Birnam Wood - Golden Retrievers - USA

Bill and I started out in Goldens 12 years apart and divided by half a continent. We had entirely different aspirations as new Golden owners.


I only wanted a family pet. On my mother’s wise advice to consider a Golden Retriever, I looked in the local Dayton, Ohio newspaper and found one lone six-month-old puppy. She was the last one left in her litter. The year was 1966. I named her “Lover.” My mother also enrolled us in obedience classes, and as has happened to so many Golden fanciers, after eight weeks of instruction Lover rose to the top of her class. We won a 79-cent winged victory trophy, and I was hooked.


Bill began on the West Coast in 1978, when he purchased a male puppy, “Tracker,” from a local breeder, and a female puppy, “Nokomis,” from Terry & Julie Hubbs’ Chaparral Kennels. Both were champion-sired, and Bill wanted to show them. Neither hopeful turned out as anticipated. Bill kept after it with other dogs, but was disappointed many times again.


Things changed for Bill when Marty Youmans gave him “Fancy,” Ch. Goldstar’s Fancy Flyer. She was a daughter of Ch. Dawn Heir’s Morn’N Breeze, OS, a dog Bill liked a lot. Fancy was bred twice to Ch. Goldwing Blue’s Boy UD, WC, OS, SDHF, which produced the first of Bill’s Starring champions. He kept a bitch from the first litter who became Ch. Starring Dust ‘N Dawn Heir, “Dusty.” She finished her championship quickly and gave Bill the confidence to continue showing his own dogs.


Earlier, back in Ohio, I had acquired a young blond male from Howard & Marcia Henderson, Am-Can Ch. Tracer of Duckdown CD. They showed him to 14 points, including three majors. I won my first points (a 3-point major) to finish him. Handling certainly wasn’t my forte, but most Goldens back then were shown by their owners.


CH. Asterling’s Buster Keaton, OS – Ace was bigger than life and a living legend. His influence as a sire has been long lasting. Best of all was the relationship he and Bill shared. There won’t be another like Ace.

Bill was awarded the Golden Retriever Foundation`s Award of Merit for his service and contributions to the rescue effort at the 2006 Gala.

CH. Birnam Wood’s One Step Ahead – Bertha was old-fashioned in style, but built solidly and had the best temperament. She produced nicely as well. This picture was taken by Jim Schmiesing in 1979.

Bertha won the Brood Bitch class at Fort Detroit GRC’s Specialty. She was handled by Sylvia’s daughter, Heather. Judy Glasgow and Gayle Nash showed Bertha’s kids.

CH. Birnam Wood’s Douglas Furr, OS – D.J.’s beautiful head had the softest expression with a lovely ear set. He was an Outstanding Sire at three years of age and enjoyed a long and productive life as Sylvia and Andrew’s heart dog.

Handsome D.J. winning a major from BBE under Roy Ayers. He also placed Brooke BOB this day and Group 1st, which put her in the Show Dog Hall of Fame.

CH. Asterling’s Tahiti Sweetie, SDHF – Vincent Perry wrote in Dog World magazine about judging Brooke at 10 months of age: “On Sunday I judged a splendid entry of Golden Retrievers. Best of Breed came from the specials class, a bitch so beautiful I wanted to stand up and cheer. Imagine my surprise when informed that this dog, too, was a puppy, who had already completed her championship. She was quite mature, beautifully formed and moved like a dream.”
This was the 1982 Detroit KC benched show and she was BOB over her sire and dam!

Derek Rayne awarded Brooke Best in Show over an entry of 3,000+ dogs at Houston KC in 1994. This was her 11th BIS. Earlier in the day Mr. Rayne awarded Brooke Best of Breed at the GRCA Western Regional, which gave her Best of Breed wins at all the GRCA Regionals and the National Specialty. A record still not equaled.

A candid shot of Brooke, her sire Judge and her sister Layla. Jean Crowley owned Judge and Layla was leased to us by Suzanne Wilson.

