It was in the late sixties and only one of a run of very good years for me. In those days, when I was young, like the words of a long forgotten song, I began a journey which has gone on to this day, and what an adventure it has been. I was in the process of getting an education, if you will, in life. Even though I was in college I was learning far more than I could imagine from the dogs and dog people that I had become fascinated with.
What started out as an interest turned into a hobby then an obsession of the worst kind. I was reading everything that I could lay my hands on and spending every spare second in research on the breed.
Being a realist that was skeptical, I was always reluctant to be in awe of legends, like those men who were bigger than life and just oozed of knowledge and natural talent. Most of these people in the dogs had huge followings of folks wanting to be just like them or in hopes that a dab of their success would rub off on them. I have been fortunate to know many of these people, both men and women and looking back now I realize just how special many of them were.
Howard Heinzl was such a man and “what a dog man” he was. Howard was in his autumn years when I first became acquainted with him and was what some would call an ornery old cuss. It seemed he had become fed up with dog people and seemed to dislike some of the hot shots and know it alls that were getting in the game. Never one to mince words he would tell it like he saw it with little regard for being politically correct. Howard was particular about who got his dogs so when I inquired about anything that he might want to sell, he pretty much blew me off. Me, being a young punk fresh back from ” the Nam” and a Texan to top it off, just didn’t pull much weight with Howard. I am real pragmatic and I reckoned that I would live out my life just fine if I never fed a Heinzl dog. In spite of feeling a little slighted I saw where he was coming from and still had a huge amount of respect for the man. Besides word of mouth, which is often inaccurate, there were old publications that were a treasure trove of knowledge. Howard’s dogs were always there and shining as those “Arizona Aces”. You could tell by what was written and said about him and those dogs, that pride was ever present in his breeding program. Back in the sixties, Earl Tudor had written this letter printed in an old magazine.
I have noticed more talk on breedings lately and they are talking a lot of Colby. Well I think John P. Colby bred more good ones than any man, but just who has the old strain now? I have had them all, and will say that his dogs were the best. Now there is a man doing about as well as Colby. That is no other than Heinzl from Arizona. I had about run out of dogs, but he took pity on me and let me have the old “DIBO” dog. Now I have nothing on my yard but Dibo dogs. ~ Earl
Earl was a legend himself and never gave any one more credit than was due. Many in those days said that Howard and Earl were a team to be reckoned with. It was the things like this, which kept me interested in the Heinzl dogs and their genetic back ground. As my wife can attest to, I never throw any thing away, so I do, indeed have lots of junk. None is more precious to me than my correspondence file that I have kept from Howard. They are a unique piece of bull dog history and I plan to share some of them with the fraternity as I tell the story of how I got to know Howard, and his influence on me in my dog endeavors even to this day.
By then, I had rounded up “BRUNO”, that special dog that I had about worn out a ’66’ Chevelle running all over five states looking for. I had owned a few good ones when I got a call from Larry Martin, a dogjockey friend of mine, saying he had something that I would be interested in. He dealt in some very high quality dogs, so when he said he had one directly off Heinzl’s “BAT” and “TWIGGY”, I was very interested, in spite of being a little skeptical. Larry had always shot straight with me, so the very next day, after work and in the dark, I loaded up with a pocket full of money, my best two friends, Rick Massey and Charlotte and headed to Sherman, Texas .In the early seventies Howard was still a mystery to me, while his dogs were not. They were still being referred to at that time as those “Arizona Aces” and considered by many to be some of the premier dogs of that day of breeding and conformation personified. I remained interested in these dogs in spite of Howard being pretty tight fisted about who got his dogs. The pragmatist in me knew there were plenty of good dogs, not only in the metroplex, near where I lived, but scattered all over Texas, so I had pretty much let the Heinzl dream go, at least for the time being.
I knew I wanted this bitch as soon as I saw her. She was a brindle and white dressy looking dog, that wasn’t as masculine as I expected her to be, but fine boned with a springy step and good eye. I bought her on the spot, and I can truly say I had never made a better investment.
I got the bitch I later named “TAFFY”, along with her ADBA papers, for the hard earned cash I laid down. It seemed when we left that night that everyone was ecstatic.
The very next day, I sent off the papers, along with enough money to pay for a long pedigree from Frank Ferris, who was in charge of the ADBA at that time.
When the pedigree came back a month later, with a letter of apology for the delay, I was very impressed to say the least. It seems that Frank was still churning them out on an old Remington typewriter, whichhad to be very time consuming. I took the pedigree to work where I put the Zerox to good use. I sent copies to several of the better dog men I knew to see what they thought. While the replys were varied, most were congratulatory and positive. Pete Sparks wrote a short one saying that he figured I had hit a home run. I showed it to Don Malony in person and he just shook his head, and said, “Earl would kill for this bitch”. The best reply of all was from Howard, which kinda surprised me, but certainly made my day. He had sent back the pedigree copy marked up to beat the band,complete with a letter on the back thatread, “The more I look at this pedigree, the better I like it. It has four crosses to “DIME” and four crosses to “RIFLE”, two of Colby’s best breeding males in recent years. “GRINGO’s” dam, “BRENDY” is out of a son and daughter of old “DIME”. His sire “CLANCY” is out of the best bitch “DIBO” was ever bred to “DUCHESS”. I bred your bitches sister “TISH”‘ to “GRINGO” and got some good ones. I owned “DIME’s” litter brother “T.BONE” and also “RIFLE’s” sire Colby’s “BUDDY” back in ’42’. “DEEDEE” and “PHOEBE” are out of Dibo’s daughters bred to his litter brother “ARIZONA PETE”.
On the pedigree side, a few of the notes read….”BIG POLLY’s” litter mate brother was “CLANCY”. Bob Hemphill called “POLLY” the best bitch he has ever saw and he saw a few…Colby’s “DOLLY” litter sister to “MUSTY’s” sire “PETER” and Neblett’s “CONGO”. Several places on the pedigree were marked wrong, then arrows drawn to where it was correct. He commented later by phone that Frank was pretty accurate, just made a few mistakes as he got older, especially on the typewriter.
All this said, I expected Howard to want me to have something to breed her too, like some of his stuff. He did not offer and I did not push the issue. To be quite honest, it was probably good that he didn’toffer me a stud or even a male pup since my dog habit had me about broke at the time. I felt very fortunate to have acquired half the Heinzl equation that I had been looking for almost by accident. Lookingback to the early 70’s, when I sent the pedigrees, I find it hard to believe that Howard referenced dogs he had back in ’42’. It is a sad commentary but much of the history of some of the best dogs of the day has been lost except for a few letters and memories of the folks who knew Howard like I did. He was, indeed a walking encyclopedia of those great dogs of his times.