Menu toggle icon.
Menu toggle icon.

Laurie King Telfair | Tesla German Shepherd Dogs

Laurie King Telfair Tesla German Shepherd Dogs

Laurie King Telfair | Tesla German Shepherd Dogs

Judge’s Interview by Allan Reznik

Where did you grow up?

Laurie King Telfair: I grew up in various suburbs around Memphis, Tennessee.

Do you come from a doggie family? And if not, how did the interest in breeding and showing purebred dogs begin?

Laurie King Telfair: Yes and no. After World War II, soldiers came home and wanted to catch up on all they had missed during the war. That included dogs, and everyone, it seemed, wanted a purebred. We got setters but that wasn’t the spark that changed my life. That happened when I was 12 and a registered AKC handler set up her kennel down the street from me. I showed up on her doorstep and never really left. That, and the Albert Payson Terhune books about his show Collies, and the now defunct Dog World magazine, hurled me into a lifetime of dogs. We bought a German Shepherd Dog, a good-looking boy with a decent pedigree, but unfortunately, only one testicle. That’s when I discovered Obedience. Still, I showed our other dogs or friends’ dogs off and on through high school, but it wasn’t until I was married and my daughters were in school that we got a dog and I got more involved.

Laurie King Telfair
CH Carwin’s No Doubt About It ROM, a daughter of Artous v. Dan Hoeve’s Haus and Von Kristian’s September Song. We bred from old American lines crossed with an import from West Germany. It was our first venture into using an import.

Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their influence. 

Laurie King Telfair: Mine wasn’t the typical path of linking up with a good breeder who guided me along to success, at least not at first. My path was more of a solo journey, hit or miss. My husband was a career Army helicopter pilot, so we yo-yoed back and forth to Memphis, while he spent every other year in Vietnam. We bought our German Shepherd puppy when we were in Fort Benning, Georgia, and I headed off to the show ring when he turned six months old. We adored “King” and he was a handsome puppy with an outstanding personality, but it was quickly apparent he was no show dog. Back to Obedience. Then we moved to Omaha, Nebraska, and I met people in the now vanished German Shepherd Dog club. I also met Pat Butcher, who was starting to show and breed, and with whom I would show and breed dogs for the next 40-plus years. Meanwhile, we left Omaha for Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where I met more GSD people, including Nancy Green, who showed and bred under the kennel name of Geranac. She was closely aligned with Myrna Shipe of Friendshipe Kennels, who had a very successful breeding program. Her son was killed in Vietnam and she ended her serious involvement in dogs. I learned a great deal from Nancy and Myrna, including some of the things that can go wrong and many of the ways your heart can break. By this time, we were back in Omaha and I needed a handler to show my puppy. Enter Fran Foster, GSD breeder and all-breed handler, and her late husband Carl, and later, their daughter Julia, who all became close friends, mentors, teachers, handlers, and sometimes co-owners. This included hours of long-distance phone calls, watching Breed and Group judging at hundreds of shows, endless dog talk, the entire complex relationship of mentoring and friendship. We remain friends today. Probably the most important influence
has been Carol White Moser, Halcyon Shepherds, particularly in the 1980s into the 2000s, when we were showing the most. We went to shows together, groomed together, competed against each other, supported each other, and endlessly studied our breed and others. I’ve tried to learn from everyone I’ve met, but the Fosters and Carol are the main influences. Interestingly, Carol and I often like different dogs. Briefly tell us about your active years breeding and showing German Shepherd Dogs. I seriously pursued breeding and showing from about 1970 to 2016. While the passion was serious, the pursuit was constrained. Pat and I had families and limited resources. I was divorced and had kids in college. We lived in different parts of the country. We bred mostly when we wanted something to show. We stuck mostly to the GV CH Lance Of Fran-Jo ROM crossed with GV CH Yoncalla’s Mike ROM family of dogs, which was very prominent in the late 1960s and ‘70s. We tended to breed phenotype to phenotype, which kept us in that family. Later, we crossed with some European dogs and had excellent results there. Generally, Pat whelped the litters and raised the puppies, and I showed them. Actually, I conditioned them and supervised their showing. We used handlers, as I was and remain totally inept. More often than not, we kept all the puppies or put them out with family and friends. Of the 20 or so dogs we finished, only two were shown by outsiders. And if 20 seems like a small number, remember back then it took a huge number of dogs to make a major.

Laurie King Telfair
We then came back to, again, old American lines. This is the daughter, CH Carwin’s Persuasion Inquest CDX RA CGC. She is sired by CH Adrahaus Titian V Winddancer.

When did you decide you were ready to pursue judging?

Laurie King Telfair: As I aged, I wanted to stay a part of the dog world. In addition, I had not been happy with the direction the breed had taken in the 1980s and early ‘90s. I knew I could not have much influence as a small-time breeder and exhibitor but I might be able to do some good as a judge. My friend Carol was applying to judge and she encouraged me to do the same.