CH. Goldrush’s Judgement Day, OS – Judge was one of Sylvia’s favorite dogs to show – always up and ready for the game. Brooke inherited his zest for life and while her lush gold coat came from Aruba, her structure and animation was from her sire.

Sylvia was awarded Life Membership to GRCA in 1988 for her service and contributions to the club. She is the youngest member to achieve this award.

CH. Asterling’s Jamaica Verdict, OS, SDHF – Sylvia’s favorite shot of Dust from the BOB ring at the ’91 National Specialty waiting their turn to gait. He had won the 10-12 Veteran class. Sylvia said she was thinking it might be the last time they were together – and it was. He was a great dog. Owned and loved by Bill and Kathy Voegel.

AM-CAN CH. Birnam Wood’s Amaize ’N Blue, OS, SDHF – Named after the 1989 National Champion University of Michigan Wolverines, Blue’s first outing at four months resulted in a Best in Match.

This is one of our favorite shots of Blue – perfecting the art of reach and drive.
He was the #2 Golden in 1993 and had 7 Bests in Show and several Specialty BOBs.

CH. Birnam Wood’s Show ‘N Tell – Chelsea was a fun bitch for us to show. She was always up and her favorite bait was a stick. She finished with a Group 2 from the classes. Chelsea was co-owned and lived with Donna Thompson.

This is Chelsea’s finishing shot at the summer Portland shows. It was a major and about 100 degrees – we were glad to head back to cool Northern California.

The “Fire” litter at the NorCal Specialty 1992 – what a fun day for friends. Buzz Splittgerber (Kachina) awarded Victor BISS. All these dogs were later pointed and two finished their championship.

CH. Birnam Wood’s Have A Cigar – Beautiful Houston was one of the happiest dogs – always smiling. He spent his life with Carly Simpson as her Juniors dog. They won many Best Junior Handler in Show awards and were finalists at Westminster in 1997.

Birnam Wood’s Xception Rules – Donald Sturz awarded Maggie Best of Breed at the Western Regional Specialty from the Bred-By Exhibitor class. A few weeks later she was awarded Best of Winners at the Central Regional from BBE. We think she was one of the best bitches we have produced. Unfortunately, she developed pyometria and was spayed – such a disappointment and loss to our breeding program.

CH. Goodtimes Rule At Birnam Wood, SDHF – Bill piloted Ruler to BOB from puppy class to Best of Winners at the ’94 National to Best in Show at Santa Clara KC in 1996.

A fun shot of Haley, Sylvia’s grandson Josh and baby Ruler playing ball at her mother’s home in Ohio, Thanksgiving 1993.

CH. Birnam Wood’s Austintacious – Austin was 1997 Puppy of the Year at the Top 20 Invitational. She finished with a specialty win and was known as “TAB II.” Austin was co-owned and lived with Ginger Garrett and Anny Morrobel-Sosa.

CH. Birnam Wood’s Toad You So, OD – Toad never had a bad day. She won RWB at the Western Regional from Bred-By Exhibitor and finished at the GRC of San Diego specialty show. We see a lot of Toad’s enthusiasm in her grandson, Gibson. Toad was co-owned with Jeff Chaffin and lived with us.



I also bought a bitch puppy, Ch. Beckwith’s Christmas Holly CD, WC, from Ludell and Dick Beckwith. On the way to her championship, I attended my first National Specialty in 1970, where she won Reserve Winners Bitch. “Dingles” also earned a WC at the 1972 Central Regional Specialty. She was seven weeks pregnant and only two other Goldens passed.


On a trip to the Western Regional in 1974, I spotted a dog I thought was the poster child for the breed: Ch. Autumn Lodge’s Mister Zap CD**, OS. I had won Winners Dog, finishing “Clipper,” Ch. Spannen’s Matchmaker CD, WC, and Dick Patterson won Best of Breed with “Zap” from the Field Dog class.


Later, I leased “Vicky,” Spannen’s Winged Victory, OD, from Doris Butcke. Vicky was bred to Clipper, and produced the first Birnam Wood champion, Ch. Birnam Wood’s Pistol Pete II CD.


