In our April 8th issue we had a conversation with Breeder & All Breed Professional Handler Heidi Gervais.
1) How long have you been showing dogs professionally?
Full time professionally since 1996. Prior to that, I worked full time as the event coordinator at Dynapro Systems Inc. and I handled on the weekends.
2) Before going out on your own, did you work for a well-known professional handler?
When I was in high school I worked for Taffe Walker (now McFadden). When she moved to California I went to Connecticut and apprenticed for Elliot and the late Linda More for five years.
3) Irish Setters are your original breed, are you still actively breeding? and what other breeds are you involved in?
Yes, my mom Valerie and I are still breeding Kulana Irish Setters and we actually had a litter born April 6th!
I co-breed Scottish Deerhounds with Lynne Bruce (Hollyrood), Irish Water Spaniels with Tim Ufkes (Cuchulain) and Berger Picards with Donna Beadle (Eclipse Kennel). I co-bred one litter of Smooth Fox Terriers with Mariah Dupuy (Braebrook) and Amy Booth (Broxden).
4) When and how did you become active in showing and co-breeding the Scottish Deerhounds?
When I was a junior and was working for Taffe we campaigned a Scottish Deerhound called CH Hollyrood The Fantastic Fallon. I totally fell in love with the breed and knew one day I would get a Deerhound and it had to be from Lynne Bruce (Hollyrood).
I was at a show in Kamloops 13 years ago and Lynne had three puppy deerhounds in an ex pen. I asked if she would ever consider selling one to a handler. She had no problem selling me my heart dog, Delilah (Am Can CH Hollyrood Tumbleweed). Our first co-bred litter from Delilah produced 12 puppies including Am Can CH Hollyrood No Egrets who was a multiple BIS winner and Best of Winners at Scottish Deerhound Club of America’s National twice. This litter also produced Ch Hollyrood Jenny Wren who is Polly’s (Am Can CH Hollyrood Cosmpollyton) mom.
5) How many Best in Shows to date have you been awarded in your career as a professional handler?
I have no idea!! I would guess at well over 200 including 5 in the US.
6) Can you take our readers through the routine of keeping a Scottish Deerhound fit and in top condition?
Scottish Deerhounds tend to be a bit lazy as compared to all my other breeds. If you don’t make them get off the couch or bed they would probably hang out there all day. It is easier to have two or more Deerhounds because they play and run way differently than other breeds.
They tend to be rougher and pin the other dogs down by their necks, part of their natural instinct with game, which some breeds don’t enjoy! The Irish Water Spaniels were always smart because they would just fall over when the Deerhound comes near them – I call it water spaniel tipping!
Irish Setters try to out run them and usually can’t. I find the Berger Picards are a good match because they are agile and fast and feisty and can stand up to the Deerhounds. Presently Glitter, Billie and Polly have a good game of chasing squirrels around our 5 acres and of course our daily walks to the beach.
7) Does your Scottish Deerhound Special travel better with another of their breed in the setup as a friend on the road, or does the breed do well with others?
Polly is a Princess and would really like it to be just about her and her entourage of people. She always needs a crowd travelling with her!
8) What is the biggest challenge showing a Scottish deerhound?
Sighthounds do not like close spaces and like to be able to look into the distance, so outdoors is always preferred. Polly finds small indoor rings challenging but not as much as her sire Warlock who made himself VERY small trying not to fall off a single mat when I showed him indoors in Alberta. We are spoiled in BC because we have fully matted rings so he was not used to this and believed he would fall into an abyss if he stepped off!
9) What is your favorite go to product to use on a Deerhound?
Listerine and water 50/50 sprayed on every time you groom. Keeps the coat harsh without excessive bathing
10) What one thing would you like judges to always do when judging the Scottish Deerhound?
I hope judges, and not just for Scottish Deerhounds, feel for conditioning and muscle tone. I know a judge gets the breed when they feel the strength of the loin.
11) What advice would you give to a young professional just starting out who wants handling to be their career?
As a junior I would suggest working HARD for a handler and don’t expect to show dogs – expect to set up and take down, clean up after the dogs, wash dogs, dry dogs, exercise dogs, learn to groom breeds, learn breed standards and VOLUNTEER for clubs.
Once you have the experience as a junior get a real education – go to school! Once you have an education and you still want to be a handler – this will make you much better at all the tasks at hand including the business aspect of the job.
12) You have always been one of the handlers who “sticks to the breeds they know” what breeds do you love to present to the fancy?
I like showing all breeds even Poodles, as long as someone else grooms them!!