The Rocky Mountain Siberian Husky Club was formed in the mid 1950s by a small group of enthusiastic Siberian Husky owners and breeders and became the first Siberian Husky club to be organized outside of the parent club. Isolated by more than 2,000 miles from the "Cradle of the Breed" in New England, the Colorado people banded together in an effort to create an awareness of the breed they had come to love and to share its many wonderful qualities with the general public. Early breeders and active members included Lucille Hudson (Stony River Kennels), Ruth Cline (Baltic Kennels), and Beth Murphy (Long's Peak Kennels).
Unfortunately, controversy and internal conflict plagued the club which led to the loss of early records. During this period some members, whose prime interest had been sledding, joined with a group of Samoyed fanciers to form the Rocky Mountain Sled Dog Club. The first "official" race was held in 1960, and the RMSDC remains active today. In an attempt to diffuse the controversy, the RMSHC turned its focus to Obedience and continued sledding and conformation on a limited basis. Though participating in Obedience as well as racing, these enthusiasts recognized that there were quality dogs in the area, and wanted to increase its conformation involvement.
There were few shows in this remote area and driving 500 miles to Kansas, Oklahoma, or Salt Lake City for a weekend was common. It was felt that being able to hold a Specialty Show would provide another opportunity for Siberians to earn major points. Club President Tony Zarlenga was instrumental in beginning the process of becoming recognized as a club and fulfilling the requirements for an AKC license. He contacted Lorna Demidoff and enlisted her support of this endeavor. He remained in close communication with her, apprising her of the club's many ongoing activities in order to convince her to be our liaison to the SHCA and the AKC.
There was no prescribed format set down by the AKC for clubs to become licensed in those days. Our club had held fun matches, participated in many related activities, and felt ready to be recognized. Scrapbooks had been painstakingly compiled recounting the club's many activities as a way to demonstrate to the AKC that the Club was viable and committed to the advocacy of the purebred Siberian Husky. They included pictures, newspaper articles and text which have become a comprehensive history of the Club. They continue to be updated and have served as an example for other clubs. Lorna became not only our liaison, but our advocate.
The AKC required approval by the SHCA. Lorna informed the AKC that she was convinced that we were ready to hold a sanctioned match and that she was going to Colorado to judge it and to see for herself what this club was all about. The first sanctioned match was held on June 26, 1964, at the Englewood City Park Band Stand. The Best of Breed winner, from the 6-9 Puppy Dog class, grew up to be Best in Show Champion Darbo Domeyko of Long's Peak, owned by Ed and Peggy Samberson. Upon her return to New England, the SHCA received the "big news" that things were really happening in Colorado!
Without a doubt, it was through the combined efforts of Lorna Demidoff and Tony Zarlenga that on May 14, 1968, the American Kennel Club approved the Rocky Mountain Siberian Husky Club's request to hold the first Independent Specialty for Siberian Huskies in the United States on November 30, 1968. There were 63 dogs entered. Judge Derek Rayne chose Ch. Tonkova of the Midnight Sun, CD, owned and bred by Janis Church, as the Best of Breed winner. Although the SHCA had been holding specialties since 1940, they were always in conjunction with an all-breed show, and it was not until 1972 that they held their first independent Specialty. The RMSHC, Inc. continues to hold its Specialty Shows on alternate years and will "celebrate the Siberian Husky and have a party for our friends" in April, 1996.
Initially, the RMSHC members were notified by postcard each month of the next meeting and, in 1961, a monthly Bulletin was published. In 1967, this official publication became known as "Husky Talk," a name suggested by Carol Deeks, and featured a masthead designed by Ruth Cline, and lettered by President Ed Samberson. "Husky Talk" continues to serve as a notification of the monthly general meetings, prints articles of general interest, reports show results, and announces upcoming events. A new logo, designed by committee in 1984, adorns the masthead today.
The club participated in myriad activities as its public outreach commitment grew. It strived to educate the public about the Siberian Husky. Most creative of the activities was "Huskapades," which was held from 1961-1969. It was an annual independent Siberian production which included every facet of Siberian activity, and was presented to the general public in the Denver Metro Area. Additionally, dogs and owners performed at civic affairs, gave obedience demonstrations, organized racing clinics, gave conformation demonstrations with children handling the dogs and provided activities for tots to work with the dogs. There was a Siberian Drill Team with uniformed owners which epitomized these public dog activities. The team practiced weekly and performed in countless parades, visited schools and was featured in the opening ceremonies at many area horse shows. The Siberian Husky was very visible throughout each year.
One of its largest philanthropic projects centered around the First Creek School for Retarded Children and the Ridge Home for the Mentally Disabled in the Rocky Mountain area. The club purchased an authentic Santa Claus suit and collected $100's in donations from area businesses. This money was used to make or purchase toys and fill Christmas stockings which were delivered by Santa driving a seven dog team. The dogs and their owners performed at other holiday programs as well. Countless hours were donated to provide pleasure for these children, who were often unable to speak. They in turn derived immeasurable pleasure from the friendly, furry dogs which exhibited endless patience and gave unconditional love.
Public Outreach has continued to be a major focus of this club and members participate in the seminars and showcases sponsored by Colorado Dog Fanciers, Flatirons Kennel Club, Plum Creek Kennel Club, the Rocky Mountain Pet Expo, and Colorado Springs Kennel Club on a continuing basis. It has hosted Judges' Seminars and compiled and produced a large array of printed material for public distribution. Tattoo clinics and a local registry began in the early 1970's and the first eye clinic was held in 1976. Any profits from these yearly clinics are always donated to research or charitable organizations. In 1993, the club began advertising in the Rocky Mountain News' "Pets for Sale" column to offer information about the Siberian Husky to prospective buyers. Members alternate answering weekend ads and usually receive 45-75 calls from interested people. Though not a referral service, this has resulted in the placement of older puppies, adult dogs and rescue dogs into pet homes with owners who understand the needs of this breed. It has sought to inform the public and perhaps reduce the number of dogs in local shelters by assisting people in choosing an appropriate dog as a family pet. The RMSHC donates annually to the SHCA Siberian Rescue Program.
Camaraderie and friendship has been the backbone of this club. Following each show in our area as well as wherever we might be, there is the opportunity for members and fellow exhibitors to gather at a local restaurant or at a tailgate regardless of the outcome of the show that day. Social events are the "glue" that has kept this small club of no more than 50 members, and as few as six, active and interested for 40 years. Our Annual Meeting each December is followed by an indescribable pot luck where the culinary expertise of members, family, and friends is truly on display. In April, the awards banquet, in May, an open house at the Ryan's' in Laramie, WY, in June, a pot luck tailgate in Colorado Springs, in July, the annual picnic, and another tailgate during the Labor Day weekend in Cheyenne, WY, round out the epicurean calendar. Visitors are always welcome and usually enjoy our western hospitality. They comment that they feel welcome and that's the key to what makes this small club viable and committed to move onward.
The pioneer spirit that brought people to Colorado Territory in the early days of the westward expansion keeps us working as a team today and will drive us from our humble beginnings into the 21st century. Welcome to the Rocky Mountain Siberian Husky Club!