At a recent show a guy and I had to make a rapid ramp-to-table change—a guy at least ten years younger than I am, I might add. Rather than wheel the thing and risk a squeak that might spook a dog, I suggested that we simply pick it up and carry it outside. We did. As we set it down, gently, outside the gate, he turned to me and said, “I’m Getting Too Old For This.” I blinked. Too old? Too old for this?? I felt compelled to remind him:
The Standard for the Dog Fancier has no Age Disqualification.
Arguably the most impressive example of the above is my dear, incredible, friend, Miss Dorothy Nickles. Thirty years ago I wrote an article titled “Dorothy Nickles Brings Back The Magic.” It told of how Dorothy transformed even the most mundane show into an elegant affair, an event to be respected and revered. She had that effect on everything she touched.
Anecdotes abound about her wit, her beauty, and her charm. Stories occasionally surface about her temper. Once in a while you’ll hear a naughty tale that Dorothy told. You’ll never hear the stories of the selfless good works she performed, the lives she helped to shape and even save. You won’t hear of the times she suffered and cried, you won’t hear of her disappointment, frustration or fear.
Through it all she held herself erect and proud; She was a leader and a lady first and foremost. Her devotion to dogs, to our sport, and to her fellow man was fierce and unrelenting. And yet vestiges of the little farm girl remained; she was always amazed and often moved to tears at the esteem in which she was held. She wasn’t quite sure why we loved her. It made us love her all the more.
One small example of the impact Dorothy had on this earth shows in her love for the ShowSight Have-A-Heart Ball, the Westminster-week fundraiser to benefit Search & Rescue Dogs and Take The Lead. As official Hostess, Dorothy only had to show up; nothing else was required. Dorothy showed up all right, every year — in her most elegant, most charming fashion. (We are pictured above at one of the parties: this one 2007. Dorothy was 96.)
Hour after hour she stood at the door, by my side, greeting everyone as a long-lost friend. She refused a chair till past the point that the youngest among her needed to sit. And she stayed till she was sure that she had done all she could to help. And that pretty much tells the story of our amazing Miss Dorothy.
Dorothy Nickles’ greatest contribution to our world perhaps wasn’t her beauty, her brains, her many talents. Probably not her stunningly long list of accomplishments. Maybe not even the records she set and the legends she inspired. It was that she represented us to the world as a brilliant ambassador for purebred dogs.
The great Miss Dorothy Nickles was scheduled to judge Best in Show on her 100th birthday. Sadly, we lost her just months before. All of us who gathered at her memorial July First, 2009, sang the praises of Miss Dorothy.
Miss Dorothy? I cannot tell you how much I Miss Dorothy. She left our world a lot less bright but she gave us her shining light to find our way. And every time a dog fancier helps a friend, every time a human pets a dog, every time a person lends a hand to someone in need, Miss Dorothy lives.
With undying love and thanks to my beloved friend, the magical Dorothy Nickles.