What do “Adventures in Kerry Blue Terrier Land”, “Are we there yet?”, “When a beloved pet dies”, “Staying in Good Health: a look at veterinarians and their specialties”, “Summer Safety Tips”, and “Cheers” have in common?
That’s a pretty broad spectrum of things to find a common thread in but yet there is one: all these articles have been appeared in the KBTF Newsletter What’s New? in the past three years and all have been written by one volunteer: our Cheers shout out for this edition Randy Hayes! You may not know anything about Randy and his love for the Kerry but I would be willing to bet that you are very familiar with the articles he has written. In addition to being an excellent writer, Randy is an interesting person who doesn’t seem to know how to just relax and do nothing, which is fortunate for us as KBT lovers and newsletter readers.
Randy Hayes lives in Polo, Illinois. Polo is located about two hours west of Chicago and 45 miles south of Rockford, Illinois. It is a rural community of less than 1000. Randy has been married to wife Donna for forty years and they have one son, Colin, who is a computer specialist working in Chicago, a daughter-in-law who is a teacher, and an adorable six-year-old granddaughter Camryn. Until last February, they also shared their home for ten years with a KBT nicknamed Nips.
Randy retired in December from the position of Senior Vice President of Compliance at a residential treatment facility for women with eating disorders southwest of Chicago. However, Randy doesn’t really understand the word “retirement”: after spending about 40 years in Behavioral Health Care, his “retirement” includes a job as a part time Behavioral Healthcare surveyor for the Joint Commission. In this role, he travels 10 days out of every month to various locations across the United States.
Randy grew up in rural Southern Illinois. His father and grandfather both owned hunting dogs—Beagles and a Red Bone hound. These two dogs were definitely not pets. During his teen years the family had a mixed Cocker Spaniel which was a pet. Prior to owning a Kerry, Randy and Donna had rescued a small mixed breed which lived with them for many years. Randy’s first AKC dog was a Dalmatian, Pongo, another dog which lived with the Hayes family for many years before his death.
Randy first became aware of the Kerry Blue Terrier when Mick won the 2002 AKC/ Eukanuba National Championship Best of Show in 2002. Randy was impressed with the beauty and grace displayed by the KBT and starting doing research on the breed, eventually purchasing a puppy from a breeder in Colorado.
Diedre Rhianon Bluestockings, aka Nips, flew from Denver via American Airlines the summer of 2002 with her brother who was purchased by a family north of Rockford. Although Randy tried, he could not get Frequent Flier points for flying Nips to Chicago’s O’Hare airport.
Having purchased and read as many books as available on the KBT (and there weren’t that many), Randy followed the suggestions he found, brushing Nips daily, as well as taking her to training — both puppy training and basic obedience.
Finding a local groomer who could do the classic KBT cut was challenging. The closest groomer with experience was in Rockford, 45 miles to the north. This meant that Nips and Randy went every six weeks or so for grooming. After about two years of making this trek, including taking off work early to make week day appointments, Randy decided that he could learn to do the grooming himself. Ordering a video on grooming the KBT and buying the appropriate grooming equipment, table, electric clippers, fine German scissors, etc.
Randy proceeded to groom Nips for the rest of her life. It was never her favorite thing to do, although she liked being bathed. As Nips aged, the perfect KBT cut was relaxed to less severe, light curl look. Randy says that this later cut did confuse people he met out on walks and remembers that he had one woman insist that he had a poodle and would not accept his repeated insistence that Nips was a KBT.
Although Nips had a few fatty deposits under her skin over the years, she was basically a healthy dog. She lived for ten years and passed away one morning after Randy had driven to work. Randy and Nips had taken their morning walk and she seemed fine. On the way to work (a two hour commute) Donna called on the cell phone in tears, telling Randy that she had come down stairs and found Nips dead in the middle of the dining room floor.
Randy turned around, calling work to say he wouldn’t be in until the following day due to the dog’s death. At this point, Randy was semi retired only working two days, every other week so it was relatively easy to adjust his schedule. Nips is now buried alongside Snaps, Donna’s Miniature Schnauzer who had died a few years before Nips, in the Northwest corner of their garden. They made a headstone together (The Poetry Stone Kit) and covered the grave with stones from their garden. The garden is approximately one half acre with a Koi Pond, complete with waterfall and stream. The grave site is an honored spot.
