For Doug and Missy Taylor of Roeland Park, living with Basset Hounds – and not just one – has become a lifestyle.
Thanks to an exemption from the Roeland Park City Council aimed specifically at the Taylors, it is a lifestyle that they can continue into the future. Long before they moved to Roeland Park in 1979, the Taylors had Basset Hounds in the house. And for most of those years it was more like six Basset Hounds and often a litter of puppies.
The Taylors breed, train and show Basset Hounds and Doug has judged AKC dog shows around the world. About 10 years after moving to Roeland Park, they built an addition onto their Parish Drive home that they euphemistically call the Bassetorium. It was designed specifically for the dogs with each indoor space connecting to an outdoor run. It is well insulated, Doug says, which dampens the sound of barking that might otherwise bother the neighbors.
Doug Taylor’s love of Basset Hounds dates to his undergraduate days at Dartmouth from 1958 to 1962. A Basset roamed the grounds of the university. “I thought it was the funniest dog I had ever seen,” Doug says. “I wanted one.”
Graduate school took Doug to the Yale Drama School where he also was on the faculty. A faculty job to him to University of Wisconsin where he met Missy. In 1968 they bought their first house and then a Basset Hound. They picked up a second dog before their son was born. Doug’s job as the technical director of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre brought them to Kansas City in 1978.
After arriving in Kansas City, the Taylors saw and ad for a Basset Hound club. “Gee, that sounds like fun,” Doug remembers thinking at the time. At the club, they got lessons on how to show a Basset Hound along with two other couples. That soon led to breeding show dogs when they decided the only way to be competitive was to breed their own.
Over the decades, the Taylors have had 50 dogs become champions . They have shown dogs from New York City to Portland and Duluth to Houston. And, yes, they have shown three times at the Westminster show in New York. “You have the thrill of competition, Doug says, but the economics of the “lifestyle” work out to a negative.
One of the champions that the Taylors remembers fondly, Thunder Dog, was their first really successful show dog in the 1980s. Thunder Dog’s picture has adorned many Hallmark cards and his son Meteor turned into another great champion.
Their dogs appeared in the KC Rep’s Christmas Carol shows over a 12-year run and one of their dogs upstaged the soprano in La Boheme production at the UMKC Conservatory by howling along.
A decade after they started showing, Doug started judging shows, which not only has taken him all across the country, but he has judged in Australia and Belgium as well. He is approved to judge a long list of AKC breeds. Missy also works the ring at shows.
The adventures of judging and showing included some misadventures, too. When Doug, traveling alone to show dogs, had a heart attack in the middle of the night in Chicago, the nursing staff took over the job of walking and feeding the dogs in his van until Missy could get there.
Raising the puppies (about six in a typical litter that can range from one to 11) can be an arduous task. The mother must be watched constantly so she does not roll on a puppy. The puppies stay up to 12 weeks so the Taylors can see which might be show dogs. They often keep one or two and sell the others. The dogs can show from six months up to several years old.
“Dog showing is a wonderful family hobby,” Doug says. And their son, Darin, had success showing as he grew up.
The Taylors now have four adult dogs in residence in the Bassetorium. In 1982, they received their special permit that allowed them to have up to six adults and a litter of puppies. That permit was threatened by recent changes proposed for the city’s animal control ordnance to limit the number of dogs in a house to three. But late last month, the city council amended the proposal to allow the Taylors’ permit to continue indefinitely.
And the Taylors don’t have plans to stop showing, judging and living with the Basset Hounds that they say is “too much of our DNA” after all these years.