Man honored by American Kennel Club for his work with German wirehaired pointers

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Dr. Ray Calkins recently earned a lifetime achievement award from the American Kennel Club for his work with German wirehaired pointers. He currently has five such dogs living in this kennel, which features heated beds among other amenities. In Wilsonville, Dr. Ray Calkins has built a reputation over the last four decades for his top-notch veterinary skills.

In the rest of the United States, however, Calkins probably is much more well-known for his work in breeding German wirehaired pointers, an intelligent, active breed that has been developed over many generations as an outstanding hunting dog.

Since 1974, when he and his wife, Lynn, purchased their first German wirehaired pointer puppy, it’s been a love affair that has seen him become one of the foremost experts in the country in the specialized area of bird dogs and field competition.

“Pretty much 24 hours a day dogs are in the middle of my life, either at work or at play,” said Calkins, who has lived and worked in Wilsonville since his 1976 purchase of the Wilsonville Veterinary Clinic.

He’s seen the city grow from a population of 400 to well over 20,000. During that time, Calkins not only has raised four German wirehaired pointers with a combined nine national field championships between them, he has been a member of the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America the entire time. Since 1974 he has served a total of 10 years on the group’s board of directors and is the current president.

He’s also a nationally renowned competition judge and has been active in educational outreach efforts on behalf of the American Kennel Club and other organizations.

The work he has done on behalf of the dogs he loves is too voluminous to list. But it certainly has not gone unnoticed.

Calkins recently traveled to Orlando, Fla., where he was presented with an American Kennel Club Lifetime Achievement Award in the group’s performance category. Voted on by AKC chapters across America, the lifetime achievement awards were created in 1998 and cover performance, conformation and companion events.

“I probably spent more time in the air than I did on the ground,” he said with a laugh Dec. 14 during an interview on the expanse of property he and his wife have owned since the 1970s off Bell Road west of town.

“There’s only one a year, and basically, all the AKC clubs have a vote on this across the country,” Calkins said. “And many times they’re mostly East Coast winners, so it took me kind of by surprise that I was nominated, and it was even a bigger surprise that I won.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Parker, a two-time national field competition champion, shows off the instinctive pointing ability bred into the German wirehaired pointer.

Training, breeding and more

To anyone who knows the Calkins, however, the award comes as no shock. If anything, he’s able to dedicate more time to his dogs now than ever before. Three years ago he sold his stake in the Wilsonville Veterinary Clinic. While he still keeps an active practice, he no longer has to deal with the time-consuming aspects of business administration.

The end result is that the Calkins are having the time of their lives.

They currently have five German wirehaired pointers that live in a custom-made kennel featuring heated beds. Two more, including Parker, two-time national champion named after the legendary shotgun manufacturer, live in the main house.

Calkins keeps a population of game birds, including grouse and chukar, on the property for training his dogs. The birds are not harmed by the trainees — a bit startled, perhaps — and upon release in the main field normally flee straight back to their specially built “Johnny house,” so-called because it resembles an old-school outhouse.

Then there are the competition weekends. Sometimes, Calkins and his dogs are the competitors. Other times he serves as a judge or veterinary consultant. A carport built into the couple’s main barn, which holds horse stalls, the dog kennel and more, allows them to load and unload out of the worst of the Oregon weather when necessary.

by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - Cascade Steamer (front) and Cascade Rogue are probably Dr. Ray Calkins two most decorated champions. This photo was taken by a Spokesman photographer for a feature story on Calkins dogs back in 1985. “The wirehair is what is referred to as a versatile hunting dog,” Calkins said. “They’re designed to do a lot of different hunting, from pointing to tracking to retrieving. It’s kind of like having an English lab combined with a coonhound in the same animal, although some people will take exception to that comparison.”

The breed, added Lynn Calkins, quite simply needs to work. As the saying goes, if you don’t give them something to do, they will find something to do — and you might not like the result.

“Certainly it’s easier to let them just run amok,” she said. “But that’s not necessarily going to make a very good lifestyle for anyone, so we put some structure in their lives and that structure carries over to the field. It’s a partnership whenever you’re hunting. They have the nose and they have the instincts you need. Otherwise, you just have a Labrador and you can have it retrieve when you’re done.”

Ray Calkins is a no-nonsense type of guy who still enjoys hunting, fishing and side-by-side shotguns — the things he grew up with in Iowa. Annual family vacations in Western states, including Oregon, not only heightened his love of the outdoors, it provided him with a home after finishing school in Iowa and an internship in Orange County.

“We stayed in L.A. for four years and Lynn said, ‘We are leaving L.A. or I am leaving L.A.,’” he recounted. “We did not want to raise children in the L.A. area.”

Oregon proved to be what they were looking for.

Not only did Wilsonville prove to be the ideal location to start a business, central and eastern Oregon also provided the fishing and bird hunting they sought, always with one or more dogs at their side.

Years later, it adds up to a lifetime of appreciation from fellow judges, competitors and, probably most significantly, the countless owners of dogs sired by German wirehaired pointers raised and trained by the couple.

“It has to do with all the other ancillary things,” he said, referring to the lifetime award. “It comes from helping other people. I judged lots of national championships around the country, and a lot of this comes in with the veterinary medicine part of things. We’re a breeder-oriented clinic, and we do a lot of high-end reproductive work, which almost no one else in the Northwest can do. We have a lot of connections with dogs from one end to another; it’s been fun.”

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