RYE, N.Y. -- Valerie T. Diker, owner/breeder of Dikerdachs Kennels in Manhattan and Rye, calls her dogs and the folks who purchase them her "family" and tells people who work with her that "for better or for worse you get me with the dog."
"I want them [the owners] to be aware of me as the person who helped to create the dog they now own," she said. "I feel responsible for them ... for the rest of their lives ... and I want the people who buy from me to know that."
Diker is so hands on and committed to the mini longhair dachshunds she both breeds and shows that she recently held a birthday party for those she's worked with over the years.
The May bash, biilled as a "Dachshund Picnic," was held under a huge white tent at Manhattanville College in Purchase, where balloons with paw prints marked the way to the festivities. The event attracted 80 owners and 54 "Dikerdachs dogs."
DIker, who raised her family in Harrison and now lives in Manhattan, has 12 dogs of her own at the moment, a bit more than usual. Four are for sale, two have done their job and are ready to retire and a few are being fostered by friends. "The way I can bear to part with them is feeling confident in the quality of the new home they are going to," she said.
DIker had a beagle as a child and a dachshund when her children were young—her husband isn't as big a dog lover as she is -- but she didn't begin to get into breeding until she became an empty nester more than 22 years ago. "Dachshunds are smart, they're small, so they work in the City, they are loyal and they are funny," she said of the attraction.
A good friend introduced her to Dee Hutchinson, a well-regarded breeder, and the rest is history.
Diker, an American Kennel Club Breeder of Merit, works with Pam and Mark Derosier, the same handlers she's worked with for 22 years. Together, they work hard to select a show dog or dogs from each litter. In total, this "Dame of Dachshunds" has had 35 champions.
She said over the years she's bred out every genetic issue she knows of. Diker also relies heavily on the same vet she's used for years who always gives her dogs a full examination. "Most breeders don’t do that," she said. "They can't afford to. This is not a money-making business. This is an expensive hobby that gives me great pleasure."