Dozens of judges will head to New York City next week, putting their breed and Group expertise to the test on behalf of the Westminster Kennel Club to assess thousands of dogs of nearly 200 breeds and varieties. For 15 of them, it will be the first time they’ve stepped into the venerable club’s rings without a leash in hand.
Here, we take a quick look at each of the judges for whom 2013 will surely be a most memorable year.
Corral de Tierra, Calif.
His breed: Bull Terriers.
Affiliations: Bull Terrier Club of America, Northern California Terrier Association, three regional breed clubs and Gavilan Kennel Club. He has served as the BTCA Treasurer and Genetics Chair for the Welfare Foundation.
Previous assignments: BTCA’s Silverwood, the French National, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, England, Germany, Holland, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
On judging at Westminster: “WKC is generally recognized as the premium all-breed dog show in the USA. Being asked to judge there is a validation of a judge’s abilities, a kind of peer recognition if you will. That is very gratifying and thus what makes it a special assignment.”
On the WKC experience: “I am hoping that the importance of the show and the limitations on qualifying for entry will provide the best competition in each breed. Judging quality dogs gives me the most enjoyment, and while it makes you work hard as a judge, there is great satisfaction in selecting the best so that they then go forward to the Group as the best representative of their breed. So I am looking forward to the breed judging, but also to see how each performs in the Group.”
On being a physicist and a judge: The discipline of physics “has trained me to be quite analytical. There are a lot of facts going through my head as I judge each breed, so for me it is a mental challenge remembering and applying a lot of detail, and one which I enjoy.”
Center Moriches, N.Y.
His breeds: Chesapeake Bay Retrievers and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers.
His start: A Basset Hound, his first show dog as a child, became his first champion in 1980.
Affiliations: American Chesapeake Club, Brookhaven Kennel Club.
Began judging: In 2006.
On judging at Westminster: “Westminster is a special assignment due to its history and prestige. This is especially true due to the fact that this is the first year in decades that regular classes are being offered, as it was when I first started showing dogs in 1980.”
On the WKC experience: “As this will be my first time judging at Westminster, I am looking forward to every aspect of the experience. I am also looking forward to spending time with my mentor and dearest friend, Thomas Bradley, Westminster’s show chairman. He has been a great influence on who I am as a judge today, and I value our relationship greatly.”
On law enforcement and dogs: “My experience in the dog world has helped me in my life as a law enforcement officer in many ways. On patrol in the city, we come in contact with dogs and their owners on a daily basis. Understanding a dog’s behavior and how he may react in a stressful situation has enabled me to control that behavior and avoid having to use harsher means of restraint. I have also been able to teach my subordinates how to do the same, and how to be more humane when coming in contact with our furry friends.”
Her breed: English Cocker Spaniels.
Her start: Started showing Miniature Poodles in conformation, obedience and Junior Showmanship as a child.
Approved to judge: All Sporting and Toy breeds, those Groups, and several Non-Sporting breeds.
On judging at Westminster: “Judging at Westminster is the pinnacle of my judging career. I have attended most Westminster shows for the past 20 years and find it is like no other show. The excitement is palpable, and the dogs are always in top form. The venue is unsurpassed. It’s the “granddaddy” of all dog shows. The show committee is the most hardworking and accommodating of any in the country, and every event is planning to the nth degree. It is truly an honor to be asked to judge Westminster.”
On the WKC experience: “Honestly, I am looking forward to the entire experience as a first time judge at Westminster, where in the past I have been an enthusiastic spectator. From the judges’ pier party and judges’ dinner to the actual judging of the dogs, it is a thrill that is indescribable. Every aspect is such an amazing thrill for me.”
On Poodles and Cockers: “For the first time in my life, I am without dogs, and I do miss Miniature Poodles as well as English Cockers, which I bred for over 25 years. But my judging career takes me away from home, and so, for now, I am enjoying the freedom and not worrying about a dog sitter! Perhaps someday I will get a Poodle or an EC. Time will tell!”
Debra Long Gschwender
Her breed: Bouviers des Flandres.
Her start: As a teenager in obedience, then in conformation.
