Montgomery County – A Homecoming for Breeders & Owner Handlers

Montgomery County

 

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, has a uniquely American history. Originally part of a charter granted to William Penn by King Charles II in 1681, the region initially welcomed Europeans in search of religious freedom, particularly Welsh Quakers. Over time, family farms and small industries became established throughout the county, and these were connected by various turnpikes and canals.

Ultimately, the dirt roads and waterways were supplanted by the Pennsylvania Railroad—the largest corporation in the world for a time. As the region gained in economic importance, wealthy Philadelphians were encouraged to build country houses among the county’s fertile fields and woodlands.

The area’s collective of Gilded Age robber barons included Cyrus H.K. Curtis (Lyndon), Peter A.B. Widener (Lynnewood Hall), and Edward T. Stotesbury (Whitemarsh Hall). Also calling Montgomery County home was George Harrison Frazier, Jr. who welcomed owners, handlers, judges, and breeders of Terriers to his farm in Plymouth Meeting and at his estate in Gwynedd Valley. The reason for the annual gathering? “Montgomery,” of course!

There is no better way to demonstrate a commitment to the sport than to simply show up and see what happens. And the good news is that everyone is invited to share in the celebration. Everyone is invited to come home to Montgomery.

The Montgomery County Kennel Club, as any serious dog show aficionado knows, has hosted “The Greatest Terrier Show” ever since the club’s first show was held in 1929 on the eve of the Great Depression. (What better timing could there have been for establishing a tradition that has stood the test of time?)

The inaugural event took place at the Fort Side Inn in Fort Washington. Later shows were held in Flourtown, Whitemarsh, Penllyn, and in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. In 1972, the club held its show on the Ambler Campus of Temple University, originally the farmstead of the McAlonan family, and later, the site of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women.

Fanciers currently gather in Blue Bell on the campus of the Montgomery County Community College where Alexander Dallas Thayer once lived on a country estate known as Gwyllan Farm. Mr. Thayer raised Guernsey cows and Mrs. Thayer bred German Shepherd Dogs; however, the site is best known by today’s breeders and exhibitors for the single-day celebration of all things Terrier that takes place each year on the first Sunday in October.

Ch. Chidley Willum The Conqueror, bred by Karen Anderson and owned by Ruth Cooper and Patricia Lussier, is shown winning BIS at Montgomery County in 1993. Pictured are Show Chair Dr. Josephine Deubler, BIS Judge Sandra Goose Allen, Handler Peter Green, and MCKC President Walter Goodman. photo by Ashbey.
Ch. Chidley Willum The Conqueror, bred by Karen Anderson and owned by Ruth Cooper and Patricia Lussier, is shown winning BIS at Montgomery County in 1993. Pictured are Show Chair Dr. Josephine Deubler, BIS Judge Sandra Goose Allen, Handler Peter Green, and MCKC President Walter Goodman. Photo by Ashbey.

When Leonard Brumby, Sr. handled the Wire Fox Terrier, Iveshead Scamp, to Best in Show at the very first Montgomery, dog shows were largely seen as social occasions. Each club’s event took place on a single day, often on a private estate where “working men and women” could hobnob with socialites and titans of industry (albeit through payment of an entry fee). An “invitation” to attend shows like Montgomery allowed the growing number of purebred dog fanciers in 20th century America to gather in a social setting that felt very much like a soirée with a relaxed social code.

Although there were always “rules and regulations” that permitted shows to be run efficiently and without incident, the relaxed atmosphere allowed for spontaneous conversations to take place between breeders, owners, and handlers that might not otherwise occur. The dog show (just like dogs themselves) became an “equalizer” of sorts, an event where social mores were relaxed and convention was set-aside in the name of good sportsmanship and the love of purebred dogs. This “democratic” arrangement still functions today, despite the many changes that have occurred in our world and in the sport of dogs.

Today, as in 1929, exhibitors with a reverence for the past and an unfailing resolve for a hopeful future will eagerly make plans to attend shows like Montgomery—even if Terriers are not their cup of tea. For despite the many advances that have been made in the fields of reproductive medicine, veterinary care, and puppy rearing (not to mention the massive social changes and technological improvements that have transformed how we communicate), dog breeding and the exhibition of purebred dogs still depends on the sharing of knowledge and information that is passed along in person from one generation of fanciers to the next group of dedicated participants.

And for every blog, podcast, and Zoom meeting that promotes the preservation of purebreds today, there is a club of volunteers that continues to put on a dog show where the most experienced breeders, owners, and handlers can gather to showcase their efforts for the pleasure (and opinions) of their peers.

There is no better way to demonstrate a commitment to the sport than to simply show up and see what happens. And the good news is that everyone is invited to share in the celebration. Everyone is invited to come home to Montgomery.

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  • Dan Sayers covers the sport of dogs with a particular interest in purebred dog history and breed preservation. His articles feature notable icons of the past as well as individuals who work tirelessly to promote purebred dogs today. A self-taught artist, Dan’s work is represented in collections worldwide and his illustrations appear in the award-winning Encyclopedia of K-9 Terminology by Ed and Pat Gilbert. Since 1981, Dan has been an exhibitor of several Sporting and Hound breeds. He’s bred Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix and judged Sweepstakes at the parent club’s National Specialty twice. Dan is a member of the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America and the Morris and Essex Kennel Club.

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