Question of the Week
Wendell Sammet was the finest combination of virtues possible in one human being. He was a great student of dogs all his life, as well as the ultimate educator who willingly shared his knowledge.
While I was researching Poodle information for an assignment for the printed version of the AKC Gazette in the late 1990s, he was there for me every step of the way, providing historical information about the Poodle in America as well as the great people involved in developing the breed in the early years. His rollicking tale of the TWO evolving breed clubs — each representing a faction involved with the breed in its American infancy — proved him to have a delightful sense of humor.
All who knew this great gentleman considered him an outstanding sportsman, mentor and genuine friend who was kind to fellow humans and dogs. Wendell, your legacy of expertise coupled with all that is good in a human being will live forever in our hearts. RIP, dear one.
Anne H. Bowes
I first met Wendell Sammet in the early 1970s, when I began showing my Pembroke Welsh Corgis in Massachusetts. Wendell was at every show I went to, and of course he realized I was new at the game. He was always kind to me and gave me pointers on how to better show my dog. As time went on, we became friends, and I so enjoyed the time we spent together. The last time I saw him was with Pattie Proctor, an incredible friend to Wendell. She often visited him in his Pembroke home and took me along with her several months ago. It was wonderful to see Wendell, and I will always treasure those last moments I had with him. Godspeed, Wendell, and may you find some fabulous dogs to show in Heaven! You are greatly missed.
I would like to share a couple of memories that stick out in my mind from my days as Wendell’s assistant. I was in that position for four years.
One of the most memorable moments was at the “Old Garden” in 1967 for Westminster. He won the breed in Standards with Ch. Alekai Marlaine (below). Melbourne Downing was doing the group, but he knew that the competition would be Frank Sabella with his Mini. There was a huge crowd, and it was one of those special nights. Melbourne brought the two Poodles center ring (above). He started working the dogs, allowing both handlers to showcase their craft. As each dog moved, the crowd erupted in cheers. Eventually Wendell got the nod for first. It was an iconic moment in the sport that stays with your memory. People would talk about it for years afterward.
Ch. Alekai Marlaine.
On another personal note, when I think of Wendell, I always recall one trip to Florida for the January circuit. We loaded up a station wagon with about 10 dogs. We would leave Boston and drive straight through until we reached shows without stopping. I was at the wheel when I noticed something moving in the rear-view mirror. The Basenji bitch had somehow gotten out of her crate in the back and was crawling between the crates and the roof of the car, about a three-inch space, trying to get to us. The kind of thing that only happens on a trip like this. We had a good laugh as we continued south.
But the best part was the circuit. It was 11 shows. When all was said and done, Wendell had won six of the Bests in Show. That was extremely unusual in those days and may have been a first. It was a great ride home.
I just loved everything about Wen. I do not even know where to start.
He is one of those special individuals who grab a place in your heart that can’t be replaced. I met him through Joseph Vergnetti many decades ago; he was such an icon that he had an aura around him that beamed. A glorious individual, so strong but yet when talking to him gave you a feeling of kindness and warmth.
Yes, he was Mr. Poodle and Mr. Dalmatian, but I tell you what, he was a king of all breeds. He loved Dobermans: He loved to talk about them, and I loved to listen. He came to the Doberman national, and at dinner it was incredible to listen to his review of the day’s judging, so spot on. But it was all breeds — he was a dog man. Brilliant! I will miss him so much, so kind. We just couldn't have enough time with an icon like Wendell Sammet.
In the late 1980s, I was working at my family’s Pick-Your-Own Blueberry farm when a gentleman came up to the stand to get an extra bucket. He looked very familiar, so familiar that I was embarrassed when I had to ask him his last name so I could label the full bucket. He said “Sammet.” I blinked and said, “Hi, Wendell!” He looked and me and blinked and said, “Hi, Beverly!” We’d been talking the previous weekend at a show. I guess it never occurred to either of us that the other person might have a life outside of shows …
Lydia Coleman Hutchinson
I was with Miss Ruelle Kelchner (Hollycourt Mini Poodles) when she was first introduced to Wendell in 1955. She and I were staying at the home of Poodle fanciers Chas and Jean Miles in Dover, Massachusetts, and they arranged to have Wendell come for a meal with us; they hoped that Miss Kelchner would choose to hire him as her handler, and that is exactly what happened.
