Years ago, when I was new to showing and convinced that everyone in the world was as sunshine and buttercups as I was, I hired a handler to take a cute little specials bitch out on the road for me. In a short period of time, she was cleaning up at almost every show she entered, and knocking some rather well known and heavily campaigned dogs out of the big ring in the process.
When I called to get our weekly Sunday report from my handler, I was stunned when he casually mentioned that another handler had ‘stepped on her foot’ just before they went in the ring, with the resulting limp throwing her out of contention.
Shocked, I asked him if he’d done anything about it, and he cynically replied that it was the kind of thing you got used to, and that he’d get his back against them eventually. I didn’t ask what he meant, because I really, really didn’t want to know, and I parted ways with him shortly thereafter.
Anyone who shows their dogs in conformation has a story or two to tell about cut throat competitors who’ll stop at nothing.
It’s not very comforting to know that this sort of thing has been going since pretty much the inception of showing, as this story from the 1902 Syracuse Post Standard illustrates –
Poisoned Meat Fed to Prize Canines at Gotham Dog Show
New York, October 24th 1902
Poisoned meat was fed to two valuable dogs at the show of he Women’s Kennel Club at Madison Square Garden to-night and they died in great agony.
Deep anger was voiced by dog lovers when the news went around the garden. If the culprit be caught, the Women’s Kennel Association will push a prosecution.
The dogs were owned by the Metropolitan Dog Exchange. They were Crib of Ashfield, a French bulldog, and Lady of Ellen, a bull. Mrs. R. Taylor was the breeder of both animals. Lady Ellen won a first prize, and was for sale at $700. Crib of Ashfield’s value was set at $600.
Three or four years ago several dogs were poisoned at the Westminster Kennel Club show at the garden.
Apparently, this was a contentious show all around for French Bulldogs. The French Bulldog breed standard had just established the ‘bat ear’ as correct for Frenchies, and some judges were apparently not quite up to date on these changes.
The New York Times reported on the Women’s Kennel Association show on October 25th 1902, and included reports of complaints about the judging from some of the French Bulldog exhibitors — another situation that anyone who shows today is far too familiar with.
No formal protests were filed, but there was considerable talk among the exhibitors of what were termed unfair or peculiar decisions in a few prominent cases. Foxhall Keene came in for the chief condemnation. Mrs. D. T. Pulsifer, who lost the Stanton Cup for the best American-bred bulldog under eighteen months old, felt particularly incensed at the award of the cup to the Hellcote Kennels’ Fiston. The latter dog, it is claimed, possesses “Button Ears”, which is a true mark of disqualification, and the French Bulldog club has been appealed to to set matters right.
Mrs. J. L. Kernochan, President of the Ladies Association, said: “I hear there has been some dissatisfaction with some of the judging. This is unavoidable. A judge is not infallible; he can merely give his best personal opinion as to the merits of the dogs as they are shown.”