Ratesdownload (1)
Skyscraper 3
K9_DEADLINES_may issueK9_DEADLINES_may issue
Skyscraper 4

From The CC Vault: Sportsmanship and Fun

By Peter Baynes

Photos by John Ashbey

Originally published: February 2011

Many say that the fun has gone out of dog shows, maybe this is because many judges are afraid to talk to exhibitors. Judge and handler bashing has become an Internet pastime, even with fellow judges participating in the discussions about, and criticizing, other judges. These are not the principles of sportsmanship.

I have never understood why some judges would think that theirs is the only opinion worthy of consideration, and every other judge who does not agree is wrong. How boring dog shows would be, and it would definitely be the ultimate death knoll if we all thought alike. As I have quoted before, one successful handler opined, “We need the bad judges to finish bad dogs.” I have never fully agreed with that statement, but to paraphrase what a wise friend of mine says, that bad judging by some does make the other good judges look better.

Too many owner-handlers complain about the success of professional handlers, and their wins with mediocre dogs under their buddy judges. Perhaps the judging approval system is on the minds of too many judges struggling to obtain more breeds. They turn their anger on what they believe to be inconsistencies in the approval process, and feel they are not being given a fair break.

Gone are the days when our own Greenville show had a pre-show party for everyone where all the exhibitors could mingle with the judges. A few shows still make this opportunity during the circuit with a function in aid of a charity. Even so, evil minds will misinterpret innocent conversations between exhibitors and judges.

At the recent Keystone Cluster’s Monte Carlo Night, to benefit Take the Lead, in Harrisburg, I had a long conversation with Vic and Sue Capone. Maybe some disturbed individuals thought they were boosting some dogs that Sue would be showing under me the next day. In fact we were talking about the fun we had on the Tarheel Circuit, and in particular one of the many events I emceed, “Family Feud,” and also about the Akita that Vic piloted to a group win at the Garden. In fact, I wasn’t even judging the next day. If I was, true professionals that they were, they would not have made the mistake of promoting their current show dogs. Sadly, Vic will not be at the Garden this year, as he passed away in January, but his various group wins there will be remembered by many.

The parties in New York have made Westminster the go-to show of the year. Unfortunately many of these events have been cut back recently due to the economic situation, but they could return one day. The Sunday night ACEF party at the Pennsylvania Hotel still survives, but the one we miss the most is this magazine’s fantastic party.

These parties lasted long after others in the country had been abandoned, with the exception of the Take the Lead events which still flourish in all parts of the country. In the old days with the advent of cluster shows, many show officials came up with the idea of creating entertainment in the evenings for the many exhibitors camping on the grounds. This was particularly successful when the show grounds were fairgrounds. Some of the popular events attracted exhibitors and judges who were not even staying on the grounds.

Who can forget the fabulous roasts, organized by Hazel Arnold in Houston, making fun of our celebrities in the dog game? All the participants were great sports – people such as: Bill Stifel, Lang Skarda, Ed Jenner, Dorothy Nichols, Lou Auslander, Terry Stacy, Arthur Marsh, Nigel Aubrey Jones, Chet Collier, and many more, including yours truly, and the ever popular, Robin Stark.

Showing under some of these judges later, we knew they had a sense of humor, and maybe it helped to know that we would enjoy showing under them. Other past judges, with a glint of mischief, are too numerous to mention, but we can’t leave out favorites such as Derek Rayne or Tip Tipton. Judge’s quips to exhibitors, I think, is out of fashion these days. With the new breed of judges, and with the last seminar clearly in their mind, they seem too intent to over-analyze, count hairs, massage the dogs, and guess at angles. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it is more important, and kinder to the dogs, to relax.

Back to the fun events that I am most familiar with, as these are the ones mainly in the southeast. I remember the late Diane Albers, in Orlando, always had some creative activity up her sleeve, and hired judges who would let their hair down. Even the late Michael Suave would have fun, joining in the usual costume theme.

