Pacing ringside, Matthew Stander looks like a man whose nerves are about to come unhinged. His partner, Gene Zaphiris, takes a different approach, leaving the building or watching from so many rings away, one would never associate him with the Skye Terriers being shown in the ring Matthew is watching. A lifetime of breeding and showing dogs cannot take away the heartfelt anxiety that creeps in when one of their Cragsmoor Skye Terriers is in the ring.
Until he retired after the 2016 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, “Charlie” (GCH Cragsmoor Good Time Charlie), a 5 ½-year-old silver-platinum male, was the one charming it up with handler Larry Cornelius. The winningest Skye Terrier in breed history, Charlie is a throwback to his sire, CH Finnsky Oliver (“Willie”), a black Finnish male Gene and Matthew imported in 1994.
“Willie was the greatest Skye I ever saw,” says Gene, his voice choked with emotion, remembering the top-producing sire who gave them Charlie as well as other multiple-Best in Show winners. “I promise you, my heart stopped when I saw Willie. To this day, he is still the best one, everything I think the breed should be.”
Named the American Kennel Club Terrier Breeders of the Year in 2014, recognizing their success in breeding Skye Terriers, Gene and Matthew reflect humbly on the 136 Bests in Show and more than 550 Terrier Group Firsts they have accumulated since their start in the breed in 1972. It all began with a puppy bitch whose dam, CH Glamoor Good News, won Best in Show at Westminster in 1969.
Native New Yorkers, their friendship with the late Walter Goodman, who bred and owned “Susie” with his mother, Adele, led to their getting “Gaga” (CH Glamoor Too Good To Be True), as Gene had become smitten with the short-legged, drop-coated breed from frequent visits to Goodman’s home on Oyster Bay, Long Island.
“I love dogs that have a lot of coat because I like working with their hair,” Gene says. “These Skyes were really cute. All our Skyes have ‘Good’ in their registered name as a tribute to Walter Goodman.”
They bred Gaga to a prominent male, CH Gleanntan Coming At You, who gave them “Sylvia” (CH Cragsmoor Good N Plenty). Sylvia produced a Westminster Best of Breed winner and two Skye Terrier Club of America (SCTA) National Specialty Best of Breed winners.
Well-known to the dog fancy, Gene and Matthew are the publishers of DN Dog News Magazine, renamed last year after the former publisher folded Dog News. Traveling the circuit thousands a miles a year with their jobs has not allowed ample time for breeding or showing, yet their achievements in Skyes, plus several other breeds, are impressive.
“We’ve been blessed with our success in the show ring and the recognition our dogs have received,” says Gene. “We’ve also been fortunate to have some great partners and handlers on our dogs.”
The Beginning of Cragsmoor
In April 2016, when he learned that Dog News was ending after 32 years of publication, Gene was lying in a hospital bed recovering from double-knee replacement surgery. “My initial reaction was to let it go,” he says. “But then, I thought long and hard and realized, we love doing this magazine.”
Re-establishing the publication, including getting legal rights to its trademark, meant
relocating from its office on Broadway at 25th Street in Manhattan across from Madison Square Park and the American Kennel Club to a comfy, spacious converted barn on Matthew and Gene’s Oyster Bay Cove property. Their daily commute turned into a golf cart ride up the hill.
So far, so good, they agree.
When they began Dog News in 1984, after a 12-year stint publishing Show Dogs Magazine, they wanted to publish a weekly newspaper. Over the next 10 years, it morphed into a four-color weekly magazine to support the beautiful dog advertising throughout the publication.
The flooding of their Tuxedo Park, New York, home in Orange County forced them to shut down Show Dogs Magazine. “When we were at Westminster, we lost the house. The pipes in the house froze, and as a result, there was major water damage. I walked out of there with the dining room table and a plant,” Gene says.
After a couple of years living in a New York townhouse at East 92nd Street and Park Avenue, they moved to a house on the North Shore of Long Island, Oyster Bay Cove. Four years later, they bought the 5-acre property where they live now. The former sea captain’s home with eight bedrooms and six fireplaces, dating to 1880, has been remodeled many times.
