Highwood Norwich Kennel
Contact Us
Highwood Norwich Terrier Kennel: Robi's Tale

Robi's Tale

How He Came to Be

Jenny (Highwood's Pheasant Tail) was very uncomfortable. She was moving back and forth in the room. I had been up all night on the couch, waiting. Jenny was my first bred-by bitch out of Jensen. She had given me two litters already. She was so full of puppies. The sonogram and x-ray read four. They must be big. She was coming seven.


The room was all set up. An expanded ex-pen sat on a large tarp with two comforters and with a whelping box in the corner next to the heating vents. There was enough room for me to be with her. A card table was set up next to the ex-pen; on it rested everything one could think of to facilitate a natural delivery.

I lifted Jenny into the ex-pen. She went directly to the whelping box, looking pleadingly at me. Her body rippled as another contraction started. I was hopeful that this litter would be naturally delivered. Jenny herself had been a singleton but had weighed nearly ten ounces at birth and had to be delivered by section. Her first litter of three had been born naturally, but she had required a section for her second litter as the first puppy became stuck in the canal and blocked his three siblings. You just never know.

A bubble appeared and started to expand., filled with a clear liquid. Jenny began to bear down, watching the bubble and arching. And out came a wet brown object . . . which began to stir. I took gauze and removed the sac from around the head. But the placenta was still inside, the umbilicus holding the puppy tight to Jenny. I was able to wrap gauze around the cord and pulled steadily until it became free. I then put two hemostats on the umbilicus an inch from the puppy’s belly, rubbed him dry as he squeaked at his new world, severed the cord, and gave it to Jenny. She was already bearing down again.

I weighed the puppy – 7.2 ounces, a goodly size. My veterinarian had told me that the largest puppy usually controls the birthing process, signaling the onset of labor and coming first into its new world . . . and, if it transits the birth canal without getting stuck, it is likely that the entire litter will whelp naturally. So far so good. The second puppy, also a male, came eight minutes after the first. But the third puppy presented breech, and the sac had broken. The exercise was to have oxygen and dopram ready and to get her out as quickly as possible. Fortunately, I had help – another puppy in the birth canal just behind her.

Out she came. But she was not moving. Rub, rub. Compress the little body like an accordion and then elongate it. Administer oxygen . . . and then a small gasp, then a squeak . . . and then lots of congestion. Using suction to open her throat and nostrils, her breathing became normal. With a clearer inhale, the squeak grew louder. She was fine.

She was born twenty-five minutes after the two boys. The fourth, also a boy, arrived five minutes after that. It was over. They were all lying with Jennie, nosing and licking. I plugged them in, and they began to nurse in earnest – always a relief.

But Jennie was restless. She got up well before I would have wished. After all, the puppies needed the colostrum, and she needed to rest. But there was blood and placenta everywhere, so I let her out of the whelping box while I cleaned it and put iodine on the puppies’ umbilici. Jenny was so tired. She stood near the box, swaying, and finally sat down, her eyes beginning to close.

Only then did it dawn on me that she was going to have another puppy.

Sonograms at thirty days and x-rays a week before due date are often imperfect with a large litter. But Jenny had no energy left. I was praying that she would not shut down. Uterine inertia is commonplace in the breed, perhaps the primary reason that sections have to be performed. And I did not have oxytosin available.

Jenny rested for another forty-five minutes . . . and then commenced labor. Robi was born. The fourth boy. Jenny delivered him quietly on one of the comforters where she had dozed between contractions. He was moving, and I left her alone with him. Jenny broke the sack and licked him clean, severed the umbilicus and ate the placenta. Textbook.

The puppy had a perfectly round white spot on his chest between his front legs. His puppy call name became "Dot."

How He Came to Stay

The litter thrived. Always a good mother, Jenny was the consummate mom with this batch. She moved them around. She kept them immaculate. I moved the whelping box upstairs to my bathroom, and connected a monitor. The puppies were active but quiet, and doubled their birthweight in a week. A healthy, busy litter.

As they grew older, the girl ruled the roost. She would bare her teeth and back the boys down. And she loved to pick on Dot. He tolerated her and was never really part of the rough and tumble pack of three boys. I would find him off by himself in his own corner of the expen, watching all the goings-on. He was kind even then. Not seemingly a show temperament, but perfect for the thirteen-year-old boy who had come to call with his mother. The lad was handicapped and had wanted a Norwich for several years. It was a good match. This puppy was kind and affectionate. He would be a close companion, day and night, for this sweet boy.