Affiliation: American Bouvier des Flandres Club, where she has served as president and National Specialty chairman.
On judging at Westminster: “Westminster is a one of a kind show – the prestige and the glamour. I’m most looking forward to judging some of the top dogs in the country.”
On Bouviers: “Bouviers are loyal, quietly protective and have a wonderful sense of humor. They aren’t a breed for everyone though, because they have a strong personality.”
His breeds: Spaniels.
His start: His parents were breeders of Basset Hounds and Dachshunds in Australia, where he was born.
On judging at Westminster: “The WKC show is a historic sporting event, steeped in tradition and well-known around the world. To be invited to judge at this show is one of the highest honors you can receive in the sport. I have always respected the tradition of the show, and I understand the importance of winning there. To play a small role in the history of the show in the few breeds I am adjudicating is a great honor.
On the WKC experience: “There is a level of excitement and anticipation leading up to the show. As a foreigner now living in America, all of those feelings are made more intense as a result of the traditions of the show, the bright green carpet and the purple tablecloths, the beautiful flower arrangements and the velvet ring ropes. Of course, knowing that the level of quality of the dogs will be extremely high has me excited to take my first step into the ring!”
On expectations: As a young man in Australia, Jamie never thought he would be a judge at Westminster. “It never crossed my mind. You could only imagine my excitement the day the invitation arrived.”
His breed: Cocker Spaniels.
His start: Showed his first dog as a school boy in 1960.
Started judging: In 1974.
Affiliations: Kennel Club General Committee, Breed Standards Committee chairman, Crufts dog show commentator.
On judging at Westminster: “Well, Westminster ranks alongside Crufts as one of the world’s most prestigious dog shows. I feel very honoured to be invited to judge there, especially as there are few British judges who achieve that. I have read so much about the show, watched the screening on my computer into the early hours, and so I have great expectations!
“I suppose the staging of Westminster in Madison Square Garden adds an extra excitement to it, but I am looking forward to seeing a lot of America’s top dogs under one roof, well actually it’s two roofs this year.
“I must say that the organisation and care I have received before the event have been exceptional, and I feel very well-prepared. I am looking forward to the show as a social event as well as a dog show. It all seems a very slick operation, and knowing how much work goes into that, I am very impressed and appreciative.”
On the WKC experience: “I am looking forward to my breeds at the piers and the Group spectaculars in the evening. I have tried many times to get to Westminster as a visitor, but commitments came in the way, so I am achieving an ambition, and, more so, I am judging at the show which I shall rank as one of the highlights of my judging career.”
On Crufts and Westminster: “Every show is a challenge, and every judging invitation a privilege. To be allowed to assess exhibitors’ dogs – their pride and joy – is never to be taken lightly. There is no room for arrogance or complacency in any judge’s wardrobe! I think that any honest judge will tell you that before EVERY assignment, large or small, there is a little adrenalin coursing through the veins, always a few nerves with expectation, and that is often the quality that makes the perception sharp and that is important in a judge. Friends in the theatre have the adage, “no nerves, no performance,” and I think that is true of dog judges too. There is, after all, a large audience watching out there, and this is especially true at Westminster.”
Jerry Klein, D.V.M.
His breed: Afghan Hounds.
His start: He forced his parents to buy him a Wire Fox Terrier and started going to dog shows.
Approved to judge: All Terriers, Afghans and Salukis.
On judging at Westminster: “Westminster is special because of its history and the level of competition. But really, Westminster is special because all of your non-doggy friends know about it and have seen it on television. To them, it legitimizes what I do, I guess. It’s special because it IS special.”
On the WKC experience: “I most look forward to the first lineup of each breed. That gives me an idea of what I have to work with, which can be a rush. Or not.”
On Afghans and Wires: “Wires were my first breed, and Afghans my last. Different, yes, but both can be among the most stunning of their respective Groups. Though elegance is not stated in either standard, both breeds can be amazingly so.”
His breed: German Shepherd Dogs.
His start: A German Shepherd given to him at age 9 by his father.
An honor: Inducted into the Dog Show Hall of Fame in 1999.
