Best Girlfriend to Us All
My first introduction to the delightful Barbara Alderman came over the August weekend shows in Ravenna/Chagrin Falls, Ohio. She was standing in first place with her lovely Afghan Hound Ch. Ben Vicki’s A Bit of Harmony, and I in second place with my Norwegian Elkhound Ch. Vin-Melca’s Vagabond in a truly strong Hound group. The year was 1970, and the group was judged by the Australian judge Graham Head. Barbara’s happiness was contagious, and I hugged her as I congratulated her. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Later more hugs, as Barb and her Afghan went on to BIS!
To know Barbara was to love her, and her recent death has shaken all of us in the wonderful world of dogs. She was gentle, kind, sweet and personable; at the same time her inner core was strong as steel. She suffered through the years with an assortment of dreadful back, sciatica, knee and other bodily pains with a smile on her face, always. There was no end to Barbara’s charm and courage.
Exhibitors, show committees and fellow judges adored her for her good sportsmanship, willingness to be kind to each and every one of us, and sense of fair play all too seldom encountered in this new century.
Barbara’s life “in dogs” started early on, and she bred some lovely Afghans under her kennel name Adlebarb before she became an assistant handler to George Heitzman – who was to become her permanent personal partner in dogs – both handling and later judging. We shared learning experiences over the years, attending various institutes sponsored by the judging organizations. Her pride later at becoming an all-breed judge was infectious. Losing George a number of years ago shattered her, but with her usual resiliency she bounced back from this tragic loss.
We all shared the joy this special lady had when her contemporaries selected her as Judge of the Year with the coveted Winkie Award one February in New York, even though she wasn’t able to make it due to honoring her judging commitments elsewhere at that time. When she was honored with the BIS assignment at AKC’s Invitational Show in Orlando in 2013, she selected the magnificent Portuguese Water Dog Ch. Claircreek Impression De Matisse. Dressed in a beautiful dress of many colors, she looked like a princess. Her warmth and charm radiated across the arena, and the camera loved her!
With all that was going on in her professional life, she was truly devoted to her family and farm. Barbara was like a mother hen with her own mother for years – doing all she could for the comfort and well-being of her aging parent. It speaks volumes that both of her sons are in professional animal care to this day. One is still on the farm operating the commercial kennel and the other trains horses in Oklahoma. They continue to speak of the dog fancy as their extended family.
When one of her many friends suffered an injury or bad health, this genuinely good lady was on the phone offering comfort and support. She was a true girlfriend to many of us. How could she herself be gone now? It is much too soon for us to give her up. Her endearing wit and light-of-heart ways will be in our memories forever. One evening at dinner after a show, she was reminiscing about beating the Top Dog All Breeds in 1970 (Vagabond), and quietly turned to me seated next to her and said with a wink, “But I only did it once!”
In a world of increasing ill will, no one ever heard her speak badly of others. And no one ever spoke badly of her. A trooper all her life, Barbara Alderman was a very special and precious lady who enriched our lives forever! RIP, dear one.