Icons of the Dog World: Dr. Frank R. Booth

Learn about the contributions of dog breeder Dr. Frank R. Booth of St. Joe Wire Fox and Airedale Terriers.

By | September 1, 2011

Dr. Frank R. Booth
St. Joe Wire Fox and Airedale Terriers

Dr. Frank R. Booth

Dr. Frank Booth (far left) judging in Venezuela in 1973. The Poodle handler is Richard Guevara, later to become a popular judge in the US. Photo courtesy Kim Booth.

Wire Fox Terrier and Airedale Terrier breeder Dr. Frank R. Booth was a founding member of Michiana KC, the Wire Fox Terrier Club of the Central States and the first full-time secretary of the AVMA and AAHA. A veterinarian for more than 40 years, he also became the first vet approved as an AKC all-breed judge in 1970. However, he may be best remembered as the original "breeders’ vet.”

"He was very well respected as both a dog judge and a veterinarian,” recalls Frank’s grandson, Kim Booth. Kim, who is better known for the family business, Booth Photography, lived with his grandparents for a couple of years while growing up. "They lived right on the St. Joseph River, which was paradise for a kid.”

It was also the source of Frank’s St. Joe Kennel prefix. "Since he was a vet, he sometimes noticed potential health issues while examining dogs in the ring. I recall one occasion when he pointed something out while going over Bobby Barlow’s special. Bobby was really grateful.”

Frank opened his large- and small-animal practice in Elkhart, Ind., in 1942. In 1944, he built a new clinic directly across the street. It was not only the state’s first exclusive small-animal practice; it featured design innovations that were cutting edge such as a state-of-the-art surgical suite.

In 1959 Frank became the first full-time executive secretary of the AAHA, a position he held until 1968. During these years, he traveled the world presenting seminars on veterinary medicine for the organization.

Frank was first approved to judge Smooth Fox Terriers and Wire Fox Terriers in 1947, a particularly interesting time for Fox Terriers in America. The breed had reigned supreme as a show dog since the late 19th century. Suddenly, after WWII their popularity plummeted. They rapidly lost ground to imported European breeds introduced after the war such as Boxers, German Shepherd DogsDobermans and Briards.

Thanks to the economic boom of the postwar years, a new generation of middle-class fanciers entered the sport. Although they had enthusiasm, they did not share the attitudes of earlier terrier exhibitors. They were not interested in breeds they considered old fashioned. Nor did they have the skill to put down wire coats.

As the dog show game expanded dramatically, Wires fell into relative obscurity. This alarming trend showed no sign of slowing, and became especially notable in the Midwest. Wire fanciers felt that the AFTC was not doing enough to reverse the trend. So, in 1944, W.H. Lewis, Tom H. Carruthers III and Dr. Frank Booth founded an organization to showcase Wires in the Midwest.

At first, it went by the informal title of The Wire Fox Terrier Club. By year’s end, it had over 100 members, including many of the breed’s major players like Thomas Keator, Mrs. R.C. Bondy, Mrs. Leonard Smit, Mrs. Paul Silvernail, Mrs. E.A. Kraft and Robert Neff. heir first show, October 18, 1946, judged by Carruthers, attracted an entry of 78 Wires from across the country. The group formally became The Wire Fox Terrier Club of the Central States the following year and incorporated in 1951.

Over the years, Central States was judged by noted breed authorities including Percy Roberts, John Marvin, Alva Rosenberg and George Ward. It quickly earned a reputation as the premier event for serious Wire fanciers and it retains that status today.

Frank judged at Central States in 1953, ’64 and ’71. He also held several offices in the club including terms as president in 1948, ’49 and ’67. In 1980, at the suggestion of Mrs. Tom H. Carruthers III, the board of Central States established The Dr. Frank R. Booth Distinguished Service Award for meritorious service by "a person who has contributed to the Fox Terrier in general, and the Wire Club in particular, with the fastness and purpose of Dr. Booth.” The 1985 recipient was Frank’s widow, Leonore.

Central States was not the only lasting legacy Frank left to the dog world. According to Kim, he was also responsible for starting the family photography business. In the late ’60s, Kim and his father accompanied Frank on a judging assignment for the Great Lakes Terrier Association.

"Their photographer didn’t show up, and my grandfather heard about the dilemma,” says Kim. "He said ‘Marty go get your camera’ and lo and behold, people actually purchased the pictures.”

Martin Booth started Booth Photography in 1969. "In 1978 I started working for him. He passed away in 1985 and I took it over. Three years ago, my daughter became the fourth generation of Booths in this business. None of it would have happened if we hadn’t been along with my grandfather at that dog show.” Frank passed away in 1978 at the age of 73.

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