COD Holder - Melissa Kelly (PA)
Up The Mountain Rabbitry
“I swear you were switched at birth.” That is a quote from my dad while I was growing up in reference to my desire to get a horse, and the rabbits that already lived in my bedroom. He couldn’t understand how a girl growing up in suburban Pittsburgh could be so into animals. My parents never did share my fondness of the furry.
In college, I attended the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, which gave me the more rural setting I was hoping for, and I eventually did get that horse! Several in fact, and I also started competing in Western and English pleasure on the Quarter Horse circuit. After settling down and starting a family, horses fell by the way side, but my love for animals never waivered. After college I spent several years as a substitute teacher and was eventually hired by a small rural school “up the mountain” from Altoona, where we were living at the time. I saw this as my opportunity to fulfill my dream of rural living surrounded by tons of animals! Today I live on a couple acres, in the district that I teach in and our menagerie consists of: dogs, cats, chickens, fainting goats and, of course, rabbits.
Last, but certainly not least is my Harley. I became a proud Harley Davidson owner in the summer of 2010 after decades of drooling over my own bike and riding….well, in the back. I am in good company, since I ride with many of the friends that I have met from my other job where I bartend at a local “biker” bar. Anyone with several older, way overprotective brothers will know how I feel walking into work each night. Working and riding are my escape from the pressure of teaching and all of my other responsibilities. And while “bikers” may have a bad connotation, I have found them to be protective, supportive, and ultraistic. This year we have held runs for Autism, Toys for Tots, Vietnam Vets, the Humane society, and many other worthy organizations, not to mention the number of memorial rides that celebrate lost friends and also benefit great causes.
Above all, my other interests however, raising Lionheads still tops my list. I was first introduced to the Lionhead by a coworker when looking for a pet rabbit for my oldest daughter, Mickayla, at Easter time. I was told that they were fairly new to the country, cute as the day is long, and very good with kids. After the “Easter Bunny” brought Mickayla her bunny, mommy started to research the Lionhead, and was fascinated by the presentation process through the ARBA. For someone who was missing the competition of Quarter horses, rabbits seemed like the perfect solution since they wouldn’t require the time, money, or space that horses had. Rabbits certainly seemed manageable for a busy mom! In 2006, Nikki Stetson transported my first pair back from Nationals for me from Blaircroft Rabbitry, in Indiana.
I acquired a few other rabbits in the first months of my rabbitry, but it was not until I was having trouble breeding and decided to drive to CT that my rabbitry really took off. I met up with Jane Rameriez, of Lions Lair Rabbitry, and bought a doe, her litter, and the litter that the doe was fostering. The doe, Twilight, turned out to be an excellent producer, but in that fostered litter was my herd buck, Valens. Valens ended up taking first place out of the senior buck class at the 2007 Nationals! I was stunned. I had to ask Becky Armstrong why the judge put him back away from the table! She said, don’t worry, that’s a good thing! She was right, of course! He went on to win the class. I bred Valens to another purchased doe, Bastet’s Starla, by way of Michelle at Golden Sunrise. Those two together would start my strongest line of Chestnuts and Oranges. That breeding created Mountain’s Venus which is a multiple BOB winning Orange Doe and a Chestnut, Mountain’s Luna, who won three out of four BOBs at 2008 PaSRBA Convention, as well as numerous other BOB awards. Luna was put with one of Marilyn Stevens’ bucks, Lions Park Wally, and produced Mountain’s Laredo, BOV Orange Buck of the 2009 Lionhead Exhibition and Mountain’s Southern Man, who took BOSV and BOS.
Chestnut and Oranges continue to be my favorite colors. When deciding to pull a cod, I sent many emails to Lynne Schultz who currently holds cods on both colors. Personally I had pros and cons on both colors and so in discussion with Lynne and her list of pros and cons, I agreed to pull chestnut as a back up to Lynne. Kim Croak and I had joined forces to work on both of these colors and had planned to pull a combined COD before her passing so I needed for myself to be true to our original plan.
Most importantly though, I have continued Kim’s work on her Silver Marten project. I pulled on Silver Marten soley in memory of Kim. Kim and I had a “if something should happen to me” conversation at her barn on one of my many visits to her place and how unfortunate that I had to evoke the pact we made that day. I pledged to do right by Kim, present her silver martens, and so here I am today. In the meantime I have since joined forces with Donald Sheets of VA who is an excellent Satin breeder and soon to be an excellent breeder of lionheads as well.
My interest in rabbits today is not limited to Lionheads, however. I have acquired my ARBA registrar’s license with the goal of obtaining my judging license not too far off now. I also have two other breeds, Satins and Mini Satins that I greatly enjoy even though Lionheads continue to be my main focus. In addition to breeding and showing, I am also currently editor of the Mid Atlantic Rabbit and Cavy Shows newsletter, which is the organization dedicated to bringing ARBA convention to District 9. I will be dedicating much of my time over the next two years to MARCS, as we host the 2013 ARBA Convention at the Harrisburg Farm Show Complex in PA. As far as the Lionhead club goes, I’m enjoying my time as president and will do whatever I can to support Theresa in her presentation attempts. I am typical “type A” personality and as you can see, I love to be busy! LOL I really think presentation and further expanding our relationship with ARBA needs to be everyone’s main priority for the next few years. I hope we can all pull together to accomplish this goal!