LINES FROM LINDA: FROM JUNIOR TO JUDGE, ERIC RINGLE LIVED HIS DREAMS
learn as an in-ring observer under Eric. He would draw large entries, especially in Great Danes, and I wanted to learn! After sending my written request to Judge Ringle and Show Chairman Ream, I was delighted when Al Ream sent me a copy of a response he’d received from Eric Ringle. “I won my first Group under Mr. Ayers, back when the Working Group was undivided and all the “big guns” were in there—he loved the Dane I was showing at the time—it was at the big Eastern D.C., and I remember how nervous I was walking in for Best in Show. He was a fine gentleman and I enjoyed showing under him for many years after that.” Always a Daddy’s Girl, I read it and cried. Those kinds of shared memories always make my day! Last May, my husband, Jim, was four weeks into therapy following a torn rotator cuff surgery. He was los- ing weight, running fevers, and getting sicker every day. Tests were done for a staph infection, and he was rushed in for emergency surgery on the day of The Clemson Kennel Show! Eric and I would have to wait to continue our friendship. As Jim recuperated, Eric and I began to reminisce through telephone conversations, faxes, and emails. We shared tale after tale and remembered the “old days” with emotion and gratitude. We have kept our cell phones busy with regular vis- its. I asked a million questions of this man who, like me, grew up with a passion for “man’s best friend.” From our many communications, I have managed to record the following story for you to enjoy. In 1970, I recall driving over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge with my parents to attend my first dog show, The Staten Island Kennel Club. The tenting was visible from the bridge, and what a beautiful sight it was! We were to meet with a Dane breeder, for reasons beyond the under- standing of my family, when our household pet of thir- teen years passed away. I’d decided that I wanted a Great Dane. At that show, I remember holding one of Pat Mor- ris’ champion dogs as he was waiting for his class, as well as one of Hank Thunhorst’s beautiful bitches. Hank pointed out the top handlers in the nation, Bob and Jane Forsyth, who created quite an impression on me. The following weekend, we were to take the drive upstate to meet Hank at Rosemarie Robert’s Dinro Kennels. “Going to the mountain” is what Dane peo- ple called this, as Rose lived up an unpaved road atop a mountain surrounded by a state park. I thought I wanted a fawn bitch; however, I ended up with a brindle dog. We were to pick up the puppy a few weeks later, after he had grown a bit. The morning when we were to leave, I was sitting on our front porch and a kind of Beagle/Basset mix trotted from across the street, from a park. The dog climbed up the steps to the porch and sat down, all nice and comfortable, as if he belonged there. My dad said, “Well, Eric, would you like to keep this dog or go today to pick up the Great Dane?” Little did I know what a turn my life would take by my answer to that question.
Ch. Bodane Tourister, owned by Harvey and Gay Bomes. Shown winning Breed at The Garden in 1981 under Judge Ken Peterson.
This shy, yet precocious kid from Brooklyn proceeded to show his Great Dane. I was able to put several points on “Royal” in competition with some of the top pros of the day, and qualified for the Junior Showmanship finals at the Garden—twice. I had wanted for some time to gain experience by working for Mrs. Rob- ert, but she was so intimidating that I was always too frightened to ask. One afternoon, when I got home from school, I decided (no matter how nervous I was) that I was going to call her and ask for a job. I got home, immediately went to the phone, dialed the number, and… she answered. I asked if she needed some help at the kennel for the summer. The ten seconds of dead silence that followed seemed like an eternity. Finally, she said, “You don’t expect to get paid, do you?” When I reassured her that it was the good, solid experience that I was after, she said that it would be OK. Several weekends later, my parents dropped me off at Dinro. Rose was away at a show. There was a part-time kennel person (gender not readily discernible, but since her name was “Eleanor” I took a guess at “she”) who handed me a glove-brush and mumbled that I should start brushing the Danes. As Eleanor warmed up to me, she informed me that the main kennel person and handler had gone on a “bender” the previous week and was fired because she had left a gate open allowing two of Rose’s favorite males to get together in a wicked fight. Several hours later, Rose returned from the show with several breeders and judges in tow. She introduced me to the group by announcing, “Meet my new handler.” Well, I think my heart sank into my stomach. The next duty for this 14-year-old was to act as bartender and serve cocktails to the guests. Every other day at Dinro was like a dog show. People would come from all over to make the “pilgrimage” to Dinro. Rose would let people leave their puppies loose in her living room. She was disappointed when they left, even if it was at 2:00 in the morning. As intimidating as she could be, if she saw that a person had a sincere interest in the breed, she would open up and the knowledge would start to flow. She was a Cooper Union graduate. Above the mantle of her fireplace were three Dane heads that she had sketched. You would swear they were photographs.
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