If you are touring the western United States by motorhome for an extended period of time, you must enjoy your companions.
Vie and Bill Day do.
The Rancho El Dorado couple obviously enjoy each other’s company – they have been married for 42 years – but they also love their Coton de Tulear dogs, which they breed and show around the country.
Based in Maricopa since 2003, the Days have been breeding and showing the breed for 17 years and have taken things to a very high level. The couple attend dog shows in Austin, Texas every year and travel thousands of miles on an RV tailored for their 10-pound pets – males Remington and Ouzo and their female dog Aspen.
The couple used to breed and exhibit Wheaton Terriers but found that they had health issues. Vie and another breeder decided to work with a different breed and began researching smaller hypoallergenic dogs. They landed on Coton de Tulears.
“The breed wasn’t recognized by the American Kennel Club at the time,” said Vie. “So we went to rarities shows to look at breeds and started seeing lots of cotons. We decided to work with them because of their personality. “
And what personalities they have. The Coton de Tulear (COE-Tohn DU Tu-lee-YAHR), also known as the “Royal Dog of Madagascar”, is described by the AKC as a small, immensely charming dog whose “main role is entertainment, comfort and company. The bond between cotons and their people is so close that the owners discuss them in human terms and the coton owners describe them as’ funny ‘companions’, sometimes exuberant but never demanding. “
Their lush white fur is described as soft as cotton (or, as the French say, “cotton”).
After settling on the breed, Bill and Vie went to a show in Seattle where they met a breeder they liked and trusted. In 2004, Vie and another breeder bought dogs to breed.
That was nothing new for the days. Their first business together – in the 70s and 80s – was a pet shop, where they were looked after and catered for for 13 years. But breeding cotons would be the next level.
COMPETITION BREEDS SHOW DOGS
“We got on it when our kids left the house,” said Vie. “Bill and I looked at each other and said, ‘What do we do now?’ Your whole life is changing.
They are both extremely competitive, she said, and have loved to show dogs in the past.
“That’s why we decided to show dogs again. We do it for fun and camaraderie. It is competitive and challenging to produce really great puppies. “
Vie said when her dogs produce a litter of pups, five of the six (the usual size of a litter) are usually show quality. The couple attach great importance to who can buy their puppies. In fact, they have a waiting list of over a year and potential owners must go through a rigorous screening process to get one.
A competitive advantage for the Days’ Cotons is that they keep their kennel, which they call Daydreaming Cotons, small. Cotons are very social dogs and need to bond with their humans so the couple will only have three or four dogs at a time while other breeders may have dozens of dogs.
Vie and her breed partner Tiffany Laitner, who lives in Michigan, decided to only work with a small group of five breeders across the country in order to maintain the standards of the breed.
“These dogs were wild and were domesticated,” said Vie. “They are like wolves – they were never bred with any other breed when they were in the wild in Madagascar since the 14th century. And since they’re a companion dog, they really need to be socialized. We just found that other breeders weren’t doing things the way we wanted, so we created our own group that we trust. “
ON THE WAY
Cotons thrive in small places and are excellent dogs for people in large cities or homes. Or, in the case of Days, a motorhome.
Expecting to travel to many shows, Bill was busy building a comfortable space to house the dogs on their travels. He installed a bespoke four-plex crate for the dogs that was specially designed for the RV. The boxes can be configured to clip – “like a home,” Bill said – or to be used individually. Each box has a rubber mat on top so it can be used as a cleaning table.
“We took the kitchen table out of the mobile home and anchored the boxes to the wall for security reasons,” said Bill, the manager of the Maricopa Wellness Center, which he owns with his daughter Kristina Donnay, the medical director. “We also developed a trolley that does the same so we can take it out of the RV and to shows.”
The journey is not all long-distance stuff. Vie said Arizona was a hotbed for dog shows in November and December, with about 15 shows over that period.
You take it seriously.
Ouzo is currently one of the nation’s top 10 dogs for the breed, and in 2013 her bitch Peggy was ranked # 1. These placements are important because the higher the rank, the higher the fees they can charge for their puppies.
And as you can imagine when a lot of money is at stake – the days get $ 3,000 for each puppy – the shows aren’t always fun and games – though they try to keep it easy.
“When you’ve seen the movie ‘Best in Show’, sometimes it’s really not far from it,” said Bill. “We actually bought the DVD of the movie, and we’re going to put it in the RV at a show and match the characters from the movie to the people on the show. It can be hilarious. “
And while the Days undoubtedly love their dogs, their mating is not a lifelong mating. They bring the dogs back home when they are 5-6 years old because they no longer want to breed the females after the age of 6.
“We usually put them with an older couple,” said Vie. “You get a health-tested, trained, master-quality dog for around $ 2,000, which is great for humans and children or grandchildren. Lots of people don’t want to have to raise a puppy, and these dogs who live to be 15-18 years old have a nice long life.
“It’s a great situation for the owners and for the dogs.”
This story was first published in the October issue of InMaricopa magazine.