Judging the "Other" Dogs
What do rare-breed exhibitors expect in the ring?
1a) to feel or show honor or esteem for; to hold in high regard;
1b) to consider or treat with deference or dutiful regard.
Respect. It's a word that permeates the dog game. We refer to it, use it, wish for it, and if we're lucky, it is bestowed on us. Respect influences the decisions we make as breeders, affects the interests we assume as fanciers, and colors our deference to those who pass judgment on the exhibits we bring. A competitor is accustomed to giving respect, but unless he is at the pinnacle of his game, it is not something he, or most of us, expects to receive. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the rare-breed ring.
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to step outside the comfort level that the breeds recognized by the AKC and CKC provide. Picking up an armband for your Doberman Pinscher or Golden Retriever entry will not turn many heads, but appear with a Norrbottenspets or Drever, and the response is often a gawping stare.
Connecticut's Maureen Griffin was one of those who took the plunge and never looked back. A longtime particpant in AKC activities and the breeder-owner of Nightwind Rottweilers, Griffin tired of the general conformation world's political infighting and increasing breed-health concerns, and began a search for something completely different. A fellow Rottweiler breeder suggested she consider a Karelian Bear Dog. After obtaining a bitch in 2003, Griffin entered the rare-breed arena. She observes that many judges seeing her dog for the first time "appreciated what was in front of them, but it was clear some didn't fully understand the breed." Realizing communication goes both ways, Griffin undertook the task of learning as much as she could about her newest passion and offering this knowledge to those willing to lend an ear. She finds that "the best judges are those who understand they're on the same level as the rest of us. They ask questions and aren't afraid to admit they are still learning."
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