Interview with Toy Group Judge Mark Kennedy
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many as a judge?
I reside in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, a town of approximately 25,000 people. It’s where the first commercial gas well was founded in 1878.
Do you have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs?
My family and I have been involved in purebred dogs since I was in my early teens. I have been judging for 43 years, and I was one of the youngest judges to be approved by the AKC.
Can I talk about my introduction to the Toy breeds?
My introduction to the Toy breeds came a few years after competing in Junior Showmanship and in the Non-Sporting Group with my Bulldogs. We participated in the same tri-state area shows as Evelyn Shaffer, George Heitzman, Barbara Alderman, and Jerry & Elaine Rigden. They always handled some of the top Toy breeds in the country. A few times, I would help Evelyn handle some of her dogs when she was short-handed. At that point, we’d decided to purchase two Pekingese from a successful breeder in Ohio. I handled and finished both Pekes from the Puppy Classes. Most of the time, I ran into a time conflict with showing the Bulldogs and Pekes. I was fortunate to always have my Peke breeder at the same shows to help me get them groomed properly and ready to be shown. It was difficult to hand the Pekes off to a stranger. Usually, the tails would drop. Over the years, I was privileged to see many great Toy dogs shown in my area: Dotty White’s “Jewel,” Tom Glassford’s Papillion, Elaine Rigden’s and Edna Voyles’ various Pekingese.
How important is the breed-specific presentation/handling of Toys?
After learning how to groom the Pekes, I have a much better understanding, and I appreciate all the preparation work that is done for all of the coated breeds shown today.
Why are Toys a pleasure to judge? How are they a challenge?
Judging the Toy breeds is like judging any other breed, except for having a softer, gentler approach and examination technique. Preparation and training are as essential in the Toy breeds as it is in all breeds. The Toy breeds have a lot of courage and stamina, and they can hold their own on the table and on the ground. Showing a dog in today’s environment is very much a challenge.
How has your knowledge of Toys influenced your understanding of dogs in general?
I appreciate and respect every exhibitor who’s showing a dog. Having prepared and shown my own dogs, I will never lose this important concept.