For many fanciers, the name Rachel Page Elliott is synonymous with “Dogsteps,” the iconic book on dog structure that was recognized by the Dog Writers Association of America as the Best Dog Book of the Year in 1974 (the same year she received the Gaines Award for Dog Woman of the Year). The information inside the covers of Dogsteps had its roots in what Ms. Elliot found when she became the first person to put a dog on a treadmill behind an x-ray machine to see what their skeleton was doing as they moved:
One can only imagine how many medical benefits came out of this, to say nothing of how it helped breeders breed sounder dogs. We could write extensively on Ms. Elliott’s contributions to our knowledge on dog structure, and suffice it to say that when we met her some 30 years ago at a lecture, we think we babbled when trying to say, “Hello, nice to meet you, ohmygodyou’rerachelpageelliott.”
Younger admirers may not know that with her dentist husband, Dr Mark Elliott, the Elliotts raised three kids, Golden Retrievers and Connemara Ponies. The Elliotts established their Featherquest Kennel with the AKC and raised more than 50 litters of Golden Retrievers over four decades. Success in the show ring and field trials simply fed Mrs. Elliott’s ever present curiosity about accurate breed standards, proper canine structure, and movement. Her research into canine movement was nothing short of ground breaking, and it led to her 30-year career as a researcher, author, videographer and international lecturer.
When she retired from lecturing, Mrs. Elliott took up dog agility training and competed in agility events until she was 91 years old. In fact, she even participated in an event for veteran agility dogs the summer before she passed away in 2009 at the age of 96.
Even fewer admirers may not know that Mrs. Elliot was not only a dissectologist from childhood, but an expert maker of jigsaw puzzles. She took up cutting wooden jigsaw puzzles when she was in her seventies and started creating her own designs for family and friends. Some of the puzzles were sold under the name, Pagemark Puzzles, while some were offered to fund raising events such as auctions for the Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue Association. In twenty years, Mrs. Elliott easily cut more than 1,500 puzzles.
In fact, the record for the most expensive jigsaw puzzle ever sold at auction was set by a puzzle custom-made by Rachel Page Elliott. “The Outing” sold at auction for $27,000.00 as recorded in the 2005 Guinness World Record and benefitted the Golden Retriever Foundation. It depicted a Golden Retriever female and five puppies playing in the grass and consisted of 467 interlocking pieces, many cut in Mrs. Elliott’s unique designs of birds, cats, horses, and, of course, Golden Retrievers in various poses (a special puzzle piece cut into a recognizable shape is called a “whimsy”). At the time of the auction, Rachel Page Elliot was 92 years old.
When Mrs. Elliott passed away, some 100 Golden Retriever owners in the area formed an honor guard to pay their respects to this remarkable woman. Some of it was caught in the video below (hankie alert):