I can still feel the soft fur on my face and the delicate licks of their kisses. I’d been excited about this visit all day. You know the feeling; you’re away from home and your furry babies couldn’t come along. You’re missing them terribly. You’re ripe for a puppy fix! And, was I ever! But, this one was planned and very special. I was going to see where life began for our Sophie!
Sophie started life at Plushcourt Kennels in Faringdon, England, where kennel owner Betty Judge, the #1 breeder of Portuguese Podengo Pequeno’s in the UK, lives with a rather large family of animals. In her mid-70’s, Betty is a sight to behold – a salt-of-the-earth person, harnessing a feisty spirit and a fierce passion for life inside of her four foot-something frame!
My husband, Stanley, had met Betty when he originally picked Sophie up. You might have read about their crazy all night journey, driving from England to France, so that Sophie could travel to her new home in America inside the cabin of a plane (they don’t allow that in England). If you’ve never read Sophie’s Story, you can find a link for it below.
While Betty and I had communicated several times by phone and email over the years, we’d never met. So, when I reached out to her to set up the appointment, I simply declared, “I need Podengo love!” And, Betty did not disappoint!
We arrived for our visit on a typically dreary English winter’s day, with the continuous drizzle making a muddy muck out of everything. The property was dotted with pens and crates, and there was a big, heated barn which I learned held many of the dogs, as well as pigs and goats that Betty also breeds and shows. A large Mastiff held court at the head of the area, with a sign on his door, simply reading The Boss. I didn’t dispute.
Betty met us at the door, her brown hair wild about her face. Her big smile and warm demeanor made us feel immediately welcomed. She ushered us into one of the sitting rooms, a cozy space with walls draped with dog and horse show ribbons. An easy talker, Betty filled us in on the challenges of breeding and showing in England and we filled her in on Sophie and her life in New York. We told her about Jasper, our new rescue, and she agreed he looked like he had Patterdale Terrier in him. One of the top Patterdale breeders lived just down the road, she said. When I couldn’t contain myself any longer, I blurted out, “Can we visit with some of the dogs??!” (I know, you can’t take me anywhere…)
Almost as soon as she left the room, a small torrent of Podengos began bounding in, some with gusto, some tentatively, all open and curious. There were grown ones, tiny ones. There were dark ones and light ones, all variations of this wonderful breed. We were awash in Podengo power, and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven! LOL
Some of the most recent wire-haired litter, now six weeks sold, made an appearance. Spider, with his coal eyes, found his space in Stanley’s mom Jean’s lap. Molly played clumsily with a stuffed wand toy, still learning how to navigate on her new little legs.
Tiddly, a very pretty smooth coat from a previous litter, had already learned how to work a room, with her coquettish eyes flashing and her wagging tail. She’d charmed Archie, the affectionate Plushcourt champion wire-haired Podengo, who’d clearly laid claim to her, despite her being a fraction of his size. He’d nuzzle her and she’d bat her eyes, wag that little tush and he’d be smitten all over again. It reminded me so much of what Sophie does with Jasper. Betty said she’d never seen anything like it, where a grown dog took such a liking to a puppy, that he was downright possessive of her.
And, then there was Kitty, or as Betty calls her, Kitty Clever Clogs. Kitty is a beautiful longish haired smooth coat, who has turned adaptability into an art form. It seems Kitty tends to take a shine to other species. When around Betty’s pygmy goats, Kitty becomes a pygmy goat. When it’s Kune Kune piglets or a Zwarbles lamb, she inserts herself right into the mix. In fact, Kitty connected so deeply with an orphaned lamb named Angel, they sleep together. Check out the adorable pic. They’re like oddball Siamese twins, connected at the heart. 🙂
After much cuddling, kissing, holding and cozying, it was finally time to go. As we gathered our things and gave our last hugs to the pups, Betty invited me back in the summer, when a new crop of puppies would be born. With the accommodating weather, I would be able to spend more time with her, watching her (and, hopefully, helping her) do the incredible work she does – birthing babies (how amazing would that be!), exercising the dogs from her perch on the ATV and generally loving and taking good care of her large family of creatures.
Speaking of creatures, on our walk back to the car, we passed a large pen of geese and ducks and met head champion goose, Jeffrey, the biggest I’d ever seen! That boy must’ve had feet about eight inches in diameter! Unlike many geese, Jeffrey is a gentleman who likes people, Betty explained. It goes to show that, like with any of us, if you learn early on that people are kind, you trust people.
If you’re interested in adding a Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, an intelligent, feisty, lively and full of fun wonderful breed, to your family, Betty is your gal! She also breeds Border Terriers and Petits Bassets Griffons Vendeens. You can explore Plushcourt Kennels and see all that Betty does here.
You all know I’m a huge proponent of adopt, don’t shop, but to my knowledge, there are no true Portugese Podengo Pequenos in shelters.
Thank you, Betty, for a wonderful visit! It means so much to see where our Sophie got her start. You can read Sophie’s Story here.
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