Dogs in Review Spotlights Houston & Toddie Clark

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Today we know Houston and Toddie Clark as the ever-popular judges who are kept quite busy on the dog show circuit. The Clarks began their career in dogs in the 1950s when Houston showed his German Shepherds in obedience. Their interest soon turned to conformation and they began handling for friends. In the early 1960s they built a large boarding and grooming kennel and were approved by AKC to handle all breeds. Over the years they handled many top-winning dogs in every Group, broke several records, and received awards and recognition. In 1986 they exchanged their show leads for judges’ badges and have been judging ever since. Sue LeMieux found delving into the lives and times of Houston and Toddie a warm, interesting and sometimes funny experience.

Houston and Toddie (Charlotte) Clark have been active in purebred dogs since 1957, but the two share a love of animals that goes back to childhood. Houston was born and raised on Hilltop Farm, a large dairy and horse farm in Cleveland, Tenn., 25 miles from Chattanooga. The oldest of three boys born to Arthel and Mabel Clark, Houston milked cows before he went to school every morning. He started to ride and show horses at age 4 and continued throughout his teens. His mother always had a Pekingese, but she didn’t breed or show them. There were always a variety of purebred dogs on the Clark farm.

Toddie was the youngest of three children of James Thomas and Mildred Liles. Her parents were pioneers in what is now the fastest-growing section of Chattanooga. Her father was a pharmacist and her mother worked in their drug store. Toddie started working there, too, when she was 11, first as a clerk, then as a soda jerk, and finally as a pharmacy assistant. Her father was also a developer and encouraged building in East Brainerd, today a thriving community. The family kept horses when Toddie was young, but her parents were not as fond of dogs as she was. As a young teenager Toddie gave her father a purebred Boxer for Father’s Day, but he made her return the dog to the breeder.

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