Interview with Non-Sporting Group Judge Nancy Russell
My occupations for the past 50 years have been mostly dog-related. I was a veterinary hospital assistant, a humane officer for the town of Lisbon and Village of Sussex for 23 years, a professional handler of 25 years, and I have been an AKC judge for 22 years. I have had the privilege of judging in Canada, 11 countries in Europe, Israel, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Australia.
As owner of Storm Kloud Kennel, the Alaskan Malamutes I have bred have obtained 145 Bests in Show on six continents, 237 AKC Championships, and 254 AMCA Working Titles. From 1985 to 2001, Malamutes I’ve bred were in the Top 10; for six of those years, I was the breeder/owner of the No. 1 Alaskan Malamute, which was always handled by myself or my daughter, Jeri El-Dissi.
I was the breeder, owner, and driver of an International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA)-ranked freight racing team in 1984 and 1985. All six Malamutes were champions; three became BIS dogs and five were Group Winners. The AMCA National Specialty Weight Pull competition has been won 16 times by dogs owned or bred by me.
As a research project to see if my show dogs could still survive in the Arctic, I had a team of 15 Malamutes run in the 1994 Iditarod Race in Alaska by professional musher, Jamie Nelson. I feel very strongly that breed function should never be lost in the show dog.
In 1989, I imported two Shiba Inu from Japan. From the 39 puppies bred at Storm Kloud Kennel, 20 are AKC champions and four are Group winners.
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a judge?
Nancy Russell: I live near Walsenburg, Colorado. I purchased my first purebred dog in 1964. I started judging in 2000.
What is my original breed? What is/was my kennel name?
Nancy Russell: My first purebred was an Alaskan Malamute female costing $35. I took her to my very first dog show in 1966 and saw the most beautiful male in the 9-12 Puppy Class. I managed to purchase him eight months later, and that was the foundation of Storm Kloud Kennel.
Can I list a few of the notable dogs I’ve bred? Any performance or parent club titles?
Nancy Russell: That male became BIS BISS Am. Can. Mex. Intn’l CH Glaciers Storm Kloud CD ROM ROM-OB ROM-WD and is still the Top-Producing Sire in the Breed. Malamutes I have bred have won 145 Bests in Show on six continents, 237 AKC Championships, 61 Obedience titles, and 254 AMCA Working Titles. In 1989, I imported two Shiba Inu from Japan. This was before they were AKC recognized. Of the 38 puppies bred at Storm Kloud Kennel, 20 are AKC Champions and four are Group Winners. I later handled the first Black and Tan Shiba to take BOS at a National Specialty, and I’ve handled another Shiba to BIS.
Have I judged any Non-Sporting Breed/Group Specialties?
Nancy Russell: I have judged Boston Terrier Specialties and Chows.
Can I speak to the overall quality of the more popular Non-Sporting Breeds/Varieties; Bulldog, French Bulldog, and Standard & Miniature Poodles? Changes in the popular breeds?
Nancy Russell: There has been a huge improvement in the Bulldog with their health. Particularly noticeable is better breathing as well as overall conformation.
What about the overall quality of the more “vulnerable” breeds; Coton de Tulear, Finnish Spitz, Löwchen?
Nancy Russell: In the rare breeds, the Shar-Pei has also had a tremendous improvement in the coat and temperament. They had many skin conditions and were quite sharp when I handled them before they were AKC recognized.
Would I have any advice to impart to newer judges of the Non-Sporting Breeds who come from other Groups?
Nancy Russell: Advice to new judges: This Group has so much diversity in purpose. There is nothing similar from one breed to another. This will require an excellent mentor in each breed. You have retrievers for water and land, those that climb walls with unique feet and front assembly, hunters that bark, bull baiters, fighting dogs, circus performers, coach dogs, guard dogs, and some that are strictly companions. There is also a huge diversity in coats, from those dogs in Arctic climates to the Xolo with no coat, and all kinds of trims in the companion dogs.
If I could share my life with only one Non-Sporting Breed, which would it be and why?
Nancy Russell: Which Non-Sporting Dog would I chose to spend my life with and why? I would get another Shiba. They are so clean; almost like a cat. They are excellent housedogs and will alert you to anything strange. And their bark sounds like a larger dog. They can tolerate hot or cold, so they can be out in any weather. They are generally very healthy and require very