This year’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show marks the 137th edition of this venerable organization’s celebrated exhibition of the purebred dog. Midtown Manhattan has been the site of the world’s most glamorous dog show since its inception in 1877, and this year seven experienced adjudicators will step onto the green carpet at Madison Square Garden to select the dogs that will ultimately compete for dogdom’s top prize.
Michael Dougherty of Escondido, Calif., heads this year’s panel, and his selection for Best in Show will be made from among the seven dogs sent to him by Mrs. Karen Wilson of Sperryville, Va.; Mr. Luc Boileau of Burlington, Wis.; Mr. Robert Vandiver of Simpsonville, S.C.; Mr. Jay Richardson of St. Charles, Ill.; Mr. Dennis McCoy of Apex, N.C.; Ms. Florence Males of Pleasant Hill, Calif.; and Mr. Chuck Trotter of Carmel, Calif. Each of this year’s Group judges has spent a lifetime “in dogs.” Together, they will lend their considerable expertise to send one of the seven Group winners back into the ring for a final performance before Mr. Dougherty and a worldwide audience numbering in the millions.
Meet the seven authorities whose decisions will lead to the crowning of Best in Show at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show.
Karen Wilson, a native of San Diego, began in dogs in 1966 with an Irish Setter, showing in conformation and obedience. Karen and her husband were active breeder/owner-handlers with their Airedale Terriers and Cairn Terriers, while their two daughters participated in Junior Showmanship.
Mrs. Wilson began judging in 1991, and is approved to judge all Sporting, Hound and Terrier breeds, Junior Showmanship and Best in Show. She has judged the National Specialties for Irish Setters, Airedale Terriers and Cairn Terriers, as well as specialties for many of her other approved breeds. She has judged in Canada, China, Denmark, South America and Australia.
She is a past president and officer of the Cairn Terrier Club of America, secretary and board member of the Dog Judges Association of America and a member of Charlottesville-Albemarle Kennel Club.
This is Mrs. Wilson’s fourth assignment at Westminster.
She has 11 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
“I am delighted to be judging the Sporting Group at Westminster,” says Mrs. Wilson of her latest assignment at the Garden. “It is indeed an honor to be invited to judge this world-renowned dog show.” Her previous assignments have prepared her well for this year. “I must say, it is always an extra special thrill to stand in the middle of the ring as a judge at this awesome event.”
The show’s international appeal is not lost on Mrs. Wilson. “No matter where you go in the world, every dog lover knows about Westminster,” she says. “The more we keep the purebred dog exposed to the public through events like Westminster, Eukanuba, and all the other televised dog shows, the better off AKC and our wonderful world of dogs will be.”
Luc Boileau was born in Montreal and began breeding dogs as a teenager, starting with Whippets, Poodles and Miniature Schnauzers. He began handling dogs in his early 20s. By the time he emigrated to the United States to manage Ed Jenner’s kennel at Knolland Farm, he was already an established and highly sought-after handler. After winning Best in Show at Westminster in 1990, Mr. Boileau retired from handling and started judging. Currently, he judges three Groups: Hounds, Toys and Non-Sporting. Today, he breeds Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Brussels Griffons, and also shows Hackney ponies and horses. This is his sixth Westminster assignment.
Robert Vandiver has been continuously involved in dog shows since winning his first dog show ribbon in 1967. Since that time he has bred and owner-handled many champion Doberman Pinschers. He judges Working, Sporting and nearly all of the Herding Group breeds, and has judged all over the world. Mr. Vandiver has been active in the Doberman Pinscher Club of America as an officer and as chairman of judges’ education. He has been involved in many other all-breed clubs as an officer, show chair or working member. In addition to conformation, he has participated in performance and working dog sports. Bob is an engineering graduate of Texas A&M University, and retired as a member of the executive management team at one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the U.S. This is his second Westminster assignment.
“Judging a Group at Westminster is an opportunity to judge the best of the best, as seen at no other show,” says Mr. Vandiver. “I look forward to having my hands on some of the best Working dogs in the world.”
