Question of the Week
Sundorne Castle, Near Shrewsbury, England
One of my more memorable dog experiences occurred many years age when I had just finished judging an Irish Water Spaniel specialty outside Boston.
The legendary Irish Water Spaniel, Ch. Oaktrees Irishtocrat, whose many wins included BIS at Westminster, was too old to be shown under me. But his owner, Anne Snelling in Canada, wanted Irishtocrat and me photographed together, so he was brought to the show by his equally legendary handler, Bill Trainor. I often think about that time today.
Alice and Steve Lawrence
Stafford Springs, Connecticut
Place: Bucks Country Kennel Club Show
Event: Watching our first Komondor win Best in Show in the pouring rain and deep mud
The Cast of Characters: Handler Mr. Bob Forsyth, BIS Judge Mr. Plymmon Carl Tuttle, Group Judge Mrs. John Marshall Jones, Breed Judge Mr. Langdon Skarda, dog Ch. Summithill Baba (Maggie) and an entry of 2,600 dogs that day. It was our first Best in Show, and our dog became the first Komondor bitch to win a Best in Show anywhere in the world. Sadly, her breeder, Dottie Stevens Collier, was home whelping a litter and wasn’t with us getting soaking wet and screaming. We were very young, and it is a memory that will last a lifetime.
South Burlington, Vermont
Don’t know that I need to relive this, but in more than 65 years involvement in the sport of dogs there was a trip up to Canada to breed a dog. We had some extra time, and my host took me to a training facility for guide dogs where she worked.
After touring the facility, I was blindfolded and given a guide dog in training. I was then sent on an obstacle course. At the end when I took off the blindfold, I was shown the path I had taken, and the obstacles the dog had taken me around and past.
I knelt down and hugged that dog tightly. All those titles, trophies and ribbons won over the years somehow faded.
Imagine my pride when I was told that young guide dog in training was the grandson of a specialty winner I had owned.
La Habra Heights. California
Winning Best of Breed at Santa Barbara Kennel Club from the classes over an entry of 108 Old English Sheepdogs.
After the judge, Mr. Marvin Kucker, pulled out the specials he was considering, he asked each handler to have their dog gallop. None would gallop.
Then he pointed to me. Tank galloped up and back, and the judge said, "Young lady, you are my Best of Breed winner ..." Still thrills me to this day.
Castle Rock, Colorado
In my younger days I raced an all-Samoyed sled dog team. All but a two-year-old were AKC champions at the time.
One particular race in Colorado had me and my four-dog sprint team in position to move up in the finish rankings on the second-day run. The first heat had been completed on the first day, a sunny day, and the trail was hard packed over its four-mile distance. The second heat was run the next day in heavy snow with winds gusting up 30 mph.
As I crested a hill, I could barely see my lead dogs, let alone the trail. We came to a fork in the trail, and I commanded my leader, “On by!” indicating he should not turn to the right but continue straight. He paused, looked back me with some confusion and waited for me to figure out that I was wrong.
I hooked down, got off the runners and punched through the snow to physically direct the leaders. But by the time I reached them, I knew Thunder (main lead) was right! He could feel the hardened trail beneath his feet, remembered the route from the previous day and waited patiently for me to realize it.
When I reached him, I praised him, ruffled his snow-encrusted head, and returned to the sled, calling the right command this time. We finished in third place for purebred teams that day.
Thank you, Thunder! You didn’t refuse a command — you waited patiently for me to realize my mistake.
A dog I bred winning BOB at the Gordon Setter National Specialty judged by a breeder-judge from Australia. It was the day after the 9/11 disaster. It was a sad time, and this made the trip home much more enjoyable, in spite of 9/11.
There are many experiences in the sport of purebred dogs that I would like to relive, but the one that really stands out was my first visit to Tirvelda Farms and meeting Ted Eldredge (Mr. Irish Setter) for the first time. This occurred more than 60 years ago, in October 1963. My former wife, Anne (Savory Bolus), and I were living in Durham, North Carolina, having made the decision to convert a two-year term of postdoctoral studies in the U.S. to a permanent residency.
We both had dogs as youngsters, and we had decided to bring a dog into our household. A visit to the cinema to see the Disney movie “Big Red” was decisive in us becoming Irish Setter enthusiasts. We had contacted Ted Eldredge, who we discovered was a noted Irish Setter breeder via an advertisement in the magazine Dog World, and he invited us to visit Tirvelda Farms and see his dogs.
We left Durham early one Saturday morning, and I remember driving through central Virginia on the east side of the Southwest Mountains and seeing that beautiful countryside bathed in the morning sun with glorious fall colors. A much-improved view over the dark satanic mills of my native Lancashire in England. Little did I know then that I would be spending most of my life living on the edge of those lovely mountains.
On arriving at Tirvelda some two hours later, we were greeted by a tall, gracious gentleman in his mid-40s and the most beautiful, well-behaved Irish Setters one could ever encounter. There was Ch. Tirvelda Nutbrown Sherry, who had produced a litter of 12 puppies, 11 of which finished their championships. Puppies from this litter spawned several successful Irish Setter kennels, including Bayberry, Wilson Farm and our own Dunholm. The same breeding had a major influence on Meadowlark, Spiretop, Scarlly, Sportmirth and Wenvarra. Other wonderful Tirvelda Irish Setters we saw were Sybil, Divine Sarah, Sallyann and many others.
It was indeed an important day in our lives, and both Anne and I have made the sport of purebred bogs a major part of our lives for the ensuing 60-plus years. We returned to our home in Durham with our heads full of visions of those gorgeous Tirvelda Irish Setters.
