Ah, for the “Glamorous” Life!
Posted on 11/14/2006 in Ringside Conversations.
By Richard G. (“Rick”) Beauchamp
Lord knows I make no attempt to speak for other judges (and I feel quite certain they wouldn’t want me to), but when I’m dealing with friends out there in the real world I’m inclined to gloss over all the obstacles we as judges must hurdle in order to “do our thing” week in and week out. My non-doggie friends have an overblown picture of the grand lifestyle I enjoy as a judge.
They see me flying first class to glamorous ports of call and staying at the world’s most luxurious resorts. If they only knew that more often than not it’s middle seat in coach to Backwater, Wyoming and Motel Six.
And just when it seems that flying couldn’t get any worse, it does. I fully appreciate the fact that all the airline rules and restrictions are for our own safety, but the appreciation doesn’t alleviate how daunting those flights have become. What used to be a few hours flight to a not-too-distant destination has become at minimum a full day, and that’s when you’re lucky.
Quite frankly the only positive that I’ve been able to come up with for what it now takes to travel is that it gives those of us who judge something to talk (and complain) about over lunch. Everyone has their own travel tale nowadays and it’s become a sort of “can you top this?” sort of contest.
Judging in the blinding wind, pouring down rain and blistering heat is a given. It’s always been and always will be I’m sure. But the travel - the travel! What a nightmare it’s become! For instance, my trip back to a show last this past spring. It was exactly 18 hours and 38 minutes from the time I began my return from Buffalo, New York until the time I reached my front door here in Cambria, California.
No, I didn’t walk. Yes, I flew and no, I didn’t return by way of Buenos Aires. Our flight couldn’t take off from Buffalo because of Chicago’s weather, so we sat on the runway - well, in the plane, on the runway - for the best part of three hours. Then, into Chicago O’Hare which, of course, we couldn’t get out of!
“All flights canceled for the time being due to weather.”
“And when might I ask, is the next scheduled flight leaving for L.A.?”
“1:00 a.m. sir,” the stone-faced attendant replied from behind the counter. (I’m positive there’s a laboratory somewhere in a secret place where they create these airline robots whose level of cordiality falls somewhat below that of the polar ice cap!)
“l:00 a.m.? That’s four hours from now!
“Yes sir, that’s correct,” the agent replied in a tone that indicated she was complimenting me on my having mastered my telling time lessons so well, and no I didn’t fling myself across the counter at her!
“Well, put me on that one then.”
“I’m sorry sir, that flight is completely booked, but I can confirm you on the following flight which is scheduled to depart for Los Angeles International at 3:29 a.m.”
Now, “3:29” bit is an insult to the average man’s intelligence. Like, the airlines have their departure schedules so finely honed that they are going to leave at precisely 3:29? Give me a break! Naming the month of departure would be more like it!
Since your editor would blue pencil anything I might have thought at the time anyway, there’s really no point in going into it. Nor will I bore you my response to the fact that there wasn’t a hotel or motel available any closer than an hour’s taxi ride from the airport.
And just to make sure that passengers had no recourse to any comfortable way to idle away those long delays, the agent always finalizes the conversation with, “Do not leave the boarding area, however, as the flight could leave earlier than the announced delay.”
In this case I decided the floor was a far more comfortable bed than trying to twist my body through the arm rests of those seats at the gates. The seats designed to insure that no matter what one’s size or shape might be there is no possible way to even sit comfortably much less even imagine how to stretch out on them.
I did get home though - as I said, exactly 18 hours and 38 minutes from the time I had launched myself into my own personal “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” Any sane person would only ask why I put up with situations like this time after time after time with chances of the airline debacle ever resolving itself being slim to none. (The airlines know exactly what they have us by!). Or if I’m doing this by choice I know sanity would assume there must be untold fortunes being shelled out in compensation.
Well, we all know that’s not the case.
So, why? Why do we who judge continue doing this? Did you doubt I’d tell you why? (Not!)
The reason comes from those times like stepping into someone else’s assignment in Canada who had fallen ill and finding a Pekingese to put Best In Show that rocked me back on my heels. I had never seen or heard of the dog before, but I was blown away!
A brilliant discovery on my part? I wish I could say so, but not so. In fact the dog turned out to be a leading contender for Top Dog All Breeds in Canada for the year and arrived at those year-end shows that I judged with over thirty all breed Bests to his credit that he’d won in just the year before!
That was thrill in itself, but learning that world famed breed expert Nigel Aubrey Jones had launched the dog’s Best In Show streak, and that both Nigel and his partner William Taylor had given the dog multi-breed Bests pumped up the excitement that much higher. That’s the kind of stuff that makes the terminal floor at Chicago O’Hare considerably less uncomfortable. Hearing that the Peke’s owners were also his highly successful breeders, and the fellow who showed the dog was a highly respected Pekingese breeder in his own right, made all those missed connections a bit easier to bear.
Nor was the thrill any less after a convoluted trip to a UKC show in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Texas to find a single German Pinscher bitch that brought together all I had ever read or studied about the breed. She too was a Best in Show winner that day and I had the privilege of judging her on many other occasions afterward. A one-in-a-million kind of dog that earns a place among the true great dogs one has the opportunity to judge.
It happens most unexpectedly and just as likely in the most remote part of the country as in our biggest cities. Just like what happened only a few weeks ago when a fellow walked into my ring with the most stunning young Springer puppy that I’ve seen in a coon’s age! A not-very-well-trained pup shown by a not terribly gifted handler, but neither lack of age nor absence of ring savvy on the part of the exhibitor could diminish the luster of this handsome creature. Were I breeding Springers, I’d chase that one down until he was mine, or if that couldn’t be arranged I’d make sure my best bitches had a shot at producing something just like him for me.
Will he be one of tomorrow’s superstars? Who knows? Will my winners be the same the next time we see each other? Who knows what the competition will be? Clairvoyance is not my gift or my responsibility. I’m just plunked down to sort through what’s presented and give the best of the best on the day.
Again, I have to say I can’t speak for all the other judges but I suspect there’s more than just one or two out there who get as big a thrill as I do out of finding that dream dog of the day and carrying it as far as it deserves to go - whether that’s first in its class or all the way to Best In Show. And on the opposite side of the coin it is equally heart breaking when the dog isn’t having his day and doesn’t allow you to do so.
Thrilling moments in the ring always seem to be those the exhibitor gets to talk about. As an exhibitor I’ve had a few of those myself, but there are those of us who judge whose excitement level would register top numbers on any Richter Scale in that department as well. You don’t have to be receiving the award to be excited by it.
And trust me when I say that you don’t even have to be judging the dog in order to get that supercharge. Sometimes just being there is thrill enough. There always seem to be those breeders who have something up their sleeves or more accurately perhaps - something in their crates - that they’ve yet to have started off.
Some you’ll see many times as they become superstars in the ring. Others may be the ones you get to see just once, just for a fleeting moment and never again. But my oh my, the impact they make - the thrill of it all!
So, for those who wonder if we who judge have not gone mad to put up with what we sometimes do, let me say that we do it for those unforgettable moments when the great ones come along.
The information contained in Mr. Beauchamp’s “Solving the Mystery of Breed Type” series that appeared in BLOODLINES, can be found in his book, Solving the Mystery of Breed Type, published by Doral Publishing, Inc.