Her dogs helped to put Wendell on the map in the world of Poodles. I was in high school, and helped train and groom Hollycourt puppies on weekends. I would be at the kennel whenever Wendell was there and also helped him at shows. Our friendship lasted more than 60 years.
Newburgh, New York
One of the nicest men I have EVER met. I enjoyed our conversations over the years, and his shared knowledge was worth far more than anything I ever read. He has been on my mind recently, and I should have taken the time to call. You held a very special place in our sport, Wendell, and that spot will remain forever vacant because only you could fill it. Rest in peace, my friend.
Wesley Chapel, Florida
Wendell authored an article on judging the Poodle. It offered a clear, efficient and appropriate method of examining the breed. In my study and now my judging of the Poodle, I follow his methodology. Hence I think of him whenever I review the standard and going over a dog. He’s right there with me!
Many years ago (nearly 45), while attending our Dalmatian Club of America I was approached by Wendell, who asked to go over the male special we were showing at the time, as Wendell explained that he had a client that wanted his opinion of Charley dog. After examining Charley from head to toe, he stood up and said lovely dog, structurally sound, and he will age gracefully and live a long life. Charley lived to be just shy of 14 years old. Except for slowing down, his spots remained crisp, and he never lost the way he carried himself that he had as a young dog. Wendell and I became friends after that, and I always enjoyed talking to him when he came to the Michigan/Ohio area. We have lost a great scholar and dog man … He will be missed!
I have so many memories of Wendell. We had been friends for more than 50 years. When I first met Wendell, we were all showing in Massachusetts. I was a very newbie at a show and all the Poodle people set up together. I was griping about things — probably the judging, show grounds, I don't remember exactly. I heard someone (Wendell) say, “If you don't like this, stay home!” That made me think and changed my whole attitude toward showing. He had a way of getting his point across. I was blessed to have him as a friend.
Grass Valley, California
Living on opposite coasts, and not being from Poodles, I didn't get to spend a lot of time with Wendell, but each year at Westminster we'd visit ringside, always the gentleman, and it was fun to hear all the pearls of wisdom he spoke. The words “hero” and “icon” are thrown around willy nilly these days, but this man, truly, was an icon in our sport. He will be missed, and I only wish and hope that he can see all the wonderful words spoken about him. A true jewel.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
I asked Wendell once if I was “allowed” to like a Poodle that was doing some big BIS winning. His answer was, “No! He has round bone!” The dog had many other great breed attributes, but something that basically wrong was not OK. Great lesson.
From my perspective, Wendell was always a gentleman and good sport whether in or out of the ring. In his later years he attended shows sitting outside the ring. He enjoyed the shows and watching most everyone attending, but mostly sizing up the quality of the dogs being shown. He definitely had a keen eye for a quality show dog no matter the breed. He would have been one of our best and most respected judges. His reputation in the Poodle ring for breeding, maintaining and presenting the dogs under his charge was unmatched. He left a legacy of excellent assistants who worked with him over the years. There are many owners and exhibitors who sought his advice on breeding. We have individuals in the dog world today who started out as clients and friends of Wendell who since have become icons in the dog world. Thank you, Wendell, for contributing so much of your talent inside and outside the ring toward the betterment of all show dogs and dog shows.
Acworth, New Hampshire
Years back, Elin was showing a young Deerhound bitch at the Wamponoag show. Much to her dismay, she not only won the breed but won the Hound Group and had to go in for Best in Show! I will always remember Wendell, being the perfect gentleman and consummate good sport, as he coached Elin silently on how to deal with the Best in Show ring — where to place and stack the bitch to show her in the most positive light. Well, “Runt” won Best in Show and finished her championship, having also gotten her first major at the specialty several weeks prior. The first to congratulate Elin was Wendell with a very big grin on his face. He exemplified what was best about that generation of professional handler. Not only did he know quality, but was willing to help an amateur. I will miss Wendell very much, as I often would enjoy chatting with him when he came to Cheshire or when I was fortunate to run into him.
