The Faces Behind Watermark

Beginning in 1996:Heather and twin Sporthorse foals

"Heather Gould was born and raised on eastern Long Island, NY, where her passion for horses soon outgrew her family's small farm in Southampton. Connections in the Connemara world introduced her to the Ithaca, NY area, where she and her family relocated in 1987. Heather earned a degree in Equine Studies from Cazenovia College in 1991. There she met Betsy Atkinson of Hearthside and acquired her first two Aussies, and spent the next few years raising Connemara ponies and Thoroughbred crosses and managing a small feed store in Ithaca. In addition to enjoying horses and dogs, she enjoys web design, photography and music. Heather grew up a "Barbershop brat", with both parents active in competetive barbershop choruses, and joined her first Sweet Adelines quartet at eighteen. After a period of time trying on a variety of hats, including some time as a veterinary assistant, Heather decided to return to school, and graduated with a degree in Animal Science from Cornell in May 2005. She currently resides near Ithaca with her partner (also Heather) and works in pet retail while striving to build her web design and photography business, Capture Creations.

Kirsten Arnesen was born in the Ithaca area, but enjoyed a varied upbringing, spending the first part of her life home schooled on a sailboat in the Bahamas and her teen years in Portugal. Kirsten adopted every stray dog she came across in the Bahamas, but boat life didn't support dog ownership. It was in Portugal that Kirsten acquired her first German Shepherd, and was finally able to foster her innate ability to read and train dogs. Kirsten spent a period of time in Germany under the guiding hand of Baldur Kranz, a world-level schutzhund trainer and competitor, who helped to bring out Kirsten's natural talent in training. Once in the United States again, she set about producing a handful of stunning litters of German Shepherds.
Kirsten and Heather met via the feed store and Kirsten's German shepherds, and soon found a mutual interest in Australian Shepherds. Kirsten's innate dog sense and eye for structure and pedigrees, plus Heather's competetive drive and their mutual appreciation for the Aussie soon developed into Watermark"

2008 Note from Heather:
Today Kirsten and I have amicably gone in different directions. At 12, Teagan remains fat at happy (though going deaf!) at Kirsten's side in another part of the state. Flynn (11), Devin (10), and the rest of the crew (including Teagan's brother Obi) remain on the farm with me and my partner of four years, a vet tech also named Heather. While I run the day-to-day tasks of maintaining the dogs, promoting them, answering emails, maintaining the website, and planning occassional litters, my Heather helps out where she can and holds the all-important job of "Puppy Lover".

These days I work as Pet Care Manager in the Ithaca PetSmart, and have plans to return to school once again, this time to a field that will build on my previous education and interests, and ultimately allow me more time and freedom to enjoy the kids and plan some 2-legged ones: medical imaging. Right now the days are busy and hectic, filled with freelance jobs when not at work, but the dogs enjoy time spent romping and just being dogs in the large dog yard, frisbee from the front porch when the weather permits, and walks around the property and surrounding forrests. They go for car rides, go shopping, and visiting friends. Though the schedule is too full to attend many shows in person these days, you'll frequently see one or two of my promising younsters being handled by wonderful friends such as Linda Howell, of Howlyn Aussies.


Our Philosophy and Goals

At Watermark, we are dedicated to preserving the dog that drew us in initially. A mind that is keen and desperately devoted, a body that is tight, sound and athletic - a moving work of art. Movement balanced and efficient. A life as long and productive as one could ever expect from a friend so slightly less than human. Our primary goal is temperament. A nasty or shy dog that lives for seventeen years is no pleasure. We want our babies to leave a great big hole when they finally take the rest they'll have earned. We expect them to be stable in public places, devoted to their family, reserved with strangers, and protective if necessary but not shy or aggressive. Character is also essential - a dog with its very own personality and sense of humor, priorities, and work ethic is part of what defines the Aussie.

We want our kids to be around for a long, long time, with all of their faculties intact. This is why physical soundness runs a very close second to mental soundness. The Aussie is a working breed, and while we don't require that every dog have the drive to herd stock all day long, we want their bodies able to do so.

Physical soundess relies upon correct structure; form to function. We do not breed for excessive coat, excessive bone, excessive head, or excessive movement. We breed for true moderation, overall balance, and the type that originated from "survival of the fittest."

While we do certainly have our favorite colors, this quality comes last on the list. Our goal is rich, true pigment in all four colors. Our dogs are our only children. They sleep on the floors, the couches, the beds. They do know kennels, since all take turns in the house, and they know the pleasure of long, leisurely walks, a frisbee when the wind is right, and the luxury of playtime in big fields.

No true breeding program can move forward with just a couple of dogs, or one litter every year or two. Our litters follow no schedule. They may occur three or four times a year, or not at all for three or four years.  When the right match to produce the next generation - the next stepping stone on the path - is lined up, we breed a litter.  For the sake of sanity, we try to avoid multiple litters at once. Unfortunately, dogs that live together also tend to cycle together, so sometimes this is unavoidable. Our puppies are raised underfoot with the bustle of people, other dogs, and cats.

Our goals when producing a litter are always to improve the next generation. For this reason, all pet quality puppies are sold with limited registration on spay/neuter contracts. Because we care about the quality of life that our pups have, our show/breeding quality puppies are often sold on limited co-ownerships. In this way, we can retain some of the genetics we have strived for while allowing our pups to live wonderful lives with their own people.

Please feel free to contact us by phone or e-mail for more information about our policies regarding our puppies, or read on for an overview of our policies.



Some favorite images from the farm:
(Click to enlarge in a new window)

Fall evening Rainy day Rainy day Sunset in winter
Ice storm
Mist in the valleys below

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