Mr. Vandiver understands the impact this one show has in the minds of the American public. “Westminster epitomizes the dog show sport to the public. Mention a dog show to John Q Public, and he will nearly always cite Westminster,” he says. “The Westminster Kennel Club has portrayed the sport and the breeds in a most positive light. It is probably the best public relations scene that exists in our sport today.”
Of course, the show is iconic for devoted fanciers too. “For those of us that are steeped in the sport, there is little to say,” according to Mr. Vandiver. “Westminster is Westminster. ‘Nuff said.”
St. Charles, Ill.
Jay Richardson began his lifelong involvement in purebred dogs at the age of 10, when his parents purchased their first show dog, a Standard Poodle. His young years were involved in raising and caring for the family’s Poodles, showing both in Junior Showmanship and the conformation ring.
As a teenager, he went to work after school in the Poodle kennels of J. Lynn and Mabel Welsh. After Mabel’s death and Lynn’s marriage to Dorothy Welsh, he added Collies to the after-school care.
In his later teen years, he went to work for Denny Kodner, an all-breed handler, and worked for her until he began to handle professionally in 1975.
Mr. Richardson handled all breeds until he began judging in 1996. As a handler, he enjoyed success with many breeds, including a number of top-winning Best in Show dogs in several Groups.
In addition to judging in the United States, Mr. Richardson has judged in Canada, China, Taiwan, Poland, Finland and Spain. He is approved to judge the Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups, in addition to several other breeds and Junior Showmanship. This is his second Westminster assignment.
“I think any young person showing dogs dreams of winning the Garden,” says Mr. Richardson of the show’s perpetual allure among exhibitors. “And I think that carries over when one starts judging. Standing on the carpet in the Garden is one of the ultimate occasions as a judge,” he says. “To be asked to do a Group at the Garden, especially the Terrier Group, is as good as it gets.”
Mr. Richardson also acknowledges the show’s impact on dog lovers everywhere. “Westminster has a huge impact on the general public. So many people are aware of the show, and watch it every year,” he says. “I have come into contact with people such as my doctor, her nurse, and even a Nordstrom clerk who all were aware of the show and were excited coming into contact with someone who was judging.” As for experienced fanciers, Mr. Richardson reiterates the show’s appeal. “For the dog showing community, I still think it’s a huge draw. It’s the show you want to win.”
Dennis McCoy enjoyed a phenomenal career as a professional handler that included handling many all-breed and specialty BIS winners (he won over 500 BIS as a handler), the top-winning Poodle and Dalmatian in breed history, seven Group wins at Westminster (including five consecutive Non-Sporting Groups from 1996-2000), and Best in Show at Westminster in 1991. With his partner Randy Garren, the handling and breeding kennel of Randenn finished over 1,000 champions. They have co-bred seven generations of Standard Poodles, including the 2009 Westminster Non-Sporting Group winner and the top-winning black Poodle (all varieties) in history. Mr. McCoy retired from handling and began his judging career in 2000. He is president of the Poodle Club of America. This is his third Westminster assignment.
“It is the pinnacle of my career as far as judging,” says Mr. McCoy of being invited to judge the little dogs at Madison Square Garden this year. “The Toy Group, I think, is loaded with quality,” he says in anticipation of the assignment. The former professional handler ranks the honor as second only to his invitation to judge Standard Poodles at the National Specialty in 2012.
In 1991, Mr. McCoy piloted Standard Poodle Ch. Whisperwind On A Carousel to Best in Show at Westminster under judge Dorothy Welsh. On the night of his victory in New York, he wore a pair of pink socks that proved to be the perfect good luck charms. When asked if he’ll be wearing something memorable again this year, the fashionable Mr. McCoy mentions a one-of-a-kind cummerbund given to him recently as a gift. “I have very good friends who have given me a needlepoint of all of my Group winners at the Garden,” he shares. The embroidery is the handiwork of Mari-Beth O’Neill and Roz Kramer, who labored for many hours on the piece before Ralph Lauren transformed it into a cummerbund. It’s pretty fabulous,” he says of the extraordinary accessory he’ll be wearing as he judges the nation’s top Toys next week.
