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Farmington breeders are among the best

Connie Townsend, left, and Lynn Brady have been showing and breeding kuvasz, a little-known breed that originated in Hungary, for the past 20 years. They are the American Kennel Club Breeders of the Year for working breeds and could be named overall Breeders of the Year in December.

The puppies Lynn Brady and Connie Townsend hold in their arms look a little bit like what might happen if a polar bear mated with a cotton ball. They're animated puffs of fur, all white except for the purple dye marking their shoulders, and for the past two decades they and their ancestors have been an increasingly important part of the Farmington pair's life.

Now, the work that Brady and Townsend have done with the dogs, a breed called a kuvasz, has earned them some special recognition from the American Kennel Club. The pair and their Farmington kennel, Szumeria Kuvasz, have been named AKC's Breeders of the Year for the working group, and they have a chance to be recognized as overall Breeders of the Year later this year.

Even the working group recognition is a big deal, though. Kuvasz, a Hungarian breed developed to guard livestock, are still relatively unknown in the United States. A kuvasz-specific national dog show might draw about 45 dogs, while a show for dobermans, another breed in the working group, will draw 500 or more.

Townsend said the announcement of the award took her by surprise.

"I'm not usually at a loss for words, but I was at a loss for words for that one," Brady said. "For a small breed like ours to be recognized in this fashion is an unbelievable honor."

The AKC award recognizes breeders who have dedicated their lives to improving the health, temperament and quality of purebred dogs, and by that measure Brady and Townsend appear to be worthy recipients. They have been active participants in medical studies aimed at finding ways to identify health problems in dogs, and they were the first to use x-rays to look for problems with their dogs' elbows. By identifying problems early, they said, they can ensure they are not passed on to future generations.

They have trained their dogs to compete in obedience and agility competitions and for use as therapy dogs, something most had told them the possessive, willful kuvasz would never do.

And then there are the competition results. The dogs from Szumeria Kuvasz are some of the most decorated around. The first female they showed was the first female kuvasz anywhere to win an all-breed show, and in the 20 years they have been showing three of their dogs have set records as the most decorated kuvasz ever, each breaking the last's record.

Just right

Brady and Townsend came across the kuvasz when they were looking for a dog, and Brady said she knew right away it was the breed for her. Still, it was seven years before they bought their first show dog. They started breeding not long after that in an attempt to refine and improve their dogs. Their operation grew gradually over the years, and now they have more than a dozen dogs in a large kennel building on their rural Farmington property. Several are puppies. Some are dogs they have sold, then taken back when the owner was no longer able to care for them.

On a white dry-erase board they keep track of the dogs they have, their current weight and their diet as well as their results in shows.

Breeding, caring for and showing the dogs takes a lot of time, but it's still not a full-time venture. Brady and Townsend own a boarding kennel in West St. Paul that allows them to pay the bills.

They love what they, but kuvasz are not for everyone. They need structure.

"You need to be smarter than they are or they'll run your life," Brady said. "It's like having a lot of 13-year-olds around."

The dogs are also very protective, and they like order. Bred to protect livestock, they tend to view anything around them as something to be looked after, and they don't like it when things change.

Brady and Townsend still love the dogs, though, and they love the role they have in making the breed better. That, they say, is the role of a breeder.

"If you can't do that, then you're just having puppies," Brady said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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