From Anna Abney About Jeannine De Palmaby Jeannine DePalma on 10/13/10
I am a dog trainer in South Carolina. I have worked with dogs in a professional capacity for nearly 14 years. I have also recently begun competing in conformation, lure coursing, and rally obedience with plans to pursue weight pull and agility as well. I am also an avid backpacker and outdoorswoman and I enjoy taking my dogs with me on my adventures. My dogs must be able to live and work together as I do not have kennels, and they must get along with my best friend and backpacking partner and her pack of 4 show/performance/working dogs. I must be able to rely on my dogs and they must be tough and hardy enough to do all these things involved in my lifestyle.
Approximately four years ago, I was ready to start looking for a puppy to be my next traildog partner and protector. A backpacking dog who is also a guardian has to have certain qualities, not least of which are a strong body, solid structure, stamina, a bombproof temperament, and a good work ethic. For years I thought I wanted a German Shepherd Dog but when the time came to start looking, none of them gave me the same flavor as my tough old Chow mix, Eve. They were too eager to please (not really a flaw, just not something I particularly enjoy in a personal dog), require too much training to protect, and are too reactive, to say nothing of the vast array of health problems and a structure that does not lend itself to the carrying of a heavy pack. A friend convinced me to cast a wider net and I discovered the Central Asian Shepherd Dog, a breed I had heard of from other friends with rare breeds. I had, in fact, seen them at rare breed shows in Georgia, but the dogs I had seen had been so unimpressive that I never bothered to find out what they were. Those dogs were too big and sloppy with spooky temperaments. Upon further research, I learned that these were not, in fact, good examples of the breed, as real Central Asian Shepherd Dogs are fast, agile, hardy, tough dogs with exceptionally stable temperaments. They are certainly not a good choice for the average dog owner, but I am not the average dog owner and their traits of stamina, agility, strength, distrust of strangers, and fierce, loving loyalty to family were exactly what I was looking for. I began looking closely at aboriginal CAS, both old and new pictures and websites, and I liked those types a lot better. So I began looking for breeders. I discounted the breeder close to me right away as that breeder had produced the show dogs with which I had been so umimpressed previously. What I found was many of the sites on the origins, history, and other information on the breed linked back to one United States breeder: Jeannine de Palma of Foxfire Farms. And her dogs looked like the real aboriginal working dogs, dogs that still to this day protect families and livestock for a living. Plus she had thousands of pictures and video of her dogs doing all kinds of things, not just standing stacked up in a staged photograph. Dogs running, jumping, playing, just being dogs. Dogs with their families, dogs with their livestock, dogs with other dogs. They were happy, healthy family members. There were testimonials from other buyers, many of whom had bought a 2nd and even a 3rd Foxfire CAS. Foxfire Farms clearly emphasized a real, functional dog and show wins were considered the least of a dog's accomplishments.
It was obvious from the start that Jeannine loves her dogs. Even her full-time LGD is a beloved family member. And she is honest and realistic. She doesn't think her dogs are perfect (although some are damn close, whether she admits it or not!), she clearly and logically discusses their faults as well as their strengths, and she publishes her dogs' health and temperament certifications openly. She is also clearly picky about who she sells a puppy to, caring more about the right lifestyle match rather than the ultimate show home, which means she isn't breeding for money or ego. I couldn't just send her $3,000 and have her mail me a puppy. I had to apply, put down a non-refundable deposit to prove I was truly committed, spend hours on the phone getting to know Jeannine and letting her get to know me. And I had to wait. A good breeder doesn't have puppies available all the time. Period. It was months before my puppy was even born and I couldn't take her home until she was 10 weeks old.
>Now my girl, Champion Foxfire's Hell Hath No Fury, aka Astrid, the first U.S. bred Central Asian Shepherd Total Dog, is two years old. She is everything I ever wanted and more. She has proven herself in the ring, but more importantly she has proven herself in real life. She is a loving companion, a willing worker, a stalwart protector, and a loyal friend to me, my other dogs, and my friends. I can take her anywhere, into any situation, without fear of losing control, and at the same time rest easy in the knowledge that she will handle things if someone or something tries to mess with her family or pack. She is calm and laid back, but she is always watching. She is neither too big to be agile nor too small to be tough. She has the body to stand up to any predator and the brains to know how much force is necessary. She never starts anything but never backs down either. She has tough, thick, loose skin, and a hard, dense double coat to protect her from injury and the elements. She has fluid movement that allows her to travel for miles without fatigue, even while wearing a loaded pack, and still always be able to leap to the defense at a moment's notice. She has the correct scissors bite with large, strong, even white teeth. She is, in short, a superb example of a Central Asian Shepherd Dog.
That is why I have and will continue to have a Foxfire dog. Owners like me, who want real dogs, versatile dogs, reliable dogs, dogs who can go out and do, will never buy some big show dog from a big show kennel. We are too picky and expect too much. You want one of us, someone who can take a puppy all the way, in the ring and out of it, you must produce something worthy of our notice. I can get a lot out of a dog, but I can't get what isn't there. Foxfire dogs have got it. The look of eagles. The dog of legends. The best.