Life is never boring. Six house dogs include four Skye Terriers, a Brussels Griffon and an English Toy Spaniel. There’s also a black-and-white longhaired cat named Eartha Kitten after the famous singer.
The Skyes are GCH Cragsmoor Buddy Goodman (“Buddy”), the second top-winning Skye Terrier in breed history and Charlie’s uncle; GCH Cragsmoor Good Times At Bannerdown (“Winnie”), Buddy’s daughter; GCH Cragsmoor Adele Goodwoman (“Adele”), Charlie’s dam; and GCH Cragsmoor Good Girls Don’t (“Lindsey”), Charlie’s litter sister. The Brussels Griffon, CH Talk Dirty to Me (“Howie”), who was bred and leased from a breeder in the U.K., became their pet after Gene fell in love with him on a trip to California, and the English Toy was the pet of their housekeeper, the late Celia Lopes.
Their prefix, Cragsmoor, comes from a kennel Matthew owned in upstate New York in Cragsmoor from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. When his love of hounds outgrew his top-floor apartment at East 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue, Matthew started the kennel in rural New York and hired a manager to run it.
“I really wanted a Black and Tan Coonhound,” Matthew says. “I knew one that lived on Fifth Avenue. I would see people walking this coonhound, and I liked his sloppiness.”
He contacted his aunt, Dorothy “Dottie” Goldberg, who co-owned a pet shop with Sunny Shay, the breeder, owner and handler of the 1957 Westminster Best in Show winner, CH Shirkhan of Grandeur, an Afghan Hound, to help him find a breeder. When a coonhound couldn’t be found, Matthew ended up with a Bloodhound, The Ring Zorro (“Huck”). Owning a Bloodhound in New York City meant getting up for exercise walks in Central Park at 4 and 5 a.m. and hiring the first professional dog walker, the late Jim Buck, for twice daily romps when Matthew worked.
Curious to see the Bloodhounds at New York’s famous dog show, Matthew went to his first Westminster in 1963, where he met a professional handler, the late Harry Manning, who had won the breed with The Ring Ubiquitous, who was Huck’s sire. Sadly, the sire died that night when his stomach bloated, years before gastropexy preventive surgery to tack the stomach became common.
“I had never heard of a professional handler,” says Matthew. “Huck was from his sire’s only litter, and needless to say, Harry and I became fast friends.”
An attorney, Matthew was working as Director of Development for the former Kenton Corp., which owned discount retail stores and high-end brands such as Valentino Couture and Cartier. He made frequent trips to Milan and Rome and was instrumental in bringing the first Valentino store to Madison Avenue.
The Cragsmoor Kennel started with Bloodhounds, and then Matthew added Whippets. “At one time I had 14 Whippets,” he says. “I loved them incredibly. They had such a cuddly disposition. The whole property was fenced, and these Whippets would run back and forth and exercise the Bloodhounds.”
As Matthew met more people in the dog fancy, he added other breeds. Dachshunds, Beagles and the first Rhodesian Ridgeback imported to the U.S. were part of Cragsmoor. Among the champions were two No. 1 Bloodhounds, CH Cragsmoor’s Bacchus of Mareve and CH Casscade’s Columbo of Dakota, the first independent National Specialty Best of Breed winner.
Gene, who was friends with Goodman, also knew Shay, the woman who co-owned the Afghan Hound Westminster winner. “I would go to Sunny’s house every day. That’s how I learned about dogs and showing,” Gene says.
In 1971, Shay introduced him to Matthew. That was 46 years ago.
After they became partners, Matthew and Gene sold the Cragsmoor kennel, though a
few of the dogs moved with them to their home at Tuxedo Park. One was a Bloodhound, CH Cragsmoor Dionysus, who won the breed at the 1978 Westminster show.
A Turning Point
In 1972, the same year Gene and Matthew got Gaga, their first Skye Terrier, from Goodman, they got their first Airedale Terrier, CH Querencia’s Gaby of Cragsmoor (“Gaby”), which led to a partnership with Maripi Wooldridge and Jennifer Stevens of Terrydale Airedales in Mebane, North Carolina.
“I love the Airedales,” Matthew says. “They are like clowns.”
