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Dealing with a disability and the show ring

Photo by W Moores OUR DOGS
OUR DOGS’ Schnauzer breed correspondent Peter Newman pictured
receiving the Tom Horner Award of Excellence at this year’s Friskies/Dog World 2001
Pup of the Year Final. Peter is well known for his Risepark Miniature Schnauzers,
his first POTY finalist was a Sealyham in 1975!

THE FINAL of this year’s SKC (May) show drew attention to disabled judging in an unfortunate way and the reaction has been most interesting.

Few would disagree that when one is incapable of making a good decision and conducting oneself well, although not an easy decision to come to, one should bow out gracefully.

However there is another side which should not be confused with the foregoing position and that is being disabled but capable. I have judged both here and abroad as a disabled person especially at club shows.

Overseas in particular my disability is taken as a matter of faxt, and not as a cause for difficulties or problems, and as a result I have always found the judging has gone well and been accepted by exhibitors and exhibits alike.

Surely there is nothing wrong with an exhibitor being asked to place their exhibit in several different position during an examination. This is nothing new and is something I have seen judges ask exhibitors to do throughout all my days in dogs.

Or for that matter sitting on a chair and watching the exhibits move and then have them brought to the sitter for examination. This has happened too. Besides most good judges don’t overhandle on examination but more often than not check on points their eyes have already alerted them to.

It is also a straightforward process comparing two dogs on the table - this, too, we see happening without causing comment.

When one is disabled and judging it is even more important that everything not only is right but also looks right and is also straightforward and acceptable for exhibitors, which means working things out before judging and telling people. Moreover the technique that one has used as an ablebodied person doesn’t always work when disabled so an adaptation within ones capabilities is often needed. A simple and straightforward easy to follow judging pattern can be worked out without too much difficulty.

I do not feel the final in Scotland proved a good example for disabled judging and for what it is worth I would like to make a few comments.

Firstly I think few would disagree that it was a good final and the two winners looked to be two lovely dogs and well worthy of their awards.

Although I have evert sympathy for the SKC officials it would seem that for what ever the reasons they were not prepared for a wheelchair judge nor had they thought out what best to do.

I believe the finalists, who coped extremely well, were only told of the position just before they went into the ring, and the fact that the procedure took rather a long time had little to do with disablement.

Interestingly, I have found disablement is accepted more easily abroad than it is here. This is particularly so in America where more often than not the handler or one of the assistants along with others who will be showing watches and listens to what the exhibitors are asked to do in the first class, and then everybody follows suit when it is their turn with the result everything runs smoothly.

No problems

There has never been any problems with the dogs themselves coping or having any temperament worries either - a telling point surely.

I have always found it best for the disabled judge to remain in one place and for the exhibitors to do all the moving about. It really works well, but is of course dependent on the exhibitors complete co-operation.

Funnily enough I have only come up against one hiccup and that was when asked to judge some breed shows in Australia which, not surprisingly, turned out to be a non-event as I heard later that the promoters had proposed to rig up a system of ropes and supports around the ring for me. A very kind thought and ingenious idea, but unnecessry and perhaps a little over the top, but it did show they were keen to have my opinion. Understandably the authorities did not agree with their idea.

Disablement should be no barrier to enjoyable and good judging for both the judge and exhibitors. It is just a matter of working things out and accepting that the way it is done may well be a little different from what is more usual.

I have always found it an interesting fact that when Joe Braddon was active as a judge people were always eager to know what he thought to their dogs especially the new puppies and youngsters and such classes at all levels of shows up and down the country were more often than not well supported and many a good one he found in them.

When he no longer judged and was in a wheelchair they still sought his opinion and even wished to take their dogs to his home or when at shows which he always enjoyed they would seek his opinion there - and yes he still found the good ones.

That tells us something, surely!