Nancy Brookes

Blue Water Dutch Cavies

 

Unless you keep Dutch cavies, you may not be aware of this fancier who is indeed a real cavy nut although she has only been seriously involved with cavies since 2002. When I say seriously, I mean seriously as she has become very knowledgeable indeed on animal husbandry, veterinary caring and cavy genetics since discovering the Cavy Fancy in 2002. Another reason why you may not know Nancy is because she is resident in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, that's the present home of the old London Bridge and it is a place with an environment not exactly conducive to keeping cavies as it's too darned hot! As a result, air conditioning is very much a must and all her stud of around 100 pigs were being kept indoors in a spare bedroom until 2015 when she was able to have a purpose built extension,  24  x 14 ,  added to the house.

Nancy actually was born in San Francisco, California but grew up in Novato, a suburb north of the city so was hardly a 'townie' from the onset having a few pet guinea pigs during her childhood but was then, primarily, in love with horses and had two as a teenager. However, she also had rather an itinerant childhood as her father worked periodically on foreign assignments and so she spent time in Bangladesh, later in Laos and Thailand returning to the USA only periodically. Eventually, as a teenager, she was to stay and study at university.

She graduated from the University of California Davis with a degree in Child Development but also found time to marry whilst at university. However, matrimony seems to have been something of a rollercoaster experience for Nancy as she has been twice married and twice divorced. From these relationships though, she has a son, Ron and a daughter JoAnn. Ron has always lived with Nancy and is an integral part of her life as he is a quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair with Nancy his sole carer. JoAnn is a successful architect, currently working in San Franscisco.

Career-wise, Nancy first started worked as a juvenile hall counsellor taking care of delinquents who were detained before going to court. Later, she switched careers and became a teacher, receiving a masters degree in secondary science education from Northern Arizona University. She taught learning disabled students at a high school level and later at the same elementary school where her mother had taught 20 years earlier. During this time, she again had horses, training and showing them and with good results. However, in the late 1980's, she decided to help her daughter through college by taking a second job and so the horses had to go. After a teaching career spanning 20 years, she retired in 2003.

Whilst teaching the handicapped students, she obtained a classroom pet and, as one might expect, it was a guinea pig. Rose was red/white with Dutch like markings and she was soon to be joined by Mickey, a cream and white boar.  Some pretty crossbred pets resulted with three litters being reared but then, in 2002 when searching the internet, she discovered the world of purebred cavies and that was the beginning a whole new hobby and lifestyle.

Originally, Nancy kept short-haired Bi-colours, Tri-colours and Tort & Whites although her efforts at shows were somewhat disappointing. About a year later, she started searching for Dutch but these are rare in the USA and those that had them were reluctant to part with any stock. Eventually, she was able to buy some Red Dutch from a fancier that was selling out and she supplemented this nucleus with any Dutch marked Bi-colours that she could find. However, five years of breeding with this stock produced only three poorly marked showable pigs.

Then in 2009, she found the Dutch Cavy Club website and began writing to U.K. fanciers asking about the possibility of buying good English bred Dutch as she had concluded that the stock in the U.K. was far better bred and with greater potential for breeding winners than the USA counterparts. A phone call to Allan Trigg started the ball rolling and plenty of contacts were soon being made. Chris Peachey, the DCC Secretary, also wrote inviting her to join the Dutch Cavy Club and, of course, she joined being proud to be a member of the Club that represents her favourite breed. Then, she decided to visit the U.K. and buy stock.

The plan was to visit the Margaret Elward Memorial Show at Norton Lindsey on 3rd October 2009 and collect all the stock that had amassed from the months of contact and negotiation. In this respect, Sarah Stribley had been particularly helpful and had even agreed to sell her good Red Dutch champion, Treleaver Ruby plus several other Dutch. Additionally, she had been introduced online to Evelyne van Vliet who then had Chocolate Dutch in addition to her renowned Self Chocolates and who very kindly offered her board and transport during her stay.

