Lee and Claire
We met in 2002. Lee was in the Royal Navy at the time and didn’t have a huge interest in dogs though his family did own a Rottweiler cross. As he was away at sea for months at a time, Claire decided that he should get himself acquainted with the hobby of showing dogs and sent him a couple of books to read!
We had a nomadic start to our relationship. We first lived in Yorkshire, then moved to Dorset before finally settling in Kent where we still live with our children, dogs, cat and chickens. Lee left the Navy and joined the Police where he is busy working his way through the ranks. Claire runs a dog food company – www.vetdiets.co.uk. We are both deeply passionate about Italian Spinoni but we also share a love of gin, fine wines, inappropriate humour and each other! It makes for an interesting life.
Most people only have one affix (kennel name) but because of circumstances, we’ve actually been associated with four!
During the 80’s for a brief period, the Kennel Club decided that they didn’t want so many people to have affixes. It was during this time that Claire got her first dog – a German Wirehaired Pointer. As the breeder was unable to have an affix, she registered the litter using a theme where all the pup’s names started with an “A” then “from” then a word beginning with the letter “H”. At 13 years old, Claire had 7th pick out of 10 puppies and selected a male who was called “Adam from Hapsberg”. His pet name was “Jasper”.
Up until Jasper, Claire had been showing her parent’s GSP in junior handling but Jasper was to be her first step into the showing world properly. He won 6 Challenge Certificates and a field trial to become a full champion. None of the other dogs in this litter got their titles. Jasper was very special to Claire and when she decided to breed a litter, she chose “Hapsberg” as her affix as a tribute to him. In later years, Hapsberg became jointly owned by Claire and Lee. They bred one litter of Spinoni using it and several litters of Border Terriers.
Claire was heavily involved in German Wirehaired Pointers and became membership secretary and newsletter co-editor for the GWP Club. The Chairman of the club at the time was Nigel Greenwood. After a whirlwind romance, Claire and Nigel got married in 1998.
Nigel owned a “sheep gait” on a 900 acre grouse moor in North Yorkshire called “Wasset Fell” which gave him sporting rights plus the ability to keep sheep on the moor. When Claire & Nigel joined forces, they decided that they needed a new affix together. They decided on “Wassetwire” to encompass the grouse moor and the GWP’s.
Tragically, Nigel passed away suddenly in 2001. Claire was to later sign the Wassetwire affix over to their good friends Helen & Rob Foster who still breed GWP’s using it. Claire still owns the rights to the grouse moor.
Anyone who seriously shows dogs will have heard of Afterglow. It is arguably one of the most famous dog kennels in the world and is owned by Michael Gadsby who breeds and shows many different breeds and who has won Crufts twice!
When Claire & Lee married in 2003, Michael and his partner Billy Cannell, gifted them an Italian Spinone puppy for their wedding present. Gadsby made Italian Spinone breed history by making up the breed’s first ever show champion.
Later, Michael went into partnership with Claire with the Afterglow affix and over several years produced several really big winning Italian Spinoni.
As time went on, it was becoming apparent that all the breeding decisions and all the hard work was being done by Claire and Lee. It was decided that it was time for Lee to start getting credit for all his input. We’d bred one litter of Spinoni together under the “Hapsberg” affix so he’d already had the correct recognition for breeding a Show Champion in his first ever litter (Sh Ch Hapsberg Over and Under JW) but we wanted a new name, unique to us and our partnership.
We will always be indebted to Gadsby for the start he gave us in the breed and think that it was quite poetic that the Afterglow Spinoni ended up being the Top Spinone kennel in the UK at the end of it’s existence. Claire and Lee sat for hours picking a name and we came across “Affilato” which is Italian for “Sharp” – our surname.