Sandcastle Kennels




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About Sandcastle Kennels


Who/What We Are How It Started The Present
Raising Puppies Our Facilities Our Dogs

We are an AKC Breeder of Merit Show kennel located in Claremore, Oklahoma - just Northeast of Tulsa and within an hour of the corners of Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri. We have 15 acres, right on the lake, so everyone has lots of room.  We have been raising Cockers (and only Cockers!) since 1982.  

While everyone in the family contributes to helping with the dogs and puppies, I have to say that they are my abiding passion and my husband and the kids are just tagging along because of me.   The family much prefers to be the petters and players, while Mom is doing the grooming, cleaning and care.  Of course that means the dogs usually like them better because they know I'm liable to give them a bath or a shot!  

I have to stop here and say that I don't use the term "Hobby Kennel" when describing myself and my dogs.  While this term is used by many to identify individuals that breed for the betterment of the breed and not for profit, I don't feel that the word "hobby" is a complimentary description of my commitment to my dogs.  I have devoted 30 years to studying and breeding Cocker Spaniels and to developing superior bloodlines, conformation and temperaments in my dogs.   For years, my family's home-life has revolved around providing care for our dogs and puppies and doing the best we can to provide them with everything they need.  We rarely, if ever, get family vacations and if a holiday rolls around and I'm not bottle feeding a too-small puppy or babysitting an expectant mother, I feel like something's missing!  (I have to Thank God for understanding family members and in-laws since family celebrations, get-togethers and my kids' activities many times end up with animals in attendance, or I have to miss them entirely when I can't leave a sick dog or whelping dam.)  

I most definitely do not view my interest in dogs as a "hobby" and my animals never take second place to a "real job".   My dogs are a full-time, 24/7, 365 day a year passion.  Even when I had to work, I was always lucky enough to have a job where my dogs could go to work with me.  I have NEVER left a bitch at home to whelp alone!  I have always believed that my "job" was to provide my dogs with support, care and attention whenever necessary.  

Since every breeding, pregnancy and birth are due to my influence, it's my responsibility to be present to support or help the dogs if necessary and to make sure everything goes "right" in any situation.  This means my dog "job" requires sleepless nights and days to help with whelping and watching over nervous new mommies.  I also have to be available to nurse weak, orphaned or rejected puppies for as long as necessary.  (This can mean every 1-2 hours as newborns and for as long 4-8 weeks for especially small, weak or sick puppies.)   This is what is required of a responsible breeder and this is what I do for my dogs.

Additionally, I believe in breeding for the betterment of the breed and in producing the best dogs I can.   I make every effort to stay current on breed issues and concerns and I do my best to breed the happiest, healthiest dogs possible.  I stand behind all of my dogs and am always available to answer questions or help new owners.....even 5 or 10 years down the road!   So, as I was saying, while "hobby kennel" may be the politically correct term for what I do (since I DO NOT sell to dealers, brokers or pet shops!), I certainly don't want anyone to think that this is something I do on weekends, after work or when I have some spare time!


My love of Cocker Spaniels all started when my best friend got a buff Cocker female when we were 16 years old.  I baby-sat this little girl for about a month and after she went home, I just had to get a Cocker of my own.  Luckily my parents were prepared as I was always the kid bringing every stray animal home from school or the park!  So, out I went to find my very own special Cocker friend and home came a silver buff boy named "Bear".   This was a wonderful little dog although he was the worst kind of "back-yard-breeder" pet quality.   I was devastated when I found out he wasn't show quality and I was horribly disappointed when I saw what show Cockers really looked like. 

Never one to settle for second-best, I immediately began to work towards owning a " show" dog.  With the help of several area Cocker breeders, my dreams came true and I have been lucky enough to purchase and breed to some exceptional dogs over the years.  From this solid foundation, I have continuously strived to produce puppies with exceptional conformation, health and temperament.  I have done my best to become knowledgeable on the breed standard, major health concerns and other breed issues.  

In addition to learning all I could about the history, structure and health of the Cocker Spaniel breed, I also learned to groom and show my own dogs.   Learning to groom my own dogs led to me making the decision to become a professional all-breed groomer.   Fortunately, I was able to work with, and learn grooming techniques from, several outstanding breeders and groomers.   Eventually, I opened my own grooming shop and ran this business in addition to raising and showing my Cocker Spaniels and keeping up with my family and 2-legged kids! 

