It was 1985, and we were on our weekly “field trip.” My husband, Kevin, was in his third year of medical school, and I (Connie) was in my first year of dental hygiene school. We had a four-year-old daughter, Carissa Sue. We both went to school full-time, Kevin worked part-time, and as many college students, we were flat broke.
Our “field trips” consisted of taking Carissa to the pet shop at the mall to see the animals. We couldn’t afford to buy anything, but it was fun to window shop and dream about the hopes that someday all of our hard work would pay off. It was like any Friday night, I had fixed the 19 cent a pound chicken for dinner the way I knew how. Next, we were off to the pet store.
That night, we walked in, and Kevin stopped in his tracks. He spotted a dog in the cages that we had never seen before. He was beautiful. After talking to a store employee, we found out that the breed was an Akita. Right then, and there, Kevin vowed to one day own one of those dogs!
Years of school, residency, and internships went by. Our family had grown from three to five with the addition of our son, Coleman Shane, and our daughter, Cayla Ann.
Again, Kevin mentioned his dream of one day wanting to be able to afford an Akita. We finally took the time to research the breed. We found a fabulous breeder and bought our first dog. Her name was Tigger; she was an AKC show quality Akita.
The next eight years of our lives were dedicated to learning, breeding, showing, and shipping Akitas all over the United States and England. We bred and learned from the best, Lou and Julie. We became friends and co-owned many dogs with them. They were the owners and breeders of the #1 Akita in the world at that time. We had the opportunity of showing many Champion dogs during those eight years. I will be forever grateful to them for their teachings and commitment.
Who knew a phone call could change everything? Kevin got a call from a hospital two hours away to become the Director of the Emergency Room, which meant leaving family practice. It was one of those offers that we couldn’t refuse, however, we chose to for several months.
Finally, we made the decision to move to this new town and make a complete change. Unfortunately, after looking for several months, there was absolutely no place available for the dogs to come with us. The decision had to be made to take Tigger with us, but to sell the rest of our dogs to our friends and co-breeders that we had become so close to.
Even though we were sad, we knew that they would be in a great home, and we could visit them when we wanted to. So, the beginning of our journey and eight years of breeding, showing, and selling dogs ended… or so we thought…
News traveled quickly among our family as everyone learned of the death of our beloved Tigger. We were all heartbroken. For nine years, she had showered us with her unconditional love. We have so many amazing memories and photos to remember her by. Saying goodbye took all we had. How could any dog ever fill her place?
We were longing for the sounds of puppy paws. We knew that we could never replace Tigger, but our hearts were ready for new memories, additional photos, and all the love a dog brings to a family.
A phone call was made to a quality breeder of American Golden Retrievers. Two weeks later, we traveled to another state to bring home our newest love, Izzy, who was named after the 1996 Olympic Mascot.
None of us knew how vital this loving soul would be to our family over the coming years.
It was March 28, 1999 when tragedy hit. Our family was traveling home from a fabulous spring break in Florida. Carissa was now 17 and a senior in high school. We took her, our family, and a group of her friends to spend a week at Siesta Key Beach. We had such an amazing and memorable week.
On our way home, Kevin, Cayla, and Carissa (plus three other friends) were in one vehicle. Our son, Coleman, was following in another vehicle with friends. Connie had stayed in Florida to spend quality time with her grandmother.
As they reached Murfreesboro, TN, they saw the swerving lights just moments before impact. The vehicle was hit by a drunk driver speeding at a rate of 120 mph, and Kevin had to make the hardest phone call of his life. Breaking the news to Connie that our beloved angel, Carissa, was killed. What was to follow in our life was a living hell.
Everyone grieved differently, but one thing remained constant – The love of our dog Izzy. One doesn’t know the impact of a loving dog during trying times like these. They are there to catch your tears, listen to you, and love you….no matter what.
It was October 24, 2001, and we received another life changing phone call. The adoption was finally becoming real. This time, it didn’t involve adopting dogs.
We were adopting a baby girl! We drove to Indianapolis to welcome her as our new daughter and sister, Cassidie Marie.
We were not only on cloud nine, but were so excited we could hardly contain ourselves. God blessed us with this adoption, not to replace Carissa, but to help fill a void that was ripped in our hearts when that drunk driver took her from our lives.
Our family has had our trials and tribulations, but we learned through the grace of God that we will see our angel once again. Meanwhile, our life on Earth must continue forward.
Within three months, Coleman and Cayla graduated college. Coleman married his high school sweetheart, Natalie. Cayla married her college sweetheart, Ben, and life as we knew it changed again…
My wheels were churning, and I was ready for a change. Kevin and I spoke to drunk driving offenders, every other month for 10 years, about the consequences of drinking and driving and our story (as an ER doctor and father, he tried to save her).
Our primary goal will always be to make a difference, not only on the roads, but in homes too. I had a heart to heart with my husband. With tears in my eyes, I said that I missed breeding dogs.
Throughout the last twenty years, it had been a huge void in my life. I loved whelping and raising the dogs. They had gotten me through many hard times. They caught my tears on their fur and let me cuddle with them when it was hard to talk to anyone else.
I loved the “new life” feeling that came with the birth of puppies. The smiles on the faces of the forever families were priceless. The final question was “Kevin, can we start breeding again?” We all know the answer by now….”Yes, of course,” he said!
I was a little giddy and quickly began to do my research. Akitas did not seem like the right breed for us anymore. We had all fallen in love with Izzy, our Golden Retriever.
