Dogs in Review: You have been highly successful as a breeder/owner-handler. What challenges should owner-handlers expect to face if they wish to successfully campaign their own dogs?
Patricia Craige Trotter: The successful campaign of a dog presents many challenges. Keeping the dog fit, happy to be in the ring and working with you as a team requires focus and concentration on the part of the breeder/owner-handler. One advantage to working with your own family is that you know the character of the dogs for generations, and this enhances your chances of connecting with each individual over the years. Conditioning is very high on my “to do” list, as it enables one to get the very best out of the animal on hot days and during the stressful run down the stretch in the last couple of months of the year. And of course the great challenge of keeping your real job while campaigning for the most part as a weekend warrior is always a tall order. Owner-handlers are blessed by being able to concentrate on one dog at a time rather than a string of dogs. So if you make it your business to have the dog right, perfect your skills properly to compete at the top and select the events that best showcase your dog, you should enjoy success.
Dogs in Review: You have seen many transitions in the sport over the years; which change in particular has been most beneficial?
Patricia Craige Trotter: This is a tough question, although a good one. I suppose the instant feedback of modern technology could be considered a beneficial change. In the old days we had to wait weeks for the AKC Gazette to be published to verify our counts. Today’s computer-oriented society provides instant access to standings for those chasing the points.
Dogs in Review: Have any changes been made in the sport that encourage owners to show their own dog?
Patricia Craige Trotter:I understand that the majority of show dogs are actually exhibited by their owners, and that is a healthy situation for the sport. And certainly the Amateur Owner-Handler Class is an inviting addition to the sport. I remember when the Bred-by-Exhibitor Class replaced the old Limit Class five decades ago, and that class truly became very special. Such changes send the message of the “do it yourself” concept and encourage folks to get involved.
Dogs in Review: You have had the opportunity to observe judges and judging over decades. What differences if any do you see in judges today compared to 15 or 20 years ago?
Patricia Craige Trotter: The majority of the judges of yesteryear were more knowledgeable than those of today. But then, so too were the breeders and exhibitors who didn’t subscribe to the modern instant gratification mindset. In those days people worked harder to get it right in all facets of the dog show sport and didn’t expect success they had not earned. Yet some of the best judges I have ever known are in America’s show rings adjudicating today, but so are some of the least. As the numbers of dog shows grew exponentially, so did the numbers of judges who got over their heads judging breeds they truly did not know. Nonetheless, these well-intentioned judges try to get it right even if it involves a follow-the-leader school of thinking. In essence, I believe today’s judges as a group are honest and truly try to make the right calls.
Dogs in Review: What has been your greatest thrill in dogs?
Patricia Craige Trotter: Vagabond’s first Group win at Westminster in 1970.
Dogs in Review: Your greatest disappointment?
Patricia Craige Trotter: The loss of our lovely bitch Ch. Vin-Melca’s Gray Dove in whelp.
Dogs in Review: Has the recently implemented “Owner-Handler” competition at shows genuinely raised awareness, or is it not taken seriously by judges and the dog-show community?
Patricia Craige Trotter: Perhaps it is too soon to evaluate the Owner-Handler Series for its long-term impact. For one thing, the competition is not offered at many shows in the west, so those who live where there is the opportunity to participate on a regular basis could answer this question better than I. The process confuses ring stewards, judges and exhibitors alike at times. I have even had owner-handlers remark in my rings that it is an insult because they feel they can compete at any level. I think the jury is still out on the competition.
Dogs in Review: You are, first and foremost, a breeder/owner-handler. You are also a very popular judge and still continue to occasionally show. Is it important that you do so, and do you ever worry about intimidating some judges and fellow exhibitors by simply being Patricia Craige Trotter? Perhaps that is their problem and not yours!
Patricia Craige Trotter: I would like to think that it is always important for any breeder to exhibit an animal that represents one’s idea of correct type. Occasionally is certainly the operative word here. Tomorrow is August 1, and I have exhibited seven times all year — most of them specialty weekends. No, I don’t worry about the reaction of judges. Each judge has the right to react according to their own conscience, just as I have the right to exhibit … and then I live with those judges’ decisions. Although I had no plans to ever judge, my marriage to Chuck in 1994 changed the dynamics of my life. Had I not judged, we would have had little time together to enjoy our relationship. I would like to think that I bring the breeder’s perspective to the evaluation process and help educate as much as possible while judging. The same is true of exhibiting. By occasionally showing what I believe to be a typical representative of the breed, hopefully it will encourage others to strive for the correct type. The young people in my life inspire me to continue to seek the ideal Norwegian Elkhound as they promise to do once I am gone. The breeding of the purebred is a continuing genetic chain that started with prehistoric dogs, and that chain will continue as long as the sport of dogs exists. It is our mutual responsibility to put the strongest links possible in that ongoing genetic chain and provide the tools for the youngsters of today to become master breeders of the future.
From the August 2013 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Purchase the August 2013 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine.