Pets, Pets, Pets
When Ann Rogers Clark died at the age of 77 last week, the dog show world lost an icon. I had the honor of meeting Mrs. Clark, renowned in the sports as a judge, breeder, handler, owner, and author at a Westminster Kennel Club press conference in 2004. The following first appeared in the Beacon on 2/19/04:
Words of Wisdom from Westminster: “Brown Poodles have brown brains“- so advised Ann Rogers Clark, the sage of the dog fancy. Answering a question about Poodle color, Mrs. Clark responded, “If you want a Poodle, get a black. The whites are not really white any more. They’re cream. Brown Poodles have brown brains”.
Mrs. Clark is the only person ever to judge all seven Groups plus Best in Show at Westminster. 2004 was Mrs. Clark’s 64th consecutive Westminster where she has also handled 3 Best In Show winners- all Poodles- in 1956, 1959, 1961. She is one of the few people in the world licensed to judge every breed. The Miniature Poodle “Spice Girl”, the 2002 Best In Show, was bred by Mrs. Clark. Trust me. She knows dogs, especially Poodles. Listening to her in the Press Room was an incredible privilege.
Mrs. Clark was also the first woman professional handler to ever take Best In Show at the Garden. She jokes that “Westminster is an all male club, and she is their mascot.” Her “brown brain” comment was tongue in cheek, but is based on decades of experience. She knows canine temperament; she sees the big picture.
Mrs. Clark, the closest dogdom has to a Supreme Court Justice, summed up the task of judges. They must always be looking for the epitome of breeding stock. It takes years to cultivate that mindset. I asked if she were ever presented with an unworthy group in lesser shows, and she said that at times she has withheld all ribbons. She then spoke of the responsibilities of exhibitors to show dogs that were clean, groomed, and touchable. You would think that were obvious, yet it’s not. She’s walked into rings with matted, dirty dogs, those with nails that could engrave the pavement, those who have tried to bite her when she examined them. She’s dealt with handlers whose temperaments were worse than the dogs.
I feel that each of us has one dog of our lifetime, a soul mate that stands above all the rest. Mine was Alan, a magnificent Afghan I adopted from Oyster Bay Shelter in 1992. We had a perfect understanding. When I asked Mrs. Clark about this belief, she got emotional and paused. She said there has always been one retired Standard Poodle in the house whose passing would be monumental. The pain would be eased by the next one who would rise to fill the void. She spoke of one who could read her mind, and knew the day’s agenda by the way Mrs. Clark dressed. Alan could do that.
I also inquired about her experiences with purebred rescue groups. She lives in rural Delaware, and said she got a call that a Beagle and mixed breed were wandering on her road. She realized the mix was a matted Cairn Terrier. She cleaned the Cairn up, isolated her from her crew and brought her to the vet. The Terrier was wonderful but heartworm positive and full of parasites. She fostered her during the heartworm treatment. Later she contacted Cairn Rescue who placed the dog. She gets updates about her waif all the time. This Toto had no idea whose “Yellow Brick Road” she stumbled on. Meanwhile the Beagle was a local boy who went home.
When asked about Josh the Newfoundland, Mrs. Clark said she had judged this dog several times before, but never had he looked as splendid - his coat, his muscle tone, his attitudeas he did Monday night when she gave him the Working Group . She refused to divulge her pick for the Westminster finals. That night Josh proved Mrs. Clark right again. The Newfie, her Group choice, won Best In Show at the Garden.
As a tribute to Mrs. Clark, the Babylon Town Shelter poster dogs are purebreds this week. “Bullet” is a sweet 3 year old red Siberian Husky. His elderly owner couldn’t care for him. Bullet is good with kids, and supposedly loves to play with bagels. He represents the Working Group. Meanwhile, this perky, male Pomeranian in the Puppy Room is from the Toy Group. He has a microchip which also revealed his age as 8. The shelter (643-9270) is on Lamar St. W. Babylon. See more photos on Petfinder.
Females: “Fanny”-the mature Husky mix in Cage 93; a purebred Pekingese in the Puppy Room; “Sylvie”- the gregarious kitten in C- 4.
Males: “Panda”-the Border Collie mix in Cage 11; “Bosco” #18483- the polydactyl longhaired tuxedo kitten; a super friendly longhaired tabby kitten in C-8.