Last Update: 1/18/2013 10:57:00 AM
Windsor Township keeshond puppies to be featured on Animal Planet program
Nine balls of gray, black and cream fur bounded around the rolling green hills of Keeshond Heaven in Windsor Township on July 28 as a True Entertainment crew filmed the litter for the last time for an episode of Animal Planet's "Too Cute."
The episode is set to air this season, but a date hasn't been finalized. According to Karin Failla, director of publicity for Animal Planet, the episode is tentatively schedule to air March 19 at 9 p.m.
The keeshond pups certainly lived up to the show's name, and it's easy to see how they can quickly win over hearts.
Collene Esterly-Hamm, who started breeding keeshonds 29 years ago, no longer cries hysterically every time one of her babies goes to a new home. It was tough the first two years she bred them and had to say goodbye. Now she only cries a little.
"I learned to tell myself you just made another family happy," Collene, 48, said.
The cameras were rolling as six of the nine puppies were picked up by their new owners on July 28.
Collene estimates the crew filmed 36 hours at her home and kennel near Lenhartsville. The nine puppies were born June 1 to her keeshond Maya, 5, and the crew started filming them at 8 days old.
"They were here every Wednesday since," she said.
The pups' father is Kody, 2, another of Collene's keeshonds.
"I have 21 grown-ups, and they stay with me until they die of old age," she said. "There are a lot of breeders that breed them (the dogs) and when they can't produce puppies for them any more, they give them away. To me, that would be like giving my child away. It's hard. My oldest one, Keeza, lived to be 17. That's rare. They average 12 to 15."
In addition to the keeshonds, Collene's family also has three cats, ducks and two Yorkshire terriers she inherited when her mother, Evelyn E. Esterly, died in 2011.
Collene's husband, Mark Hamm, 53, also fell in love with the Dutch breed that is part of the spitz family.
"There's nothing like a keeshond, all you have to do is spend a couple of hours or days with one," Mark said. "You see how different they are than other breeds. You know a lot of dogs you stare at, they flinch. You can stare at a keeshond and a keeshond goes, 'Oh, wow, what's up?' He's just more interested in people than most dogs."
Although Mark's career as a custom woodcrafter for his Chester P. Basil's business takes him to shows most weekends during the year, he is still very involved with the dogs.
"He had to help every day because there were so many puppies," Collene said of Maya's litter of nine.
Typically, keeshond litters are five to seven puppies. Maya's pups outnumbered her feeding stations, so to speak, so they had to be rotated by Collene and Mark to make sure they were getting enough to eat.
Collene has other responsibilities, too. She owns Collene's Crafts & Flowers in Kutztown and is also mother to Dillon Moll, 25, and Cassandra Moll, 23.
"I like my flower shop, but my passion is with the dogs," she said.
Animal Planet found out about Collene's breeding facility through her website, www.keeshondheaven.com, she said. There was no monetary compensation for allowing the crew to film.
"They pay you with cookies," she said, noting they were very good cookies and brought from a bakery in New York City each week by "Too Cute" field and story producer Michelle Leifer.
Why agree to do the show then?
"This breed is so hard to find, and more people need to know about them, and that's why I did it," Collene said. "I have tons and tons of customers. I don't need more customers. More people need to know how amazing these dogs are."
Contact Susan E. Miers Smith: 610-371-5048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.