Elise McMahon, KPA-CTP
I have lived with dogs since I could crawl, growing up with a doxi mix, a tri-colour Collie and a number of other dogs I brought home... often to my parent's consternation. My first involvement with Briards was in 1982 when I came across a litter of Briard/Puli puppies while living in Munich, Germany during my junior year at UPENN. The little male puppy I picked from the litter became known as Tristan and was my constant companion and best buddy for 16.5 years. In 1984, Nadja, a white German Shepard puppy, joined us. Together we traveled and lived around Europe until we returned the US in 1989 and eventually settled in Massachusetts in 1996, where I began my doctoral work in Animal Behaviour at UMASS Amherst. Despite surgery requiring hip displacement at 9 month of age, Nadja lived to the ripe old age of 12 years and passed prior to my PhD fieldwork in Chile.
The loss of Tristan in 1999 was heart wrenching and I waited two years while I finished my fieldwork before getting another canine companion. When the time came though, there was no question what it would be. Reading and learning everything I could on Briards during those two dogless years, I realized more and more that Tristan’s personality and behavioural characteristics were well matched by each description I came across about the Briard.
The pull of the heartstrings is a powerful thing and although I originally planned on getting a tawny male Briard so he would not be so similar to Tristan, it was for that very reason that I ended up with a black boy. In getting my first purebred Briard I embarked on an adventure that has been exciting and full of new experiences. Tai was my partner in my foray into the dog show world and I handled him to his championship and a number of very special wins at our breed club's Nationals. I had a lot of help learning the ropes and could not have done it without the people I met along the way. When Tai was 1-year old, I got the tawny I had wanted and Ursa joined our family. The two became instant best friends and brought me daily pleasure just being with them.
Our canine family has since grown and changed over the years. We were truly blessed with Raven from our first litter, a black daughter of Tai out of Stevie leased from Janis Charbonneau of Beardsanbrow Briards. This breeding not only produced 8 of the very best and most loved Briards but also deepened the bond between Ursa's breeder, Janis and myself. There is no one more capable than Janis to talk pedigree with into the wee hours of the night. Her love and knowledge of this breed is immeasurable and her mentorship is and always will be invaluable. Raven, the bitch Janis and I kept from the Tai/Stevie breeding was a beauty in both body and soul, she was undoubtedly the sweetest girl ever to walk the planet. Cielo, a tawny daughter out of Ursa bred to Theresa Lee's Randy, is a clown and a half and very game for anything. Faith is a beautiful black female from the much anticipated breeding between Raven and Sage. As after the loss of Tristan, it took me a few years to get another male after the passing of Tai. The boys seem to have a undeniable pull on my heart. Faith's son, Cai, out of the stunning male Forte owned by Jan and Gordon Rual of Gilcuro Briards in Wales, is the boy of the house now. Cai is a great great grandson of Tai and as sweet in nature as that wonderful, much missed boy.
All of our dogs are raised in the house and share every inch of it throughout their lives. This can be a trial at times as they tend to bring the outdoors in with them; leaves in the Fall, snow in the Winter, and general debris in the Spring.
I have owner/handled all of my dogs to their Championships and beyond and have three Bred by Exhibitor Champions with more underway. I have earned titles in AKC Obedience & Rally and CDPS Obedience with four dogs and continue to train my dogs in these fun sports. As time in the Briard world has gone on I became more invovled in the functionings within the clubs and served a few years as a Director on the Atlantic States Briard Club Board and many years as the Special Features Editor for the Briard Club of America magazine, The Dew Claw. I have co-chaired two Rassemblement events for the BCA.
We are located in Central Massachusetts on 55 acres of wooded land with beautiful trails and streams. It is paradise not only for the Briards but for us as well.