It’s not unusual for those in the Placentia area to see Sheila and Pat Flynn walking their English Setters.
What people may not know, however, is that while the couple may have two dogs with them on leashes, there are another seven of the same breed waiting to welcome them at home.
“Right now there’s one in the kitchen, one in the hall, a couple in the laundry room area and the rest are down sitting around the chesterfield or in the chairs,” Sheila Flynn said recently.
Flynn’s youngest dog is 17 months old. Her oldest pooch is heading for 12. They are all blue belton and orange belton English Setters, and many have distinguished themselves at dog shows throughout Canada.
The breed is one she’s been familiar with since childhood.
“I grew up with setters. My dad (noted businessman and longtime Placentia mayor Leonard Miller, now deceased) had a Gordon and an English and when we were married we had an English. When I lost him I had a rescue English. Then, she was getting older when I saw an ad in the paper for an English Setter out of Nova Scotia. She was show quality and, in the back of my mind, I knew that was something I’d always like to do.”
A hometown ambassador
Flynn started entering her dogs in shows in 1994. In 1996, she established a Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)-registered family kennel called Plaisance and began breeding English Setters.
On her website (www.plaisanceenglishsetters.com) Flynn educates viewers about not only her dogs but also her hometown and its original name.
A small town located on the Avalon Peninsula of the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador, Placentia was settled by the French in 1662.
Originally named Plaisance, it served as the French capital until ceded to the English in 1713.
“The French name for Placentia — Plaisance, meaning a pleasant place — gave me the inspiration for my kennel name,” she writes.
Flynn’s dogs have won over a dozen competitions. All have national specialty wins. Flynn's name is recognized in competitive circles throughout the province and across Canada.
Alexander, (Alex) who has since passed away, was her first homebred "Best in Show" winner, her first American champion and first international champion. Alex was also first to attain a Canine Good Neighbour title, she said.
“And he was the first English Setter to finish what was then (2009) the Canadian Grand Championship title,” Flynn said.
Flynn’s puppy Joy took top English Setter puppy in Canada in 2013.
A versatile dog
However, her dogs are not only for show. They also make great hunters.
Her first show dog Blossom came to the family in 1994.
“One day in late March, I was looking out the window and noticed her standing very still. When I went out to her, she was pointing a Mourning Dove that was on the ground in the garden. The dove came a couple of times a day for the next six weeks and Blossom always stood and pointed the bird.”
Flynn and her husband took the dog hunting in the spring.
“She would almost be telling you to hurry up in the car when we went hunting. I would spray her coat heavily with a protectant as I was still showing her and we spent many days in the country with her.”
While birds were scarce at the time, Flynn said, Blossom had no problems following the scent to the birds.
“And when she found the birds, she was staunch on point, never moving, waiting for you to come. I shot my first Partridge over her,” she said.
A matter of health
All of the setters in her breeding program have Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) clearances for their hips and elbows and are also certified to have normal hearing.
“The dogs I own have their teeth brushed every day and my eleven-and-a-half-year-old dog still has her skirt and furnishings,” Flynn said, referring to the way she continues to keep the dog groomed.
She also has her own wording to communicate with her animals.
“Most people use ‘shake’ for a dog to shake hands but I use that word when the dog is in the bathtub to shake before he gets out of the tub. And if I’m asking for her paw, I’ll say, ‘Give me five.’”
While she enjoys showing her dogs all over the country and is looking forward to a show in St. John’s in March, the majority of dogs that leave her home are sold as family pets.
They sell for about $1,400 each, but Flynn stresses that she is not running a business. Her costs far outweigh any money she earns in sales.
"We could take a very good cruise for the money we invest each year into our dogs," noted Flynn, who owns and operates a beauty salon.
Her love for dogs is unmistakeable, and is evidenced before a visitor steps foot inside their home. The welcome mat features an image of a Setter, and inside, the walls, shelves, table-tops and more are decorated with photos, books, figurines and other canine-themed trinkets.
Flynn, who is membership chair and treasurer of the English Setter Club of Canada, dedicates a lot of time — up to three hours each day — and money to her dogs. Their secure backyard offers plenty of space for exercise, protection and socializing.
And it's not all fun and enjoyment. At least twice a day, she embarks on a poop-scoop mission.
But she loves every minute of it.
“I don’t smoke. The time somebody else puts into going out to bingo or partying, I put into my dogs. I really enjoy them.”