Over the years, I have also worked with a number of veterinarians, become involved with riding, training and raising horses  and have spent considerable time with untold numbers of animal lovers and owners.  Basically, I have been incredibly lucky and have been able to live my dream!!!


At this time, I no longer have to "go to work" as I sold my grooming shop a number of years ago.  Lucky  me (and thanks to my husband), I now get to stay home full-time and take care of my family, the dogs and horses.  Of course I still have a set of clippers in my hand quite often and I have to "work" in the kennel and barn every day, but it hardly seems fair to call what I do "work" when it's so much fun! 

My husband isn't quite as lucky as I am.  He has to work a "regular" full-time job.  Fortunately for us however, his job isn't entirely "normal" and he is able to complete much of his daily work from home.   This means that someone is almost always here to keep an eye on the animals. 


All of my pups are born and raised in the house. The moms and puppies generally live in the entry way, right off the living room and across from my bedroom door, or many times IN the living room or kitchen.  The mommas get to roam our whole yard (our entire house is fenced in!) for time away from the kids and for exercise.  We always keep pups right in the traffic center of the house for socialization purposes, with the exact location being determined by the needs of each litter.   All of the pups get lots of attention from everyone by being so centrally located and this helps get them socialized and used to household noise and commotion.  


In addition to our home and a large fenced yard, I also have a kennel/grooming/training facility for my breeding dogs and older show puppies.  The kennel has central heat and air throughout, extra large indoor/outdoor fully covered runs with raised floors (4' x 16') and ceiling fans inside and out.   The 10' x 20' grooming room is equipped with a raised shower for bathing, 2 grooming tables and a large drying table for hand fluffing those show coats.  In addition to the indoor facilities, the dogs can romp and play in any of 15 large shaded/covered outdoor play runs (10' x 20' to 20' x 40') that are filled with small playground gravel.  

I believe in letting each dog have space to roam and run, so no dogs are ever kept confined in small cages or kennels, nor do any dogs live in the garage or any other make-shift facilities. 


I'm very proud of all of my dogs.  I have produced numerous conformation champion show dogs, various performance titled dogs,  several registered therapy dogs (including a seizure alert dog) and many, many family pets.  No matter what my dogs are doing, I love knowing that they are fulfilling their owners' dreams.  I am just as happy receiving a call or e-mail from a buyer telling me that "Fluffy" is a treasured member of their family as I am if one of my puppies wins points at a dog show or earns a show or performance title.     

However, one of the greatest thrills for me is when owners call to tell me that their groomer or vet thinks their dog is a great representative of the breed and they enjoyed working on them.  I'm extremely proud of the fact that my dogs are regularly noted by animal professionals as having outstanding conformation AND temperaments. (Having worked with animals professionally, I can attest to the fact that groomers and veterinarians usually see "pet" Cockers with poor conformation and bad dispositions and this breed is often not well thought of by these professionals!)   So, while it's wonderful to have a dog recognized for his beautiful looks in the show ring, nothing makes me prouder than to have a new puppy owner tell me their groomer or vet complimented their dog and asked for the breeder's information for other clients!   This is the kind of recognition I strive to achieve and I view this type of recommendation as a great compliment. 


Not every dog can be a Champion and, unlike some breeders, I do not view "pet" homes as a last resort placement for my puppies.  My "pet" puppies are not a less-worthy by-product of my breeding program.  Nor do I have a separate "pet" kennel of lesser quality dogs, that are bred only to supply the pet market.    Puppies that I have available to pet homes come from the same litters that I choose my show dogs from.  Some pet puppies may be available because they have "faults" that keep them from being shown (their color/markings are not acceptable for the show ring, they don't have enough coat, their teeth are not perfectly aligned, etc., etc.), but many of my available pet puppies are "show quality".  This doesn't mean they are "too good" to be your family pet or that they won't make excellent pets.  In fact, these dogs make outstanding pets!  Being placed as a pet is many times a better life for the dog as most people involved in the show world are breeders who have some type of "kennel."

In a kennel situation, the dogs are generally not all in the house and the owner's attention must be divided between a number of animals during specific time periods in the kennel. This is not usually a bad thing with conscientious breeders, but in worst cases it can be a terrible, lonely, life-long nightmare for the dog.  Another problem with placing puppies in "breeder/kennel" homes is that sometimes show/breed enthusiasts do not want to give every dog a lifetime home.   Some breeders may keep the dog for a period of time while they show and breed it, but once they have obtained the titles and/or offspring they want, they no longer wish to keep the purchased dog.  While this is not a bad thing if the dog is placed into a loving "retirement" home, there is the potential that a dog may end up in a bad home or that a dog may end up being passed from home to home if subsequent placements do not work out. 