In December, they lost their Australian-bred Airedale, a 14-year-old bitch named “Margaret” (CH Old Iron Margaret River), who was the last terrier professional handler Peter Green campaigned before retiring. After becoming the top-winning Airedale bitch in history, she went to Matthew and Gene’s, the minority terrier among the Skyes.
Another prominent Airedale they co-owned was “Felix” (CH Terrydale’s Int’l Affair), a male who won the breed at the Garden in 1999 at age 10 and was the top-producing sire in the history of the breed. Many other Airedales they have co-owned, such as CH Terrydale’s Mystifying ME (“Mary”) and CH Terrydale HK Moraine Spin (“Blair”), have been Best in Show winners and National Specialty Best of Breed winners.
The English Toy Spaniel is another breed Matthew and Gene have bred sporadically. Their interest in the breed piqued watching breed judging at several dog shows in England. Their male, CH Cragsmoor Murray, is the most titled English Toy Spaniel worldwide.
Without a doubt, it is Gene and Matthew’s achievements with the rare Skye Terrier breed for which they are best known. A courageous, working terrier from the northwestern islands of Scotland, the Skye Terrier is twice as long as high. The breed is agile and strong, yet elegant and dignified. Most agree, the Skye has a tenacious grip on the affections of those who get to know the breed.
“Now and again, when Larry would call us to report losing the Group to a better known terrier breed, we would laugh and tell him, ‘Oh, well, it’s only a Skye Terrier,’” Gene says.
Winning more than 200 Terrier Group Firsts during his career, Charlie won 79 Bests in Show, nearly double the 41 Buddy earned, to become the top-winning Skye of all time. The No. 1 Terrier in 2014 and 2015, Charlie took Best in Show at the AKC National Championship in 2014 and at the National Dog Show in 2015. At Westminster, he won Reserve Best in Show in 2015 and repeated Terrier Group First in 2016.
“Charlie and Willie are the only father-son duo to win the Terrier Group at the Garden,” says Gene. “Without a doubt, getting Willie was a turning point for us. We had early success with females, but Willie gave us some very good males.”
Handled by Gene, Willie, at 6 ½ years old, won the Terrier Group at the Garden in 1996. Having won the Terrier Group at the World Dog Show in Berne, Switzerland, in 1994, Willie was the first terrier to win the Group at these prestigious shows. Gene also handled Willie to two Bests of Breed at the STCA National Specialty.
Gene fell in love with Willie when he saw him at a show in Finland en route back to the States with Matthew after judging a dog show in St. Petersburg, Russia. “We tried to buy him, but his owner, Kirsi Sainio, wouldn’t sell him,” Gene says. “We convinced her to lease the dog to us.”
After Willie was returned to Sainio, she changed her mind and sent Willie back to Gene and Matthew. They became good friends with Sainio. Today, they often partner on dogs and breedings.
Charlie, who is Willie’s most famous son, came from a dual-sire frozen semen breeding to Adele. Willie’s son, “Walter” (CH Finnsky Excalibur), a four-time Best of Breed winner at the STCA National, the last time at age 10 from the Veterans class, was the other contributor. “I wanted a litter, and I was afraid Willie’s semen was too old, which is why we used two sires,” says Gene.
Adele went to Woodridge’s home to await the breeding that would be performed by Dr. Katherine Settle of Sanford, North Carolina. Progesterone testing was done every six to 12 hours. “Dr. Settle called me and wanted to know which sire I wanted most,” Gene says. “I told her, ‘In my heart of hearts, it is the father.’”
Dr. Settle implanted Willie’s semen first, followed by Walter’s. Six puppies — four males and two females — were born. All were Willie’s except for one male. Gene and Matthew kept the Willie boys, all which became finished champions, and one female, and they sent the other female to Sainio in Finland. The Walter boy went to a home in Texas, where he does obedience work.
Although they don’t currently have a Special on the circuit, their lives are busy traveling to dog shows every weekend for DN Dog News Magazine. It never grows old, you can tell by the glimmer in their eyes.
“We just want to keep on doing what we’re doing,” says Gene. “It’s been a very good life.”