The puppies began to disappear, one by one. It was a pretty litter, and all had been sold locally, in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Everyone was happy. The two that were still left were the little girl, who was going to a dentist in Nashua. And Dot.

Five days before Dot’s scheduled pick-up, the telephone rang. The mother was in tears. Her son had fallen and broken his leg in two places. There was just no way that she could manage a puppy at this time with her son hospitalized and scheduled for physical therapy. Could she have her deposit back and be put on a list for another in a year’s time? Of course. And then the little girl left, and Dot remained with us.

And here the best part of his story begins.

How He Came to Maturity

As soon as Dot became the only puppy and joined the older boys and girls that made up the pack, an amazing transformation began to take place. His doting mother was the alpha bitch, and she introduced him to the group while clearly explaining her expectations of them. And they all took turns playing with him, letting him jump on them, being submissive to elicit play.

He thrived.

I began to wonder if I should keep him and grow him out a bit. He was a very attractive puppy – good coat, full dentition, scissors bite, blocky build, a strong neck, and a good front. I hadn’t really considered him as a show prospect because of his removed puppy behavior with his siblings.

The real Dot was about to emerge. I was starting to work him up the straight portion of our driveway. He was loving the leash work and would trot right out ahead. We would go up the drive each morning, weather permitting. It became sort of a game. On the way back down, I would take the leash off and let him run to the kennel yard gate. I would put him over the fence, and he would tear after the younger girls, racing until he fell into a pile. Then someone would find a stick and taunt him with it, and the racing would start all over again. He slept like a little stone at night in his crate.

We were having a small cottage built on the property, and today the foundation was to be dug. Dot and I were halfway up the driveway when a very large excavator rounded the corner. It was bright yellow and about two stories high. I watched as every hair on this four-month-old’s body bristled. This was his driveway. He planted all four feet and started to growl. And then bark. His driveway. His tail was straight up and quivering. The excavator kept coming. He didn’t move. This kept up for a couple of minutes.

Bob stuck his head out of the cab and called to me over the engine. "What is that?"

I called back. "It's my new puppy."

"Tell him to move. I’m a lot bigger."

I reached down to soothe Dot. His whole body was rigid. I tugged at the lead. He wasn’t going to move. I loosened the lead, thinking that he might relax and run back to the yard gate. Not a chance. This was his driveway, and he didn’t want this thing coming any closer.

Bob turned off the engine and got out of the cab. He was helping his brother-in-law build our cottage. Bob loved all animals. He kept cattle and goats, and each week would bring us goat milk for the dogs. He knelt down, and Dot went to him, tail wagging. Bob and I laughed . . . and then Bob reminded me that I was paying him by the hour.

I scooped Dot up and tucked him under my arm. His little body was grew tight again, and every third or fourth step back to the kennel yard he would twist his neck around to look behind, just to be sure the yellow monster wasn’t coming any closer to his home.

That was the first real sign that this little dog would indeed have attitude for the show ring.

How He Found a Fine New Home

Some ten years ago, I had met Nancy and Jani Fonyo at a dog show in New Jersey. And they wanted a Norwich. It must have been serendipity. I had just heard from an old client. I had sold his partner two Norwiches in the preceding decade. Anderson had recently died. Craig was not only beside himself with grief, but was having difficulty caring for the animals. They had been Anderson’s dogs. Anderson had shown Scottie to his championship and Beth Sweigart had then shown him as a Special at Westminster six months before Anderson died. I had told Craig that I would take Scottie and Sophie home with me after the weekend. They were devoted to each other now that Anderson was gone. They would have to be placed together. I explained the situation to Nancy. She said that she and Jani would come to Bedford to visit the dogs. They did. And they took Scottie, now ten, and Sophie, now three, home with them. Both the Fonyos and the doggies prospered. I subsequently bred Sophie, and the Fonyos kept a puppy from the litter.

About six years later, Nancy approached me and inquired about a show dog. The Fonyos had no children, and she would be retiring that year. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a nice dog that they could put with a handler and follow to the shows? I suppose, but I hadn’t thought much more about it.

Meanwhile, Dot was holding court in the kennel. He was everyone’s favorite in play. He was a little over four months now. His coat was coming in. Nice dog.