As I mentioned previously there was the Tarheel Circuit, where in Raleigh on a suitable night starting in the early 90s, the PHA or the circuit organizers would have some kind of entertainment. Over the years, I remember being involved in the “Family Feud,” and “The Old-timers Handling Competition” (devised by Melbourne Downing). I also remember several incredible talent competitions, and finally the most hilarious and memorable event of all, in 1992, the”Beastly Beauty Contest.” For those unfortunate enough not to be there, I will relate my personal involvement, just to give you an idea, of the crazy antics that fellow dog show participants can stoop to.

Maybe the idea came from a similar event in which I participated in Ravenna, Ohio. One evening, instead of the usual volleyball competition, some of the vendors decided to hold a Miz Ravenna contest. Strangely enough, in my fist exploration of cross-dressing, I won, and I have the 1989 plaque to prove it. Unfortunately, in the flush of victory, I kissed one of the men in the audience who seemed to be my main supporter. On returning to his trailer, his wife saw the lipstick and accused him of having an affair. I was drawn into the pending divorce proceedings, but fortunately his wife finally believed my explanation. Of course, it was her fault for not attending the event and witnessing my splendid performance.

Confident in my prowess, I entered the Raleigh event with high hopes, and decided to wear the same outfit — a big mistake! I was outclassed by the many other contestants in dazzling outfits, including a ravishing beauty with a gorgeous hairdo and a dress obviously designed by Dior just for this event. He/She was obviously a professional, as was evident from the sash which proclaimed her as Miss Bowmansville. Miss Bowmansville sailed through the highly competitive evening gown section, but some said bribery was involved.

Fortunately there was three sections to the contest, evening gown, bathing suit, and lingerie, in that order. Because of chatter around the rings during the day I had anticipated defeat in the evening gown section. I therefore went out to K-mart that afternoon and purchased a backup bathing suit; with surprised looks from other K-mart shoppers as I compared various outfits.  After a quick change from my evening gown into my modest bathing suit, and with accessories provide by a team of supporters, I won that section. A charming fellow with a mustache and a daring, immodest outfit, won the lingerie section, and it was on to the final. Miss Bowmansville won the crown but, disappointed and heartbroken, I could not accept defeat and was determined to expose the ringer. I therefore challenged Miss Bowmansville to a wig fight. Whipping off our wigs, lo and behold, to everyone’s surprise Miss Bowmansville turned out to be Mr. Peter Green.

Even before the clusters and the foregoing events there was a feeling of friendship. With having to change locations every day, it meant that some vehicles would break down or have accidents on the way to the next show. However (without cell phones), we always knew that there would be other exhibitors, judges, or even AKC reps on the same route to help us out. Although all professional handlers were licensed, and the AKC reps were there to make sure we behaved ourselves, they became good friends to many of us.

Some of the AKC reps often joined in the fun. Arthur Marsh, for instance, would disappear before Best in Show if he heard that a goat, or some other non-doggy animal, would be joining the Best In Show lineup.

Maybe it is a coincidence but the fun shows seemed to draw the most entries. Consider that even today National Specialties still draw large entries, although the chances of winning are reduced. I doubt that it is because of the judges, the same judges  usually only draw normal entries at all-breed shows. Could it be the sociable atmosphere and camaraderie of Specialties?

Despite the naysayers who claim that sportsmanship has already died; in my opinion, it is to the contrary, I know personally that sportsmanship is still alive and well in some quarters. There is a great number of ethical professional handlers out there. I can quote many instances, but one incident is a testament to this fact. A friend, and professional handler, mentored me in a popular breed. Because of his endorsement, I was duly approved. Later, at a large show where I was judging the breed, he showed several specimens to me –unfortunately he didn’t get a ribbon — and we are still best friends.

We should not expect a handler to look overjoyed when we hand them a fourth place ribbon out of four exhibits, especially if the owners are sitting at ringside. Good handlers usually know where they should be placed, and all I require is a polite thank you. It is the owners who usually get upset.

To steal some words from the old song “Love and Marriage;” sportsmanship and fun, they go together, you can’t have one without the other. Or in doggy terms: it has often been said, “You can’t have type without soundness.”

Short URL:

Posted by on Oct 31 2022. Filed under Current Articles, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed


  • March 2023