Under a two-acre oak grove off Mulholland Highway, more than 400 people and 200 dogs gathered last Saturday to celebrate the 12th Annual Southern California Doodle Romp in Malibu. Known as “Woodstock for Dogs,” the romp is the highlight of the year for enthusiasts of the breed, which consists of mixes between Labrador retrievers and poodles and golden retrievers and poodles.
“It is the largest and only one of its kind in the world,” said host Sharon Steele. “It isn’t just a dog park with dogs running around. It is an elegant party with flowers, food and double linens that happens to have dogs.”
Steele, who has organized the event for 12 years with her husband Phil and other volunteers, said this year’s event might be the last for the foreseeable future due to the size of the undertaking, among other reasons.
The co-founder of the Labradoodle breed, Beverley Manners, flew in from Australia to attend.
“When I heard that it may be the last one I had to come and see all my grandchildren,” Manners said, referring to the doodles.
If this is to be the last one, the doodles put on a show. This year’s romp featured a gourmet buffet lunch, wine, many contests, a pet photographer, agility playground, different vendors and even a “video confessional booth” for a new television pilot about doodles. All shapes, sizes and colors of doodles were walking around, running, playing, chasing each other and having a good time.
All net proceeds benefited the K9 Connection, an experience-based program that educates and inspires at-risk teens through bonding with and training homeless shelter dogs. Each individual program serves counselor-referred teens at participating schools, and concludes with a graduation ceremony and the placement of each dog in a permanent home.
Doodles are a relatively new breed. In 1988, Australian breeder Wally Conron founded the hybrid when he crossed the Labrador retriever and Standard Poodle. In 1991, Manners took over and since then her life’s passion has been developing these dogs. She has infused four breeds in 23 years.
“The goal was to create a breed that there was a need for,” Manners said. “Nonshedding, allergy-friendly, extremely healthy, and suitable for therapy and assistance dogs.”
She makes sure to breed all the dogs using DNA testing for diseases and breeds only from the healthiest parents. Dr. Jean Dodds, considered one of the foremost experts in pet healthcare, conducted an extensive study in 2005 of all breeds of dogs and concluded that the Labradoodle has the least diseases of all the breeds, Manners said.
Manners has registered the genuine Labradoodle breed as the “Australian Cobberdog” to protect their future because some people are changing the original breed. Labradoodles can be found in eight colors, including chocolate, café, caramel, apricot, red, black, cream and silver, and either curly wool coated or wavy fleece.
Bob and Ann Davis Schultz drove down from Redlands, Calif., for the romp and proudly wore “Team Labradoodle” T-shirts for the event. They brought along their 4-year-old Labradoodle, Bella, whom they adopted when she was 4 months old.
“We saw a picture of her on the Internet and I fell in love with her because of her eyes,” Ann said.
Bella is trained for therapy and is a service dog. Once a week Bob takes her to the Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center where she participates in a program called PAWs. She visits with children, adults and seniors who receive treatment and interacts with them, providing pet therapy.
Another pair of owners who gave their names as Steven and Karl attend the romp every year from San Diego with their Labradoodles, Darwyn and Logan. They adopted their Labradoodles from a breeder in San Diego. The doodles’ mother came from Beverley Manners’ breeding dogs in Australia.
“We were in a park one day and saw a disabled woman with a service dog,” Karl said. “We started talking to her and saw how attentive the dog was. She told us how lovable and smart they are.”
They did some more research when they got home and two months later they adopted their first Labradoodle. Steven is a clinical psychologist and takes the dogs to work on a regular basis.
“They are very intuitive animals,” Steven said. “The dogs gravitate to people who are depressed. Their disposition enhances with people that need extra love.”
For more information about Beverley Manners visit www.rutlandmanor.com.