Sir, please take your Manchester down and back.”
That would be a common, familiar request made in a Group ring at any show in any state in the country. Except when it’s directed at the handler of a Min Pin! Evidently the docked tail did not provide the judge with enough of a clue as to the dog’s identity.
The exhibitor was mortified. Does one correct the judge or is that considered impertinent? Not much chance of his dog placing in the Group that day when it was mistaken for a Toy Manchester. And for this he invested a $30 entry, a vacation day and a six-hour road trip. No refunds at dog shows.
Granted, we’d like to think such major gaffes are few and far between. But what’s far more common is for many judges, when preparing for an assignment, to rely on “mental shorthand” that causes them to lump the Asian sighthounds together, the spitz breeds together, the exotic Mastiffs together, and so forth. It’s easy to gloss over the nuances of each breed and focus on the big-picture stuff, but such shortcuts do exhibitors, the dogs and ultimately our sport a disservice. Ignoring those small details takes us down the slippery slope to generic show dogs. Lose the trademark hipbones and croup, the saddle and the topknot and soon you lose the Afghan Hound. Vallhunds are not gray Corgis, Tibetan Mastiffs are not oriental Newfs and, as our aforementioned exhibitor will passionately confirm, black-and-tan Min Pins are not Manchesters. It’s all about respecting breed integrity. It’s all about respect.
For this issue, we invited Westminster’s 2010 Working Group judge Kimberly Meredith-Cavanna, an accomplished Alaskan Malamute breeder for decades, to compare the Malamute, the Siberian Husky and the Samoyed. It is the first installment of a series we’re calling “Back to Basics.” That seems appropriate because we’re asking our breeder-judge-instructors to strip away the artifice, the layers of product, and talk to us about the defining traits that make each breed unique. Thanks to Kim for her insightful writing and for gathering photos; thanks also to noted illustrator Marcia Schlehr for her contributions.
Also in this Working and Herding Groups Issue: a Shetland Sheepdog breed feature; a fascinating history of Working and Herding collectibles by Jerome Elliott; Simon Parsons’ Crufts report; and tributes to a gracious, much-loved dog man, Gilbert Kahn, by Joe Walton and Bill Secord.
As we go to press, the Westminster Kennel Club has announced the judging panel for its 2011 show, next Feb. 14-15. In a surprising, coincidental development, Westminster and Crufts will have the same Best in Show judge. Paolo Dondina of Italy will become the first judge ever to award BIS at both these shows, generally regarded as the two most prestigious events for purebred dogs in the world. As Bo Bengtson, Editor-at-Large, tells us, “Mr. Dondina will also be the first BIS judge from outside North America at Westminster since 1930, and only the fourth foreign BIS judge at Crufts. (The previous three are two Australians and British-born Peter Green from the U.S.) Mr. Dondina’s past U.S. judging assignments include a number of breeds and the Toy Group prior to AKC/Eukanuba in 2008; Bucks County, which he judged in 1998, 2002 and 2004; and Santa Barbara KC in earlier years.” See the full WKC judging slate on page 185.