Farewell to Dorothy Macdonald
Dorothy Macdonald went from judging astride a horse in field trials to appear years later judging BIS at Westminster in her Scottish clan’s stunning tartan plaid kilt augmented by a gorgeous lace blouse and designer jacket. Dorothy Macdonald was truly one of a kind – dedicated to preserving the dual purpose of dogs in general and her beloved Brittany in particular. Her judging versatility is verified by the fact that she judged field trials, conformation dog shows and hunt tests! Furthermore, she was an intellectual student of dogs with what would amount to a PhD in any other endeavor.
Her death on Tuesday morning, May 4, 2021, at age 94 came following a period of failing health in recent years. As her strength dwindled, her British “stiff upper lip” and positive attitude, along with a strong constitution, were ever present. As a child of World War II in her native England, Dottie experienced the Luftwaffe bombings of London that took the life of her surgeon father while he was operating on a patient.
Soon her mother decided to move to America to preserve the lives of the remainder of the family – Dottie, her brother and her mom and their five dogs. Booking passage for this menagerie was no easy task, but her mother persevered, and in time travel was arranged as she agreed to keep the dogs below deck to prevent barking from attracting enemy U-boats. The trip across the Atlantic and around the Panama Canal to Los Angeles took nine arduous weeks.
While her mother obtained a job with MGM Studios as a technical director, young Dottie returned to school. After graduating later from college, she went to work for United Airlines and continued her lifelong study of dogs. It was during this time she met the Brittany breed and had a new love in her life along with the terriers and Yorkies of her mother. Her friendship with Kitty Murphy fueled this passion for the Brittany, and the two of them traveled abroad to enhance their knowledge. In time Dottie was competing in field trials and dog shows, working for Irish Setter breeder and professional handler Dick Webb as she continued to acquire hands-on experience with the Sporting breeds.
Soon she was judging field trials and became totally dedicated to the concept of the dual dog. Dottie felt maintaining the unification of the Brittany as a field dog as well as a show dog was of vital importance. Thus over the years she was instrumental in working with AKC and the parent club to include the following in the Brittany breed standard: “Dogs with long or profuse feathering or furnishings shall be so severely penalized as to effectively eliminate them from competition.” Furthermore, there was a time when the breed was identified as the Brittany Spaniel, but thanks to Dottie and others protecting this pointing breed, the word Spaniel was removed from its name in 1982.
Her influence in working with AKC on the various breeds over the years included lecturing on the history of purebred dogs and the development of individual breeds at AKC judging institutes. Dottie’s impeccable research often produced little-known information that only a few would know, such as the old adage “One can breed terriers from hounds, but one cannot breed hounds from terriers.” My recollection is that the Airedale was a breed used as an example of this concept. Such tidbits from the past were among her interesting repertoire that judges today who trained at these educational events still remember and treasure.
Dottie’s years of working with AKC as a consultant resulted in her role in the Sporting Dog Institute held in San Jose, where famed breed mentors presented outstanding lectures on breeds in the group along with comparisons relative to other bird dogs (setters, retrievers, pointers and spaniels) and each breed was studied at work in the field. Pluis Davern assembled these dogs and the venue, allowing them to do their work in both water and on land. Attendees agreed it was an outstanding educational experience that helped judges to grow their understanding and abilities to judge these purposeful breeds.
In the 1990s Dottie worked with Midge Horn (now Martin) and Eric Ringle at AKC to produce films on each breed to help breeders and judges expand their knowledge. This quality program was one of AKC’s finest. Dottie’s accolades included Gaines Dog Woman of the Year in 1998, AKC’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 and Judge of the Year in 2010. Among Dottie’s other services to our sport was to serve as president of the Dog Judges of America and president of Del Monte Kennel Club. In 2001 her aforementioned Westminster BIS honor resulted in her selection of Ch. Special Times Just Right, the adorable Bichon Frise that was Top Dog All Breeds the previous year handled by Scott Sommer. It is fitting that her final BIS judging assignment in her home show at Del Monte Kennel Club provided the opportunity to award a Brittany BIS handled by Clint Livingston.
“Dottie Mac,” as she was affectionately known throughout the sport, will be long remembered for her love of dogs and dog people and her many contributions to our world. Her judging calls were always done with total dedication to preserving the breeds and with no biases. Her opinions were greatly valued as they were respected for the knowledge and honesty that provided them.
At age 94 Dottie began to fade and let those who were so close throughout her life, and at the end that she was ready to enter the Pearly Gates. God bless you for being in our lives.