All photos: Getty Images for the Westminster Kennel Club
Fri, 06/14/2024 - 9:49pm

Dressed for Success

Roz Kramer reflects on judging Best in Show at Westminster 2024

When Rosalind Kramer — Roz to those who know her best — took the floor at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to judge Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last month, it’s difficult to determine which of her choices got more raves from the fancy:

The dogs or the dress?

Both were unqualified hits, though the dogs, of course, garnered all the headlines, as well they should.

A long-time Terrier person, former professional handler and experienced multi-group judge, Roz was nonetheless surprised by the wave of nerves that rolled over her as Westminster president Donald Sturz walked her the final few yards to the start of the green carpet.

“We had to stand on the edge of the carpet for five minutes before it was time for me to walk out, and Donald said, ‘Once you get onto the carpet, you’ll be fine,’” Roz remembers. “And as soon as I put my feet on that green carpet, it was like someone flipped a switch, and I was in my happy place.”

Thinking back to the final line-up sent to her by the seven respected group judges, “the quality of those dogs was unlike any other Best in Show,” she continues. “Each one went around like they owned the ring. Every exhibitor had this big smile on their face. They were all honestly so proud to be there.

“And as soon as I looked at the dogs, the crowd disappeared. I was just concentrating on the dogs. When that Poodle went around that first time, I got a twinge. The Shepherd – same thing.”

As for that crowd of onlookers, Roz says she could feel their enthusiasm as she stood at the literal center of it all. “The whole arena seemed alive with energy. People were really happy, and it hit me that this is what this sport is about. It’s what we’ve all tried to achieve all our lives as breeders, owners, handlers and exhibitors — going to Westminster.”



Roz had never before judged her ultimate winner, “Sage” (GChG Surrey Sage), the black Miniature Poodle shown by Kaz Hosaka (nor, for that matter, “Mercedes,” GChG Kaleef’s Mercedes, the Reserve-winning German Shepherd), and she was unaware that this turn on the green Westminster carpet would be Kaz’s last. (When she did find out after the fact, she admits she “bawled.”)

“She asked for it, from the second she put her first nail on the ground,” Roz remembers of the Mini Poodle. “She got a third of the way around the ring, and I thought, ‘She’s giving me goosebumps. What will she feel like under all that hair?’”

Roz’s hands during the exam confirmed what her eyes had already told her, and she ticks off the black bitch’s many virtues: head and expression, exquisite movement and side gait, and shortness of back, to say nothing of condition and showmanship.



As for the German Shepherd bitch — a breed that Roz that does not judge, but one in which she takes great interest — her side gait impressed tremendously. “She stays close to the ground, and you could have put a plate on her topline. And she showed fabulously.”

Little attention is typically given to what goes on behind the scenes at Westminster, but Roz was impressed at the glimpse she got. At one point, waiting for her ride back to the hotel after the customary rehearsal for the group and Best in Show judges, she simply sat back and watched what she calls both “poetry in motion” and “a well-oiled machine.”

 “Everyone worked so well together, happy and laughing and getting their stuff done, like little beavers all going to work instantly. They’d finish something and come back and say, ‘OK, that’s done, now let’s get on this’ … ‘Who checked on this?’ … They had an impressive system of checks and balances.”

That fine-tuned organization was put into practice during her judging, when a PETA protester jumped into the BIS ring. “I chose not to stop because I didn’t want to take any of the limelight away from the dogs,” Roz says, noting that there were both uniformed and plain-clothes security strategically positioned around the ring. “Those guys were on that so fast, they took care of what could have been a potentially big issue.”

It does take a village to prepare for a show of Westminster’s magnitude, and the same applies to the hot glare of the Best in Show spotlight. And that brings us to The Dress.

To receive an invitation to judge anything at Westminster is an unfathomable honor, accompanied by a pledge of silence: Until the official announcement is released, judges can tell no one — no one — about the biggest news of their judging career.

So when Roz received Westminster’s crack-of-dawn press release announcing the panel to the world, she scanned the list of other judges, and saw that a dear friend with an equally superhuman ability to keep secrets had been assigned to judge the Herding Group.

After speed-dialing Michael Faulkner and offering her congratulations, he graciously asked in return: “Are you judging?”

Roz responded, and after a stunned silence, Michael asked the next obvious question:

“Do you know what you’re going to wear?”

A self-described impatient shopper, Roz said she was going to try to find something online. So Michael, immovably determined as always, started shopping, too, whenever he got a spare moment. That included lines at airports, where Michael — whose acronym-studded travel sagas and OBEs (out-of-body experiences) are well known to Dog News readers — started getting sidelong glances from other passengers, not all of whom seem convinced by his protestations. (“It’s not for me, it’s for a friend!”)

After three weeks of endless surfing, there on the Bergdorf Goodman site was The Dress, in the perfect shade of midnight blue. (“If anybody asks you, you had a special designer named Jacque Michelle,” Michael advised.)



The only hitch was that the dress was too long for petite-sized Roz, and she had no local tailor who could handle the complex alteration, which involved four layers of fabric.

In an offhand chat with Randy Garren, Roz told him about her tailor dilemma. “You have to use the one that Dennis went to all the time,” he urged. So Roz drove the hour and a half to Raleigh to be pinned and hemmed to perfection by a tailor good enough for the late Dennis McCoy, the pinnacle of Poodle style.

But just to prove that nothing can ever go absolutely perfectly, six months after Roz bought it, The Dress went on sale for half-price.

Win some, lose some!



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