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Seabeck woman beats out the big dogs

Seabeck author Barbara Garnett-Wilson recently won the Dog Writers Association of America’s “Maxwell” medal for her 2007 book, “The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in Fact and Fancy.” - Photo by Rachel Brant
Seabeck author Barbara Garnett-Wilson recently won the Dog Writers Association of America’s “Maxwell” medal for her 2007 book, “The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in Fact and Fancy.”
— image credit: Photo by Rachel Brant

By RACHEL BRANT

Staff writer

The sights and sounds of New York City thrilled Roy Wilson and Barbara Garnett-Wilson, but the Dog Writers Association of America’s Annual Awards Ceremony proved to be the highlight of their week-long trip.

Garnett-Wilson, with help from her husband, wrote two books last year, “The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in Fact and Fancy” and “The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: A Tribute in Art,” and both books were nominated for awards.

“I wrote my first one 10 years ago about Cavaliers and it was very successful,” Garnett-Wilson said.

The awards ceremony took place Feb. 10 in the Grand Ballroom of New York City’s Affinia Hotel and the self-published author was delighted to be in the company of renowned authors and international publishers. When the time came to announce the winner of the prestigious “Maxwell” award, the annual prize for Best Breed Book of the Year for 2007, Garnett-Wilson could not believe her ears.

“All I heard was ‘and the winner is Barbara ...’ and that’s all I remember,” she chuckled. “It was great. It was really pretty exciting.”

The English-born author beat out acclaimed authors to snag the Dog Writers Association of America’s top prize for her book, “The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in Fact and Fancy,” and said she felt like she won the Olympics when Allan Reznik, editor of “Dog World” magazine, hung the “Maxwell” medal around her neck.

“It was pretty exciting stuff, wasn’t it?” Garnett-Wilson said to her husband.

Designed by Nancy Kinnear of Renton, “The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in Fact and Fancy” features more than 450 full-color photos and illustrations. It has received praise from major reviewers including “Dog News” magazine, which described the book as “masterful,” “incredibly beautiful” and “a superb breed tome of mind-boggling quality, beautifully published and presented.”

Although her name appears on the medal, Garnett-Wilson said her husband played a large role in the nearly 300-page book’s success.

“Although it is my name on the medal, Roy’s name should be there as well,” she said. “We really did make it a joint project and the amount of research that we did was incredible.”

The couple spent all of last year researching and putting together “The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in Fact and Fancy” at their Seabeck home. Wilson describes the book as an “encyclopedia” about the breed which discusses everything from the animal’s history to grooming the small dogs. While creating the book, the couple decided to co-author a book discussing artwork that features the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel entitled “The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: A Tribute in Art.”

“It just spun off so logically that we kept soldiering on,” Wilson said.

Although last year was hectic for the couple and their garden was somewhat neglected during the writing process, according to Garnett-Wilson, they enjoyed spending days and nights creating the books.

“It was a fun project. We came in touch with so many different people who know about the breed,” Garnett-Wilson said. “We talked to people all over, it was quite a ride.”

Garnett-Wilson, a native of Cheltenham, England, first fell in love with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel many years ago when she returned to England to visit her family. She met and instantly loved a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Tiger who served as the mascot of her aunt’s pub in Castle Combe, Wiltshire.

“You never met a dog who loved beer more,” Garnet-Wilson said with a laugh.

People would come from all over to buy the dog a pint of beer, she added.

Shortly after that trip home, she got a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel from her aunt.

During the past 30 years, Garnett-Wilson has successfully bred many of the dogs, most notably the first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to win Best of Breed and a Toy Group Placement at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Garnett-Wilson still judges dog shows, but retired from showing them a few years ago.

The Seabeck couple has sold thousands of copies of “The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in Fact and Fancy,” all over the world and Wilson is shocked at the book’s success.

“The amazing part of it is it’s done so well with hardly any advertising. The whole thing has been a mom and pop operation, it’s just been us two,” Wilson said. “It’s been a success critically and financially. It’s just blown me away.”

As for future books, Wilson said they will definitely be about dogs, but possibly a different breed. The Seabeck couple said they are looking forward to taking a break from writing to spend time with their own Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and do chores around their home.

“I’m sure they’ll be something else in the works, but quite frankly we need a rest,” Garnett-Wilson said with a smile. “I’m looking forward to playing in the garden this summer.”

For more information about the couple’s books, visit their Web site at www.LaughingCavaliers.com.

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