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Cheers for Volunteers: Tim Cunningham


Owner of what may be the oldest Kerry ever, Tim Cunningham lives with his wife and daughter in Panama, although they spend one or two months per year in Southampton, New York. Tim writes that he was first exposed to Kerries by his first wife, whose Kerry was named Basil. Later they got their next KBT, Bennie, from a very experienced breeder on the North Fork of Long Island. (You can read about Bennie's life on the Kerry Elders page [] of the KBTF web site).

Bennie and Tim were great friends and did everything together. Bennie lived a long life, 18.5 years. Although generally very healthy, he did tend to get cysts, which Tim always removed, using lidocaine cream, alcohol and a sterile pin -- without ever causing an infection.

Bennie was really smart and very athletic. He became great friends with Tim’s cat, Norm the Storm, although he hated the cat at first. They played together and slept together. Bennie also liked going on Tim’s boat and swimming, and he loved to fetch sticks out of the ocean or bay after he saw a Golden Retriever doing it at the beach.

After Tim and Nancy divorced, they shared Bennie. Tim would bring him to his office. Tim writes that he lived in a completely different direction from Nancy, and one time when she had him, Bennie got loose but managed to find Tim’s office. Tim says, “I have no idea how he did this as my wife never took him to my office from her house.”

Tim’s second Kerry was Onyx, a rescue from the KBT Foundation. Onyx was a great Kerry, not as assertive as Bennie but possessed of a wonderful personality. Onyx was with Tim for only a few years before he developed lymphoma from exposure to lawn chemicals. Anyone who lets their dog walk on the "perfect green lawns with no weeds" is almost guaranteeing the dog will get lymphoma, warns Tim, as the chemicals used to keep the lawns weed-free can cause cancer. Tim indicates that these chemicals are widely used in most wealthy areas. Tim spent $25,000 trying to help Onyx beat his cancer, but he lost him two years after being diagnosed. Tim says that he has never been so devastated from a death in his life. “I still think of him regularly. Onyx had a bad life before we got him, so he was happy just to be with us. He traveled to Panama several times. One year in Panama, we rented a vacation house next to a horse farm. The horses would run up and back the length of their corral. Although a hedge and wire fence separated Onyx from the horses, he would run back and forth with them, 50 to100 times.”

Tim’s advice for having a Kerry is to provide them with a lot of exercise. He adds that walking them 15-30 minutes a day is not enough; they need to RUN 10-15 minutes a day at least. Tim had Onyx trained to run alongside his bicycle while he rode it. As they also need to be challenged, Tim used to take Onyx to a big park in Panama, take him off his leash, make him sit and stay, then Tim would go hide for Onyx to find. This was a game that Onyx loved. Tim also warns that a lot of patience is required to train Kerries so that they will consistently obey commands. Otherwise, a Kerry owner would have no alternative to keeping his dog on a leash all the time while outside, but that is no fun for a Kerry.

Currently, Tim has two dogs, a Sheltie and a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Both are rescued dogs. But Tim’s heart is still with Kerries: he says that Princess the Sheltie is old and when she passes, the family will get another Kerry.

“Kerries are great dogs -- athletic, smart and fun!” says Tim Cunningham.

Over the years, Tim has generously and steadfastly supported the work of the Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation, helping ensure that many other Kerries get as good a life as his own lucky dogs have had. Cheers to Tim, and Bennie and Onyx, who together exemplify the bond we share with our dogs!


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Today is June 26, 2019

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