The Big and Lasting Thing

 

 

This article is reprinted with permission from the July 1941 AKC Gazette. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into the past as Morris and Essex prepared to launch our upcoming October 1, 2020 event.

 

By Arthur Frederick Jones

 

Some of us dream about retirement as the Utopian state, but the only ones who ever really enjoy it are those who were not of particular importance when active. Those who amounted to anything in the world of affairs usually itch to get back into the whirl.

 

This desire to recall the past must have been actuating a certain gentleman hunter one day in the middle of May. He’d been out on a short safari and had come back with a mixed bag that should have satisfied anyone. But he was restless. He yearned for something that had come to be meat and drink to him.

 

Approaching his home, he looked to right and left. There was no one in sight on the broad lawn. Thinking himself unobserved, he stood still. The better to crystallize a mirage that had appeared before his eyes, he lifted his head and drew his well-muscled body to taut attention. Now the scene was clear, vivid, and as close as it had ever been in the past.

 

That hunter was a dog – Ch. Nornay Saddler – the Smooth Fox Terrier whose winnings have surpassed those of any other dog in competition since dog shows were first instituted. Saddler had been living the life of a country squire for eight months; since that day at the Somerset Hills Kennel Club exhibition in Far Hills, N.J., when he had beaten all specimens to register his 55th Best in Show victory at exhibitions held in Canada or the United States. It was no wonder he ached for the crowds and the competition and the spirit of carnival. After such a career, Saddler was a confirmed trouper.

 

Saddler’s self-initiated tableaux on the deserted lawn, fortunately was not unobserved. From a window of the house sympathetic eyes noted the yearning apparent in that classically proportioned, black-and-white, saddle-marked body. The eyes belonged to James M. Austin, who, with young Miss Madeleine West, owns this brilliant Smooth Fox Terrier that has won so much in the ring and has added greater fame to the Wissaboo Kennels through the champion sons and daughters he has sired.

 

Mr. Austin decided then and there to bring Ch. Nornay Saddler out of retirement to challenge for Best in Show at Morris and Essex, an honor that had eluded him three times before. And this decision was not based, alone, on any sentimental desire to let Saddler drink deeply once more of a scene he loved. Mr. Austin was convinced that Saddler’s unrestricted outdoor life had put him in the pink of condition and that he might have a better chance of carrying off the final prize at Madison, New Jersey, than he had in 1937, when he got as far as Best Fox Terrier, and in 1938 and 1939, on both of which occasions he had won the Terrier Group and had been an undeclared runner-up for the main trophy.

The decision to enter Ch. Nornay Saddler in the show that has been built to such perfection during the past 15 years by Mrs. M. Hartley Dodge was such a last minute one that for a time Mr. Austin doubted that the entry blank would arrive in time. It did, and with its arrival the die was cast for an historic day of competition – a day that was to add the final accolade to a crown already well adorned.

 

It is believed that when the catalog of this year’s Morris and Essex show is checked by the AKC it will be discovered that Ch. Nornay Saddler went to the head of one of the largest collections of dogs ever benched under the miles of tenting on the big greensward at Madison. This statement is made advisedly, despite the fact that the number of dogs named in the catalog this year – 3,883 – was exceeded at each of the four shows immediately preceding it. The answer is that, this year, there was a much smaller percentage of absentees.

 

Everything else about Morris and Essex was bigger, this year, than at any time in the 15 years that the purebred dog has been glorified at Madison. There were more cars parked, more people flowing through the entrance gates, more luncheons served to exhibitors and also to the judges and special guests, more hamburgers and bottles of pop and hot dogs and bottles of beer sold at the special cafeteria tent, more catalogs printed and sold.

 

More space was allotted to the judging rings and all the aisles had been widened so that one could walk about the great show with more ease. And the number of chairs provided at the ringsides had been increased so that a greater proportion of the spectators could sit in comfort to watch the judging. The big canvas tops had grown some more, with greater square yardage spread so that had it been necessary to judge under them the rings would have been more spacious than in the past.

 

There were more dog writers in the special reporters’ building, and it is safe to say that the telegraphers’ “bugs” rattled off many more thousands of words than had been sent from the grounds at any previous Morris and Essex show. Dropping in at this busy spot one could see familiar faces from all over the country. It was truly a gathering of the clans.