Mr. Moses did not respond to Best In Show Daily’s questions.
Her breeds: Siberian Huskies, Labrador Retrievers, Standard Poodles, Otterhounds, Old English Sheepdogs and Border Terriers.
Her start: As a young adult, Liz started with a Siberian Husky, which she exhibited in obedience. She then moved into conformation and also had a sled dog team.
Approved to judge: Four Groups and several additional breeds.
On judging at Westminster: “I’m from the East Coast, so Westminster had always been at the top of my list as an exhibitor and then a professional handler, so being invited to judge there is, of course, a special thrill.”
On leaving the business world to be a professional handler: “I have loved every part of my full-time involvement in the sport and never looked back to ‘what might have been.’ I feel privileged that my hobby grew to become my livelihood for a time, though I am now back in the ‘real world’ when I am not judging. The world of purebred dogs and dog shows introduced me to many wonderful people and travel to places that I never would have seen were it not for the dog shows. The memories and friendships I’ve gained are truly priceless, and I am very fortunate to have had the opportunities that dog shows afforded me!”
His breed: Old English Sheepdogs.
His start: In the 1970s.
Approved to judge: Four Groups and some additional breeds.
On judging at Westminster: “I’ve been going to the Garden for about 30 years, so to get to judge there is very special to me. It is a great honor to be asked to judge such a great show. This is one of the shows in your judging career that you feel privileged to be able to judge.”
On the WKC experience: “I look forward to seeing and judging great dogs, and having some time to talk and spend with all my friends I have made through the years by being involved in the sport of purebred dogs. I also look forward to spending time in New York City. What more could you ask for in life?”
On judging nerves: “My first judging assignment was some 20 years ago, and I was very nervous since it was the breed that I started in – Old English Sheepdogs. I think every time you judge you get nervous, but it is good nervousness – the thrill of being somewhere new and always wanting to do the best job you possibly can in every breed you officiate. It is an honor to be a judge, not a right.”
His breeds First, Saint Bernards, then Skye Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Pugs, Japanese Chin and Chihuahuas.
Started judging: In the early 1970s.
Approved to judge: Working and Toy Groups, plus several Terrier breeds.
On judging at Westminster: “I have been watching or attending WKC from a very early age. In my earlier years while showing dogs, I had always hoped to show at this grand event. Well, that never happened, and I always ended up the spectator. I had always hoped to judge and back then always dreamt of being part of the Garden. It had been a long time aspiration to judge this show and the day my invitation arrived I was overwhelmed. I answered immediately. A childhood-adult dream I never expected to happen is becoming a reality.”
On the WKC experience: “The three breeds I have the opportunity to pass on are particularly my favorites, especially the Saint Bernard, which is my original breed. If I had been asked personally to pick a few of the breeds I would like most to judge at the Garden, these would be at the top of my list. There are others, but I have always enjoyed judging the breeds assigned. It will be thrilling to see my picks in the Group ring. Wow!”
On dogs and cats: “Getting into Persians was quite by accident. A gift from a friend led me to pursue my curiosity about cats, and, of course, cat shows. Before I knew it, we dove right into the cat world. Hoping not to sound boastful, but for many years our cattery, Agonistes, produced many of the top cats in the country. The type we set gained international renown, and the cats gained accolades all over the world. While we are no longer breeding, those ‘Persians with that certain look are still in big demand. It was a great experience and opened doors in many places across the globe.”
Bethel Island, Calif.
Her breeds: German Shorthaired Pointers, English Setters.
Her start: Her career as a handler came naturally, as she’s the second generation in her family to pursue the profession.
Affiliations: Del Valle Dog Club, founding member of Lake Mathews Kennel Club, past member of the English Setter Association of America.
On judging at Westminster: “An assignment at Westminster Kennel Club is, for me, the ultimate honor as a judge. When I was undergoing my stem cell transplant, the mere thought of making it through the treatment in order to someday be invited to judge at Westminster actually gave me more reason to fight! Additionally, the nostalgia of past wins and past great dogs simply echo at the Garden!”
