Interview with 2022 AKC National Championship Best in Show Judge Desmond Murphy
Can you describe your reaction to receiving an invitation to judge Best in Show at the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin?
Desmond Murphy: Yes, I was very excited to be invited. There was a little bit of an issue because when they invited me for 2020 I had a conflict, and they sort of looked at me because it first came by in-person, the invitation. And when I said, “I have a conflict,” they sort of looked at me. I said, “Well, I’m not at liberty to say,” but it was because of Morris & Essex. I couldn’t do both in the same year, and then they had to push me back to ‘21. Well, then when Morris & Essex got backed up a year because of COVID, they had to back me up to ‘22.
What does it mean to head the judging panel at the only all-breed show organized directly by the American Kennel Club?
Desmond Murphy: Well, it’s a great honor because the show has become so prestigious and it’s only 20 years old (or 21 years old) and it’s already getting prestige. Westminster, needless to say, has the history of 140-something years, whereas AKC’s show has 20. But it’s become very prestigious with people throughout the world.
In your opinion, how does this show differ from other AKC events?
Desmond Murphy: Well, it differs in size. I mean, we don’t have dog shows in this country today of that size. I mean, for example, Friday in Orlando they had different attractions like the Puppy Sweepstakes which had 1,675. And there were 6,700 dogs shown just at the Friday show alone. So, I mean, it is by far the biggest show in the entire Western Hemisphere.
What were you thinking or feeling moments before you stepped into the center of the BIS ring?
Desmond Murphy: Right before I stepped in, when it was getting down to the last Groups, it was, “What do you call?” When I looked there and saw the pictures of Ron Menaker, as the arena was dedicated to Ron, it brought back a lot of great memories. And if it hadn’t been for Ron, we would never have had this show.
Was there a heightened energy coming from the dog and handler teams? Did you feel the energy of the spectators?
Desmond Murphy: Yes, I did. When the first dog walked in and the crowd started cheering, I could see the energy coming from the ringside and I could also see the energy that was in the handlers and the dogs.
How challenging was this assignment? Can you share your selection process?
Desmond Murphy: Well, nearly all Bests in Show are challenging because, even when you go to very small shows, you usually have a great lineup for Best in Show. But here, we had the best dogs in the country in there and I was very pleased to say that all seven dogs had beautiful breed type. They all did.
Do you have a word or two about your Best in Show winner? About the Group winners?
Desmond Murphy: As I just said, all seven of the dogs in for Best in Show had beautiful type and all seven were great dogs. Some of them outshined the others on the evening. It’s a very long weekend for the dogs and some of those dogs, besides being shown at five different shows, were also in specialty shows. So, it’s a long, stressful weekend for all of the dogs.
The Standard Schnauzer that was Reserve Best in Show I have judged many times and he’d never looked better than he did in the Best in Show ring. He was in perfect, hard condition; his coat was in perfect shape and he was asking for it at every moment.
The Bulldog I had given a Reserve Best in Show at Morris & Essex in ‘21 in a super lineup and that was only her second weekend being campaigned. I’ve seen her many a time. I’ve judged her quite a few times and she never looked better than she did that night at the AKC Show. And in all breeds it’s hard to breed a great front, but on a Bulldog the front is so different than a generic dog. It’s probably one of the hardest things to breed in dogs, a great front on a Bulldog, and she has a magnificent front.
A dog show of this magnitude is a monumental undertaking. Is there anything you’d like to say on behalf of the AKC and the show’s sponsors?
Desmond Murphy: Well, I would like to say that we have to thank the AKC and all the sponsors for putting on this show. We also have to thank all of the judges. Most of all, we have to thank the breeders who bred all of these great dogs, and the owners and all the handlers. It’s a combined effort.
Are there specific ways in which this show furthers the cause of purebred dogs?
Desmond Murphy: I would say that it’s because it gets great coverage to the public. It goes out there. I mean, the thing is, dog shows don’t have a great deal of press through the media today. This show gets great media all over. Someone just sent me a picture of the dog paper in England where it was front page news with them about our AKC Show.
Now that it’s over, what are your thoughts on the 2022 show year? Any thoughts on the year ahead?
Desmond Murphy: Well, it was a great year for the sport in ‘22 and seeing all of the younger dogs (I was also one of the judges for the Best Puppy and Sweepstakes), there were seven beautiful puppies in there. I mean, they are the future of the breed. I think, each year, the competition gets stronger