Showsight July 2020


technological innovation that predates the construction of US Inter- states by nearly two decades, was a precursor to every station wagon, mini-van or motorhome that has ever shuttled dogs to and fro. In the post-war years, Americans became enamored with a new form of technology. In 1948, Mr. & Mrs. William A. Rockefeller’s Bedlington Terrier, Ch. Rock Ridge Night Rocket, became the first purebred dog to be selected BIS at Westminster on live television. The exposure proved beneficial to the sport of dogs as the post- war economy boomed. Conformation shows increased in number and grew larger in size. Likewise, obedience trials and field trials proved a major draw for returning servicemen who had participated in the Dogs for Defense program. Several legendary handlers and judges of the 20th century came to the sport in this way. By the 1960s, a provisional judging system was in place and field reps were employed at conformation shows full-time. Restricted “champions- only” shows were tried, but their appeal was limited as they reduced the numbers of dogs that could be shown by professional handlers. Significant changes were made to the sport during the 1970s, many of which reflected societal changes. In September 1974, Mrs. Fred (Julia) Gasow of Salilyn English Springer Spaniel fame became one of three women to attend an AKC Delegate Meeting for the first time. Other changes were strictly economic. Rising postal rates and printing costs necessitated abbreviated premium lists and a smaller AKC Gazette. Additionally, an oil embargo resulted in a reevaluation of clubs’ territorial limits and show dates. The “clus- ters” of shows that resulted proved popular with show-giving clubs, professional handlers, and puppy buyers who were beginning to register more than a million purebred dogs annually. The 1984 AKC Centennial Dog Show and Obedience Trial sig- naled a new beginning for the sport of dogs in America. The Herd- ing Group was just a year old when the German Shepherd Dog, Ch. Covy-Tucker Hill’s Manhattan, was awarded Best in Show at the Philadelphia Civic Center by judge Mr. William L. Kendrick. This singular win happened on the eve of a technological revolution. Nine months before the Centennial Show, the Westminster KC had its show presented live on cable TV for the first time. Cable televi- sion (and satellite TV) provided the sport with unprecedented vis- ibility. Registrations and show entries grew along with the number of show-giving clubs and the types of events that were offered. By the 1990s, interest in purebred dogs seemed limitless. However, the reliability of conformation and obedience entries came into ques- tion. Agility was on the rise and the Canine Good Citizen Program seemed a noble response to a growing anti-purebred dog sentiment. Though registrations continued to rise, most parent clubs had already formed rescue committees to manage the potential surplus of unwanted pets. >

judges awarded Best in Show for the first (second and third) time at Westminster to Ch. Warren Remedy, a Smooth Fox Terrier bitch owned by Winthrop Rutherfurd. That first win signaled the arrival of the Fox Terrier as a force to be reckoned with in the show ring. However, not every breed or new award caught on with fanciers of the day. The Mexican Hairless wouldn’t be recognized as the Xoloitzquintli for another century and, in 1910, Company 8 won the only class offered by the club for Fire House Dalmatians. Even by today’s mutable standards, this award has to be considered one of the more innovative attempts at garnering attention from the dog- loving public. As America transformed itself into an industrial nation, inno- vations were regularly introduced to the sport. In the 1920s, five Groups were established to better organize the growing number of recognized breeds. Imported dogs won Best in Show so often that the AKC established a top award for American-Bred dogs. Show- giving clubs proliferated and sanctioned matches were introduced. Show catalogs were organized by Group, instead of alphabetically by breed—or breed size! Most importantly, the threat of diseases such as distemper were ever-present so veterinarians were required to be present at every event. The economic hardship of the 1930s challenged most Ameri- cans, many of whom sought comfort in a canine companion. Con- sequently, registrations and participation in the sport actually grew, and the number of recognized breeds increased by nearly two dozen. The AKC established its own library during this period and offered Children’s Handling Classes to welcome young people to the sport. The organization also required licenses of anyone who charged a fee or was paid to exhibit dogs. The Professional Handlers Association that was established in 1931 provided a network of support and a solid foundation for the future. During the Great Depression, the sport of dogs had grown so much that the Morris and Essex Kennel Club drew a record 3,862 dogs (4,456 entries) to its 1939 show in Madison, New Jersey. The dog fancy continued to innovate despite 1940s wartime rationing. Gas conservation encouraged individual clubs to hold shows in the same building and on consecutive days, and benched shows could now be held over three days for the very first time. To further reduce expenses, some clubs chose to do away with benching altogether. Some held obedience trials in an effort to boost entries. Despite the difficulties of the day, exhibitors managed to support entries by carpooling to shows. (Many were encouraged to enter dogs in the new Bred-By Exhibitor Class.) Some exhibitors, of course, had no need to share a ride. The dogs of Mrs. M. Hartley (Geral- dine Rockefeller) Dodge always arrived in style in a custom-built Cadillac with an extended all-steel body. The lady’s “estate wagon,” a

Cable television (and satellite TV) provided the sport with unprecedented visibility. Registrations and show entries grew along with the number of show-giving clubs and the types of events that were offered.


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