On the WKC experience: “I can’t wait to see all my ‘dog family’! Of course, I’m both excited as well as a bit nervous to be judging, but I’m sure once I actually get into the ring, I’ll be able to enjoy the amazing dogs before me.”
On the nickname “the slobber queen”: “Seems I got tagged as ‘the slobber queen’ by my dear friend Wayne Cavanaugh during my handling career, showing so many top-winning Bloodhounds and Mastiffs. My friends call me ‘Mama Gretch’ or simply ‘Gretch.’”
Her breeds: Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas.
Her start: She grew up in dogs with her family’s Cocker Spaniels and her father’s hunting German Shorthaired Pointers.
Approved to judge: Toy, Non-Sporting and Working Groups.
On judging at Westminster: “Since Westminster is the oldest dog show and a very important one, I think every judge feels honored to be invited to judge this show.”
On the WKC experience: “I really look forward to seeing what dogs win almost every breed, particularly the breeds that I have been involved in over the years.
On moving from Sporting dogs to Toys: “The Sporting dogs were my father’s, my first breed was Dobermans in the early ‘60s, I moved on to Toys after the Dobes had bitten almost all our friends at one time or another. They were much tougher back then. When a 5-pound Toy Poodle outsmarted them, I decided that was the breed for me!”
His breed: Scottish Terriers.
His start: First entered the show ring in 1970.
Affiliation: President of the Champaign Illinois Kennel Club.
On judging at Westminster: “Throughout the early years when my wife, Carolyn, and I were exhibiting dogs, Westminster was something we only saw on television. Later, as an exhibitor or spectator, it was still somewhat of an enchanting experience to a dog show lover. To be a part of the judging panel is to have come full circle to something that has become an important part of my life. And I would say that it is an honor to think that somewhere, someone feels I have the ability to make the decisions facing me in the show ring during this wonderful canine event.”
On the WKC experience: “I’m looking forward to actually judging the dogs shown to me as all of them are top winners in their respective breeds. It certainly won’t be easy, but still exciting”
On the importance of kennel clubs:“ I think all all-breed and specialty clubs, no matter how big or small, are important to the sport. I remember my first show still to this day. Each club has the responsibility to help educate the public on the wonders of the purebred dog and give those interested an opportunity to participate in those dog-related activities. The Champaign Illinois Kennel Club is a small group of interested, hardworking people who use their talents to keep our love of the sport alive and will continue to do so.”
His breeds: Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers and Skye Terriers.
Started judging: In 1996.
On judging at Westminster: “The profile of the Westminster dog show as being the pinnacle of dog shows, not only to us in the fancy but especially to the general public, makes being asked to judge here a great honor and the number one reason why it’s so special! Along with the tradition of benching, which the Westminster Kennel Club has always held on to, I applaud the return of class entries as it reinforces the role dog shows play in the sport of breeding purebred dogs.
“While, as a breeder, I always feel that one’s National Specialty is always the most important show of the year, I have to say…there is only one Westminster!”
On the WKC experience: “I look forward to having some of the top exhibits in their respective breeds in my ring that day. For a judge, it is a thrill and a challenge to parse details among quality entries to arrive at your ultimate winners.
“I am also very excited to be a part of the return of class entries to the show. I remember how special it was to have a class entry at the Garden and even better a win! There was always a buzz among the breeders and handlers when an extraordinary class dog or bitch was being introduced at Westminster, and the crowds would gather ringside to see if an upset was in the making!
“As a judge, it does, of course, please you when the Group judge works with an exhibit you have sent on to them. I will be very excited to see how my choices stack up to those sent on from the other judges that day.”
On a total entry of 69: “The total entry is not overwhelming when compared to some of my previous Terrier specialty assignments. I have had the honor of judging at some of the most prestigious Terrier venues here and abroad, with my largest entry of 200-plus being in my original breed, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, at Montgomery County Kennel Club in 2001.The difference will be that I will be working with six different breeds all presenting to me their best charges in a highly competitive venue. That will be exciting and demanding of my full concentration!”
Biographical information on the judges was provided by the Westminster Kennel Club.