I really don't know how one defines tradition within our sport. But if ever something that has occurred over a period of time and has established itself dearly in the hearts of the participants and concerned others is a fair criterion for this definition, the Wheaton Kennel Club show, held at Knolland Farm in Burlington, Wisconsin, fits that bill.
The late Ed Jenner (to whom this day was dedicated) and his partner Luc Boileau have contributed in so many ways to the sport of the purebred dog that it is difficult to name them all. Indeed, it is a fact that certainly Mr. Jenner was one of the most important dog men of the 20th century. Arguably, he could be ranked among the top five of those within dogs throughout the last century. His wins, knowledge, devotion, care and attitude in raising and breeding and owning some of the greatest dogs ever to be seen are legendary. His farm and kennel continue after his death, and it is here the annual event for Wheaton was and continues to be held. Rumor has it this is its last year at Knolland Farm, and I for one hope this is not the case. I realize all the work and expense that goes into this proceeding (more than most, since through the years I have been actively engaged in peripherally helping out). But it means so much to so many that one hopes some sort of a compromise in these areas can be worked out to continue the Match there.
This year most of Mr. Jenner's family came to pay their respects. From great grandchildren to grandchildren to his sons and their wives and his widow, Jennie. The day was an uplifting, positive recognition of Eddie's accomplishments as a person. Baker Jenner, the eldest of the "boys," welcomed one and all with as gracious an introduction as one could imagine. Luc was called front and center and acknowledged as the force for both the family and the farm, which we all knew him to be, and his other son Danny and his wife, Patty, whom we in the dog world know so well, just glowed throughout the proceedings.
All the judges were former handlers of Ed and Luc's, and let me tell you, this was a strong, devoted and knowledgeable crew of dog people. Privately, every dog topic and most dog people were discussed. Dawn Richardson's presence was comforting; as of course was the presence of their housekeeper of the last 50 years, Florence. Florence told me that in all the years she worked for Ed there was not one day she did not look forward to being at the farmeither in Richmond, Illinois, or Burlington, Wisconsin. And that truly summed up Ed and his lifenot a mean bone in his body and as pleasant and nice a guy as anyone ever met. Don't get me wrong; crossing him resulted in a red-penned letter, which usually was forgotten about once he got what he wanted to say off his chest. Ed was unique and quite the guy. This Match helps to keep his memory alive and for his high priniciples to continue to flourish.
A not-so-pleasant topic is the reaction of the Judging Department at AKC to a recent complaint about a provisional judge. And this goes to the heart of what one can and should expect of provisional judges from the exhibitor. First of all, one of the major problems in our sport as far as I am concerned is the over-extension of the judge into breeds with which they have little or no background. Anyone who really thinks that going to a breed seminar qualifies you to UNDERSTAND the nature and idiosyncrasies of a breed is deluding themselves. They probably shouldn't be judging to begin with. And in the American dog world, all of our judges seem to want more and more breeds to get more and more groups, which in turn leads to more and more assignments. If you really believe every judge is interested in every breed, you are deluding yourself terribly, or alternatively the judge is deluding him- or herself! And so to the point of these comments: A recent long-involved, successful breeder and judge observed a provisional judge in their breed doing what the observer considered a multi-level horrendous job of attempting to adjudicate. Taking pen in hand, they wrote to the Department of Judging Operations and received back a reply that was patronizing at best! Personally, I thought it was downright outrageous. Obviously the AKC writer did not know the person involved, but that's not the point. You can't know everyone, and at the very least one shouldn't be insulting in replying to longtime breeders and exhibitors.
One can't expect perfection with which to begin on any level, but tell me why the exhibitor should pay for an opinion that AKC itself says is “a learning mode.” Technically, I suppose all ring experiences are learning modes for both exhibitors and judges alike, but don't tell me at the very least an exhibitor should not expect from a provisional judge familiarity with type, movement and structure of the breed being judged. But that's what happens when “60 points of light” are your guidelines, isn't it? It would appear that in appointing certain people to certain AKC positions the same “60 points of light” were the determining decision rather than the ability of the person to cope with the job. •