Lynne Bruce’s phone won’t stop ringing; word of her accomplishments has spread far and wide.
At the beginning of February when she was packing her bags for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Bruce was just happy to be going. This was not only her first time going to the competition but also her first time visiting New York. She never guessed that during her first appearance at the international show, one of her dogs would do so well.
Last week the Oliver native returned from New York with Hollyrood Cosmopollyton (Polly), her Scottish deerhound, who was crowned best in breed and reserve (second) best hound.
To achieve this, Polly beat approximately 300 other dogs.
Although this is up there with some of her other achievements over the years such as beating out over 800 dogs at Canadian championships, this show was by far the most highly-publicized competition Bruce has been a part of. Friends from all around the world watched Polly win on Feb. 11.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Bruce, sitting in her living room with her deerhounds spread around her.
“All I wanted was to have a shot at winning the breed, so I could get on the green carpet … my phone’s been like a Christmas tree, it’s lighting up,” she laughed.
For handler and co-owner Heidi Gervais, this was her 15th time to the show, but the first time she placed in a group.
Speaking to her first experience at Westminster, Bruce said it was invaluable.
“I loved it, it was wonderful,” she said. “I think it gave me a much different perspective on the whole thing.”
The breed itself is packed with history. Making eye contact with a deerhound leaves you feeling as though you’ve stared into the face of a 100-year-old man.
This history is not simply perceived, either. Polly comes from a long line of Scottish deerhounds in the UK; her grandfather is known as one of the most highly-awarded deerhounds in the world. Deerhounds themselves have been written about throughout history as companions to some of the highest people in society. In fact, during the age of chivalry, no one of rank lower than an earl could possess one.
They are also known for their tremendous courage in the hunt, and gentle dignity in the home.
Warlock, Polly’s sire (father) sat perched on his chair beside Bruce as she spoke about the breed.
“You see they’re not pushy; you’re being quiet and they’re coming to you,” Bruce said. “The thing about deerhounds is, they’re the royal dog of Scotland, so they expect to get creature comfort. They’re not lying on the floor,” she laughed.
Even as times have changed one thing for certain has not; the value placed on a deerhound.
Sir Walter Scott, an 18th-century Scottish novelist referred to deerhounds as, “the most perfect creature of heaven.”
In competitions such as Westminster, there’s no money involved; the reward is simply prestige.
Because Polly has done so well at other competitions, Bruce and Gervais decided to shoot for the stars and bring her to New York. However, staying number one in breed is an exhausting and financially draining task, requiring a lot of travel mostly in eastern Canada and the U.S.
“In order for us to do that, to be on the same page, we’d have to do a lot more travelling, and it’s hard on the dogs too. They have to have a life,” said Bruce. “She (Polly) loves it, but you can’t be at a dog show every day.”
Sight hounds require lots of exercise, which keeps Bruce and her partner busy. At home, they have four adult deerhounds and two puppies.
Historically, Bruce is a purebred deerhound breeder. She has meticulously selected and brought in dogs from all around the world. Although she charges a hefty amount for the dogs, she said this fee pales in comparison to the costs associated with raising them.
Bruce is a third-generation “dog person.” Her grandfather had many sheepdogs and border collies in Scotland and her father trained dobermans, German shepherds and rottweilers for their security company. Her uncle is known as one of the top greyhound trainers in Scotland and even won the Waterloo Cup.
Growing up, they always had dogs, often used for hunting, and many were deerhound-lurchers. When she came to Canada and found a woman in Manitoba with purebred deerhounds, she knew she had to get one.
However, not everyone sees deerhounds the way Bruce does. While in New York some called Polly a horse, a goat, and even a llama. But that doesn’t deter her.
“The personality – when you’ve done some research and if you’re going to get a dog I recommend you do some research and go visit a lot of breeds because you’ll find one that you just click with,” Bruce said.
[Lynne Bruce at her home in Oliver with Reggie. Phil McLachlan – Western News]