We received sad news this morning that our breeder, Lisa DeForest, passed away last night after several months from a not-fully-understood, but debilitating illness that had left her increasingly weak and struggling to breathe.
She was a quiet person, never one to brag, although she had plenty of reasons she could have been forgiven for. Over her career as a breeder, she produced two Dual Champions -- Selkie (1986) and Jason (2001) -- and provided the dam or sire to at least four others. Selkie was by all accounts a remarkable dog and was the first (and may still be the only) vizsla to win both the National and the National Amateur Field Championship in the same year, 1988. Lisa also produced the 2005 National Field Champion, Mason, a dog that she herself handled to a 2nd in the 2005 National Amateur Field Championship and a 3rd in last year's National Amateur Field Championship -- from which this picture is taken; he also took 2nd in the last year's National Gun Dog Championship. Lisa was committed to producing hard-running vizslas, believing that field-trialing performance was a reliable indicator of a dog's intensity, stamina, and style -- and Skip Wonnell's Vizsla Field Trial Database has forty dogs that have earned trial placements listed in it that bear Lisa's kennel name, Upwind.
Our two boys share a common grandmother, Wylie, who while not strictly an Upwind dog was co-owned by Lisa and Wendy Russell at Widdershins and took 3rd at both the National Field Championship and the National Gun Dog Championship in 2003. Lisa and Wendy collaborated on a number of breedings and co-owned a number of great dogs together -- and while our dog, Jozsi, was whelped at Widdershins, I feel as though it was more than good fortune that Lisa happened to come by when I was picking him up. Another of the genuinely great dogs she contributed to is Yogurt -- it is genuinely sad to know that we lost both Yogurt's owner, Patrick Cooke, and Lisa within a year of each other -- and I was amused to hear from Deb Goodie this past weekend how Patrick chose such an unusual name for his dog. I gather that he had been at a trial following a brace that Lisa was handling one of her dogs in and while everyone has their distinctive holler, Lisa's was "Yo! girl!" Patrick misheard it and subsequently decided to name his dog 'Yogurt' in honor of that performance.
I spoke to Lisa quite frequently this fall and winter about Jozsi's progress as a Derby dog and even as she found it increasingly difficult to gather air and talk, you could always feel her pride in knowing that one of her dogs was doing well and having fun. We joked in December that she was looking forward to watching him at Nationals some day -- and that she hoped we'd be sharing the podium with her. Whatever happens this fall, it makes me sad to think she won't have that opportunity -- at least not down on the ground from horseback. Hopefully the afterlife looks a lot like a trial ground that you can enjoy with all your great dogs.