On Judging Best In Show at Westminster 2018


  • March 24, 2018
  • by Betty Anne Stenmark

I have been judging for 42 years and there have been many highlights along the way, but none will surpass judging Best in Show at the 142nd annual Westminster Kennel Club. 

As many of you know Westminster judges are invited almost two years in advance and this was quite a secret to keep.  It’s a long time to anticipate the assignment of a lifetime.  It has become much more than judging seven dogs.  There were many print interviews, a documentary film crew, another film crew and Fox Sports filming from the time we arrived at our hotel. 

I thought I had a stellar line-up for Best.  Seven magnificent dogs.  It seems trite to say that any one of these seven could have won Best but in this case that would be true. 

The Sussex Spaniel is not only a charming dog but a very good one.  It is not easy to breed a dog of this quality when the gene pool is only a puddle.  The Borzoi bitch is eye-catching, all the curves in the right places, she is like a piece of fine porcelain.  The Giant Schnauzer is a stallion of a dog who I thought in the ring displayed correct temperament for the breed.  He reacted to the hooded camera as a guard dog should. That camera looked like a hooded thug or the Grim Reaper.  I moved away from it so when he came back to me it wasn’t in his line of sight.  The Norfolk dog is of excellent breed type and shown in immaculate condition.  The Pug was quite a package, square and cobby, “multum in parvo” indeed.  The Bichon sparkled and continually caught my eye.   Under that coat of proper texture is a well constructed dog of correct proportions and balance, a dog who put it altogether on the night it counted.  The Border Collie was eye-catching, I  loved his intent expression, a typey dog who could obviously do his job and well.

Before I awarded Reserve Best in Show what I said was:

I love all dogs, both purebred and crossbreds alike.

But tonight is a special celebration of purebred dogs,

The best of the best

Purposefully bred by responsible dog breeders.

I wrote those remarks many months ago, they seemed appropriate coming from me.  I have long believed we purebred dog lovers must reach across the aisle, so to speak and let the other side know we love all dogs.  I am one who admires what Westminster does with this broadcast, embracing rescue, supporting veterinary students, and showcasing dogs doing what they are bred to do.  It is important that the pet owning public knows us as something other than elitist.  Frankly I think we all need to do more to promote what it is we do and do well.   The large majority of the viewing audience around the world are pet owners, and this is our opportunity to reach out and educate them.  Perhaps their interest in our broadcast will mean one day in the future they will seek a purebred dog.

I would like to thank once again the ladies and gentlemen of the Westminster Kennel Club and in particular Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Helming and Mr. Bradley for the honor of judging Best in Show.  It was a privilege to judge those seven magnificent dogs. 

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