Laurie King Telfair
My final German Shepherd, GCH Aljans Save The Last Dance For Me v. Pashen PCDX RI CHIC BN FDC HIC CGC TKN. “Doc” wasn’t bred by me but his sire was my ‘god dog’ and owned by close friends.

Were you as active then in performance as you are now?

Laurie King Telfair: I feel strongly that dogs should be fit for function. And I really feel that judges should watch dogs do what they were intended to do, so I’ve gone to Field Trials, the AKC Master Hunt Championships, Herding Trials, Coonhound Bench Shows, everything I’ve been able to get to. I tried to go to a Nite Hunt once, but after watching the hunters putting on protective clothes to ward off the Ozark brush, and taking a look at my lightweight blouse and jeans, I decided I was seriously underdressed. I helped found an AKC herding club and put a herding title on one of my champions. I like to train in Obedience but hate to compete. Right now, I’m showing my Border Collie in Open but it’s not going well. Doc, the GSD, is retired from Conformation and resigned from Obedience. He likes Rally and loves Trick Dog, so we do that now. I’m a dabbler in all the dog sports and love titles.

Laurie King Telfair
“Doc” and I in the Obedience ring, with him showing his typical attitude, “Hold my beer.” Doc has resigned from Obedience but enjoys Rally and Trick Dog.

The sport has changed greatly since you first began as a breeder and exhibitor. What are your thoughts on the state of the fancy and the declining number of breeders? How do we encourage newcomers to join us and remain in the sport?

Laurie King Telfair: The world has changed since I began in the sport. We let the Animal Rights (AR) movement get the upper hand as long as they didn’t bother us. Now the dog fancy is nearly irrelevant. Changing that will be difficult and maybe not doable. We need to increase visibility. Televised dog shows and performance events are really helpful. We should have PSAs like the AR folks do that promote purebreds and breeders. Clubs need to sponsor fun activities like fit dog walks, Fast CAT, Dock Diving, stuff that doesn’t take much training and gives almost instant gratification. Accept the mixed breeds but push purebreds. Breeders should be willing to take new puppy buyers under their wing and help them. When I started, all the puppies I got were in a co-ownership with the breeder retaining breeding rights. We were eager to show and breed. This is no longer the case. Attitudes have changed. A couple of things, I think, would help shows be more enjoyable. First, reduce the number of dogs a judge can do in a day to 125 and have them fill out a critique form for each dog. Exhibitors like the critiques, and judging fewer dogs helps judges do a better job. Yes, it will require hiring more judges but it would be worth it.

Laurie King Telfair
Judge Laurie King Telfair awards Herding Group First to the Pyrenean Shepherd at the KC of Philadelphia show in November 2022.

How could the judging process be improved? Does AKC do the sport a disservice by discouraging communication in the ring between the judge and exhibitors?

Laurie King Telfair: When I started judging, I accepted the notion that a lot of people would think I was either a crook or a moron, or a crooked moron. But I also felt that AKC had my back and that judges were respected for their contributions to the sport over the years. That changed with some personnel changes and hasn’t improved much. A few years ago I decided I had all the breeds I wanted to judge, and stepped away from the judging process. So the main thing I would suggest is a change of attitude, with the presumption that judges and aspiring judges are dedicated dog people who have decades of knowledge and experience. Devise interviews and exams that test that presumption and aren’t designed to eliminate candidates for judging. Yes, I think communication between exhibitors and judges should be encouraged. However, I keep meaning to tattoo on the inside of my eyelids, “Keep your mouth shut.” What I don’t say won’t come back to bite me.

What was your most memorable judging experience?

Laurie King Telfair: My most memorable experience was the privilege of judging the Herding Group at the Kennel Club of Philadelphia televised show in 2022. This was their 20th year of having the National Dog Show televised on Thanksgiving Day, and they know how to do it right. Everything ran smoothly, whether it really did or not. The exhibitors seemed happy to be there. The dogs were great. And my family was proud I was on television. I almost always enjoy judging. I consider it a privilege as I want it to be fun for the dogs, the exhibitors and, of course, for me. Finally, tell us a little about Laurie outside of dogs: your past profession, your hobbies. There isn’t a lot to tell outside of dogs. I grew up wanting to become a newspaper reporter and became one. After divorce, I decided to make a career change to something that would keep me out of the poor house. I went back to school, got an MBA, and became a stockbroker and certified financial planner. I retired in December 2013 and began showing my final German Shepherd, one of the few I didn’t breed myself. This is GCH Aljan’s Save The Last Dance For Me v. Pashen CHIC PCDX RI HIC FDC CGC TKA. Told you I loved titles!