Briards de l'Hermitage
We are Steve and Claude Cooper of Briards de l'Hermitage. Our kennel name de l'Hermitage was started with our first Briard litter in 1996. The dam was our first Briard, Chien Velu Heidi de Bejaune. We actually discovered Briards some years earlier, in the small French Provencal town of Pellisanne. Claude is from France and we were visiting some of her relatives there. They had a 7 month old Briard named Ellie from a Spanish breeder. We had so much fun playing with her, that we decided to check them out once we got a house with a fenced-in yard.
We visited Barb Ruby, the breeder of Chien Velu Briards, who was expecting a litter. We hit it off, and she and the dam's co-owner, Meg Weitz, made sure we got a puppy. We brought Heidi home as a pet, but when they saw her 6 months later they decided she was too pretty not to show. They changed her to a full AKC registration and we showed her a few times. Then with Barb's encouragement and advice, we bred her in 1996 to Chien Velu's Just Rutherford and had a litter of 11. We kept 2, Margot and Mistral, and the others found great homes. Keeping in touch with those homes was one of the great parts of raising a litter.
We needed a kennel name, and we wanted something French. And since we live in the Livermore Valley, an area replete with vineyards, we chose a wine region where Claude's parents were from.
Due to various reasons, we didn't really get that much into showing at that time. Then in 2002 we got Taz (Bigtrees Taz Mania) after we lost Mistral to a sudden illness. Claude showed Taz to his championship. We tried testing his herding aptitude, but he wasn't really into it. But Margot was, and Steve started lessons with Debbie Pollard at Herding4Ewe. Debbie had handled Rutherford to several herding titles. Of course, Margot's main problem was Steve's long learning curve for herding. But, we eventually got her AKC PT and AHBA JHD. And Taz started showing interest and got his test titles, too. And just recently he got his herding started title in sheep at the age of almost 10 - with great perseverence on both Steve's and Taz' part.
It was on a trip to a herding trial in Southern California when we did a socialization visit to a litter at Jeanne Lorang's Lebec Briards. One puppy really caught Claude's eye, and on the way to the trial we gave her a name, Vertige, call name Dizzie. Of course she had to come home with us then! That was the start of a friendship and relationship that lasts to this day. Claude has helped raise many Lebec / de l'Hermitage litters and shown dogs to their championships while Steve has put test-level herding titles on several Lebec and Lebec/de l'Hermitage dogs.
Claude has a passion for puppies. Her skill at whelping, rearing, socializing, and training pups has been honed working with litters at Lebec Briards. Her patience is endless, and the results are impressive!
Steve's focus on herding has withstood a long stretch on crutches following a herding accident. And any puppy in their home learns that Steve's lap is the best seat in the house.