Pleasant Hill, Calif.
Florence Males has been active in the sport of purebred dogs since 1970. Starting with Silky Terriers, Florence had a Cinderella beginning by exhibiting her breeder/owner-handled Silky Terrier to BIS from her very first litter. Continuing on, that dog produced a son that was a top BIS winner in the breed for about 10 years. Florence’s Weeblu prefix can be found in many of the top winners of the breed today. Florence also handled Yorkshire Terriers, Miniature Pinschers and a Maltese during those early years.
Mrs. Males started her judging career in 1990, but was hired by the American Kennel Club as an executive field representative a year later, covering primarily the Northern California area. After 16 years in that position, she retired and returned to the world of judging. She is now approved for the Toy and Non-Sporting Groups, plus two Terriers.
Included in her many club affiliations, Mrs. Males is the judges education coordinator for the Silky Terrier Club of America. Prior to her AKC employment, she served the parent club as its secretary and then vice president, and was a founding member of the Silky Terrier Club of Northern California. She is a longtime member of the Del Valle Dog Club and currently serves as its treasurer.
A native Californian, Mrs. Males shares her home with her Silky Terrier, ‘Henry,’ and a rescue cat named Andy.
“When I looked through my mail and saw the Westminster stationery, I sat down (fortunately) to open it,” recalls Mrs. Males. “The cover letter is the invitation that you are invited to judge, and the assignment was on the second sheet. I had to read – and reread – what it said: ‘The Non-Sporting Group!’”
“Yes, it’s my name,” Mrs. Males says of her thoughts as she read the letter. “And then all the other feelings poured in: honor, excitement, responsibility and, ‘Oh my! I have to go shopping… no hurry, I have two years!!!!!’”
Mrs. Males says she still hyperventilates when she thinks about judging a Group at the Garden, and she’s begun to wonder who will make it out of the breed. “I believe this televised event is such educational PR with the general public,” she says of the dogs that will be seen by millions online and on television. “It always amazes me how many people mention the event throughout the year, and knowing that it’s seen in real time adds to the excitement.
“There is a sense of pride knowing you’ve been honored with such an exciting assignment,” she says of her moment in the spotlight. “And I do thank the Westminster Kennel Club for the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Chuck Trotter began his dog-showing career in his home state of Tennessee in 1958 with Afghan Hounds and later German Shepherd Dogs. His homebred Afghans were specialty winners and Group winners before he became an all-breed professional handler and concentrated on the dogs of others.
He was the zone representative for the Professional Handlers Association before retiring from handling in 1979 to begin judging. Today, as an all-breed judge, his assignments have taken him to the world’s most prestigious shows on six continents and all 50 American states. He has judged at Westminster six times, including the Working Group in 1997.
Well-known for his knowledge of canine movement and anatomical structure, Trotter credits his background in German Shepherd Dogs, Afghans and Norwegian Elkhounds with his theories of proper conformation, particularly in front-end assembly.
Mr. Trotter is a lifetime member (more than 50 years) of the Nashville Kennel Club and has served as president, board member and show chairman. He retired as president of Mid-South Home Exteriors in 2005, but has been quite busy in retirement with dog shows, his motorcycle, Laguna Seca raceway activities, NASCAR racing, and fishing and hunting.
“It is an awesome experience and quite humbling at the same time,” says Mr. Trotter of his upcoming assignment at the Garden. “Remembering the greats that have judged at America’s second oldest sporting event (to the Kentucky Derby) inspires one to attempt to walk in their footsteps,” he says. “Westminster is a tribute to the dogs, the dog fancy and to the dedicated sportsmen who founded it.”
Mr. Trotter recognizes the show’s broad appeal. “Westminster’s slogan ‘There is only one,’ says it all. The general public loves this show as much as the dog show public,” he says. “People have Westminster parties with the same enthusiasm as football fans have Super Bowl parties. Westminster is truly the ‘super bowl’ of our sport. I am truly honored to be part of it.”
Biographical information provided by the Westminster Kennel Club.