I wanted more out of my fledgling breeding program. I wanted to incorporate Zap into the line, and bred several bitches to him without success. I even bought a bitch, Ch. Topbrass Synergold Sultana WCX, OD, and bred her to Zap. Again, I had no Zap puppies.


Fortune changed when I leased a Zap daughter, CH. Goldenloe’s Cinnamon Sizzler, OD, and bred her to a Zap grandson, Am-Can CH. Kachina’s Twenty Karat, OS, SDHF. That breeding produced the “tree” litter upon which a great majority of our current dogs are based.


Bill was continuing to show his dogs on the West Coast. We first met when I was in San Francisco in 1982 showing “Brooke,” Ch. Asterling’s Tahiti Sweetie, SDHF, and then later reconnected at the 1983 National Specialty when Brooke won Best of Breed.


In 1985, Bill changed directions and purchased a male puppy from Mary Burke’s “Buster” litter, by Ch. Birnam Wood’s Mountin’ Ash, OS and out of Ch. Amberac’s Asterling Aruba, OD. This stunning dog went on to become Ch. Asterling’s Buster Keaton, OS – “Ace.” Bill easily finished his title, and later sent Ace to me in Michigan to special in the Midwest. Meanwhile, he bred “Dusty” to one of the “tree” litter, my beloved “D.J.,” Ch. Birnam Wood’s Douglas Furr, OS. Later he bred Dusty’s sister, “Ruffian,” Ch. Starring Dawn Heirs Ruffian, WC, to D.J, and produced his last litter under the Starring prefix.


After years of Bill flying back and forth to visit Ace (and me), I moved to California in 1989 and we married. We decided to use Birnam Wood exclusively for all future litters.


Besides our mutual love for the dogs, we found we had a common interest in the sport of purebred dogs beyond showing and breeding. On a local level, while living in Michigan, I was active in the Fort Detroit Golden Retriever Club and wore several hats with the club—show chair for the Golden Retriever Club of America’s 1985 National Specialty –  still reputed by some to be the best National ever! – a board member and President.


In the early 1970s, I began serving the national parent club, the Golden Retriever Club of America, by editing publications of the “Yearbook,” a compendium of the history of our breed. That was a labor of love because there were no desktop computers at the time to keep all the necessary statistics. I also served as a Director and First Vice President of the Golden Retriever Club of America during the 1980s.


In 1978, I offered my services to Jean Baird Crowley, editor of the Golden Retriever News, to design ads, and she readily accepted. Jean later became ill in 1986, and I was then appointed editor – a position I fill today. Meeting and working with the GRCA members on a daily basis has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my tenure in the breed. Imagine having a job that requires you to talk Golden Retrievers all day, every day! I am now spending some of my time as a director for the Sir Francis Drake Kennel Club, an all-breed club.


Bill also served the Golden Retriever Club of America, from 1988 -1997. Initially, he was the chairman of the bylaws committee; later he was a director and officer. In 1994, he was elected President and served in this capacity for two years. He has also served on the Sir Francis Drake Kennel Club’s board over the years, and is currently the club’s Delegate to the American Kennel Club. In addition, since 1997, Bill has devoted time to working for canine health as Vice President of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Inc.


Bill and I have judged quite a few specialty sweepstakes and futurities. Obtaining our judging licenses isn’t at the top of our priorities, but we do plan on it.


We hope you enjoy looking at our website and learning about the dogs we have bred and owned, and the current crew. Their lives and accomplishments is the best testament of our history. Our latest star is “Gibson,” Ch. Birnam Wood’s Hoot Gibson, who finished undefeated in the Bred By class, won Winner’s Dog and Best of Winners at the 2006 National Specialty, and took a Sporting Group First from the classes. I have also included some of the dogs we have handled for friends over the years. They were great Goldens and special to us, too. Last, but not least, we are grateful to my son, Andrew Donahey and his wife, Elizabeth, who live here at Birnam Wood and love the dogs as much as we do.


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