An interview with
Mike Cheatham of Southland
by Collies Online
Tell us how you came up with the Name "Bowen Island?"
When people first heard the name Bowen Island many of them wondered and asked where his name came from, so we had a card printed and carried them to the Collie Club of America National Specialty that year. That was over a decade ago and many still wonder. So here is the the reason . . .
Bowen Island is located off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. It is the site of a celebration held at the end of the year by cadets at the Citadel. On this day, the freshmen become upper classmen and part of the Corp of Cadets in a tradition called Recognition Day. On the day our son became part of the Corp, a special puppy was born at Southland. In honor of our son's achievement we named him . . . Southland's Bowen Island.
Looking back, it is interesting to note that just three years later, Bowen was awarded Best of Breed at the National Specialty. On the very same day our son was awarded the coveted Silverbowl that honors the cadet with the greatest number or merits for the entire four years at the Citadel. We were in South Carolina with our son the day Bowen won. It is the only CC of A that I have missed since my first one in 1987.
If ever there was a breeding I prayed would happen it was the one that created Bowen. Both parents were a perfect compliment in every way to one another. Their pedigrees would also be so beautifully woven together. I just loved looking at it and dreaming of what could come of it.
When did you know you had the "one"? When you knew, how did you come up with a game plan for showcasing him? What were the challenges?
I think I knew Bowen was truly "THE ONE" almost from the day he was born. There was something so special from the beginning. The way his muzzle just melted into his smooth head put his sweet eyes in the most pleasing position. It was as if finally this puppy fit the template I had in my mind. I remember he would just gaze back at me like he knew he was special too. We just fed each others fire I think!
When it was time for Bowen to venture out for the first time, I took him out myself and he won a wonderful Best in Sweeps that I treasure to this day. You will never see that picture as he had absolutely NO coat. You will have to come visit Southland to see the photo. So now it was time to make some serious decisions as to Bowen's future. I knew I wanted him to have a special relationship with his handler and to continue to feel special and loved. So I began looking for just that environment. Tom and Nioma Coen had a young man I had met. Though he was still in college, I thought he might just be the one for my Bowen. His name was Matt Stelter and as they say . . . the rest is history.
The only challenge was the distance between Tennessee and Wisconsin. But it was worth the effort. Matt and I worked so well together as we always had the welfare of Bowen as our central focus. We both saw great things ahead for this puppy.
One of my treasured memories was of Bowen in the parking lot in Louisville, Kentucky. Danny Cardoza had just awarded Bowen Best Opposite to Best of Breed to the legendary CH Long Acre's Pewter Angel, ROM . . . from the 6-9 class. Bowen was sitting in the back of the little hatchback in a crate that had been broken down to fit in. As they pulled out for the long trip back to Wisconsin, there sat Bowen, just looking out and smiling. I smiled back, but unsuccessfully fought back tears and I remember thinking, "heaven help us," as the two boys headed down the road and into history.
Tell us about the breeding and why you selected the sire and dam for this breeding?
If ever there was a breeding I prayed would happen it was the one that created Bowen. Both parents were a perfect compliment in every way to one another. Their pedigrees were also so beautifully woven together. I just loved looking at it and dreaming of what could come of it.
Bowen's sire was CH Southland's Confederate Gray. He had been Best Puppy Dog at the National Specialty in Reno in 1997. He was a proud and elegant male. He possessed lovely and correct length of neck and was just so beautifully balanced. His dam was CH Southland's Glorious Rebelle. She was a big girl with plenty of bone and substance, yet she was very feminine and had brood bitch stamped all over her. The expression was just everything I could have wanted as well. She has always been one of my favorite girls.
What qualities and virtues have been contributed by key dogs in the stud's pedigree?
I think there were several important breedings in Bowen's pedigree. One was Rogish Rhett. He was sired by Arcadia Red October, who was heavily Tartanside. He was bred by Benny Edwards. He was a small, fiery red color and I loved him dearly. He had a lovely expression but was lacking in soundness and outline. He was bred to Southland's Plantation Party. She was pretty much linebred on some of the Hanover line from Rayleen Hendrix. She was very sound and well built. She possessed a beautiful skull but was lacking in the very virtue Red October excelled in, expression. This was a very important outcross that was very successful in many ways. When she was bred to Red October the first two Southland champions were in that litter. CH Southland's Red Oak and CH Southland's Cross Country owned by Pat Gordon. In that same litter was a blue male that was never shown. He went to a friend that had been waiting on a puppy for her children. twist of fate brought him back to me and he became the first most important step forward.
