At home with AKC Breeder of Merit Arlene Butterklee, whose Chinese Cresteds were among the first in the breed to compete in the AKC Nationals in 1991
In Long Island, New York, about an hour from midtown Manhattan, AKC Breeder of Merit Arlene Butterklee’s home is decorated almost entirely in turquoise. “It relaxes me,” she says of the color. Ms. Butterklee lives with two pit-bull mixes and two hairless terriers, (which are different from Chinese Cresteds, the type she breeds). When The Canine Review visits, the dogs are barking from their crates in the corner of her kitchen.
During the day, Ms. Butterklee is a senior radiation specialist at Northwell Health. Working with cancer patients is difficult, she says. “My job is very stressful,” she tells The Canine Review when we met her at her home in November. Breeding Chinese Crested dogs is her escape, she says.
Leader of the pack
Ms. Butterklee has owned Chinese Cresteds for forty years. In 1991, her Chinese Cresteds, she says, were part of the first group of the breed officially allowed to compete in the AKC National championship. That was the year the breed officially entered the AKC Stud Book. Since then, dogs she has bred, owned, or co-owned have been AKC champions over 200 times, according to her website. According to her website, Ms. Butterklee’s dogs have won Best of Breed seven times at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. She holds an AKC Bred-By-Exhibitor Gold Medallion and is an AKC Breeder of Merit.
As an engineering and genetics student at SUNY Stonybrook, Ms. Butterklee was showing American Pitbull terriers in obedience competitions at rare breed shows (as they were considered a rare breed at the time.) In the late 1970’s, Ms. Butterklee says she saw her first Chinese Crested and fell in love with the breed.
Then, she says, she convinced her best friend from college, Victor Helu, a genetics and microbiology student, to join her, and they both got involved with breeding and showing Chinese Cresteds. For the first few years, they worked separately and developed a bit of a rivalry.
“Friendship is a lot more important than dogs,” Mr. Helu says, and by the early 1980s, the two started working together to breed and show dogs. “She enjoys the dogs and I enjoy going out to the shows,” Mr. Helu continued. “We were a force to contend with,” Ms. Butterklee added.
Chinese Cresteds in the age of COVID
Today, Mr. Helu is living with Ms. Butterklee to help care for the Chinese Cresteds. Because of COVID-19, Ms. Butterklee and her husband invited Mr. Helu to live with them so he would not need to travel between homes and put himself or others at increased risk.
Since the pandemic started, Ms. Butterklee says she has not felt comfortable venturing out of her home and, consequently, has not been able to show her dogs for nearly a year. Mr. Helu explains the decision: “I would rather skip a year or two of dog shows but be able to enjoy life a couple more decades.”
The dogs live in a small house attached to Ms. Butterklee’s home. Ms. Butterklee declined The Canine Review’s request to see the dogs’ living quarters, because, she said, the puppies have not yet received their core vaccines. Good breeders will often keep newborn puppies quarantined to make sure they’re not exposed to Parvo or Distemper. Butterklee added that the mother can get easily agitated and will bark furiously when people enter her space. However, Ms. Butterklee is happy to show her dogs outside in her backyard and to show visitors the kennel area when all the dogs are out running around.
I’m very particular and very slow at breeding,” she said. I won’t breed to any dog until I see its puppies for at least three years.”
Ms. Butterklee showed The Canine Review several puppies. “I’m very particular and very slow at breeding,” she said. I won’t breed to any dog until I see its puppies for at least three years.”
“Hairless” and “Powderpuff”
Ms. Butterklee breeds both varieties of Chinese Cresteds: “hairless” and “powderpuff” under the name “Gingery Chinese Cresteds.” She does not breed her dogs until they are at least four or five years old to make sure they do not have health issues.
The dogs come with a health certificate from the veterinarian, as well as limited AKC registration papers, which means that the dog is registered but no offspring of the dog is eligible for registration. A supply of dog food is also provided, she says.
“I won’t give full AKC registration on non-breeding quality dogs,” she says. “If my dog is not good enough to compete and win, it’s not good enough to have puppies.”
Clients can return a dog at any time for any reason, she says. Ms. Butterklee will board a dog and provide additional training if needed. “They get me,” she says. “They get me into their life. Whatever they need, I’ll do. And I don’t do it for profit, I do it because I love the breed and I want the dogs to be happy in their homes.”