I called Nancy. I would want breeding rights and the ability to check pedigrees should the Fonyos breed him independently. She and Jani thought they might be interested.

About two weeks later, they came to pick up Dot. Highwood’s Whirling Dun, now with the call name ‘Robi’, moved to Eatontown, New Jersey.

Andrew Green lives in Flemington, close to Eatontown. He could keep an eye on the coat . . . and train Robi for the breed ring. But the Fonyos kept Robi close to home for a good while, until he had blended with the family. Only then did he head off to boarding school at Pebblesrun Kennel, Andrew Green, proprietor.

Even then, he wasn't shown until he was almost eighteen months. But when he finally stepped into the ring, everything happened very quickly. He finished in short order, acquired his Grand Championship a month later, and began to rise in the breed rankings before the age of two.

How He Became World Champion.

The Fonyos are of Hungarian lineage. And where was the World Show to be held in 2013? Budapest, as it happened. And who might have extensive family in Budapest?

The Fonyos, of course.

The opportunity was far too obviously appealing to ignore. What better way to encounter Mitteleurope than to travel with a family who were native to the area, could speak the language, knew where to eat, what to see, and how to navigate the terrain? Andrew and Amy Green agreed that it would, of course, provide good experience for Robi, a demanding experience against competition from across the globe.

Coordinating with the Fonyos, my husband, Rink, and I flew in early May, first to Vienna so that I could inspect the lippizaners, and then took the train through tranquil countryside with views of the Danube to Budapest.

A swarm of extended Fonyo family members arrived at ringside on the day of the competition, enthusiastic, if unfamiliar with the procedure. The judge was the distinguished Liz Cartledge from England, the land of origin for the Norwich Terrier. Using hand signals to accommodate the sundry languages in the ring, she moved the dogs, posed the dogs, inspected the dogs . . . and made her first cut, eliminating some eighty percent of the competition, but leaving Robi in place. Repeating the process, she eliminated all but four dogs and two bitches. Robi was one of the dogs. These she moved again, each back and forth and then had them circling the ring to applause from the gallery and supportive clamor from the Fonyo contingent.

She pointed at Robi. He was the World Champion.

... And National Champion.

Robi was not to be shown much in the summer. The protocol was coat maintenance, aiming for the National Specialty at the Montgomery County Kennel Club Show in September, and completion of his physical tests. His hips and patellas were OFA cleared, and his CERF made current for 2013. His chic number arrived; he was clear of the fluffy gene. We were starting to put up semen.

A quiet period, focused on Montgomery weekend.

Robi was in good form. He went Best-of-Breed in the first two shows at Hatboro. And then the big day. Montgomery. The National Specialty. Lydia Hutchinson – experienced and discerning, unbiased and definitive – was the judge.

It was cool in the morning. Sweeps were at 8:00, and the breed classes were to start at 10:00. Best of Breed was to be after lunch. We gathered ringside to watch the judging. It was instructive to observe Lydia sort through the dogs – form, movement, attitude – all accurately discerned and assessed in a very comprehensive internal matrix. She selected Winners Dog and Winners Bitch, and it was lunchtime.

Back at ringside for Best of Breed. Strong competition. Lydia went over each dog with assured competence. When Robi went up on the table, he watched her approach. His tail began a slight wagging, and, when she put her head down to look at his face, he gave her a kiss. That sweetness has never left him.

There were some very nice dogs out there. Lydia sent them around three times, making a cut at each interval., and leaving a small cluster of eight, Robi among them. She sent them around again. And pointed at Robi.

Jani and I were in tears. Andrew was ecstatic. Nancy and Rink were laughing.

It is both a treat and an honor to have bred a dog who wins the National Specialty. It is, quite obviously, a rare experience, but Robi deserved his achievement.

Thank you Lydia Hutchinson for this prestigious win. Thank you Andrew Green for working so hard on his coat and for forming the bond that expressed itself so effectively in his ring presence. And thank you to Nancy and Jani who are not only wonderful parents to Robi, but who are also making their transition into the Show world with grace, enthusiasm, and good sportsmanship.

It is truly rewarding when you can provide a dog to people who exhibit these qualities.

Information from this page cannot be used without permission from the author.
© 2014 Highwood Norwich Kennel. All rights reserved.