 

The tremendous amount of work that had gone forward during the past year in leveling, enlarging, installing a modern sprinkling system, and reseeding the huge expanse of the polo field had borne rich dividends. It had a beautiful turf – so smooth and firm that there could not be the possible shadow of an excuse for a dog to do anything but move in the best fashion.

 

Once more Morris and Essex followed its policy of giving the exhibitors in all the breeds – and there were 91 benched – just what they wanted in the matter of judges and in the way of judging. In breeds such as Cockers, Dachshunds, and Fox Terriers, the three-judge system was employed, but it was up to the specialty clubs as to how the work of these men was divided.

 

American Cockers had one judge, English Cockers another, and a third man decided Best of Breed. The Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers followed this system, but in Dachshunds, all the males, regardless of coat, were judged by one man, and all the females came before another. The intersex competition, all the specials, and Best of Breed were judged by a third.

 

Out of the 91 breeds that came to Madison, again the classes of 34 were listed as specialty shows. Some of these breeds might not otherwise have been able to get together such large collections. The overhead expenses of separate specialty shows would be too much for the small memberships in these clubs to bear.

 

With one of the most beautiful days of the entire spring season definitely established by sunup, the smoothly geared Morris and Essex machinery rolled into action long before most people in this land had arrived at the breakfast table. Everyone connected with the show was given a last minute check-up on duties by “Mac” Halley, the omniscient generalissimo of the forces and every man and boy was at his post when the first station wagon sped up to the gates with its load of hopeful contenders.

 

And all during the long day, there was never a letup in the quiet flow of directed power that brought dogs into the ring when they were supposed to be there, awarded ribbons and trophies just as they had been listed, caused flowers to sprout in the middle of green expanses, made small rings disappear and other, large ones arise in their place, and that generally anticipated the needs of dogs, exhibitors, judges, spectators, reporters, photographers, movie camera crews, and everyone else who came to see or be a part of the world’s largest dog show.

 

So efficiently did the judging swing along – yet seemingly unhurried – that something of a record must have been hung up when Enno Meyer signaled Ch. Nornay Saddler to the center of the ring as the best dog in all breeds in the show before 5:30 in the afternoon. It was truly remarkable that 3,883 dogs could be judged between nine o’clock in the morning and such an early hour in the afternoon. Such a thing, of course, could not be accomplished without the best of cooperation among the 65 judges, their stewards, and the employees of the George F. Foley Dog Show Organization, to say nothing of the many permanent and special employees of Giralda Farms.

 

Shortly after Mr. Meyer had made his choice, Mrs. Dodge came to the center of the ring in a wheel chair for the presentation of the show’s major trophies and rosettes. The sponsor of the great show thus exhibited the splendid sportsmanship that always had characterized her actions. Two weeks before, at the Orange Kennel Club show, she had been bowled over by a dog and in the fall had broken her ankle.

 

Mrs. Dodge was reluctant to enter the ring in a wheel chair, but her love of good dogs is so great that she would not disappoint the throngs who had come to witness the finale.

 

Ch. Nornay Saddler accepted the honors with his usual naturalness, jumping up to kiss the hand of one who has done so much to put the purebred dog on such a high plane in America and throughout the world. The principal prize accepted by Mr. Austin – who had piloted his favorite through all the classes – was the beautiful P.A. Rockefeller Trophy.

 

Mrs. Dodge also presented to Mrs. Pearl Armstrong of Long Beach, Calif., the Geraldine R. Dodge Trophy which had been won by the latter’s Bloodhound, Ch. Buccaneer of Idol Ours, as the Best American-Bred in the show. It was the first time a Bloodhound had ever gone so high at this show.

 

In the two previous years at Morris and Essex the dog that went Best in Show also won the American-Bred honor, but Ch. Nornay Saddler’s victory made the edge 8 to 7 for dogs bred outside the United States ...

 

One could write of quality among the 3,883 dogs at Morris and Essex, but unless one became specific regarding each dog, it would mean very little. Suffice it to say, then, that the dogs that came up to take the major honors had been deemed supreme by judges so experienced that no comment is necessary beyond a listing of their placings . . .

Great honor attached to all the dogs that scored, even in the lesser classes, because of the tremendously large entry.

 

But before everything else at Morris and Essex, the perfect presentation of a show of purebred dogs is the big and lasting thing.

 

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Mrs. Dodge, in a wheelchair due to a sprained ankle, and the 1941 Best in Show winner, a very animated Ch. Nornay Saddler.

Photo courtesy Bo Bengtson