Mr Norman F Johnston (Doddsline) 1935 - 2007
- an appreciation
I first met Norman many years ago; I think it was 1987, where he was exhibiting a team of Lancashire Heelers at the Cheshire Agricultural Show. We got talking and in the following days found myself at Dodds farm looking over his stock. What a happy bunch of dogs and what beautiful condition they were all in and although I knew little, to nothing, of the breed, quality just oozed out of them. I purchased my first puppy from Norman and through his endless help and guidance, I never looked back.
It was common place for Doddslines, to win Best of Breed at the Open and Championships but for me, there were three events which have stayed in my memory over the years. the first of these relates to the puppy I purchased from Norman called D Derek (D Ben x D Mandy). I entered him for LKA Ch - he not only won Best Puppy in Breed but went on Best of Breed, beating the top dog of the day and from then on, I was smitten.
The second relates to a dog that happened to be a favourite of Normans in Doddsline Pip. The event was a Lancashire Heeler Club Show in 1993 where judge Mrs Di Johnson was doing the honours, she pulled Pip out and eventually placing him Best in Show (with his Granddaughter D Mirander BOS). Well, we never heard the end of it - his beloved Pip going Best in Show. Every time a Doddsline went Best of Breed, or Best in Show, and there were many of them even though that may have been five/six generations back!
However the best memory of all for me was Crufts 1999, with CCs on offer for the first time, the judge was Mrs Ann Arch, out comes D Kristen (D Lord of Swanndale x D Lady Sarah) in Open Dog, in immaculate condition and floating effortlessly around the ring, just like a dream, without any hesitation Mrs Arch pulled him out and awarded him the CC. Can’t tell you how emotional I became about that win, a few months later he went on to become the breeds first male champion. Incidentally, the first champion in the breed (Foxthyme Material Girl) later becoming the CC record holder, was also sired by a Doddsline.
Norman was so very knowledgeable about everything Lancashire Heelers and was regarded throughout the world as the most famous and respected Lancashire Heeler breeder of all time but this never went to his head, he never changed from being that friendly, helpful and unassuming person. He was a true gentleman, a true breeder and an amazing man - what a sad loss to the breed.
Anthony M McKenna
I was saddened to hear of Norman Johnston’s untimely death last week. I had not realised how ill he had become of late. When I last saw him at the City of Birmingham Championship Show, he handled his dogs, taking them round the ring in his motorised scooter. He did not look well then but having battled with illness for many years, he did not complain or make a fuss. We all think of Norman as ‘Mr Lancashire Heeler,’ he was a one off, the like of which we will never see again.
Most of us have Norman to thank for starting us off in this unique and funny little breed. He certainly called a spade a spade, didn’t suffer fools gladly but was always willing to give sound and down to earth advice and seemed to have endless patience.
I think Norman’s favourite Heeler was Pip of Doddsline but there were many others who did well in the show ring, notably Doddsline Ben, and more recently Ch Doddsline Kristen, all three having made a name for themselves as influential sires.
For well over 15 years, I have had the pleasure of living with Doddsline Hilda who as I write is curled up on the sofa beside me, fast asleep. She never forgot Norman, seeing him probably no more than half a dozen times during these 15 years. She would reward him with a fetching smile, an honour she bestows on very few! But he was special!
A few minutes silence was held in the Heeler ring at the LKA just before judging commenced and it was a ring full of Norman’s Heeler friends, exhibitors and their dogs - a poignant moment for us all to remember Norman, his devotion to the breed and the enormous contribution he has made to put Heelers firmly on the map. We all have our own special memories of this lovely man, so modest and unassuming, always willing to share his knowledge and personal experiences. A natural stockman, brought up on a farm, dogs instantly liked Norman and wanted to stay close to him.
An enlarged photograph of Norman winning best in show at the Lancashire Heeler Club show under Di Johnson many years ago had been placed on Norman’s LKA bench, a very nice touch.
No more pain and discomfort for Norman now but we shall miss him so much.