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Annukka Paloheimo and the Anncourt Cavaliers

Some parts of an article which appreared in "The Royal Spaniels Magazine", USA, 2000: Interview with Annukka Paloheimo

Did you family have dogs - horses - animals? How old
were you when you acquired your first?

I was a keen rider and "horse mad" since I was 11 years. We lived in a residential area near Helsinki, Finland. Riding was not supported by my parents but nevertheless I would bicycle daily to groom and ride some riding school horses. I lived with this hobby for another
20 years, advancing to the highest levels of dressage with my own horses, only to be stopped by a damaged back.

My father decided to buy us (3 daughters) a pet dog and was recommended to take a look at a new breed in the country. He had thought about either a Cocker Spaniel or a Pekingese. This new breed, he was told, would be something in-between. It was my father and I who went to look - and later to buy - a Cavalier puppy, Evehill Lovely Lucy . This was in the summer of 1965 when I was 8 years. Lucy was by imported Pargeter parents, a little shy, introverted blenheim. It was again my father who decided to enter her at the Helsinki winner shows, conveniently 30 minutes from home. We children came along. This happened perhaps 3 or 4 times, she won 2 CC´s but no more as she was getting overweight. Years later when I had already established myself as a rider and riding instructor and was training horses, around 1970-71, I thought why not to put our Lucy back in shape and compete with her, too. I first slimmed her down and eagerly started showing her for that final qualifying CC and she became Finnish Champion at 6 years of age. Too old to breed from, my father suggested that I get one from England. I do not know whether he thought that this would put me off, or whether he honestly trusted that I would go ahead and do it from my own pocket, of course. Little did he know what would follow. I was only 15 but already serious about this so I took the bus to Helsinki and visited the Finnish Kennel Club to find out who to contact in England. This way I got in contact with Mrs Amice Pitt, who let me have two wonderful Cavaliers in 1972: Ttiweh Munfo and Cocklehill Para, a daughter of Eyeza Crisdig Pip. Cocklehill Para won 2 CC´s and established my Anncourt line.

When did you attend your first show?

It was with my father, and it must have been 1966, the Helsinki International Show. I can remember competing in the child and dog competition in the big ring carefully dressed to match with Lucy and the big dissapointment of not getting placed! The real shows for me were 1970-71 onwards with Lucy´s third ticket in mind.

When did you breed your first litter?

I mated Cocklehill Para in 1973 to Alansmere Made To Measure, a fully Crisdig-bred dog. Remember, I was still a school girl and my parents had let me have only ONE dog from England while I produced TWO. Now the litter - luckily my then best friend Anja took the best bitch puppy on breeding terms. This bitch puppy was to became the foundation bitch for her successful Apricot Cavaliers. One of the puppies became a Finnish Champion. The second litter in 1974 to another UK import, Int. Ch. Highstone Quality Fair - son of Rose Mullion - proved excellent. Quality Fair was chosen by Mrs. Amice Pitt as Mungo was unfortunaly sterile. Mrs Pitt wrote to me that she had been offered some dogs by Rose Mullion , who she regards as a good sire, and she chose this one over another nice puppy, Kindrum Roulette , as she preferred the rear on her choise. Needless to say, I got a very good and influential stud dog who is behind all my old Anncourt dogs up until today. Sometimes I wonder though had I gotten Roulette ... It was Mrs. Amice Pitt who taught me all about Cavaliers and I am sad that she passed away before seeing what I had managed to breed with her generous help. From this second litter I got Int. Ch. Anncourt Carina Patricia and Int. Ch. Anncourt Casper McQuality .

Have you owned or breed other breeds?

I have had Charlies. I imported Zepherine Sarah (a daughter of USA Ch. Zepherine Adair ) in 1974 and campaigned her to her International title. All I really wanted was to show people what the difference is between a Charlie and a Cavalier, as everyone called my Cavaliers 'King Charles Spaniels', but of cource I got carried away and bred some litters, imported Int. Ch. Tudorhurst Trojan Warrior and later Fin. Ch. Amantra The Alchemist and made up 7 champions. I still miss my Charlies, especially Sarah, but have not yet found anything to match. Perhaps one day! The first Charlie to win a Toy Group in Sweden was bred by me, Int. Ch. Anncourt Risto Reipas , an extrovert tricolor dog.

Who is your favourite dog or bitch that you have owned, and who is your favourite that has belonged to another?

Int. Ch. Anncourt Parasol . She is my special shadow. Very sensitive, very clever, very proud. Her career spanned 12 years, a real diva and a lovely pet. Before her, it was her grandsire, Int. Ch. Kilspindie Secret Service , who was my darling. Difficult to aswer the second part of your question, as temperament is so important to me and at the ringside or in the ring you cannot really lear about that. There are many Cavaliers I would love to own even just by their looks though! One of them is definitely NZ Ch. Prestonville Blackmoor .