The next generation was an even bigger step. Rhett was bred to a very typey tri bitch, CH Tartanside Sophistication, owned by Benny Edwards as well. She was by The great sire CH Tartanside Th' Critics Choice, ROM. This litter was truly a gold mine of quality. In that litter was future National Specialty Award of Merit winner, CH Southland's Confederate Clouds and her brother CH Southland's Confederate Gray, Bowen's sire. Michele and Terry Inman also owed and finished their litter sister, CH Arcadia Everlasting.
While the sire side of the litter was being developed I was also busy with what would ultimately be the distaff side of Bowen's pedigree. I purchased a pure for sable puppy bitch from Joyce Spirat, Raptorvale Glory O' Southland. She was an inbred Critics Choice daughter who never finished -- she sure did hate the ring. But the impact she had from her one and only litter was immeasurable. She was bred to CH Tartanside Raptorvale Rebel, ROM, from which I again kept a dog and a bitch. That decision would have a far reaching impact on most of the Southland dogs to come. The dog would become CH Southland's Rebel of Glory. He was sold as a young adult, but, I was able to purchase him back and he returned home and sired several important litters. The bitch from this litter would become CH Southland's Glorious Rebelle, Bowen's dam.
Comment on virtues of the stud dog's get.
The virtues found in the sons and daughters of Bowen have been relatively consistent and predictable. These virtues are the ones we place such a premium on when considering expression. A round muzzle that merges smoothly into clean flat sides that create the "one piece" head. His eye placement and the medium shaped almond eye are so easily recognized in his sons and daughters and now even in many of his grandkids.
I have also noticed a great consistency in the croup, tailset and bend of stifle in many of his children, and, as with head properties, I am still finding this trait in his grandchildren as well.
I also have to say this, I am so proud of Bowen's intelligence, confidence, and exhuberant personality. He loved to show and be the center of attention. I don't think I have ever seen Bowen frightened or concerned about ANYTHING .I am very proud of the steady temperament and "I love the world attitude." I have heard from so many people that his puppies are like that as well. His intelligence has been a bit of a problem though. I am constantly checking the snaps placed on all of my gates. Not only does he let himself out, but, he will pick who he wants to play with and then set them free too! I am not so proud he passed this particular trait on. I have heard too many stories about Bowen kids from other breeders to know that they were not too thrilled with it either.
How many puppies were in his litter? Tell us their names and what qualitites did they share with Bowen?
Bowen was in a litter of four. He had three sisters. There was one sable merle and two blues. The blue sisters went to two dear friends in Kentucky. Both of these girls were of incredible quality and were placed where I could see them often and where I would have access to them if I ever needed them in my breeding program. I did keep his sable merle sister, CH Southland's Beach Party. She was also a tremendous producer in her own right so I never felt the need to use the blue sisters. All of these individuals did share stunningly similiar virtues in the same roundness of muzzle and in eye shape and placement. All three sisters are alive, doing well and look fantastic. One of them often spends Christmas at Southland.
I think though I am most proud of his accomplishments as a sire. The ability to make a difference in this breed and to see that Bowen has done that is the most gratificating thing I could ask for as a breeder.
Did you ever repeat the litter? What was the result? What did you learn from repeating?
The breeding that produced Bowen was never repeated. His sire unexpectedly, and without explanation, went sterile. That was the only time I have encountered something like that. His mother never conceived again. These two losses were devastating as I felt they both had so much to offer future generations. I comforted myself in that they simply gave everything they had to that one incredible litter.
How many litters has Bowen sired?
Bowen produced 66 litters. He was bred to 60 roughs and 6 smooths.
This dog has a record of great achievement. Tell us about the achievements for which you are most proud.
Bowen's achievements have been many. I am grateful for each and everything he accomplished. I am so thankful that I was blessed with having Bowen in my life for so many reasons that have nothing to do with records, winning, or accomplishements.
Winning the Collie Club of America National Specialty was such a tremendous honor and achievement. I treasure this as one of the greatest accomplishments a dog could achieve. I felt Bowen had now become part of the history of the breed. I was deeply touched by the significance of that win and all that went with it. I would sometimes sit and try to take it all in while studying the long list of name engraved on those trophies. I still am so amazed to this day.
I think though I am most proud of his accomplishments as a sire. The ability to make a difference in this breed is the most gratifying thing I could ask for as a breeder. I see his sons and daughters that look so much like him, it just gives me chills, and when I see them becoming Register of Merit producers, themselves, it makes it even more gratifying. I do believe that the ability to produce a producer is one measure of a great dog. Hopefully in the years to come history will bestow that title on Bowen.