Montgomery County is an iconic dog show renowned the world over, and each year Terrier people all over the U.S. spend months preparing their dogs for the fall event in Pennsylvania. Then, the first week of October, devotees travel from all points around the globe to see the cream of the crop of American Terriers, often with quite a few from overseas in the mix as well.
Each October since 1929, the Montgomery County Kennel Club has hosted its show in Pennsylvania, with the exception of the six years between 1942 and 1947 when America’s involvement in World War II led to many dog clubs canceling their shows. Although an all-breed club, Montgomery County has always limited its show to Terriers only.
Famous names, both canine and human, have been associated with Montgomery. Dedicated Terrier people, some who’ve spent their whole lives in the sport, have served as officers of the club and show chairs. Two names are perhaps most often associated today with Montgomery County, those of Walter Goodman and the late Dr. Josephine Deubler.
Dr. Deubler was show chair for Montgomery for 30 years, from 1977 through 2006. She was an accomplished woman – the first female graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine after whom the UPenn Genetic Disease Testing Laboratory is named, a faculty member at the school, and a respected dog judge – yet she devoted an inordinate amount of time to making Montgomery County a world-class event.
Likewise, Walter Goodman, who served as the club’s president from 1986 through 2010 and was recognized in a short ceremony before Best in Show judging in 2011, gave much of his time and talent to creating a show that thousands of people enjoy each year. Of course many others worked with these two remarkable people, and they would have been the first to say that they couldn’t have done it alone.
In addition, the most respected judges have selected the winners at this show. Most of the Terrier breeds hold their National Specialty shows at Montgomery, and the kennels and individuals who have bred and owned its winners are among the world’s most accomplished Terrier fanciers.
Many prominent names also show up on the roll of handlers who have won Best in Show at Montgomery. The most revered have done so more than once, including, from the early days, Percy Roberts, Len Brumby Sr., Len Brumby Jr. and John Goudie. Both Cliff Hallmark and George Ward handled the Best in Show winner on four occasions, Hallmark in 1959, 1960, 1971 and 1974 and Ward in 1956, 1967, 1972 and 1984. In modern times, Eddie Boyes and Bill McFadden have each won it twice, Wood Wornall three times, and Gabriel Rangel four times.
It is Peter Green, however, who has handled more Best in Show winners at Montgomery than anyone else, having gotten the final nod eight times: with the Wire Fox Terrier Ch. Rigador Right Again in 1965; Lakeland Terrier Ch. Special Edition in 1970; Norwich Terrier Ch. Thrumpton’s Lord Brady in 1980; Wire Fox Terrier Ch. Forchlas Cariad in 1985; Wire Fox Terrier Ch. Galsul Excellence in 1986, Norwich Terrier Ch. Chidley Willum The Conqueror in 1992 and 1993; and the Norwich Terrier Ch. Fairewood Frolic in 1997. Three of these were also Top Dog of all breeds: Lord Brady in 1980, Galsul Excellence in 1986 and 1987, and Fairewood Frolic in 1997.
Only two women have won more than one Best at Montgomery. Peggy Ozorowski Browne handled the Scottie bitch, Ch. Brookhill Morning Edition, to BIS in 1990 and 1991. Margery Good has won four times, three with Sealyham Terriers that she owned: in 1979 with Ch. Goodspice Tarragon, in 2008 with Ch. Efbe’s Hidalgo at Goodspice, and in 2011 with GCh. Efbe’s Goodspice Easy Money. Both Tarragon and Easy Money were also bred by the Goodspice kennel of Margery and her family, and Hidalgo, better known as ‘Charmin,’ was sired by a Goodspice dog. The fourth dog Margery handled to a Montgomery BIS was the Lakeland Terrier, Ch. Kilfel Pointe of Vu, in 1987.
A big winner in the 1960s, Scottish Terrier Ch. Carmichael’s Fanfare, won Montgomery County twice, in 1963 and 1964. He was handled by John Murphy, who, prior to Peter, was the handler with the most Montgomery BIS wins. Fanfare was top Terrier and Number 2 among all breeds in 1964, and was Best in Show at Westminster in 1965, always handled by Murphy for Mr. and Mrs. Charles Stalter. But long before Fanfare, Murphy had already won three Bests at the big Terrier show with Scotties, the first in 1931 with Rookery Repeater of Hitofa, the second in 1949 with Deephaven Sensation II, and the third in 1954 with Ch. Edgerstoune Troubadour.
Truth be known, Murphy also handled Ch. Newtownards Aristocrat to top the final at Montgomery in 1940. The Irish Terrier was part of George Ward’s string, but Murphy showed him to the BIS win that year, according to his nephew, Desi Murphy, a popular judge today.
Location, Location, Location
Terrier fanciers today have many fond memories of Montgomery County at the Ambler campus of Temple University, where the show was held from 1972 until 2004. Although in its most recent 40 years only two sites have hosted the show, during its first 43 years the show was held at eight different locations.
The first seven years the show took place at five different venues in Pennsylvania: at the Fort Side Inn in Ft. Washington, the grounds of the Flourtown Fire Company in Flourtown, the Hillcrest Hotel in Philadelphia, the Whitemarsh Hunt Club in Flourtown, and the Wissahickon Farms in Whitemarsh. Then for six years the show moved to the farm of one of its members, G. Harrison Frazier Jr., in Plymouth Meeting.
Beginning in 1942, many clubs ceased to hold shows because of America’s involvement in World War II. Montgomery County resumed its events in 1948, when the show was held at the estate of Harrison Frazier in Gwynedd Valley, where it was held every year until 1967 with the exception of 1951, when it moved back to the hunt club in Flourtown. From 1968 to 1971 the Penllyn Polo Club grounds were the show site. Then, in 1972, the iconic dog show found a home in Ambler, where it stayed for 32 years.
The years when the weather was at its worst at the Ambler site are those most fanciers remember most clearly. I don’t know if anything could have been worse in terms of ruinous weather than 1999, when the show grounds were literally just a sea of mud. Legend has it that shoes, grooming tables and other assorted items were lost for all time in the depths of the muck and mire. But the truth is that, all in all, there have been many more beautiful Montgomery Counties than rainy, miserable ones.
In 2005 the club was forced to move to a new show site, and although many fanciers long for Ambler, the grounds at the Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pa., are more than adequate. While there’s plenty of room for everyone, handlers, exhibitors and spectators alike, the rings aren’t quite as spread out, making it easier to catch some of the judging in different breeds.
Wherever it is held, as I’ve written before, Montgomery County is much more than its venue. It’s the quality of the dogs that are shown there and the richness of its history that make Montgomery what it is. In an age when we can’t be certain about everything in the world of dogs, it’s nice to know that one of our favorite shows will continue to be as wonderful as it has always been.