Karen Wilson with her Best in Show winner at the 2022 Montgomery Kennel Club show.
Fri, 10/14/2022 - 10:55pm

Montgomery Hangover

Geir Flyckt-Pedersen reflects on this year's gathering of the Terrier faithful

I suppose I am not alone! After another show where the feeling that life was back to close to normal, I think so many of us have things to contemplate, rethink and digest for the foreseeable future. Maybe even until Montgomery 2023?

And this is a hangover that no Tylenol or Aleve can cure.

Having had the unbelievable honor and privilege to judge Best in Show at Montgomery in 2021, I am sure that this year’s judge, Karen Wilson, was looking forward to this assignment as much as I was last year. And if anybody doesn’t know, I remember her as a successful breeder of Airedales decades ago, followed by hundreds of Terrier judging opportunities. Popular and experienced, so definitely a most worthy choice.

This show I think is like the Mecca for enthusiasts of any Terrier breed, and if you are anything like an all-rounder — or even simply accepted as an all-breed Best in Show judge — I think a visit to this show should be mandatory!

It is one of the few opportunities in this country to observe every Terrier breed in numbers. We are getting more and more accustomed to judging single entries in many of these breeds in so many parts of the country. This is the chance to “get you eye in” and put things in perspective. I have heard so many comments over the years that, much to their surprise, group and BIS winners in some areas in this competition don’t even fall into the categories of serious contenders within their own breeds.

So a visit to this show is in my opinion necessary to get your head straight. At least when Terriers of any kind are involved.

The show’s global image as THE show to watch Terriers of all shows in the world is certainly again reflected in the number of visitors from a variety of European countries, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Asia, etc., etc., and actually a number of entries from those countries.

It always amazes me that some of the shows during what we commonly refer to as Montgomery Week choose judges for Terrier breeds who in the past have had absolutely no experience or even interest in this group. In the Olden Days the shows paid respect to all those elite Terrier breeders, handlers and exhibitors by inviting “names” associated with this group for decades, which definitely added flavor to it all. Maybe I am getting old and out of touch with what’s going on, but many of the names on the lists this year were owned by faces I had never seen or heard of. There are many, like myself, who are trying to follow what’s going on in any breed, but sadly there were many of my most involved friends and acquaintances who when asked had absolutely no idea where some people came from or even from which group or breed.

There was a time when the world was ruled, even in the U.S., by a number of prolific judges who all could look back on a background as breeders, handlers or both with justified pride. Which naturally was known and appreciated by those lucky enough to show under them. I dare say slightly different these days, but there has always been a suspicion that “following the leader” was an issue. Not necessarily wrong, as long as “the leader” really knew what he or she was doing …

Even at a four-day event like Montgomery, there is a risk that this happens, and maybe it did, although breed winners varied from day to day. So hopefully they all, if asked, could explain their decisions, which we at times had to do in my old world.

As already mentioned, the added bonus to this week is meeting old friends and reconnecting with people from the past who in the last couple of years were unable to travel freely.

And for me personally, the opportunity to “offend” my British friends in their own style gave me considerable pleasure. As well as asking questions about their decisions, which I think in most cases were excellent and understandable.

I had the pleasure of watching a new — to me — acquaintance from Ireland do a great job in Airedales at Hatboro, and some older Brits — a famous Fox Terrier breeder and his “sidekick” — judging their own breeds at Hatboro with very understandable results. But one of the benefits or even a conclusion after listening to comments from respected authorities in a number of breeds is of course the wide specter regarding the interpretation of breed standards, and what is right or wrong. Plus of course listening to comments like: “That dog is too long in back!” And the next person on the same dog: “Love his short back!” And so on and so forth …

I have during my long life in dogs learned to accept that, although I am always right, there are others who see things differently. We might have different priorities, but as long as you can explain why, it is accepted. And if we all had the same ideal and identical “taste,” the world would definitely be a boring place.

During the days I overheard a few comments about a breeder-judge who was blamed for taking revenge for previous battles lost by pointing at an “outsider” for Best of Breed.

Happens from time to time, but with a closer look at the chosen animal it was obviously a dog more on par with what the person normally breeds and shows. So I suspect it was an honest decision.

But if you dare to step outside the box, you will always be suspected of having ulterior motives or reasons …

Maybe a good thing in many people’s opinion, but the number of “first timers” at the show who walked about with their clipboards was noticeable, so the fact that we now have an entire new population of Terrier judges with no previous experience or even obvious interest in this group is interesting. A HUGE responsibility for the breed clubs to appoint well-qualified mentors with instructions not to sign any candidate’s form automatically!

In my humble but of course indisputable opinion, there has been a marked change in respect for taking on this group as a judge. The loss of highly respected (and at times even feared) names like Ward, Chashoudian, Hallmark, Behr, Fisher, Coady, Forsyth, Wornall, etc. — and now even the retirement of Mr. Green — have seemingly opened the doors for a number of new talents who when these guys/girls were still active would never have had the courage to face them in the ring.

We are already looking forward to next year, and in the meantime lots of thoughts about decisions, comments and what could or should have been done differently.

Until next time …


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