Family has 20-year love affair with unique Brittanys


GAKNER BRITTANYS are a family affair.

Josie Molesworth and her parents Velma and Bob Gakenheimer have been breeding and showing Brittanys for more than 20 years. Their kennel name is Gakner.

The two families own and operate the Reisterstown Boarding Kennels on the Old Hanover Road, where Velma and Bob live. Josie and her husband, veterinarian Eddie Molesworth, and their son Jason, 9, live nearby.

The Gakner Kennels are actually in both homes.

"We have at least four Brittanys in our house at all times," says Josie.

"So do we," says Velma. "We have approximately eight champions and some geriatric ones who are just pets and no longer shown."

Eddie Molesworth, 43, has been a veterinarian for more than 20 years and owns the Main Street Veterinary Hospital on Reisterstown Road. He is a built-in medical provider for the family's interesting breed.

Velma Gakenheimer is a push-over when it comes to needy animals. While discussing her purebred Brittanys, she mentions "a small Shetland sheepdog-type we found recently. He is one of the sweetest little dogs I've ever been around. We'd certainly welcome a good owner for him."

Brittany breed history is extensive and unique. Developed in Brittany (in rural France), where setters and spaniels were used for hunting, it was called the Brittany spaniel, although it pointed game like a setter does, instead of flushing it the way other spaniels do.

The small and easily transported breed is a perfect hunter, fearless and willing to work in any kind of weather. The animals are also excellent pets and companions. Their legs are much longer than the spaniels they resemble.

There is accurate breed information dating from the 17th century. It notes that the breed's scenting ability surpasses all others. Other early information is that the Brittany is the only pointing spaniel recognized by the American Kennel Club.

However, AKC no longer registered it as a spaniel. In 1935 when the AKC accepted the breed, it was called the Brittany spaniel. However, in 1944 the American Brittany Club asked the AKC to eliminate the word spaniel.

The reason was that the breed works like a pointer of game and unlike the spaniel which flushes it. In 1982 the AKC accepted the change. Other countries continue to call it the Brittany Spaniel, including France.

Josie Molesworth, 35, has always been interested in dogs. She was showing and handling purebred German Shepherds at age 6. Her parents switched to Brittanys and she showed them first as a junior handler and is now an accomplished handler showing her breed in shows over most of the eastern part of the country.

"The Brittany," says Josie, "is one of few dual dogs, which means they are excellent hunters and equally good show dogs. They are excellent companions," she adds.

Colors of the breed are either liver or orange with white. Some are roan, which means they have freckles of color in their coats.

One of Josie's favorites is Fred, a champion officially named Gakners Firm Fast Friend, JH. The JH is for junior hunter, which he acquired by getting a score of seven out of a possible 10 in three different hunting tests under three different judges.

"He had to pass four categories in each test, which were to obey his handler in finding a bird, pointing the bird and listening to his handler while working. Fred's score was nine or better," says Molesworth.

Josie and her parents are members of the Maryland Brittany Club, of which Art Cohen is president. Velma heads the membership. For information about the club, hunting tests or the breed, call Velma Gakenheimer at the Reisterstown Boarding Kennels at 833-2090. Or call Josie Molesworth at 833-9556. Josie is also a member of the Baltimore County Kennel Club.

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