This was published in the Spring 2019 Newsletter. Thought it is so timely since since Dick and Eileen have been so supportive in our efforts to relocate the NAEDA National to Norman, OK this year on such short notice. Originally written by Vada Binick
(Author’s note: Early eskie exhibitors and breeders are a fount of knowledge about our eskies and how the breed and showing practices changed over the years. Dick Kortemeier and his wife Eileen are among the few early day eskie breeders/exhibitors still active. Many of the dogs mentioned in the editor’s conversation with Dick Kortemeier fall into the category “Legends of the Rings”. Dick sent photos of those dogs plus a few photos of dogs he and Eileen owned and/or bred which are NOT mentioned. I have included as many of those photos as feasible. Look at your eskies’ pedigrees. You may find a photo of one or more of your eskies’ ancestors in Dick’s photos.)
Long-time UKC Judge and eskie exhibitor Dick Kortemeier has played an active role in breeding, judging, showing, and promoting American Eskimo dogs since NAEDA’s earliest days.
In a recent conversation with Dick, now 85, he said he met his first eskie in the 1930’s. The dog belonged to his grandfather, who lived on a farm about two blocks from his own parents’ farm home near Oklahoma City. Dick describes his grandfather’s eskie as having a “banana nose, toothpick legs, and a slender body with no coat.” And that dog, said Dick, was an excellent watch dog!
Dick spoke of his early years. He said he became a farm boy himself in 1945 when his family left the home near Oklahoma City and headed to the farm his father had purchased in El Reno, OK. That was where Dick grew up, involved in typical farm boy activities. Dick later graduated from Oklahoma State University (OSU) with a degree in agriculture. Despite the interest and training in agriculture, Dick worked for J.C. Penney through the 60’s. However, when the 70’s rolled around, he left Penneys to sell salt products (salt blocks as well as table salt) throughout Oklahoma and East Texas. He formally retired in the 1990’s
During most of that time, Dick was involved with eskies. He says he started showing in 1972 and became a judge in 1975. And, both Dick and wife Eileen were active in NAEDA. At times both served on NAEDA’s board: Dick as Vice President, and Eileen as Publicity Director and Treasurer. Dick also has helped enliven many an auction at the national meetings.
Back in the early days, Dick became friends with J.D. McNutt, another OSU agriculture graduate. J.D. and his wife Janis attended a show in DeSoto, Missouri where Mr. John L. Wilson and his group formed the National American Eskimo Dog Association in November, 1969. J.D. also was a UKC judge.
Dick tells of him and J.D. loading up the two wives and four children plus as many as 12 to 18 eskies on Thursday nights and heading to dog shows in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Texas, Canada. and wherever else there were shows to be found. Over the years, Dick says they traveled many thousands of miles. Dick said they used a stock trailer pulled by a big Dodge van. He said the dogs were in individual wire crates to keep them safe and were sheltered as needed with a tarp. And, Dick says the dogs got to the shows CLEAN.
According to Dick, the Kortemeiers and McNutts figured out a plan which would work for them and still let them keep their jobs. They exhibited their dogs on Saturday and Sunday, and left the show site for home no later than 2 p.m. on Sunday. At that time the shows were single-breed shows with about 35-50 eskies showing. Unbelievable as it seems, given how far they had traveled, Dick said they generally got home about 8 a.m. on Monday morning.
Dick remembered with fondness eskies which “stood out”. Those eskies included Vegas, bred by Diana Allen; Trooper, bred by Doug Hamilton and Theresa Wright (Prince of Thieves x Lady Hamilton), obtained by the Kortemeiers from Janet Gonzales, Westminster, MA when she was no longer able to keep him; Sparkle, whose sire was Vegas (Sparkle was bred to Trooper and produced Gandalf, owned by Sandy Ray, and Kajin, owned by Sally Bedow); and Lucky, bred by Sue Houck.
Dick related a story about selling Gandalf to a young lady in north Texas. Because of personal reasons she was unable to keep Gandalf and felt he need-ed to be with someone who would be able to show him. Dick said it did not make sense for him to bring Gandalf back because he had so many other dogs in Gandalf’s family. However, Dick tried to help place him. In the meantime, Sally Bedow and Doug Hamil-ton talked to the young lady and the rest is history!
Dick also related a story about an eskie named Mr. Snow of Hi Ho. He said in the mid-seventies, he and the rest of the pack were headed to a show in Wisconsin. Dick and Eileen were looking to find a sire for their bitch Koshe, bred by J.D. and Janis McNutt.
He had heard that an old farmer that lived in Iowa had eskies from Dorothy Zablocki’s old “Hi Ho Ken-nel. That would be a good bloodline since Koshe’s father was from the Hi Ho Kennel. He met the farmer, who turned out to have three male eskies, all of Hi Ho’s background. Of the three dogs, Dick wanted to breed to Mr. Snow as he really liked his looks and conformation. But, given that there were three males, he wanted to be sure the right male sired Koshe’s lit-ter so he did not want to send Koshe to the farmer’s home to be bred. He said goodbye and headed on to shows in Michigan. In our conversation, Dick was thrilled to remember that coatless bitch Koshe took two Best in Shows there. He said the two judges who had “put her up” said that lack of coat enabled them to see her conformation.
Dick later paid $500, a high price for a dog in those days, for Mr. Snow of Hi Ho and had him shipped to Dick’s home in Oklahoma. As Dick told it, Snow was five years old and had five show points to his name. Dick said it took Snow four shows to champion even though he had beautiful structure and movement: “Like any older athlete competing against youngsters, he had to work harder to finish”.
Dick said that over the years Kort-Mar kennels sired 60 champions and grand champions of record and for many years headed UKC’s list of top American Eskimo sires.
Dick says that he and Eileen now have three eskies: their National Grand Champion Lucky, Lucky’s daughter, and a standard 9year old female which nev-er was shown.
Dick recognizes that times have changed. As he put it, “All the people who were showing in the 70s, 80s, and 90s grew older and most of them are not showing anymore..”
Dick also bemoans the lack of new eskie exhibitors coming into UKC. There also are not as many eskies showing. He points out that at the Oklahoma shows, they generally have 35-40 breeds showing with very few eskies. He also believes that with AKC’s recognition of the American Eskimo many people want AKC shows for the prestige, meaning that fewer people are showing in UKC. That’s a shame. As Dick put it, “I hope people come to realize what the UKC shows offer. Your dog wins on its own merits!”
– Vada Binick (written in the 2019 Spring NAEDA Newsletter)