So, we agreed to research the Golden Retriever Breed. After many months, we found that many breeders and owners faced the same problem that we encountered with our Izzy – Cancer.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in American bred Golden Retrievers. Statistics say 60% of deaths are due to cancer and the hip dysplasia is out of control. With a saddened heart, the search was still on.
Suddenly, it was love at first sight. The first glimpse of English Cream Golden Retrievers was breath-taking. Not only are they big, bold, and stunningly beautiful, but they are healthier than the American bred Golden Retriever.
They have less than half the chance of acquiring cancer and hip dysplasia was not as much of a problem either. It was nothing but a win, win… less vet bills, longer life expectancy, and in my opinion, the most beautiful dogs ever!
Thus, it came to fruition. We started a new family adventure. We became superior breeders of high-quality English Goldens. We started out with a couple litters a year, and the requests came flooding in to be a part of our waiting list.
Our long awaited first grandchild was on the way. We sold our house in another city, picked up, and moved to Carmel, IN. The closer you are to them, the more you can spoil them! We were stoked!
However, our time was limited, and we were unable to find the kind of home with the ample amount of property for the dogs, so we chose to lease a huge home on two acres. It was a great place for the dogs, and very close to our new grandson, Tristan Lucas, born October 3. We found a love like we never knew existed in being a Grandma and Papaw.
We found it! Seventeen acres with a pond in Westfield, IN. “The dogs will love it!” (Did I tell you that I didn’t even care to go through the house before saying yes?!) It meant Cassidie changing schools, but everything turned out perfect! The farm in Westfield is where we decided that we had an immense passion for raising these puppies.
Story after story came flooding in of how they were changing other’s lives like they had ours. Due to the enormous demand of our quality puppies, we made the decision to add more champion imports to our breeding program. We would truly become a family run business as each one of our children joined us in the breeding, whelping, showing and selling of the dogs and puppies.
On March 10th, we welcomed our first granddaughter, Caris Elaine. Our hearts exploded when we learned that she had been named after her Aunt Carissa.
The year of growth. We took to the show ring and won multiple top awards. We added an elite training program with top trainers in addition to a full-time facilities manager.
We also hired a part time vet tech, and added an expansive “Junior Intern Program” with children from ages 12-18. These children were learning about ethical breeding practices and caring for puppies while socializing them.
This allowed us to spend more time researching, learning, and raising the bar for our puppies and forever families. We also added two more amazing grandchildren, Spencer Logan, and Annabelle Sue.
It is very important to us to better not only our breed and others lives, but also our communities both locally and nationally. We are so happy to be able to donate puppies to multiple organizations with amazing causes including Indiana’s Chapter of The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Vines for Life (fighting cancer), Mission Haiti Medical and many local private schools.
One of the events we donated to, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man and Woman of the Year Gala, brought a huge surprise. Sean Hannity, of Fox News, came to us interested in a puppy, and we were able to coordinate it so that he could buy the donated puppy. We were so proud to be able to raise $20,000 for a cause that we hold so dear.
People were finding out that Royal Minidoodles goes above and beyond what a normal breeder does, which resulted in more puppy requests. We were able to hire an integral team member to help us manage our social media presence. We also transitioned our vet tech to full time.
A year of big changes… Subdivisions started popping up in Westfield’s countryside, and we started realizing that Westfield was not the best place to set our roots. We began looking for a better place for the farm.
Meanwhile, we welcomed twin grandbabies into the world, Everett Curtis and Emilynn Ann.
Cayla transitioned into the role of Customer Relations and Training Director with the increase in requests for trained puppies, while our social media manager transitioned into her role as Office Manager as well as connecting our forever families with their puppies. Cassidie even joined in to help take care of the dogs and show them at many shows. She won many awards with her puppies and dogs in conformation classes.
After months and months of searching for a new house, we finally found a home that we thought was perfect. After putting in an offer another life changing phone call happened. The realtor of the house noticed the offering party’s last name was familiar.
In 1999, during his senior year spring break to Florida, he had met a group of people from Logansport on the beach. On the way home from that trip, he and his friends found out that one of the girls they met was hit and killed by a drunk driver. They attended her funeral stating that she was an amazing girl with a contagious personality. What are the odds that this was the family of that girl? But it was!
God has a funny way of working things out. Needless to say, we moved to the new farm in July and have set our roots here.
We love our new location! Located on 20 acres in Sheridan, IN, it is perfect for our fur babies. 10 acres of it is beautiful woods where we have had so much fun taking our puppies and moms on “woods walks”, building confidence through exploration and helping them learn to follow humans in the comfort of their litter with mom as the example.
We continue and strive to grow in our knowledge of breeding, whelping, raising and training the TOP English Goldens in the United States. We use educational seminars, fellow breeders, information from our forever families, research and the knowledge we gain from our own personal experiences to always make sure that we are bettering our breed and raising well socialized and trained puppies.
If you have actually made it to the end of “our story” realize that this is anything but “The End.”
At Royal Minidoodles, we have dreams and goals that are ever expanding. My motto is, “if I haven’t learned something new today, then it’s not time for bed yet!” These dreams and goals are never about us. We continue to strive for excellence by not only breeding healthy, loving, sound temperament puppies, but changing the lives of thousands, by making a difference in everyone we meet.
None of this would be possible without our most important business partner, God. Our goal is to always treat our forever families in a way that is pleasing to Him. Please come meet our family, our moms and dads, and puppies. Remember, we are only a phone call away, smiling on the other end. One phone call could be life changing.