Do you feel that consistant quality is best attained by line breeding or do you place more importance on the individual dog or bitch when doing matings?

Mrs Amice Pitt taught me line breeding BUT also about the dangers of close breeding. I stick to line breeding but occasionally introducing something new. I have seen short term successes by some other breeders when they do very close inbreeding, often ending up with some health-related problems. I do not use substandard dogs just because their pedigree would look good. Each dog must have some good qualities of their own, not just on paper. Even then, it so often does not work!

How many dogs do you keep as a general rule?

To be as seriously successful as I would like to - in terms of success and also health - I would need many more dogs than I have, but would also need a full-time kennel manager then as well. But my life has so many other facets I cannot do only dogs, at least at this point in time. At the moment there are only 4 dogs in our house, some more with my mother and friends in Finland and England. Dogs are a serious hobby but not a profession or business for me. In almoust 30 years in the breed, I am proud to have owned and/or bred some 30 Cavalier champions, have had champions in all four colors, although mostly blenheims, and in many countries.

What was your most memorable moment at a dog show?

This was around 1975 in Finland. Int. Ch. Anncourt Casper McQuality , from my second litter, won the Toy Group under Hans Lehtinen and later that day, Reserve BIS. I think that a Cavalier had not done that in Finland before as it was still a very rare breed. I respect Hans Lehtinen very much and back in 1975 when I was just an eager teenager, he was more like a God - so the win ment a lot to me. A really big moment would have to be when Parasol won her class at Crufts the first time - it felt fantastic. She went on to win there 3 years in a row, this year at almoust 12 years of age. At Crufts 200o I felt that'I had arrived' as both my dogs won their classes: Anncourt McTramp , bred in UK, won Junior Dog class and Int. Ch. Anncourt Parasol the Veteran class. The atmosphere at Crufts is so very special, it makes you win feel very special, especially as a foreigner who used to only admire dogs at the ringside. And one more memorable moment: My Anncourt McTramp, from my first UK born litters, got his Stud Book Number by winning the Limit class at the Scottish Kennel Club´s championship show. My first homebred Stud Book number. Wow!

Do you think that the show and breeding atmosphere has changed, either good or bad, over the past decade and if so, how?

Yes, changed a lot with many new breeders with financial interest or boosting their ego - much less the genuine interest of breeding to improve the breed and to enjoy the beauty of their animals in every day. I am especially sad to see that the health matters get so often neglected, also temperament. For me, health and temperament are very important. It would be easy to look just into the short term success in the ring, but for me that is not right. A beauty with a questionable heart history or with a nervous temperament are not what I want to produce. So very many seem to look into just the outside of the dog. Yet you can manage to find likeminded people, which keeps you ticking! I have had the rare privilege to work for past two years as a Committee Member at The CKCS Club ('The Parent Club in UK'). The pure amount of good work that is done there with no big egos should make the worldwide Cavalier community happy. The breed is in good hands.

If you had the power to do anything for shows, what would you personally change about them in Great Britain?

Little, in fact I like it here very much! We in Scandinavia value health and soundness and I would like to see new judges training to emphasize conformation more than it seems to be done today. A Cavalier should move with elegance and 'air'. Somehow I feel that the 'good old allrounders' do not exist anymore in the vast numbers as they used to. A pity, as they had so much to offer. Genuine 'stockman´s eye' they had. But luckily too the show scene here in UK is not so much of a "circus" as in some other countries. I am now in the FCI training to become a Poodle judge and Wow! how much is happening around the Poodle ring in Scandinavia or Italy compared to UK...

What future do you see for the sport if and when the quarantine is lifted?

Positive. Cavaliers may gain a lot, especially the HEALTH side of it, with a wider gene pool if wisely used. There are some clever enthusiastic breeders all over the world, and with co-operation much can be achieved. I may be some sort of a pioneer in this matter too as I imported some 16 years ago from USA to FInland two lovely Kilspindie dogs who carried 'long lost' Pargeter lines, to great benefit. And now that line is with me here in UK. And I imported two years ago a black and tan dog from New Zealand, to get some 'fresh' bloodlines. Now he is here in UK. Yes, I think we all benefit from sharing our treasures! I do hope that all the red tape will get easier and cheaper in time, though.

If you were to begin again in dogs, what would you do differently?

Should not have started all this until I have my own house, grown-up kids and the staff to go with! Seriously speaking, I should not have trusted many people to give them my lovely puppies on breeding terms - I lost the best that way!