Karen Kirby Ash grew up in a lake front home built by her Italian father, a cabinet maker, in Braintree, Massachusetts where she currently teaches water training to PWD owners. One of six children, Karen and her family vacationed summers at their waterfront summer home on Sias Point in Wareham, Massachusetts.
Karen's earliest recollection of the variety of pets who lived with the Farina family are of Clancy an Irish Setter. As well as memories of her cat, Pandora, parakeets and fish, Karen recalls an assortment of "man's best friends," which included Max a Great Dane, Rufus a black Labrador Retriever, Erin an Irish Setter, Tonya a German Shepherd Dog and Sambo a miniature Poodle, who incidentally saved her four year old brother, Douglas, from drowning in the frozen lake her family has lived on for the past century.
Starting her education in the Braintree Public School System, Karen attended high school at Notre Dame Academy in Hingham, Massachusetts. A brief marriage left Karen with fifteen month old identical twin sons, David and Mark, and a newborn son, Matthew. After graduating from the Bryman Medical School as a medical technician Karen enlisted in the United States Air Force. Her Vietnam era military years were spent stationed at Malcolm Grow Medical Center on Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington D.C. followed by David Grant Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.
In December of 1976 while stationed in California, Karen met a Cadet at the United States Mechant Marine Academy at King's Point on Long Island, New York. in his last year. Following graduation in 1977, they married, Karen traveled occasionally on oil tankers to places such as Honolulu, Hawaii, Valdez, Alaska, and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and southern Florida.
On their first wedding anniversary, Karen was surprised with Annie a year old Cocker Spaniel from the local shelter. Over time she had Razzmatazz a Cockapoo, Sepia a Peekapoo and three Golden Retrievers Apollo, Pakka and Bubba.
While attending the Rhode Island School of Design, Karen met a Portuguese Water Dog and knew that someday she wanted to own one. In 1986, Karen graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design and in January of 1989 relocated to League City, TX. In 1996, following the unexpected death of her beloved dog Bubba she began her search for a Portuguese Water Dog. Karen attended an American Kennel Club dog show at the Houston Astrohall and met Karen and Bob Arends. The Arends invited the Ashes to visit their home to meet their dogs. Here Karen's love affair with the breed began. Karen located a breeder with an available male show puppy who became CH Admiral Travis B. Clyde of Ferncliff, bred by Colville and Ann Jackson. The following November the Jackson's male Ch Brieah's Mississippi Gambler "Chance" sired a litter bred by Deborah Zorn and in January brought home Karen brought home her second Portuguese Water Dog, CH Encanto Brio Butterfly Girl, CD AX AXJ CWD CGC HIC TDI GROM.
Travis was handled in the show ring by C.J. Favre and completed his AKC championship on 28 November 1997. Later he was shown as a "breed special" ranking in the top 20 in 2000. and receiving an invitation to IAMS Invitational. At the 1998 Portuguese Water Dog National Specialty in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Brio was awarded the 9-12 month bitch class by Portuguese Water Dog breeder and international judge Carla Molinari over 20 other puppy bitches.
In May of 1999 Karen was awarded her Masters of Art in Psychology from the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at the University of Houston in Clear Lake and began using Brio as a therapy dog with high risk children and their families.
On 22 May 1999 Brio x Travis produced our first litter of puppies.
In the spring of 2000, Karen and Brio earned a Novice Standard Agility Title, Herding Instinct Certification, Canine Good Citizen Certification and Therapy Dog International Certification and were introduced to water work at the LoneStar Portuguese Water Dog Club while Karen was secretary of that club.
On 28 January 2000, Karen obtained her second PWD bitch "Sweet Tater" who was born and in May of 2000, the gift of a lovely Whippet, "Britney", sired by the then three year running #1 Whippet in breed, CH Chelsea Made You Look of Sage, SC "Redford", joined her family.
In September of 2000 at the Minnesota Regional Specialty CH SaltyDawg Orion's Freya, became my first home-bred champion finishing with a five point major. During the 2001 Portuguese Water Dog Club of America's National Specialty in Warwick, Rhode Island "Sunny" Ch SaltyDawg N Driftwood's Sun of Batman was awarded Best Senior Puppy in Futurity by judge Christi Overton and "Remington" Ch SaltyDawg On the Snow Trail made a clean sweep in his age group winning first in 6-9 month Futurity, Sweepstakes and Breed as well as Best Puppy in Specialty Show under judge Linda Fowler. At the Minnesota Regional Specialty in September 2002, CH SaltyDawg's Aerial Skydancer also completed her championship with a five point major. In July 2004, Baker, CH SaltyDawg Twice Baked CD RA OA NAJ NF WWD SROM became the first champion Karen showed from start to finish and on 14 August 2004 Karen finished her first champion out of the Bred By Exhibitor class with Harley, Ch SaltyDawg n DW Song About the Heartland.
After moving to New Hampshire in January 2001, Karen committed herself full time to breeding and caring for the SaltyDawgPWDs. Karen has bred/co-bred and whelped many litters. At this writing, they have produced well over 20 AKC breed champions, CKC breed champions and multiple water, agility, obedience, rally, tracking and nosework titles. Karen actively trains and competes in conformation, agility, rally, obedience, water work and has recently begun training in nose work. She is a voting member, Vice President and on the water committee of two regional PWD clubs the Portuguese Water Dogs of the Northeast Club, The Mayflower Club, and serves as one of two Health and Litter Log administrators for the national club, The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America. Karen is an AKC Certified Evaluator for Canine Good Citizen and besides serving in multiple capacities for her breed clubs - Karen currently teaches water work for PWDS and pet obedience. And in 2016 qualified for an Outstanding Breeder Achievement Award from the PWDCA and since the PWDCA started their Owner Handler Award program each year Karen has remained in the top ten for performance events.
In 2004 & 2006 with Karen handling CH SaltyDawg Twice Baked, CD, RA, OA, NAJ, NF, CD, WWD, AOM was awarded Best of Breed at the National Dog show, which airs on Thanksgiving Day. Owner handled Baker finished 2006 ranked in the top ten Portuguese Water Dogs in breed and #13 in All Breed. In 2007, Karen and Lakota, CH Saltydawg's Dream Catcher CGC had the honor of winning the Bred By Exhibitor Group at the Cape Cod Kennel Club.
More changes came to Saltydawg Kennels in March 2016 at that time Karen took over Saltydawg PWDs as a lone adventure and started teaching breed specific water work on Sunset Lake in Braintree, Massachusetts and offering in home boarding to her puppy owners.