So one day in 1969 or thereabouts, with my parents' permission, I rode my bike that huuuuuuge lonnnnng way down to Stelling, up the long driveway, and knocked at the door to ask for a job. They invited me inside while they thought about it. There were dogs and dog hair everywhere. Their couches and chairs had dog-print blankets on them, also covered with dog hair. I remember thinking that I wasn't going to do that when I grew up and had a lot of dogs of my own.
|Phydelma and Lyle Gillette, undated photo from this site.|
My parents report that the couple, to my recollection grayhaired at the time-- but then, at the time, everyone over 30 was pretty grayhaired to me-- were somewhat taken aback at what to do with this youngster about whom they knew nothing. My whole resume consisted of "We have a dog, too." They called my parents to check up on me and, when they were satisfied that I wasn't a dognapper or worse, they put me to work with really really simple chores.
First, they had bred a 9-year-old Borzoi named Zonn and they weren't sure whether the breeding had taken, but apparently her hips were starting to have troubles and she needed a nice long walk every day. So I walked her a few blocks down Stelling and back again.
They also had a litter of Saluki puppies. They were pretty big already, and I'm guessing that they must have been at least 3 months old, but what did I know at the time about puppies or anything about dogs, really, except that when quizzed I could name all the dogs in the AKC working group, the sporting group, the nonsporting group, and a good portion of the terriers (but who really cared--all terriers look alike anyway). They put me to "work" playing a bit with the puppies and maybe grooming them. I used a comb that I found but they put a quick stop to that and said that brushing was a much better thing to do. I don't remember why any more; I still prefer combing my dogs in most cases, even if it's with an undercoat rake. Maybe I just have the wrong types of dog coats.
Anyway, after they decided that Zonn wasn't going to have puppies, they gave me $5 (which I hadn't expected--I had said that I was volunteering) and said Thanks A Lot Kid, Now Scram (except much nicer than that). I was disappointed about not having a job any more, but at the same time, that lonnnnnnng ride down to Stelling was getting pretty tiring.
Highway 85 now runs through what had been their property. I never saw them or talked to them again.
So we pop forward to today, when I'm trying to find (for Wikipedia) a list of sight hounds that the AFSA (American Sighthound Field Association) allows to compete in lure coursing. And, poom, I bump into the name Lyle Gillette.
So it turns out that he wasn't merely some guy in a dog-hair filled house down on Stelling in a house doomed to be paved over for another 6-lane freeway. No, he was the "father of the sport of lure coursing in America" and the Lyle Gillette Memorial Trophy is awarded in the Gillette Stakes lure coursing event every year, even now. "The Gillette Stake is a premier event held annually at the International Invitational. This competition is to showcase form and function in our finest sighthounds and to honor the father of the sport of lure coursing in America, Lyle Gillette."
So I started doing a search, and he also apparently wrote some definitive articles about Borzois and lure coursing and so on in the 1980s. The Colorado Lure Coursing page says that "Lure Coursing is a performance event developed in the early 70's by Lyle Gillette and other California sighthound fanciers who hunted jackrabbits in the open field, which risked the harm caused by barbed wire fencing." The Borzoi Club of America says "The individual who really believed in lure coursing and took the effort to get the sport going was Lyle Gillette, who in 1971 went around the country demonstrating the sport to groups of Borzoi owners interested in coursing their dogs."
Phydelma ("Phyl"?) was also a writer; published a book in 1977, Life with Borzoi, that's apparently still in print.
Amazing what a small world this is--
UPDATED LINKS: March 11, 2008:
History of Rancho Gabriel (their Kennel)
Sample of Borzoi Action Gazette, magazine founded by Phyl Gillette
Brief note about their presence in Oregon in the '70s
Mention of Phydelma's death and trophy in their honor
Brief mention of Gillettes as inspiration
I mention them in my blog again in 2016