Nips was a pet, not a show dog. Randy and Donna had made the show circuit in the early years of ownership and attended a number of dog shows in the Northern Illinois area. Randy had joined both the Illinois and the National KBT organizations as part of his desire to learn more about the breed. He had also become familiar with the Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation. Although dropping out of the State and National organizations, his affiliation with the Foundation has continued throughout the years.
Nips loved to take walks in the neighborhood and found attempting to chase squirrels a favored activity. She seemed to love nothing better than to pull Randy toward whatever tree or electric pole the furry little creatures had alighted upon. She would attempt to climb the pole, at least that is what it seemed like, and bark at the chattering squirrels. The squirrels seemed to get a lot enjoyment out of this also. In this aspect, Nips lived true to her breeding displaying the characteristic of ‘gaminess.’ Nips also liked to put her nose up to the window or glass door and look outside to see who might be invading her territory, leaving the glass with those so familiar Kerry nose prints we all recognize.
Randy’s journey to become a key volunteer writer for the KBTF newsletter actually began with participating in a cross country rescue. Randy became an avid reader of the KBT web site and newsletter. Early on, Randy and Donna had volunteered to be part of the Rescue process and were able to participate in one cross country rescue trip. They met another volunteer in Moline, Illinois, on the Mississippi River, and drove a set of Kerry puppies across Illinois to another volunteer who took the dogs northward.
As Randy was a published author in addition to his full time job, he responded to a request on the KBT Foundation web site, for a web site author. One of the first articles he wrote for the web site was a review of the children’s book Sociable Toby. As it happens, this book had been a childhood favorite of Randy’s brother-in-law. Finding the book was an adventure in itself, as it was long out of print. Randy was able to find an old released library copy for sale on line so that he could read and then write the article. This remains a treasured book in his library.
There is at this writing one copy of Sociable Toby available on Amazon for $94.12. This price has remained consistent over the last 10 years. It appears to be the only children’s book featuring a KBT and since it is out of print, it is in the rare category. (A copy of this book was presented to the KBTF to be used as a fund-raising event on the KBTF web site just last year) This fact seems to mirror the fact that the Kerry is not among the more popular or well known breeds. Recently Randy has been writing the Cheers salutes to volunteers and other assigned articles for the Foundation Newsletter. You’ll enjoy reading his article on skunks in our summer issue.
Since most of Randy’s writing has been in the area of Behavioral Health, he has enjoyed the variety of topics writing for the Foundation. Meeting the various volunteers, albeit through the internet, has introduced him to the wide variety of KBT owners who have gone that extra mile of giving back to the KBT community.
The KBT professional organizations tend to focus on the show dog and the intricacies of showing. The Foundation volunteers seem more interested and focused on enjoying the dogs themselves.
The Kerry Blue Terrier is a fantastic, intelligent dog. They are inquisitive and fun and always seem to be able to enjoy themselves. This is true of the many volunteers that Randy has met through the volunteer salute articles.
Randy always recommends volunteering in areas that interest a person. There seems to be no better way to meet people and share the love of a topic (or breed of dog) than through volunteering in some fashion. However he does not necessarily recommend writing as an activity for everyone. Writing articles, books, etc. is one area that has brought Randy a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction, although it is not for everyone. The research takes time. Writing an article takes both time and skill. In many ways it seems the shorter the article, the more work is involved. The only writing that is more complicated than short article writing is the crafting of poems, which is another of Randy’s passions.
The writer has to be prepared to have their work edited, an experience that is not for the thin skinned, but necessary to produce a polished and publishable piece of work. Writing is in some ways like preparing a Kerry for a show—a lot of work and discipline and love. You put in the first two, the work and discipline, so that the love that you have for the topic (or the dog) makes either show through at their very best.
The KBTF newsletter is fortunate to have someone of Randy Hayes’ skill and enthusiasm. He always meets his deadlines, his articles are very well researched and are full of personal antidotes. Randy’s writing needs little to no editing, and he makes whatever topic he is tackling his personal special project and works to prepare the very best for our readers.