Montgomery County Kennel Club is good for what ails you. If ever you find yourself longing for days gone by or complaining that dog shows simply aren’t what they used to be, a visit to this iconic Terriers-only event in Southeastern Pennsylvania will surely lift your spirits and get you back your “mojo” for breeding and exhibiting purebred dogs. Although one trip is not a panacea for every challenge facing exhibitors these days, it is an elixir of sorts with the power to rejuvenate tired bodies and energize jaded minds with a renewed sense of purpose.
Here are seven reasons that make “Montgomery” the best medicine for today’s hurried and haggard fanciers.
The White Tent
At most East Coast shows, enormous tents loom large between the rings and above the grooming area. Their canvas material is usually striped in bands of red and blue or green and gold, providing a welcome site for weary travelers and scores of local dog-loving families. These makeshift structures also provide relief from the sun and shelter from mid-afternoon downpours. However, they can become dark caverns on dreary days, making it difficult to navigate when crowded with people and dogs. At Montgomery, the main tent is a gleaming white. The bright fabric illuminates the ground beneath it, even on the dreariest of Sundays. And should the afternoon get unseasonably warm, the snow-colored big top filters the sun’s rays without sacrificing any natural light. That light is ideal for allowing one last look at a Scottie or Skye special before it enters the ring, and its brightness is a remedy for anyone taking a doom and gloom view on modern-day dog shows.
At Montgomery, the trophy tables are filled to overflowing with silver and crystal. Since nearly every ring plays host to one or more National Specialties throughout the day, there’s no shortage of perpetual trophies on display. Many of these cups and bowls date back to the fancy’s earliest days in the US and are of significance to sports historians as well as breeders of Terriers. Among the more notable prizes, the Airedale Bowl and the Grand Challenge Cup for Best Dog or Bitch, Smooth or Wire, offered by the American Fox Terrier Club, are among the most notable. Offered since 1910, the top award for the King of Terriers is a standout if only for its impressive size. Few sporting events can boast a trophy taller than its competitors. And the prize that commemorates the most decorated Fox Terrier is a master work of filigree and calligraphy that dates back to 1887. Together, these and other historic trophies form Montgomery’s “crown jewel” collection that is sure to inspire today’s purebred dog breeders to pursue their dreams.
A Treasure-Trove of Tartans
Silver is not the only element on display at Montgomery. Owing to the many Terrier breeds developed in Scotland (including its Northern Islands and the Hebrides), the show grounds are resplendent in fabric woven in alternating bands of colored thread. Originally associated with various regions or districts, these tartans were woven using local wool and dyes. They are a symbol of Gaelic culture, representing specific Scottish clans. Some are emblematic of associations such as the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland. The colorful geometric patterns of tartans have come to signify all things Scottish, including Cairn, Dandie Dinmont and West Highland White Terriers. At Montgomery, tartans are draped across tables and hung from tent posts. They are flown as banners and flags and worn as scarves and skirts. It might not come as a surprise to learn that tartans are worn by many exhibitors at Montgomery, and several men don kilts in a display of Scottish pride. (Bag pipes, after all, would be too much of a distraction!)
Going with the Crowd
It takes more than a colorful kilt to draw attention at Montgomery. With so many top Terriers on display — 1,560 dogs were entered in 2017 — it’s difficult to focus on anything, or anyone, outside the rings. At times, it can be a challenge to even see into the rings since spectators can assemble two, three or four people deep. The crowds sitting ringside and meandering from ring to ring are filled with some of the dog sport’s most dedicated proponents, including many handlers, judges and breeders with no direct connection to the Terrier breeds. These men and women come to Montgomery for the shared experience of being together at one of America’s legendary dog shows. For some, only a family function, cancelled flight or medical emergency can keep them from this one-day event. For others, there’s not a wedding or funeral that could prevent a return visit to one of the most celebrated places on earth where purebred dogs are exalted in the manner and tradition practiced by breeders of yore.
An International Destination
So celebrated is this Terriers-only show that fanciers travel from every dog-loving nation to attend. International visitors to Montgomery have always crossed the pond from Britain and Ireland, but travelers from Latin America and Europe are making the pilgrimage with increasing frequency. Entries at last year’s show included dogs from Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. Canadian dogs provided the largest “foreign” entry. To welcome overseas visitors, Montgomery provides a separate tent where international guests can rest weary bones while relaxing with compatriots. The accommodation is a bit of a destination itself, beckoning international travelers to sneak away from the maddening crowd when necessary. It’s a great spot to steal away for some solitude or a bit of gossip. After all, a little R&R (Rumor and Relaxation) can be just as comforting as a cozy chair and a single malt Scotch.
Come Rain or Shine
Two things are certain about a trip to Montgomery. First, every visit will be memorable, no matter the weather. Secondly, it is impossible to predict the weather. Early October in Southeastern, Pennsylvania, can be gloriously sunny with crisp breezes that make for a perfect day spent outdoors. Unfortunately, it is just as likely to rain — steadily — for days on end, soaking both the show grounds and everyone’s spirits. Though the area’s seasonal temperature averages a comfortable 67 degrees Fahrenheit, it can get into the mid-80’s. (Not exactly tweed and tartan weather.) In 1988, the warm weather trend reversed itself with temperatures dipping at or below freezing. This proved of little consequence for the rough-coated breeds and their similarly attired handlers. Less prepared, however, were the Am Staffs, Bull Terriers and Staffie Bulls. Exhibitors of these breeds would do well to pack appropriately. Every exhibitor’s suitcase should include Muck boots, an umbrella, a cagoule or poncho, trench coat, leather gloves or wool mittens, a walking cap for gentlemen and a tam for the ladies. Sun glasses are essential, as is sun screen — especially for the American Hairless Terriers.
Tough Terriers in Tough Competition
No matter how carefully visitors plan their trip or pack their bags, nothing can prepare even seasoned dog showgoers for the depth of quality on display at Montgomery. With so many National Specialties held simultaneously, the level of competition is predictably high. Most of the year’s top Terriers are on the grounds, battling head-to-head (sometimes literally) for Best of Breed and the chance to enter one of the only Group rings in the country where Best in Show is presented to the winner. The novelty of the award is eclipsed only by its significance in the global sport of dogs. Few are the multiple-breed events held today that have remained true to the original purpose of conformation shows without benefit of a television broadcast or corporate sponsor. On this point, Montgomery stands alone among America’s greatest dog shows. Perhaps this is why so many fanciers — breeders and exhibitors from every Group — find themselves gathered in Pennsylvania on the first Sunday in October. