In June, the Canadian Kennel Club announced three brand new member awards
at the Annual General Meeting. Nominated by fellow CKC members, the awards recognize a recipient’s outstanding commitment, dedication and accomplishments that have positively impacted purebred dogs, and all dogs, in Canada.
Credited with putting Canada on the map for Pomeranians, Christine and John Heartz were awarded the inaugural CKC National Breeder of the Year award. Recognized around the world as one of the leading Pomeranian kennels, many well-known kennels throughout Asia, Europe and North America can trace their pedigrees to Christine and John’s Chriscendo dogs. Their dedication, commitment, and contributions to breed health research and their mentorship has strengthened the breed globally.
Christine and John have worked hard to promote and nurture this incredible breed. Amid their busy summer schedule, we were fortunate to chat with Christine and John about how they got started and how it felt to be nominated for such a prestigious award.
How did you get involved in dogs?
I [Christine] bought a Pomeranian puppy with my first pay check, when I was 18. I was not from a doggie family so I needed both experience and mentoring when I started. I continued both showing and competing in Obedience for 7 years before I ever bred a litter. John has always had a bit different perspective in breeding. He started breeding Pembroke Welsh Corgis, but eventually became an All-Breed Professional Handler. He always said “we will avoid the mistakes I made in Corgis, to help in breeding Poms.” John has always been my greatest supporter and we work very well together.
What drew you to the Pomeranian?
I [Christine] have loved the breed since I was very young. We had an Encyclopaedia of Dogs at home and there was a well-known champion Pomeranian pictured in it. For me there was no other breed.
John’s involvement in the Poms has been since we have been together. I will always value his opinion and without him, I could never have continued. John is more focused on soundness and function and the Show Dog, and I am always in the pursuit of that perfect type. Between us, while we may not always agree, we have learned from each other’s strengths.
Who were your mentors as breeders?
We were always close to the late Ken and Eleanor Miller (Millamor Poms). We both spent hours at their homes in Ohio and Florida talking Poms, past and present. So much of what we love in this breed has been because of the Millers and their dogs, they were, for us, our blueprint.
What motivated you to work as hard as you did to further the breed here in Canada?
When I [Christine] bought my first Pomeranian (1977) I was interested in Obedience. I was drawn to the Conformation ring because my friends did both. I asked a handler if I could finish my first Pom, I never did, but I eventually married the handler several years later!
When we started in this breed, type and soundness was not well established. We bought our first show dog (Can. Am. Ch. Millamor’s Rock Medallion) who was very sound and caught the attention of many judges and breeders alike. Qualities up to that, point that would be difficult to find in Poms, in this country. Medallion became our Foundation sire and is behind many of the Poms today.
Tell us about your first home-bred big win.
We were lucky enough that our first home-bred Champion, Can. Am. Ch. Chriscendo Coy Coquette became a Multiple Best In Show Winner and won several US Regional Specialties, as well as BOS (twice) at the American National twice.
What would be your most memorable win in the ring so far?
Our dogs have won many Best in shows and many have been under judges whose opinions we respect and value. One of the most memorable was winning Best of Winners at the American Pomeranian Club National (then in NY) under Anne Rogers Clark, on Can. Am. Ch. Chriscendo Colour Picture. She was Black and Tan and was to our knowledge, the first and only Black and Tan to do this. At the time this colour was just recently accepted in Canada and she also went on to set a Breed record for this colour, with 10 All Breed BIS wins.
When it comes to Pomeranians – what’s easy with them? What’s more challenging?
Poms have a “big dog” personality and that has always attracted both of us to the breed. The difficulty is breeding them. They often need c-sections, they are not always great mothers, and it is often a struggle to raise them. They are tiny (2 to 4 oz), and as John likes to say “Born with the will to die”.
Who makes a good Pomeranian owner?
We have all kinds of people we consider great Pomeranian owners. Some Pomeranians spend their lives on a princess bed, as a spoiled pet, but some are competing in Obedience and performance events, they are best friends to growing families and companions to the elderly. Poms are the perfect size to travel or lounge in bed with and are happy to accompany their owners on walks or even a hike. Most of our puppy sales come to us as previous Pom owners, whether from us or somewhere else.
How does it feel to be nominated for such an award by your peers?
To be chosen from a group of our peers, people who we consider friends, who we have been in the ring with, watched their successes and followed their careers; has been humbling to say the least. We both believe that there are breeders in this country that are among the Best in the World. Their dogs can and do produce consistently, with breeding programs over a lifetime. They compete with the best. Canada has the right to be proud of their dedicated breeders who strive to achieve success at this level. But no man is an island, we would not have been able to do this if it was not for our support system. None of what we have accomplished would have been possible if not for our “family”.
Early on, Can. Am. Ch. Millamor’s Rock Medallion, shown by Lynda Torrance, won several BIS and Lynda made him Top Pom, our first Top Dog. Several years later, we had Can. Am. Ch. Chriscendo Classica, co-owned with friends Doug and Robert Stratton, Sunterra. Because of John’s handling commitments, we could not campaign a Toy here at home that year. Enter Pat and David Gignac, who showed “Cassie” for us. The following year, we decided to campaign her in earnest, we flew her back and forth, to Pat and David, one coast to the other and “Cassie” became the Top Winning Bitch in the History of the Breed in Canada with about 25 BIS. We will be forever indebted to those who lent a hand, to those who chose to reward our dogs with the highest honours and those who cheered on the sidelines.
Dog wise – what’s next for you and John?
Breeding dogs has its ups and down, you can have the Top Dog in your breed for 10 years and then you can’t seem to produce a puppy that measures up. This too can go on for a long time. It’s being able to ride out those lows that distinguish a Great Breeder.
We keep our numbers low, 12 dogs is manageable for us. But it also restricts you if something happens to your small breeding program. When we lost Can. Am. Ch. Chriscendo Connoisseur, “Connor”, about 5 years ago. And another young Best in Show winning male we had high hopes for, showed signs of coat loss, we were literally down to one male.
We have struggled over the past 5 years to regain what we thought was the best we had produced. It is these things often make or break a small breeding program. Our story is not unusual in that respect, and the dark times, often forces people to leave the sport.
This is when your support system kicks in. We work with a number of like-minded breeders worldwide, who help and support when you need them the most. You continue to cling to the hope that you will again, find that combination of bloodlines and dogs that you love to once again produce puppies that will grow up to continue the dream, of that perfect one.