Gentle Giants

Quesnel Fall Fair welcomes Diesel, Piper and Sydney, the mastiffs trained and owned by Rich Kolar

Rich Kolar is showered with affection from Sydney

In his family room, Rich Kolar speaks to the three dogs who occupy three large cushions on the floor. That’s almost 350 pounds of massive canines with fearsome muscles and mammoth heads, a worrisome scene except all three are snoozing and slowly lift their heads in response to their master.

Diesel, the patriarchal top dog, is a 12-year-old Neopolitan mastiff, weighing in at 140 pounds. With blue-grey colouring and an immense head (both typical of the breed) he exudes a calmness unexpected given his giant stature. Piper and Sydney are 110 and 105-pound Dogues de Bordeaux mastiff females with winsome eyes and reddish-brown coats.

Rich admits he’s always been a dog lover, raising various breeds throughout his life, but now he’s totally devoted to his Bordeaux dogs.

Rich plans to take the trio to the Quesnel Fall Fair, Sept. 22 – 23 where people can pet the dogs, learn about the breed and Crimson Pride Bordeaux Training and Wellness.

“I was always good at training dogs, I always enjoyed it,” he said.

However, about 10 years ago, when his daughter challenged him to take on the aggressive, unruly Diesel, (who was facing euthanization), Rich rose to task.

“I changed his diet and over the next year, slowly trained him into a gentle giant,” Rich said.

“Now its a career.”

He knew he wanted a mastiff breed and after researching various types of mastiffs, he chose Dogues de Bordeaux. Rich also knew he wanted to help save this particular breed which was almost pushed to extinction three times in its history. The breed also suffers from life-threatening health issues.

Dogues de Bordeaux is one of the most ancient French breed of dogs and was most suited to pulling carts or hauling heavy objects as well as guarding livestock and protecting castles of the European elite.

Known as early as the fourteenth century, they are also believed to descend from war dogs of Roman times.

At the time of the French Revolution, these dogs were almost wiped out when the aristrocracy (the only people allowed to own these fierce protectors) were decimated. Again during the First World War, Dogues de Bordeaux were used by the French to retrieve the wounded from the front lines and many were also casualties of war. Finally, during the Second World War, again pressed into service as carters in the front lines, these dogs also were messengers. Hitler decreed these dogs were to be killed on sight.

In the 1950s and 1960s a group of breeders in France worked on rebuilding the foundation of the breed and in 2008 Dogues de Bordeaux were fully recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Breed recognition has been enhanced by the use of these dogs in movies and television. One of the most recognizable was the Tom Hanks movie, Turner and Hooch. Hooch was a Dogue de Bordeaux.

With the numbers climbing, breeders are encouraged to focus on the health of the breed.

As with most large-breed dogs, mastiffs often suffer from hip, eye and heart problems, among other health issues and these can be addressed through a comprehensive and thoughtful breeding program.

Taking on this commitment, Rich brings many other skills to the table.

He’s a certified behaviour therapist, a certified healing touch masseuse and does energy work/Reiki certified along with obedience training and grooming.

Throughout his career, Rich has trained guard/attack dogs as well as obedience training,

show training, grooming and family-friendly animals.

But since having a family of his own, he decided to concentrate on good, all-around family dogs, trained with patience, positive reinforcement and love.

Important to Rich, all his animals are Canadian Kennel Club Good Neighbour certified and are both service and therapy trained.

Diesel is also a St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog.

“It was difficult to have Diesel accepted – it took three years,” Rich said.

“But once he was in, they loved him.”

This means the gentle giant can be used in schools, nursing homes and other facilities where animal therapy is considered beneficial.

For Rich, beginning a breeding program for his Dogues de Bordeaux meant proving the quality of his stock which, in turn, meant taking his beloved dogs into the show ring.

Together with his first dog, Bella, purchased from a Ontario breeder, Rich learned about the world of dog showing.

“Bella became a 10-time champion and was also trained as a service dog,” he said.

Unfortunately, his first Dogue de Bordeaux didn’t pass the hips test and was therefore unsuitable for the breeding program Rich was looking to establish.

“She’s now enjoying life with my daughter,” he said with a smile.

From the same breeder, Rich acquired Piper, now two. The 110-pound female is pregnant, bred to a champion male Dogue de Bordeaux.

“Piper’s in the 90 percentile for good hips and has tested well for heart and eye conditions,” he said.

Sydney, also just

over two years old, is a descendant of a French International champion. Her grandmother lived to 13 and that’s an important genetic

trait. Sydney has also tested well for health issues.

Rich has also trained Piper for carting, but as she’s now pregnant he’s not sure she’ll be demonstrating that at the Fall Fair.

“We’ll have the carts there and can answer questions about that aspect of my training,” he said.

“Carting is a chance to provide a working exercise for the dogs.”

All his dogs have past temperament testing and Rich has full confidence taking them into public venues where children and parents are invited to meet Diesel, Piper and Sydney.

In addition to meeting these amazing dogs, visitors to the Fall Fair can expect to see other livestock exhibits, Fur and Feather displays, activities throughout the grounds and in the Agriplex at Alex Fraser Park and the popular arts and agricultural I-X division in West Fraser Timber Room at the Arts and Rec Centre.

And admission is free. Pick up a program/prize book at Caryall Books, Visitors Centre, Co-op, Quesnel Ag Parts, Bouchie Lake Farm and Feed, contact Lisa, 250-992-9317, Judy, 250-747-4315 or e-mail quesnelfallfair@gmail.com.

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