Fri, 12/09/2022 - 10:31am

This Is Who I Am

Sid Marx thinks some words should be struck from dog-show vocabulary

In 1972, George Carlin made history and had TV viewers doubled up with laughter when he introduced his "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" monologue. 

This “bit” elevated him to the status of a cult leader. Not wanting to lead a cult, I will not repeat those words here, but there are words I wish we would stop using in our dog-show community.

Let’s start with the word DUMP, as in “she dumped me,” or “she dumped my dog,”  

To me, that phrase indicates that the judge intentionally set out to put up another dog over yours for reasons other than the dog’s quality. Over the years I have spent a great deal of time with other judges, and I do know that there have been judges who did not care for particular handlers. However, I have never heard a judge declare how happy they were that they got to “dump” this person.

I have been in that same position. Over the years I have made a great many friends, and, of course, a few (very few) handlers/breeders that I just didn’t like. These people usually don’t show a dog to me, but there have been times when one or two did, and I was “forced” (by my integrity and love of dogs) to put their dog up.  

I would also like to remove any words indicating that the dogs we had to judge were “a bunch of crappy dogs.” In truth, not every dog that enters the ring is – or should be – a “show quality” dog, but I can guarantee that every one of them is loved – and should not be denigrated. Without these entries, we would not have shows. And, as Pat Trotter said, “Not every pet is a show dog, but every show dog is a pet.”  

Finally, we hear about “Giant Killers.” This term is used for a judge who intentionally looks for another dog – preferably a novice or puppy – to put up over a top-winning dog just to make waves. I must admit that I have known a judge or two who could fit this description. There is absolutely nothing wrong with putting a new dog – or any dog – up over a top-winning dog. The problem is if this is done for the wrong reason.

Conversely, there are those handlers – thankfully, not a lot – who act as if they are OWED the win because their dog is ranked and they are who they think is someone important. I have heard a handler exclaim that she should win a lot because “I bring these judges a lot of entries.” Well, thank you for that, but that does not get you into the winner’s circle.

I recently judged at a cluster where a dog won the group the first three days and a Reserve Best in Show one day. I judged the group the last day and gave this dog a Group 2nd. I absolutely loved the young dog I gave Group 1st, and I am judging what is in front of me – not a dog’s record or ad on the front page of magazines. The handler of the dog receiving a Group 2nd acted as if I had just committed a crime. Really? How many of you would be happy with a weekend that produced three Group 1sts, a Reserve Best in Show and a Group 2? Get over yourself! 

***

Over the past few weeks, I have watched sweepstakes judges and a few newer judges judging NOHS groups (as I waited ringside to judge the next group). One NOHS judge took over 45 minutes to judge the group as we all stood out in the freezing rain. By that time, even the winners didn’t care and just wanted to get to some warm area.  

Not that anyone asked for my opinion, but that has never stopped me before, so here are some words of advice to those judges (new or not) – and you should know who you are (unfortunately, I bet they don’t recognize themselves).

Obviously the first requirement is to have read – and understood – the breed standards. 

Be aware of the sun, and use the shade for the dogs as much as possible. The absolute number-one priority should be safety. 

Staring at the dog will not make it get any better or make your decision easier. In fact, for many breeds, this is absolutely the worst thing you can do to them.  

When you check the bite, bending over and putting your face right by the dog’s is absolutely not a good idea – for any breed.  

Do not kneel to examine the dog. 

 Unique movement patterns do not make you look smart. Triangles went the way of old-time Juniors judging, and Zs never worked.  

You are examining the dog for proper bone structure and conformation, not giving it a massage. You are probably not getting paid by the hour, so overdoing this is not to your benefit – or the dog’s. 

Watch the dogs all the way around. I saw a sweepstakes judge watch all the dogs in her ring just a few steps, and miss the best dog in the ring (IMHO) because she didn’t see it get into its gait and move well. This is true especially with puppies. Sometimes you may just get those couple of moments of brilliance to make the correct decision. 

Best of Winners is not an automatic cross-over of points. We are not in the ring to split points – we are there to choose the best dog or bitch. 

Remember the quote attributed to Andrew Brace, “Any fool can find a dog’s faults; it takes a connoisseur to appreciate its virtues. The mindset of the judge who can actually help a breed progress is entirely a positive one, having the ability and desire to reward dogs for their virtues whilst keeping their faults in perspective. By recognizing dogs who have outstanding qualities, judges can contribute to a breed. Damning an excellent dog on the strength of a minor fault is merely ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water.’” 

Or think of the words of the late Bea Godsall, so often quoted by Frank Sabella, “All great dogs have faults; they just carry them better.” 

***

I am writing this two days before Thanksgiving, and it has made me think of how thankful I am to be able to spend time “talking dogs” with such special people as Gene Blake and Pat Trotter. It is too bad everyone can’t do that, but then again, I wonder how many would take advantage of that opportunity. 

So, I am a dog judge. It is not my job – it is who I am. I hate the travel and being away from home, but when I am in the ring, surrounded by dogs, I am in my element. Consider these lyrics by “American Idol” alum Colton Dixon: 

This is who I am
It's where I stand
I won't apologize
This is why I'm free
Now I believe
I will not compromise
This is who I am  

What do you think? 

 

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