For people in every breed, there are shows they love to go to every year. For Terrier people, Montgomery County in October of course heads the list, but there’s another show on the opposite coast that Terrier fanciers and handlers have been going to for more than 40 years, and that remains the second most important Terrier event in the United States.
Great Western began as the Associated Terrier Club in the late 1960s. Actually it began as an idea in the mind of Margaret Young, and she gets much of the credit for its creation. Today fanciers know her as Margaret Young Renihan, a respected judge who is now retired from the ring. In those days she was married to Fred Young and had three small children. (Her daughter, Christine Young Erickson, is now a popular judge.) Maggie and Fred bred Bedlington, Kerry Blue and Lakeland Terriers. Fred handled professionally, and they were both involved in the local Bedlington club.
Southern California in those days teemed with Terriers, Terrier people and Terrier handlers. Maggie had been thinking for several years that a “Terrier Day” was needed in the Los Angeles area, so she began to talk about her idea with others in the local breed clubs. “Everyone was very enthusiastic, and we held the first show in Los Angeles at Elysian Park in 1966,” she says. All the clubs were happy to participate.
Montgomery County Kennel Club had been holding shows on the East Coast for Terriers only since 1929, and the Associated Terrier Club aspired to be the West Coast destination for Terrier people. In the June 1964 issue of “Terrier Type” magazine, Bedlington columnist Jack Lee Gould reported on the new officers of the local Bedlington club, with Margaret Young as president, and then had this to say: “The Associated Terrier Club has been reorganized. Their big dream is to eventually have specialty shows equal to the Eastern fixture which is so popular.”
The club has been known as Great Western Terrier Association of Southern California since 1967. “Every year we grew and added more clubs that wanted to be members of Great Western and hold their specialty shows with our club,” says Maggie. “Individual breed clubs sent delegates to represent them at the Great Western meetings, where we would prepare for the next show.”
In the early years, no Group competition was offered at the end of the day as it is today. Instead the show was simply a group of Terrier breed clubs that held their specialty shows at a common location, under the Great Western banner. “We put on some great shows, but in those earlier years we did not have a final ‘Best Terrier,’” says Maggie. In 1995 the AKC recognized the success of Great Western and sanctioned the club as the first AKC group club in the United States.
But just a minute… Montgomery County has been holding shows since 1929, so wasn’t it the first “Group club?” Although it seems that way, the Montgomery County Kennel Club was actually approved by the American Kennel Club to hold dog shows back in the days before the limited-breed club was even conceived of by AKC. Montgomery County is, rather, an all-breed club that offers competition only for Terrier breeds. Although any AKC-licensed club could do the same, Montgomery County Kennel Club remains the only all-breed club to limit its competition to a specific set of breeds.
Since Great Western became the first limited-breed club licensed by AKC in 1995, many more Group clubs have been formed. Today 23 of the 115 limited breed clubs in the U.S. are Terrier Group clubs.
In the early years, Great Western was held in different places – parks, schools and, finally, starting in about 1995, at George Allen Field, on the Long Beach campus of California State University. For a number of years, it was followed by the Long Beach KC and KC of Beverly Hills shows, and Great Western stayed at that location for about 10 years.
When asked why she and the other members worked so hard to build the Great Western event, Maggie’s answer reveals an attitude that is still needed today. “I put my heart and soul into this club because I feel Terriers need to be seen. I feel people need to come and study them, talk with other dog people, learn from each other and have fun,” she says. “The work that is put into getting a Terrier ready for the ring is enormous. The coat work and conditioning take weeks, sometimes months. No matter what type of coat you have, a hard coat or one that is scissored, you can’t just walk in the ring with your Terrier – it requires many weeks of preparation. My goal was to always have people available who can mentor the new owners and get them interested in our sport.”
Today Terriers are many fewer in numbers than they were when Great Western began holding shows, and many worry that the time and effort required by the Terrier breeds will one day make them obsolete. The importance of the Terrier shows to the survival of these breeds can’t be underestimated.
Many devoted Terrier people have passionately volunteered their time and hard work to Great Western over the years. “I could never have done [it] alone. I had a great team that made Great Western what it is today, and I want to take this opportunity to thank a few people who have been part of it, including Jack and Karen Smith, Frances Sikorski, Vera Potiker, Glen Brand, Robert Widden and Steve Barry,” says Maggie. Great Western today has just over 30 members.
Great Western Terrier Club now holds back-to-back shows at the beautiful Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach, Calif., with a day of obedience, rally and specialties on the preceding Friday. The shows continue to attract Terrier people from all over the country. Few shows can begin to rival Great Western for the beauty of its setting. June is a gorgeous time of year in Southern California, and the opportunity to show, or just to watch, beautiful Terriers on green lawns under clear blue skies, with a soft breeze coming in from the ocean, is priceless.
Many exhibitors, owners, breeders and handlers will always be grateful that Margaret Young conceived of the beautiful all-Terrier show they attend every year in June, and that its current members work so hard to continue to put on an event of its kind.
This year Great Western will be held on Saturday, June 23, and Sunday, June 24, 2012. On Friday, June 22, the Great Western Obedience and Rally Trial will take place at the site, along with specialty shows for the Golden State Bull Terrier Club, Miniature Bull Terrier Club of America, American Sealyham Terrier Club, and the Border Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Irish Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, Scottish Terrier, Sealyham Terrier and Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier clubs of Southern California. For more information visit Jack Bradshaw Dog Shows at www.jbradshaw.com.
Editor’s Note: This interview with Margaret Renihan, with the assistance of Christine Young Erickson, was first conducted for Terrier Type magazine in April 2011. –C.M.