North Star was founded on the rock-solid belief that quality matters when approaching the work of partnering a dog with a child with special needs; how could it not, when the potential to awaken opportunities for a child on the autism spectrum exists, as well as the potential for a painful dog bite?
Twenty years ago, these were my thoughts, as I began my original line from a lovely dog I purchased from Karen Webb at Star Crowned Goldens, after a great deal of research about her abilities and vision as a quality breeder for her golden lines. Star Crowned Lady Juliet was an intelligent, tolerant, and social pup who was conceived out of an interesting pairing of Meadowpond Star Crowned Tara CDX, RN, JH, WCS, VC, CGC, and Celestial Sirius Jake CDX JH WC OS SDHF VC CGC.
I personally don’t pay attention to the string of impressive letters after their fancy names, but I have always paid great attention to both the soundness, as well as the temperament, of our North Star lines right from the start...and I know the achievements indicated by these letters are a direct reflection of the dogs' social intelligence, as well as soundness. The reason I went to show breeders at first (before I was able to work with CCI and other larger service dog organizations with a well-established breeding program) was because they were the ones who paid attention to the soundness of the proposed litter, no matter how expensive a proposition this became; Karen Webb was an early breeder to recognize and care about the power of canine behavioral genetics.
Tara's K9 Data Page: http://www.k9data.com/fivegen.asp?ID=1015&type=hip
Jake's K9 Data Page: http://www.k9data.com/fivegen.asp?ID=592&type=hip
The first North Star litter I dared to create and whelp on my own was out of an intelligent partnership between Star Crowned Lady Juliet ("Juliet") and Golden Joy’s Windflower CDX ("Cosmos"). Several pups from this very first North Star litter were paired with children, including North Star’s placement with “Star”, with two boys in Bloomfield, CT, who served his children well until his death earlier this year.
I kept a lovely pup named Suzy from that litter...and there is an interesting story as to how Suzy's name came to be! Here is a clip from a CT Fox news reporter Susan Christiansen (the actual inspiration of the name of "Suzy"), who documented our beginning, and highlighted how the idea of North Star was developed when we gave a friend a dog to work with the foster children she cared for. The success of this endeavor, as well as others like it, encouraged us to create North Star placements as a nonprofit concept.
...and she grew to be partnered with CCI’s (Canine Companion for Independence) wonderfully-stable Kittredge.
CCI’s KItteridge’s K 9 Data: http://www.k9data.com/pedigree.asp?ID=213323
From this litter, I kept an amazing pup named North Star Rosie.
Rosie's K9 Data Page: http://www.k9data.com/pedigree.asp?ID=249452
Here is a picture of Rosie as a young mother...
This mating and many others to come was done via cross-country artificial insemination, with both fresh and frozen surgical implantation, to increase the odds of a successful litter, to reduce the time children needed to spend on our growing waiting list. We were evolving as a quality producer of candidates for assistance-dog placements for children, and I took (and still take) this role very seriously. I was fortunate to have Dr. Ann Huntington available to us for her services in canine reproduction, as she is an expert in this field. Over the course of a decade, we've delivered many healthy North Star litters, with a variety of carefully bred service dog studs from all across the country. Due to the quality of North Star’s work, and our growing reputation for our commitment to careful nonprofit development of this field, we were able to keep children from being "priced out of the market”, or offered a substandard dog or placement because their parents didn’t have enough of the green stuff.
Rosie is still with us at North Star today, serving as our quintessential golden grandma. Here is a picture of her taken last winter by my talented photographer friend, Michael Zaritheny:
North Star Rosie was paired with CCI’s Omsi...
Omsi's K9 Data Page: http://www.k9data.com/pedigree.asp?ID=325618
...to produce some wonderful North Star dogs for placement, including North Star Boots, who you can see below with his boy, Marques:
One of Rosie’s pups, North Star Stitch, lived with two brothers on the spectrum; he hit the big time at the tender age of four months old on the Jane Pauley Show. This national exposure this show afforded us helped to raise awareness and interest in our work. Here is a clip from my interview with Jane, who is someone I greatly admire:
We kept a wonderful Rosie pup to continue this line, and named her Rory, being a huge fan of "Gilmore Girls" at the time; Rory is co-owned with us by a young woman named Alex, whose family did a lot of puppy-raising for us when she was a child. Last year I volunteered at a local university in a class Alex was taking to earn her degree in psychology, and I am very proud of having even this small a role in this puppy raiser’s unfolding adult life. You can see Alex below, with a link to Dan and I’s trip to President’s Obama’s original inauguration:
When Rory’s clearances were passed, she was then partnered with North Star Phoenix...
Phoenix's K9 Data Page: http://www.k9data.com/pedigree.asp?ID=445277
...and they produced several wonderful pups for placements with North Star children. A lovely Rory pup was then kept to carry on the line, and we named her Molly.
Molly was the most sensitive North Star dog we have bred to date...below, you can see her sweetness in action as she balances uncomfortably to nurse her pups efficiently.
Molly had an unusually deep emotional range and amount of empathy, with a strong desire and ability to bond with children; her skills with the small fry were amazing to watch. Molly was not a dog that would survive in a kennel, and, as luck would have it, North Star has a strict policy against kenneling of our dogs. She was retired from breeding after two litters, and is now living with her co-owners, the Keane family in NJ. (The last update was that Molly had glued herself next to the cradle of a relative's brand new baby, and deemed herself nanny to this lucky tyke; even if she is now retired as a “mere” pet, Molly still seeks to create her job as though she were privy to the thoughts in this paragraph.)
North Star Molly was then bred with Apache Oodo Shash of Ocotilla (“Bear”)...
Bear's K9 Data Page: http://www.k9data.com/pedigree.asp?ID=1110
...a dog I hoped would lend our line a kick of confidence that I wanted to move forward, without a loss on the sensitivity front. Molly and Bear were an inspiring pairing that produced a gorgeous, sound and mellow litter of nine pups who you can see lined up below...