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Don L. Evans – 2023 National Dog Show Terrier Group Judge

Don L. Evans headshot


Interview with Don L. Evans – 2023 National Dog Show Terrier Group Judge

Can I describe my reaction to receiving an invitation to judge the Terrier Group at this year’s National Dog Show Presented by Purina?

I had mixed emotions when I received the invitation to judge the Terrier Group at the National Dog Show. On one hand, I was delighted to receive the invitation. On the other, I was sad, as it was due to the passing of Dennis McCoy.


What does it mean to judge a Group at this historic show?

Having been an exhibitor who won the Non-Sporting Group at the Kennel Club of Philadelphia (KCP) and participated in the National Dog Show, the opportunity to judge a Group at this historic show puts the finishing touch on the many years of fond memories that I have for this show.


In my opinion, how does this show differ from other AKC events?

I believe that the benched show format and large public gate, in addition to the televised coverage, allows greater publicity for the sport of purebred dogs than most other AKC events.


What was I thinking or feeling moments before I stepped into the center of the Group ring?

I was excited in anticipation of being able to judge and evaluate the Breed winners that the various other Breed judges had sent to the Group.


Was there a heightened energy coming from the dog and handler teams? Did I feel the energy of the spectators?

I think the competitive energy coming from the dog and handler teams was about what it normally is at any dog show, although a few handlers may have attempted to conceal some nervousness about the possibility of being on national television.

The energy and enthusiasm of the crowd was evident, as each dog exhibited drew varying degrees of spontaneous cheersand encouragement.


How challenging was this assignment? Can I share my selection process?

In some ways, this assignment presented a lesser challenge then a normal, less historic dog show. Every year, the overall quality of the dogs attending the National Dog Show seems to rise above that of most shows during the year. Having a greater overall quality of dogs from which to choose makes the judge’s job easier.

With respect to my selection process, I try to select what I believe to be the best overall dog, applying each breed’s Standard, and I urge others to do the same. Do not fault judge. As we all know, there is no such thing as a perfect dog. There is not one dog that I have owned, bred, or shown in the last 50 years that I would not have tweaked in some way. I feel using the best overall dog, considering its positive attributes, is usually the best way to proceed.


Do I have a word or two about my Group winner? About the dogs that placed?

I believe that my Group winner, the Sealyham Terrier, represents an excellent example of the breed. He is a well-balanced, sturdy, compact dog with the proper keen and alert terrier expression. He possesses extraordinary substance, with a properly rounded rib cage, level topline, powerful hindquarters, and correct coat texture. His proud, indomitable spirit was evident while moving.


This show has become a Thanksgiving Day tradition in America. Is there anything I’d like to say on behalf of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia and the show’s sponsors?

I’m not really authorized to speak on behalf of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia or the show’s sponsors. But if I could, I’d say come back next year and experience one of the best shows of the year, put on by a great group of people whose desire is to promote the wonderful world of purebred dogs and how those dogs add to our everyday lives.


Are there specific ways in which this show furthers the cause of purebred dogs?

There are two major ways in which the Kennel Club of Philadelphia advances the cause of purebred dogs. First, I believe it is the only remaining benched dog show in the country. This benched format reminds one of the heyday of dog shows when exhibitors, handlers, and the general public, for an entire day, were able to get together, visit, have conversations, and discuss and learn about any AKC breed in which they may be interested. This interaction between the public and the dogs’ owners helped to develop a rapport that could be established in no other way. I know it is painful in some ways, but its benefit cannot be overstated.

Secondly, the televising of the National Dog Show on NBC immediately after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade provides an opportunity to highlight purebred dogs to the general public. This year, the non-cable national broadcast was anticipated to bring the sport of Conformation dog shows to the attention of more than 26 million viewers. Although we wish it was longer and contained more detail, its impact cannot be duplicated.


Now that my assignment is complete, what does this show mean to me personally?

The National Dog Show, I believe, is one of the most important purebred dog sporting events in the country, having the advantage of local, regional, and national publicity. To me, personally, having the privilege of judging a Group at the National Dog Show for the second time makes it one of the most memorable experiences of my judging career.