A COLLIES ONLINE FEATURE: A LIFE WITH COLLIES
A Tale Of Two National Specialty Winners
an interview with Virginia Reed Mehr, Creekwood Collies
The list of collie fanciers who have owned more than one National Specialty Best of Breed winner is extremely short. Virginia Reed Mehr of Creekwood Collies is on that elite list since she owned CH Thornacre Simply Grand, who won in 1994 under Judge Jim Frederiksen and GCH Creekwood Hot Chocolate, who won this year under Judge Sandy Thompson. We sent a few questions to Ginger to find out more about her life in Collies. We wanted to know when and how she got her start and to tell us about the first dog show she attended as well as the first dog she ever exhibited. And lastly, we asked for her to comment on the dogs she owned that won Best of Breed at the National Specialty and to share with us the characteristics that made these two dogs standouts in the breed. We also asked for lots of pictures to help tell this story visually. --Ed.
In 1964, I lived in Kansas, Lassie and Albert Payson Terhune books were the rage and I got my first collie. He ended up traveling with us while living overseas for four years. He taught our girls how to stand and walk by letting them hold on to his coat as he walked slowly. We were hooked on the breed. We moved back to the states and lived between Harrisburg and York, Pennsylvania.
1970 (pictured right): Ginger Mehr and her first collie in Indonesia.
Our home was nestled between three creeks and deep in the woods, hence the kennel name Creekwood. We got another collie, at that time Central Penn. Collie Club ran an obedience class which I took her to and we met collie people. My collie was way too smart; she would pull all kinds of stunts in the obedience ring. I happened to look over in the breed ring and thought to myself, "that would be more fun." I started going to shows and seeing which puppies I liked and and noting the sires. My eye was always drawn to the Hi Vu dogs and I bred to Ch. Hi Vu The Intruder. We had a really nice bitch from that litter which I showed. I met Steve Gristick, who handled for me. We traveled together and had so much fun. In 1970-something, I went to George Alston’s handling classes in Maryland, where I honed my handling skills. My daughter, Robin, tagged along and when George gave her an aerosol can tied to a leash to "show," she was captivated and begged to go to shows with me.
1978: Steve Gristick handling Ginger's first homebred, Creekwood Afternoon Delight to Dr. Richard Greathouse.
We moved to the Cleveland area and I met Joann Thomas of Lochlomun Collies and Gail Wilkes of Wilshire Collies. We traveled together to the shows; Robin’s designated seat was a tack box in the back. Becky, my other daughter, held down the homestead, whelped and took care of the other animals. I bred a bitch to one of Joann's dogs and kept a male, a great showman, who would place third in the Working Group and was BOB at Maryland Collie Club.
1981 (above left): Ginger handling Creekwood's first homebred champion, CH Creekwood Lochlumon The Investor going Best of Winners at The Christmas Classic in Cleveland under Judge Ralph Morrison.
1983 (above right): Ginger handling CH Creekwood Lochlumon The Investor to a Working Group 3 under Judge Glen Sommers.
1984 (above left): Ginger's daughter, Robin Reed, and Creekwood's second homebred champion, CH Creekwood Dixieland Delight with Judge Arnold Wolf.
1992 (above right): A young CH Thornacre Simply Grand at Saw Mill River Kennel Club with Robin and Judge Jean Fournier.
After my first husband passed away, I was lucky enough to meet and marry Bob and move to New Jersey. Not having much luck in our breedings, I started to look for a dog to show. At a show in Ohio, I saw two Thornacre dogs on the table and fell in love with one of them. I was so fortunate to be able to buy Thornacre's Simply Grand right then. To me, Dillon had it all. He had such a pretty, soft eye, lot's of muzzle, good structure and movement. Robin and I were both lucky enough to show him but he excelled with Steve. And excel they did at the 1994 National in Niagara Falls! Robin was confident that our Dillon/Steve pair would do well, she even
brought champagne. I always thought it would be a once in a lifetime dream to win THE NATIONAL!
1994 (above left): CH Thornacre New Way To Fly with Judge Joe Koehler and Ginger.
1994 (above right): Steve Gristick handled CH Thornacre Simply Grand to a Herding Group One under Judge Richard Guevara
1994 (below right): CH Thornace Simply Grand takes Best of Breed with handler Steve Gristick at the Collie Club Of America National Specialty in Niagara Falls, New York, under Judge Jim Frederiksen.
