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The Origin of R-Lee Shar-Pei Kennel

The first time I saw a Shar-Pei was in 1983 in an issue of Life Magazine. In that issue there was pictured a black horse coat dog sitting with the pilot in the open cockpit of a small airplane. My daughter, who was a senior in high school at the time, said it was “one cool dog” and we should get one prior to her leaving for college the following fall.

We lived in Cincinnati, Ohio and I found a nearby breeder who had black puppies available. I knew little if anything about the breed other than that they were at risk in China and a few had been imported to the United States. I really only wanted a companion dog as then I was not involved with either dog showing or breeding. I previously had shown and finished a Hungarian Vizslas bitch, but it was just for fun and not part of my ambition in life. Well never say never, as that puppy stole our hearts and we were hooked on the breed, and so was my sister. We called him Whal-Lee because we thought he looked like a walrus. In 1984 we purchased a sable, horse coat, show quality bitch and thus R-Lee Shar-Pei was founded, R standing for Roach and Lee standing for both my sister's first name and my middle name, quickly becoming a major part of our family’s life.

In spring of 1984 we began construction of our pool house as well as the first kennel building. Wah-Lee was now about a year old. One Saturday Harry was talking with the workmen who were building the deck when I let Wah-Lee run free in the yard. He came bounding out to the pool house and one of the workmen commented, "Golly, would you looky at that doggie...looks like he ran too fast and stopped too quick!"... a perfect description of a Shar-Pei with a lot of type, and I frequently recall that comment whenever I see a Shar-Pei with type.

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The Mission and Purpose of R-Lee Shar-Pei

I did not start actively showing Shar-Pei until we produced our first litter, of which four were finished out of the six. I became immersed in learning all that I could about the breed, finding purpose in my life, breeding and now showing them for over a quarter of a century. I spent the early years studying and breeding the black and dilute colors to try and improve their overall conformation so they could become competitive with the more common and preferred fawn, red fawn and red coat colors. An example of this breeding program was Ch. R-Lee Chim Lee, a pigmented cream male that won the six-to-nine month class of 93 entries at the 1991 National Chinese Shar-Pei Specialty.

In 1999 we purchased a red fawn brush coat male, Ch. Elite’s Ticket to Ride, who has subsequently produced multiple champions (see Boo Dog's Legacy of Champions), including the 2005 National Chinese Shar-Pei Specialty Best of Breed winner, CH. R-Lee Xenia Warrior of KDK (a black brush coat bitch), as well as many other specialty class winners. He recently celebrated his eleventh birthday and remains a top veteran producing Shar-Pei.

The favorite Shar-Pei that I have ever owned was Ch. Grayland’s Special Edition R, “Hootie,” who, in my opinion, was the closest dog to perfect in all categories, including structure, type, gait and temperament and was on his way to a great show career when he was lost to kidney disease at the early age of only four years. His greatest triumph in the ring was in New York at, in those days, the Pier Show Shar-Pei Specialties preceeding Westminster. That particular weekend he won Best of Breed on both Saturday and Sunday, only to lose as runner up to Andrew, Shenanigan's Storm Surge at the Garden on Monday. Hootie was the first dog that Harry every showed and then, too, it was Hootie's first time in the ring. No, he didn't win his class that day, but he did become a champion on his 7th month birthday when he took Best of Breed from the classes.

It has been the history of many Shar-Pei to finish their Championship prior to their first year's birthday, which does not seem to be the norm for most other breeds; however the Shar-Pei puppy is a rapidly growing and maturing dog in that first year and ideally will improve as they reach their full potential within the next three years. It has been said, probably too many times, that this is a “head” breed, which is true; however the over-all body has to follow and that is where today we see selections being made in the ring, on head size and type alone, ignoring the rest of the dog. There has been great improvement over the years in front and rear end assembly and in tail sets and topline. The very name of Shar-Pei, meaning sandy coat, should be a major consideration in judging them. Since we have two coats that are approved, but not separated (as is often true with other breeds) in the overall selection in the show ring, more emphasis should be placed on selecting a harsh coat, be the entry either a brush coat or a horse coat. Rarely will the brush coat have the same rough texture as a horse coat but there should be no softness or fluffiness in either coat, except in a puppy coat which may not yet have the desired texture. We all have our “hot buttons” when judging and one of mine is not having a scissor's bite. This bite is paramount genetically for future generations. To reward dogs with less than perfect bites is not doing the breed any favors. The Chinese Shar-Pei Standard specifically states that any deviation from a scissors bite is a major fault!