It had to be probably in the early 1980s. I had an Afghan Hound who turned out to not be a conformation dog (competition was very stiff back then — seven dogs for one point in the Midwest), but we started doing ASFA lure-coursing. I think we were in Wentzville, Missouri. So many Afghans, we had two Open stakes, like 12 dogs each, and my bitch, Splendor of Scheherezade, CD, was first place both days. She just had a lot of drive and played the game. Remember: Dogs are not judged just on speed, but endurance, agility, enthusiasm and “follow.” In full specials coat, she was breathtaking to watch.
Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada
As a judge, I would love to relive judging Dandie Dinmonts at Crufts 2022. Dandies were second in the ring, and the judge before me took so long, due to slowness and inefficient ring procedure, that we were almost two hours late from our scheduled start. This was so unfair to the exhibitors who had their Dandies all ring ready and had this unnecessary wait. I had to rush so that the Best of Breed would get to the group in the big ring in time. It would have been wonderful to have enjoyed a once-in a-lifetime assignment without a time constraint.
As a breeder-owner-handler, winning the Terrier Group in 2004 with my Dandie Dinmont, Am Can UK World (05) Multi BIS BISS Ch Glahms Golden Legacy, at the prestigious Windsor Dog Show in the shadow of Windsor Castle, in England, the first terrier from North America to achieve this recognition. He eternally remains my heart dog.
Breeding and showing dogs provided a lifetime of so many special, wonderful and unusual experiences. My favorite would have to be the first time our daughter, Shannon, showed our English Cocker Spaniel in Junior Showmanship. Both Rollie and I cried a little!
Daniel M. Mehling
New Orleans, Louisiana
Winning my very first point, under Maxine Beam. Back in the very early ’80s.
Sandy Hook, Connecticut
Many, many years ago, when I was a newbie handler, I won the breed in Dobermans with a class bitch. Then she won the group under Ramona Van Court, then she went BIS under a judge whose name I don’t remember. My first BIS.
My greatest dog experiences were at the feet of my mentors. As a young man listening to their knowledge, and experiences.
Those were the days I dreamt about the journey., Never knowing it would all come true.
Peter A. Gaeta
Iron Station, North Carolina
Going way back to the very early ’70s, when the American Kennel Club licensed handlers breed by breed, I was only licensed for a scant few Working breeds. Jack Dexter, a premier West Coast handler, was handling quite a nice Vizsla special for Beverly Wanjon (Russett Leather Vizslas) and had been doing quite a bit of winning with him.
The classes at the all-breed show in Bakersfield, California, were a designated specialty, and Jack had a conflict with the Vizsla. He asked me to start the Vizsla for him. At the time I do not think I had ever handled a Sporting dog, and I told Jack so. Jack said, “Don’t worry, just handle him like a Doberman, and go to the end of the line. I am sure I’ll make it.”
There were about 15 entries in the class. I went to the end of the line, and handled the dog like a Doberman. When Jack arrived, we were only a couple of dogs back from being examined and moved. I felt a tremendous sense of relief when Jack appeared at the ring entrance standing next to Beverly. I could see him ask the ring steward to get permission from the judge to come into the ring and take the dog. I was close enough to hear the judge ask which dog, and as the steward gave him the dog’s number, I waved and pointed at the dog.
The judge looked at the dog, looked at me, looked at Jack, shook his head and said, “No.”
I was terrified. I took a second to look at Jack. Beverly huddled behind his shoulder as though she couldn’t bear to watch, and I went back to work.
As it turned out, the dog won the breed, and as the judge handed me the ribbon, he patted me on the shoulder and said, “Young man, you do just fine. You don’t need to hire a handler.”
As much fun as it is to recall the thrill of the win, the memory brings back a flood of great feeling. Over the years I handled a lot of wonderful Vizslas that Beverly and Ed Wanjon bred. I had a long and productive association with Jack Dexter, who was a great handler with great hands; I learned tons from him. And I became quite fond of the breed. For several years I always had at least one in my string, and they lived with me as house dogs.
Winning Winners Dog, Winners Bitch, Reserve Winners Bitch and Best of Breed at the 100th centennial anniversary of the West Highland White Terrier Club of America. There were more than 450 Westies entered. This will forever be in history!
Basking Ridge, New Jersey
I guess this qualifies more as a "dog show experience": I had two days of dog shows very far out on Long Island, New York. On the first day, I approached a toll booth at about 5:30 a.m. I smiled at the toll-gate person, and she smiled back.
The next day was a repeat of the first. I approached the same toll gate at about 5:30 a.m., and there she was, the same person as the day before. I smiled and she said, "I know who you are." I was amazed that she remembered me from the day before and was about to say just that. She continued, "You are that famous actress on the soap opera on TV. I recognize you."
I was about to tell her the truth about why she "knew" me. But I paused and said: "I am shocked that you recognize me. I don't have makeup on." She was so excited to have met a celebrity and even have a conversation with her that I just couldn't burst her bubble. I drove through, grateful that she didn't ask me for an autograph, and smiled because I had just made her day! That was a great start for a lovely dog-show day.
P.S. I have no idea which actress she thought she had met that morning.
It’s pretty hard to choose only one! I’ve been fortunate in my lifetime with awesome dogs that I have many to choose from! My choice would be a long weekend, snowed in, with my three Dobes snuggled down in the king-sized waterbed watching cable TV. Those three were the best bed buddies! Sigh …