Dillon only had one litter in his lifetime so it was back to the drawing board for us in breeding. We've bred some really nice dogs over the years and had our share of good fortune, including becoming such good friends with Mary Lee Shingle of Pleasant Acre Collies. I had moved back to Ohio and Robin stayed in New Jersey. She was looking for a bitch to show and breed and since I didn't have anything for her at the time, Mary Lee gave Robin Pleasant Acre Genuine Risk. We bred her to Robin's smooth dog CH Kirkhaven's Sandman Dream Chaser and kept a really nice rough, sable bitch, CH Creekwood Pleasant Acre Hollywood Gossip. She placed 4th out of 25 in Bred By under Judge Helga Kane at the 2011 National with Robin handling and she was 2nd out of 21 in Open Sable under Phyllis Autrey in 2012 with Debbie Holland of Fantasy Collies handling her. And though Gossip is an outstanding showman and a good mover with a lean head, she is mostly a great brood bitch. While at the 2012 National we went stud dog shopping. At the Galatean/Riverrun set up we looked at GCH Galatean A Good River Runs Through and thought he would be a good match and tie-in nicely with the pedigrees. Boy were we right!
2005: Wilshire Gold Doll Of Marnus and Wilshire Dream Explorer were WB/BOS and RB at Columbus Collie Club under Judge Joan Kirkland. Also pictured (L-R) Ginger, Gail Wilkes and Mary Lee Shingle.
2006 (above left): Ginger handling CH Creekwood Kirkhaven Son of a Gun to Best of Breed under Judge Jim Frederiksen.
2006 (above right): CH Creekwood Wilshire Gold Lace taking Best of Breed with Ginger under Judge Carl Williford.
2008 (above left): Ginger handling CH Kirkhaven's Sandman Dream Chaser in the 6-9 class at the National Specialty in La Crosse, Wisconsin under Judge Bob Futh.
2011 (above right): CH Kirkhaven's Sandman Dream Chaser's daughter, CH Creekwood Pleasant Acre Hollywood Gossip at the National Specialty in Tulsa, Oklahoma handled by Robin. "Gossip" is the dam of 2015 National Specialty Best of Breed, GCH Creekwood Hot Chocolate.
When "Tunie," Creekwood Hot Chocolate, was born, she was the one that caught everyone’s eye. We let her grow up a bit and showed her here and there to get ring experience. During that time she picked up some points and majors, even getting a Herding Group 2 from the puppy class, but, she just wasn't quite ready to soar yet. Dona and Taylor Williams saw her at the Connecticut specialty shows and asked about her. Tunie is a great show dog and loves the attention; when Dona held her leash, they looked great together. Dona and Taylor signed on to her over the summer and started showing her at the Christmas Classic in Cleveland. Elena Geldkop saw Tunie at Dona's house, was taken in by her too, and signed on in January of 2014. In a few short months Tunie was in the Top 10. Shortly thereafter, Tunie blew coat and came back to me in Ohio, spending the summer and fall, taking her sweet time growing coat. She wasn't really ready but we wanted her to get out a bit and we entered in a few shows before the National.
2012 (above left): "Tunie," GCH Creekwood Hot Chocolate, as a puppy.
2012 (above right): Ginger handled GCH Creekwood Hot Chocolate to a Herding Group 2 from the puppy class under Judge Carolyn Herbel.
Over the summer of 2014, I was diagnosed with cancer and was going through treatment and needed surgery. I had tried to convince my doctors to postpone the surgery until the National was over and was told it shouldn't wait and needed it done in February. My hope was to be well enough to fly to the National later in March. Turns out that wasn't so and I was released from the hospital the day before Robin came to pick up the rest of our dogs to go. She and her boyfirend, Mike, Bob, Mary Lee and Daryl loaded the trailer to go and I was able to at least give them a good send off.
2015: GCH Creekwood Hot Chocolate was awarded Best of Breed at the National Specialty in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
I live-streamed the show from home and got constant updates at my bed side. Tim Bauder would come over and watch with Bob and I. I held my breath watching Tunie make cut after cut and was in tears at the final moments of judging. What a great honor to win and own not only one but TWO national winners. Dillon will always be so dear to me as he was a really neat dog but Tunie holds a special place in my heart since we bred and trained her.
2015: National Specialty Best of Breed winner GCH Creekwood Hot Chocolate with Judge Sandy Thompson, owner-handler Dona Williams and owners Elena Geldkop and Robin Reed on the cover of the June issue of the Collie Club of America Bulletin.