As a breeder, I'm always very concerned about knowing where my puppies/dogs are, so the possibility of one of my dogs not having a permanent, lifetime home is a major concern.   To avoid the problems listed above, I sometimes prefer to place my dogs in homes that are more of a "pet" type situation.   These homes are more often permanent and I like knowing that my dogs are considered to be family members, not just usable/disposable possessions.   However, for all those show people out there screaming about what good homes they offer: NO!  I'm not naive enough to believe that all pet  homes are great. Bad pet homes can be  just as bad as kennel placements and can sometimes be even worse for the dog.

Pet owners abound that take a puppy home just to toss it outside to live, learn and fend for itself or that lose interest in the dog as their schedules, commitments and responsibilities change.  These people then express surprise and annoyance when their dog ends up as an over-active/ill-behaved/mal-adjusted wreck!  Many times, by the time this poor, neglected dog is a year or two old, the "loving" pet owners are anxiously looking for someone to dump the dog on or a shelter where they can just abandon it and its problems for someone else to deal with!  

Another poor example of "pet" owners are the type that never groom their dog (or do so once a year "whether he needs it or not!") and who never take their dog to the vet unless it is literally at death's door.  These dogs never receive preventive/on-going care for disease or parasites, allergies or skin disorders.  I can't tell you the number of dogs (of all breeds) I've seen come into a grooming shop for a "once a year strip" and the dog had to be rushed to the vet's because it was anemic from the hundreds of fleas and/or ticks on it.  I've also seen these same dogs with skin infections that were so advanced and uncared for that there were actually maggots living on the dog!    Sorry for the graphic details, but I actually saw this at least once or twice a year as a groomer.  And believe it or not, we're talking about dogs that were family pets in one of the most affluent sections of town and which were owned by people that would, otherwise, be considered normal, up-standing, caring members of their community!!!  

As you can see from the problems I've described above, there are no cut and dried rules for what constitutes the "best" home for a dog.  Any placement can have the potential for disaster or disappointment and because of this fact, I screen all prospective owners in an effort to find the "right" home for each of my puppies/dogs.  I also reserve the right to refuse to sell any puppy/dog, at any time, to any potential buyer that I do not approve of.  If you are interested in purchasing a Sandcastle Kennel's puppy, I hope you can understand that my asking questions and probing into your family situation, plans and schedule is not an indication that I don't like or approve of you, your family or your home.  I do these things because finding the right home for my puppies is vitally important and because I want to see each puppy in the "perfect" lifetime home.  

In order to find the right placement for each puppy and to be sure each family gets their perfect companion, I ask prospective owners to please fill out my PUPPY REQUEST FORM.  This form will help me understand your family's needs and expectations for a new puppy/dog.  Using the information you provide, I will be better able to help you choose the puppy/dog that is most compatible with your family's activity level, social situation and structure.  Your cooperation in filling out my Puppy Request Form is greatly appreciated.  No puppy will be placed until this form has been completed, submitted and APPROVED!

If you are thinking of purchasing a Cocker, whether for pet or show, Sandcastle Kennels would like to invite you to visit our dogs (in person or via the internet).   We invite comparison with anyone's dogs as we know our dogs can hold their own in any competition.   We generally say that you should either visit us first or you should visit us last.  If you come to us first, you will get to see what a Cocker really SHOULD look and act like.  You will also find out what benefits YOU get by buying from Sandcastle Kennels (knowledge, training and a lifetime commitment to helping you).......all BEFORE you get suckered into buying just a cute face!  If you come to us last, then you will have seen the dogs offered elsewhere and you will have no doubt that you are getting a superior dog if you choose to purchase a Sandcastle Kennel's puppy.  Believe me, you will be able to see a difference! 

Please continue to explore my website for further information on Cockers, training and puppies available. We would love to hear back from you about the site, including ways to improve your visit and any links you would recommend.

Please feel free to CONTACT US for further information or to answer any questions. Thanks for stopping by!

Cindy Helvey
Sandcastle Kennels
Claremore, Oklahoma


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