Margaret Kilburn bred Dobermans for about five years. In that time, she bred approximately 16 litters, resulting in less than 100 puppies. Her breeding program was short….but the impact it had on the breed in the years to follow was astronomical, to say the least! Marge and Paul Kilburn purchased their first Doberman, Bock of Kernia, in 1941 and used him to learn on before going into breeding program. Bock was a black male of borderline show quality. Marge showed him in several shows and talked to breeders and those who judged him at each show – and learned a lot from them. Each judge faulted him in different places, and where he was not bad in these places it just added up that he was of medium quality. Here I’ll let Marge tell it: “This is good ole Bock. He’s the one who taught me… Abe Schwartz saw this dog and said you should show him and you should go to a dog show. He gave us tickets to the Bryn Mawr Show. We looked at the dogs, of course, with our green eyes. We asked the judge, George Provost, to take a look at our dog. We started showing him and we met with the same competition at all of the shows – and if three were there he’d go third, and if two were there he’d go reserve, and occasionally he’d win a point. To make a long story short, we learned a lot from Bock… including that the rich don’t always win, nor do the handlers.

In going to the shows, Marge studied the entrants and fell in love with the qualities of Eleanor Carpenter’s Ch. Assy. Illerblick. She told Eleanor that she would like to purchase a bitch from her first litter. Assy had been bred to Cherloc v Rauhfelsen many times … as many of you know, Cherloc was imported from Germany to Italy and then on to the United States as a sterile dog. He was a sire of the beautiful and famous Ch. Jessy v Sonnenhoehe and Ch.Gretl v Kienlesberg. Puppies from Cherloc and Assy, of course, never resulted but Eleanor advised Marge that Dick Webster of Marienland kennels (Baltimore, Maryland) had a great litter at his kennel… and the best one was still there. Gas rationing was in effect at the time, so Paul and Marge gathered up the last of their gasoline stamps and took the trip to Baltimore. There were four puppies sired by Ch.Westphalia’s Rameses, U.D.T. out of Ch.Dow’s Cora v Kienlesberg.

All the 5 month old pups were let out, and Marge studied them and picked the one she liked. So Mr.Webster had them put away and just the two bitches brought out again together. He asked Marge to choose again; she easily picked out the same one. He explained to Marge that he was only letting these pups go to people who would breed them correctly. They had irreplaceable bloodlines, with so much to offer the Doberman breed in coming years. The price was $150, so Marge and Paul went home to think it over. They were half-way home when Marge knew she just had to have that puppy. They could not drive back because there was not enough gas or gas stamps, so they telephoned to reserve the puppy. When they got home to their 94-acre farm, they hocked Marge’s diamond wedding ring and sent the money to Dick Webster. Marge then took the train to Baltimore to pick Illena up and bring her home. Illena came to live for many years on the Kilburn farm, located in some of the prettiest country I have seen. Pottstown is in the Berks County area, which is hilly, wooded and quaint, I personally am very impressed with this part of Pennsylvania’s countryside. Anyway the Kilburns purchased this place and rebuilt and added onto the log house. They built a kennel right onto the house and had huge fenced-in areas for the dogs, and an enormous puppy run. The Kilburns enjoyed their 94 acres, often hiking over it with the older dogs and the puppies. Their nearest neighbor was a mile away.

Illena was a dear dog to Marge. She finished quickly. In an old “Dog News” (August, 1943), Dick Webster had an advertisement saying “we sell our best” and listed wins his dogs had from “late shows”— and Illena was listed as winning Winner’s Bitch and Best of Winners under judge Robert Kerns in Washington with Ch.Rameses Best of Breed; Winners Bitch and Best of Opposite Sex in New York under judge Walter Parth; Winners Bitch and Best of Winners at Old Dominion, with Ch. Emperor Best of Breed and Best in Show under Judge Ahrenstadt; and Longshore, Winners Bitch under Anton Rost. So this was all in short period of time, Illena had a nice specials career, but she never saw a group first. She was always looking at the rear-end of the top boxer bitch, Ch. El Wendie of Rockland (who won over 100 Best in Shows). This boxer was handled by Nate Levine, who also handled Illena. So Illena won seconds. She had lots of Best of Breeds, and she was shown against many greats of the show ring (like Alcor, Emperor, Dodie, Rameses, to name a few). Incidentally, Illena was the only Doberman that Percy Roberts showed, as he didn’t care for Dobermans. Percy showed her in several groups, and commented on Illena’s strong, straight, true front legs. He encouraged Marge to remove the dewclaws on her dogs (which nobody did at that time) to show off this excellent trait. Marge points out, however, that this makes bad front legs look worse.

Marge bred for such a short time because of the heartbreaks of being a breeder. She told me of Kilburn Gosh, who was, in her opinion, the best she bred. He was out of Illena, by Ch. Dow’s Dusty of Marienland. Kilburn Gosh was sold to Texas, and he developed ulcerative colitis. Marge brought him back and nursed him back to health—and I mean from near death. She showed him once and he won a 4-point major; she sent him to be shown further and put a not of explicit instructions on top of his crate. The next day, Marge called the people to ask if they had read the note on the crate, and the lady said, “what note?”

Marge asked what she had been feeding and was told kibble and meat – and Marge told her to send the dog back because he would die…. They didn’t send him until much later, and it was too late. Marge lost him, and it broke her heart. “I was beginning to dislike people,” she says. True, you do. One of the very hard parts of being a breeder is dealing with the heartbreaks – and there are a lot of them.

There is a certain responsibility you feel in so many areas …Marge kept her promise to Dick Webster, and studied breeding and genetics. The Wistor Institute bred the large Norway grey rat for lab research, and Marge studied their breeding programs. She also studied breeding programs of dogs, horses, cattle and pigeons. This gave Marge the courage to selectively linebreed, she also learned how equally important the selection of individuals is in linebreeding (in any breeding) –her breeding of Kilburn’s Index to Dow’s Fancy of Kilburn clearly illustrates this. I am not sure, but I think this was an accidental breeding – and everything that was buried way back in the pedigree came out. They were all different. One dog she affectionately called “puzzle” had short legs. “Kit” had flat feet, but was the only one to look like one of Marge’s dogs (Kit was the foundation bitch for Highbriar kennels). Marge kept them for a long time to study them, and is sorry she didn’t photograph the litter because it brought out a lot of things behind all these dogs. It is important as a breeder to study anything you do.

Since November of 1943, Marge Kilburn has produced 22 champions. Of these, 6 were Best in Show winners, 11 were Group first winners—this, from 6 breeding by 5 sires and 3 dams.

The Kilburns didn’t come by this easily. Marge studied and learned and planned out something in her head before she got started. She followed good advice and got a super strong, good quality foundation bitch. She went from there.

Marge had the foresight, determination – and luck – to lease Ch. Dow’s Dodie v Kienlesberg. She bred her to Ch. Dictator v. Glenhugel, a dog Marge praises as having had a great and good influence on the breed. She also said that Dictator had an outstanding temperament, and he produced his temperament.

Today, Marge enjoys judging Dobermans all over the country. She has judged at the D.P.C.A. Specialty many times. She is a strong person, full of kindness and love for everything around her—and she has made a lasting contribution to our breed.

By Marj Brooks