got this all started by purchasing our first Mini. In the beginning, we worked as a team. He showed to the women judges, and I to the men. Before our kids arrived, we both trained together at an obedience school in Georgia. After our move to St. Louis, he was on 24-hour call at work, so I started traveling to dog shows without him. Now, he seldom travels to shows. He has a hard time with the subjectiveness of dog show judging. But he has a great eye and is always my best critic! When it comes to evaluating puppies, I can always count on him to give me good, sound advice.
I want Carmel dogs to be recognized as well-balanced, sound dogs of good type with happy, outgoing temperaments. We try to produce dogs that are great in the show ring, but also dogs that are happy and live well with their families whether they are pets or show dogs. My most important goal when it comes to the dogs is to breed better dogs in each generation. I have no desire to judge - except for specialty sweepstakes. The one thing that we have never achieved is a Best in Show - so I would really like to do that before I am too old to show dogs any more.
The best advice I have for "newbies" is exactly what Galen & I were told to do by our mentors:
*Go out and buy the best bitch you can find.
*Don't take a pet and try to make it a show dog. No matter how nice the babies, you will still have a pedigree with 1/2 pet and it will take years and years to breed out those undesirable qualities that make her a pet.
*Trust yourself! Don't go around from person-to-person asking each for help and advice.
*Find a mentor you trust and listen only to that person.
*Don't get all caught up in the dog show gossip.
*Keep a proper perspective. We all love our dogs, and we all want to win, but there are other good dogs besides our own, and we need to learn to appreciate a nice dog even if it is owned and shown by a competitor.
Unless those of us that have been in dogs a while are willing to help newcomers, our sport will die out. Over the years I have tried to be generous and helpful with anyone that comes along. Sometimes this effort has worked out well; other times individuals have not chosen to listen to my suggestions or have found someone else to listen to. Showing dogs is a hard sport, and staying with it takes a lot of commitment. Mini Schnauzers are high-maintenance dogs, and you don't get results unless you put in the required effort. I think that is hard for a lot of new people to understand. They want to win quickly --but complain that the judge wasn't fair if they don't win.
My non-dog life is very full! As a Kindergarten teacher, I work in a Title One school which means most of our students live in - or just above - poverty level. About 2/3 of the children don't speak English as their first language; we have many refugees. Last year in my Kindergarten class I had children from countries in South America, as well as from Mexico, Iraq, Sudan, and Burma. It is a great challenge. Many have never been in a school setting before. Many have come from refugee camps where life is "survival of the fittest" and they have a lot of trouble adjusting to new lives in America. At home, I live with my husband, my son and his wife and their four children. My daughter lives in town and spends lots of time with us because her "significant other" is a Salt Lake City police officer who works nights. It's a hectic, crazy life, and sometimes those long drives to the dog shows are very welcome!
Carma Ewer has served terms with the American Miniature Schnauzer Club as President, Secretary, and long-time AMSC Board member. She has also participated in several breed clubs in her various states of residence. Most recently, she was show chairman & president of the local Terrier Club, as well as keeping her membership in the Bonneville Basin KC in Salt Lake. She loves knitting, has done stained glass in the past, and enjoys snow skiing and camping with her family.