Coram, New York
I wrote an article about Wendell several years ago, and it was printed in Dog News. I was thrilled when he told me, at the time, that he really liked it. He was most certainly an “icon,” a friend and loved by many. A personal loss and a major loss to the sport.
My favorite memory of Wendell was watching him show a beautiful Dalmatian at the Greenwich show. Green grass, a stunning black and white dog moving flawlessly with Wendell on the end of the lead. A wonderful moment in time. A wonderful human being.
Where do I begin?
Wendell and I had so many laughs! Probably my favorite is when he cooked a bunch of us individual chicken pot pies and brought them to the show! I can’t remember how many, but there were a lot, and, boy, were they delicious!
Thanks for the memories, Wendell. I’ll miss you.
Cranford, New Jersey
I remember Wendell as always being a part of my life in dogs, and I’m not in Poodles! I’m in Lhasa Apsos, but he showed many Lhasas in the classes and as specials.
When I started, I was a terrible handler, but I went to handling classes and every match show I could find in driving distance to practice. When I got to real point shows, I watched the professional handlers and, being a good mimic, copied everything they did and developed my handling skills.
One day at a show in Connecticut, there was a big major in bitches under a judge I had never shown to before. As I stood ringside waiting to go in, all of a sudden handlers started gathering for this class. Handlers who didn’t normally show Lhasas.
I turned to Wendell and asked him, “Who is this judge? What does everybody know that I don’t know?” And he said to me, “Bobbie, in this breed I’d rather show against any handler than you.”
Well, we went in, and I won the major, and walking out of the ring Wendell said to me, “See, I told you — congratulations!” He was always like that.
When I started judging, I applied for Dalmatians as my second breed, as at that time they were a key breed in the group. I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed coming from a coated breed to a naked one where I could see everything. Well, whenever I was judging Dals at a show where Wendell was showing, without me knowing, he would sit and watch. When I was finished, he would come over and ask me if I wanted to talk. Then we would go somewhere quiet and talk, and I learned so much from him. He even remembered dogs I had put up before.
And, of course, the Poodles! Always teaching, and me always learning. The generosity he showed me with his knowledge and his time is locked in my heart forever. I was so lucky to have known Wendell Sammet!
One of my many favorites was dropping off my mom’s Beagle “Skipper” at the pet shop in Hingham for Wendell to take to the shows. It was a magical place where I could be with three “GREATS” — Wendell, Bill and Barbara, all at the same time. I worshipped Wendall from those days in the ’50s to the present! Love you, my friend.
The Villages, Florida
I had just begun judging and was watching the groups at a show out East. A very nice (in my early opinion) Dal went around the ring, and I wanted another opinion. I had never met Wendell, but asked this nice gentleman sitting next to me if he had any knowledge of Dals. He was so gracious, even though I didn't know who he was in the sport, and he took a great deal of time to explain the breed, its history and function, along with explaining the standard. I thanked him for his knowledge and for taking a newbie under his wing.
Don't you know that a week later I received an envelope with an enormous amount of material and pictures on the breed? I still have the envelope. We also spoke on the phone occasionally and at shows later on about Poodles as well.
What a gentleman and, bless his heart, he did not take offense that I didn't know what an icon he was in Dalmatians and Poodles on the day I was fortunate to meet him.
Rest peacefully, Wendell. You have mentored many people, touched many hearts and your knowledge will not be forgotten.
Temple City, California
Oh, my, there are so many! But I think I will just keep this on a more personal level.
I remember being astounded when he called me out of the blue to discuss the possibility of using one of my dogs. The conversation lasted a few hours as we talked about the breed in general, both good and bad, and reminisced about the “good old days” — the great judges, the great kennels who bred so many wonderful families of dogs, and of course the incomparable array of great handlers. After our conversation, I hung up the phone in absolute awe that this icon in our breed had just called me!
We had many more phone calls in the years to come, and lots of good times in person. He was a kind man, smart as a whip, and a great sense of humor. As a very young girl, looking through my Poodle Review magazines, I never dreamed that this man that I idolized would end up being a dear friend. Godspeed, Wendell … you meant so much to so many.