It’s impossible to say when Marcia Keller first came in to my consciousness. One of the Collie icons – like Mrs. Ilch or Mrs. Long – somebody whose character, integrity, intuition and competitive spirit were to be admired and hopefully, emulated. She just always WAS. First with beautiful Collies from the GinGeor family, some via Wayside, then blended with Twin Creeks and Twin Oaks . . . but all descended from the original Marnus foundation. And all sharing the same virtues of exquisitely detailed head properties and engaging sweet Collie expressions. And usually blocking our path to the front of the line at the specialties.
Since Gayle is filling in the historical details, it’s a luxury to share a few personal experiences of my idol. One was at a show where Marcia’s still child-like curiosity became apparent . . . I’d bought a funky-looking slicker at the Garden one year and was using it at my setup on the opposite side of the grooming tent. It didn’t escape her notice – “I see something in your hand I’ve never seen before. What does it do? Can I see? Does it work?” Even sixty years deep into her obsession, Marcia’s mind was an open invitation to any opportunity to learn something new. From anybody.
It still takes a pinch to absorb the reality of the Kellers choosing to breed their fine bitch, Ch. Marnus Happy Go Lucky, ROM to Ch. Barksdale Beneficiary, ROM. They’d recognized a nice family nick with Joan Kirkland and Marge Lelito’s Craig daughter, Ch. Kirkhaven Sugar Babe, whose dam was a daughter of Ch. Marnus Royal Gold. At the same time, I’d admired their CCA winner, Ch. Marnus Make My Day and considered him as a good sire prospect for one of my Craig daughters, Ch. Conewago Rosslane Th’ Good Wych. We made arrangements to trade choice puppies in lieu of paying stud fees, and it was a distinct honor to host Marcia at Barksdale for a few days while Lucky was being bred.
The week was enjoyed as with adolescent girlfriends; the popular, clever girlfriends . . . staying up late, telling stories, laughing and trying to stay out of trouble. It started with rescuing Lucky after an enthusiastic dive into the early-April frigid pool, followed by trying to outsmart her stealing from the cat bowls without banning her to the (horrors) kennel. (Besides, Blush had been a privileged guest at Marnus, even welcome to share my guest bed at their home 10 years prior.)
It was exploring the woods to identify and pilfer wild Carolina-native plants to decorate the deck; an expedition to flea markets and thrift shops for pots to kindle their growth and beauty. It was giggling about her favorite four-letter “F” word. Free. It was a visit way too short.
Lucky and Glinda’s pregnancies proceeded uneventfully and both whelped vigorous healthy litters. As my puppies grew, it was becoming apparent they hadn’t met the high expectations anticipated at their conception. Fortunately, evaluations from the Kellers about Lucky’s litter were optimistic. As we left late that summer to meet at Sunnybank to collect our bitches’ dowries, my puppies were loaded in their crates with dismay that our end of this deal just might come up short.
The Marnus puppies were beautiful. All of them. One little white-nosed sable bitch in particular. She was already a miniature adult in proportions and bearing. No point in even asking. The pleasure of a Craig daughter in exceptional hands where her promise would be optimized would have to do. “Nancy, my choice is the male,” whispered Marcia. She and Ron had both read my face when the sable puppy struck that little pose . . . and laughed . . . they’d already determined she’d be my pick. “Which male?” I hadn’t noticed him.
Ch. Marnus Lucky Strike continues to write his own history; a CCA BOS and Merit Award winner, and sire of two CCA BOS winners, and RD and other top ten specials. A sister, Ch. Marnus Lucky Penny would produce CCA BOS winner Ch. Lyncryst's Reflection. “Marsha,” Ch. Marnus Living Daylights came home with us and completed her title with rewarding wins and has added a new dimension of qualities to the Barksdale family. The carefully molded Marnus muzzle and frontal bone and flat cheeks with properly set and shaped natural ears persist in harmony with the virtues instilled by their Shenstone and Tartanside ancestors. In our futile pursuit of perfection, Marcia’s lifelong efforts made an instant impact on our forward progress.
And the puppy from my litter? “A deal is a deal,” I was reminded as their choice was gently settled in their ex-pen en route to a life as an adored companion. “Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Marcia Keller was truly my hero and it’s the entire Collie world’s good fortune that she chose Collies to blanket with her unlimited talents and contributions.