As a consequence of all various approaches that had been made during the preceding months, Nancy went home with 38 Dutch from Sarah Stribley, Wilmot Goldsworthy, Chris Peachey, Sally Nye, Evelyne van Vliet, Graham Godfrey, Sue Hearn and Allan Trigg plus five non-Dutch for friends. Of course, once you have all this stock, you also need someone with the ability to fuse all the potential into a successful stud. Without doubt, I think it can now be said that Nancy has achieved this goal as she now has a substantial Dutch stud and one that can turn out 'The Goods' with remarkable regularity. Her insight into genetics and the knowledge of Harvard University research findings has certainly helped and held her in good stead.

Her success has also meant that others in America have taken note of the breed and Nancy is always willing to promote the Dutch cavy and foster interest with others. Anyone seriously interested will be assured of a good start with good basic breeding stock being generously supplied.

Contrary to some other fanciers' ideas, Nancy has concerns about too much inbreeding and she imported more stock from England in 2012 with Cinnamon Agouti Dutch from Sarah Stribley and Red and Cream Dutch from Alan Wilson being imported. This time it was through the kind co-operation of Alan Wilson who transported the stock to Heathrow Airport for the onward plane trip.

Because of her location, Nancy is not averse to travelling many miles to a show whether it is by road or necessitates air travel. Therefore, when she heard about the Real London Show in 2011, she set her sights on a return to the U.K. and visiting the show.

This aspiration was achieved in September 2015 when she was able to attend the 5th Real London Show in Bracknell. The trip was not without mishap as it began with a two hour traffic delay resulting in her missing the intended flight and having to fly out the following day. That's not the end of her troubles as, eager to enjoy the free benefits of our N.H.S., she managed to fall whilst transferring from the plane to the exit at Heathrow and suffered a bad gash on her forehead. A trip to the Royal Surrey County Hospital was necessary and she claims to be 'eternally grateful' to the hospital for the speedy care and the attention she received there.  She realises how lucky we are to receive such benefits and, as a result, was soon on her way to visit Sarah Stribley in Cornwall.

While in Cornwall, Sarah and Ricky, treated Nancy to dinner on the quay at Mousehole and a night out to see a Gilbert & Sullivan performance at the Minack Theatre where the setting is quite dramatic and decidedly different.

Of course, the main purpose of the visit was to attend the Real London Show on the Saturday and she tells me that she had a wonderful time (who doesn't?). She was able to renew acquaintances with fanciers that she met in 2009 and meet others that she had only known by correspondence online. As a generous sponsor, the Show treated her to lunch (Liz Miles and friend should take much credit here) and along with Evelyne van Vliet and myself, we certainly enjoyed a good spread. Several pigs were purchased here, Dutch from Sarah Stribley, Amy Heale and Kaye Thomas along with two Abyssinian boars from Andrew Sparkes that were acquired for a friend, thanks to the scouting efforts of Simon Neesam.

Shows in the USA are organised under the auspices of the American Rabbit Breeders Association and its affiliate, American Cavy Breeders Association and Nancy is, naturally, a member. In addition, she is involved with Utah Cavy Breeders Association, Keep It Hopping Rabbit (and Cavy) Club and San Gabriel Valley Cavy Breeders Association. She also goes to cavy shows run by two Southern California clubs (KIH & SGVCBA) and her entries often take the Best Dutch award and, on occasion, go further having once been Reserve Best in Show. Dutch are gradually becoming more popular in the States although most USA judges are unfamiliar with the breed and don't fully appreciate a good one - a 50 % Markings 50% other standard probably doesn't help. Slowly things are improving though and Nancy has hopes for more Dutch being entered at the ACBA National Speciality Show in Ventura, California this April.

Thankfully, Nancy finds showing cavies and caring for her son, Ron quite compatible and Ron goes to shows with her and her cavy friends enjoy seeing him. In the past, other hobbies included needlework and other crafts but now she admits to being a cavy slave and not having time for much else.  Presently, she has over 100 Dutch in ten colours and it seems a few Tortoise & Whites for good measure. With such numbers, she could well claim to probably having the largest Dutch herd(USA)/stud(UK) in the world . That's unless someone knows different. Her current goal is to convince the Animal Plant Health Agency in the UK that cavies from the States can be allowed in the country without the need for quarantine. If that happens, she plans to bring a few Dutch and possibly a Tort & White to a future Real London event. Hopes are that she will again attend the show this year or next with or without cavies.

ALLAN TRIGG