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From the CC Vault – One Man’s Opinion

By Ric Chashoudian

From 2008

Another year has rolled by and it is coming up Westminster time at Madison Square Garden again. The Garden is one of the premier dog shows in the world. This is not because of the number of entries but rather the quality of the entries. There are some shows in the world with twenty-five thousand dogs or more. The Garden is limited to two thousand five hundred because of a lack of space for more than this. I believe if there was no limit on the amount of entries the Garden could handle, they could have huge entrees like those found at Crufts or the World Shows.

I was seventeen years-old on my first trip to the Garden traveling to New York from California in 1948. I had a wonderful man I was showing Airedales for by the name of Mike O’Meara. He was from Southern California. He told me he would pay for me and his dog to go to New York along with all expenses. Naturally I took him up on this offer and entered his dog in the American-bred class. In those days there were classes at the Garden and I believe it was much more interesting because you would see dogs that you had never seen before. Many people would bring their new dogs and imports out at the Garden and it was exciting to see all these new dogs arriving to our shores and the homebreds too.

I boarded an airplane with my dog at Los Angeles International Airport and took off for New York. This was quite a venture for me at that age and at that time.

I won a blue ribbon in the American-bred class and I was very excited about this and so was the man who sent me. With no class entries at the Garden anymore there are only two ribbons to win, Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex. There are Awards of Merit but there is no real competition in these classes, although it is an honor to get one of these awards at the Garden.

Now that only champions can be entered at the Garden a lot of the excitement is gone.

When I was a little older I began taking more dogs to Westminster and teamed up with the great handler from the West Coast, Mr. Harry Sangster. We would take a Flying Tiger Airlines plane leaving from the Burbank Airport outside of Los Angeles. When I started entering more dogs at the Garden I would have to take a helper or two. Corky Vroom was Harry’s right hand man and Harry would usually have another person to help him also. There was no set charge on this airline but we would be charged by weight, people, dogs, and tack. On the other end of the trip we would call a truck to meet us to transport all of us, dogs and people, to Madison Square Garden. Once our dogs were in the Garden we would exercise them, bed them down at the Garden and then go to our hotel to rest a little. We usually arrived a couple of days before the show to get the dogs acclimated and ready to go for the job at hand in the judging rings. This is a benched show. If the dogs were not on the bench during benching hours you would be fined and still are.

I took some very good dogs to the Garden. It took time to start winning big and I finally ended up by winning Best In Show with a red Lakeland dog by the name of Ch. Jo Ni’s Red Baron of Crofton in 1976. This was the 100th anniversary of the Westminster Dog Show so it was a good one to win. The judge was William W. Brainard.

A couple of times I drove to the Garden from Los Angeles. This was a long, tiresome trip and I would never think about doing something like that again. This was when I was young and foolish.

Some of the best dogs I showed at Westminster were Ch. Melbees Chances Are, the great Kerry Blue Terrier, who I have said that this was the best dog I ever showed. Ch. Jo Ni’s Red Baron of Crofton the red Lakeland Terrier I mentioned before that I won Best In Show with in 1976. The Wire Fox Terrier dog, Ch. Sylair Special Edition, two great Wire Fox Terrier bitches Ch. Miss Skylight who was top show dog in America in 1961 and Ch. Fallstaf Lady Fayre. There was also the Airedale Terrier Ch. Bravo True Grit, the Smooth Fox Terrier, Ch. Ttarb the Brat, and a few more really good ones.

When I went to the Garden I would watch all the groups and Best In Show and as many breeds that I could. I have seen so many great dogs at the Garden.

There used to be Terrier Specialty shows before the Garden but they have discontinued those. There are many Specialties still there and winning one of these is quite an accomplishment.

I breed Wire Fox Terriers but don’t have one right now that can compete and expect to win. Next year might be a different story.

My whole life, since the age of twelve, has been dedicated to purebred dogs. I love really good ones of any breed. I seek them out to go look at them. Purebred dogs are a fascinating way to make a living along with a lot of hard work. Purebred dogs are also a great hobby for people. I don’t know of any other endeavor where everyone is equal and in order to make a name for yourself you have to show up to the shows with a really good dog.

Good dogs will seek their level with help from their owners or handlers. It is so important to socialize your dog. Take him or her for a walk around the block once a day, practice stacking him and free stacking. The more time that is put into your dog will pay off in spades when you hit the ring. Handlers of dogs are like jockies on horses, they need help to reach their potential. Don’t expect the dog to do it all, they need some help.

You can tell at dog shows who has done their homework. Dogs that are in sync with their handler and vice versa are apparent once you get into a ring. Ill-trained or unruly dogs have two strikes on them from the start. I have seen many mediocre quality dogs go on to become winners because of the efforts of their teachers and the homework that is done. Dogs want to please, but you have to give them the chance to do so.

I have seen some great judging done at the Garden and some not so great. I think it is so important to team judges with breeds they are familiar with. So many times this is not the case and strange things can happen. The Garden is not the place to train judges. Judges at the Garden should be of the highest caliber. There is so much effort and time and money spent to show a dog in New York City. Give the people the best this country has to offer.

Til next time

Rick Chashoudian

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