Overall the breed Standard is adequate and defines the colors much better now than previously. The Illustrated Guide to the Chinese Shar-Pei is, in my opinion, the Bible in applying the standard in picture format. It is available from our parent club, The Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, and at any Shar-Pei judge’s seminar. We need to be more explicit about the Shar-Pei’s movement rather than just saying proper movement is essential. One needs to recognize and reward the dog which converges on center track and which reaches in the front and drives from the rear, the one which literally “floats” as it moves in the ring, and not those that fail to meet these criteria!

I have had my license to judge Shar-Pei since 2003 and was the AKC Breeder Judge for the Top 25 Invitational in 2006 at the CSPCA Nationals and I judged the Breed at The National Chinese Shar-Pei Club show in October, 2007. I have not had the pleasure of judging the Shar-Pei in other countries, although I have been invited to do so, but have seen foreign dogs exhibited in the U.S. and have found them to be relatively comparable to our breed type and standard. Over the years I have exported R-Lee dogs to Australia, South America, England, Russia, and Canada. I hope to have the opportunity to have hands on judging experience in the near future in some of these countries.

I was fortunate to have a great mentor of the breed in Pam Litz who owned Alpha Shar- Pei and who provided me with the basic knowledge and background of this breed. One of the first outstanding Shar-Pei to make his mark both as a stud dog and show dog was Ch. Teabaggy GoGoGorila owned by Pam. Many of our current dogs have Alpha and Grayland lines behind them. An outstanding dog that won the Breed early on at a Westminster Kennel Club show at the “Gardens” and who “made the hair stand up on my arms” was George, Ch. Grayland’s Good News By George, Hootie's grandsire. Remembering his performance still gives me goosebumps! His movement, structure and overall breed type, including a harsh brush coat, was a true package. There are but a handful of dogs in any breed that really stand out and stamp one’s brain with their image. Once you see one, you will never forget it! Harry became involved with handling our dogs nearly full time once he semi-retired from the private practice of obstetrics and gynecology in 1993. Since that time he has been the primary handler for many of our dogs. Specifically he was the only one to ever show R-Lee Boston Black-Lee, "Boss" (or "Boss Man") as we called him, beginning at the Pier Shows in NYC in 1998 and earning his championship status later that year. Also, he was instrumental in finishing several of our other champions, particularly R-Lee First Class Ticket, "Ticket", R-Lee Ticket to Washington, "GW", who is now owned by Sue Davis in Australia and who has earned his Australian championshiip as well as having been the Australian top Shar-Pei in 2002, and R-Lee Izzy B, "Izzy B." And many of you were privileged to see him show our Spirit, R-Lee Sunday Spirit, winning 2008's CSPCA National's Veteran Sweepstakes.

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Description and Location of R-Lee Shar-Pei Kennel

At it's inception R-Lee Shar-Pei was located at our home at 5947 Salem Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45230 - situated on five wooded acres nearly in downtown Cincinnati. Our first kennel, constructed in 1984, consisted of a 20' x 20' brick building from which arose a 20' x 40' concrete kennel run. Several years later we added another building, connecting in a L-shaped pattern, which had five 4' x 8' kennels each with an outside 4' x 12' run. And again, several years after that we added yet another connecting building housing two larger kennels with similar outside runs.

In May, 2002 we moved to our present location at 8546 County Road 222, Logan, Alabama, 35098 situated on forty-two acres. We are located in north central Alabama, approximately half way between Huntsville and Birmingham. We are eight miles west from I-65 at Exit 304.

There was an existing adjacent Morton Building which measures 120' x 45' and which is divided into two sections, the first portion being 65' in length and which is heated and air-conditioned. The original owners lived in that building while the house was being built. We had the people from the nearby Morton Building factory construct our kennel in this heated and air-conditioned building, installed a new septic system on that side of the building as well, and an outside fenced-in run which is 50' x 200' in size. We constructed thirteen inside kennels each measuring 4' x 8' and which lead to 4' x 12' concrete outside runs, accessed via a standard door so that we can easily enter from the inside to the outside, and each has a 'Carlson' insulated pet door through which the dogs also can readily access the outside kennel run.

Photos of R-Lee Shar-Pei Kennel

Exterior View of the Kennel Building

Outside Kennel Run

Outside Kennel Runs

Kennel Office & Dog Jogger

Office and Kennel

Kennels and Collapsed Practice Ring

Photo Background, Kennel Kitchen & Bed

Kennel Kitchen and Bed

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R-Lee Shar-Pei   Patricia & Harry Roach  8546 County Road 222   Logan, AL   35098   Phone 256 739-3116    Fax 256 736-8586