I always wanted a dog, but my family lived in apartments until 1987. When we moved to a house with a yard for a dog, I first chose a Rottweiler. I wanted to compete in Junior Showmanship and it quickly became apparent that although she was a wonderful companion, "Chara" was not going to be a great show dog. I was interested in several other breeds of dogs, and in early 1988 I came across a Juniors column in Dog World magazine where breeders sometimes offered dogs to Junior handlers. One of those was Naomi Rigas, breeder of Ridona Brittanys in Colorado. We began corresponding and Naomi allowed me to choose a pup from a litter born on April 1, 1988. I lucked out, because Chelsea was not only a great show dog who finished easily and helped me to my first Best Junior Handler win, she was also healthy, with a fantastic temperament and zest for everything in life...including, naturally, birds! And so I later started learning about Brittanys' abilities in the field as well.
I was 14 years old when Chelsea joined our family, and I was immediately hooked on the breed. We drove to Colorado the next summer, showed at the American Brittany Club summer specialty, and brought home Banner. In 1990 we had an accidental breeding so I was jump-started into becoming a Brittany breeder. I have always felt responsible for every dog I help bring into the world, and in learning that not everyone feels the same, my mother and I began getting involved in Brittany Rescue in 1991. American Brittany Rescue was a fledgling organization at the time, but has now grown to well over 500 volunteers nationwide that help and find homes for hundreds of purebred Brittanys year year. My mother has now been the ABR national coordinator for over 15 years.
When our first litter was born, I wanted to find a kennel name that was short and started with an "A". I started looking through the dictionary and found "alar", meaning "of or having to do with wings" -- I figured that was appropriate for bird dogs. I might not choose the same one today, but I was only 15 at the time!
It wasn't until a few years later that I began getting my dogs into the field, and even then just dabbled some in Puppy stakes and Junior Hunter tests. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, there was scarcely a place to run and train dogs in the field, and I couldn't afford to hire a professional trainer. But I did begin to understand how important it was to maintain Brittanys' extraordinary Dual Champion heritage. In 1993, I got Rock, whose sire was out of two Dual Champions, and I bred Chelsea to a Dual Champion. This became a basis for what was to come later.
After a lot of great show wins, I took a break from the dogs in 1997-2000. During that time we lost Rock and Chelsea, and Chase went to live in Minnesota with Dawn & Joe Droel of Sovereign Brittanys. Thanks to them, I was able to get a terrific son and granddaughter of Chase (shown at left) when I was ready to come back and start competing again.
While I was living in northern California I was fortunate to become acquainted with Gordon Theilen, who I would say was the first person responsible for my conversion into a field trial "fanatic!". I showed Gordon's Tubby to her show (and thus Dual) Champion title, and in exchange Gordon gave me a horse to ride at field trials, and helped me and my dogs with our field training. As a result my interests evolved...
In late 2002, a very special puppy came into my life. She was a daughter of the great NFC/DC/AFC Tequila's Joker (now in the Hall of Fame) and from her dam's side a great-granddaughter of Rock and great-great-granddaughter of Chelsea & Banner. Taryn was a whole new experience for me; an independent, stout-hearted little spitfire who solidified my appreciation for All-Age field trial dogs. It became one of my greatest thrills to watch a dog with such tremendous drive and speed reaching the edges of a course, slam on point far in the distance and hold with style until the handler arrives, keep in contact by the handler's voice as it rips through cover out of sight and then pops up straight ahead as a dot on the horizon -- and it is an indescribable rush when that's YOUR dog! Taryn accomplished more than I could ever dream for her, becoming my first Dual Champion, earning the ABC National Dual Award in 2005 and 2007 by winning in both the ABC National Specialty Show & National Open All Age Championship, and in 2008 she also became the first Dual Champion female to ever win Best of Breed at the American Brittany Club National Specialty Show! That same year she also had her first litter, won eight placements in 1-hour All Age stakes, and finished #2 in the Purina All Age Brittany of the Year standings! Her career was cut a bit short by injury, but Taryn still garnered the record for Brittany females of 25 All Age hour placements. She lived out her retirement as our VERY spoiled pet, and was represented in competition by several winning offspring including daughter Tristyn, who became the breed's first tri-color Dual Champion in 2012!
My involvement in dogs has also shaped my occupation. I was employed as a graphic designer for several years, and became seriously interested in photography and web design in the late 1990s. Dogs made the easiest subjects for me. I started Flashpoint Photography & Design and have had great fun designing web sites and ads, and taking candid and action pictures for the past several years. I am fortunate to be able to take my business on the road with me, as I am now always traveling to different events throughout the country. My home base is currently in Boise, Idaho although I spend most months of the year on the road in the West & Midwest regions, from California to Arkansas and Montana to Texas. My "summer job" has become handling Brittanys (and occasionally other breeds) in the show ring in the West & Midwest. I have had the distinct honor of handling over 30 Dual Champion Brittanys to their show titles, in addition to many other show Champions.
I had no litters from 1995-2004, but then found myself with some outstanding young dogs that I believed would make a positive contribution to the breed. In September, 2005 my first litter in 11 years was born, and new litters of Dual (field trial and show) quality Brittany puppies will be planned from time to time. See the Puppies page for details.
Thanks for visiting, and if you have read this far, congratulations on sitting through my story! I hope you enjoy the site, and please feel free to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments.
-- Jessica Carlson
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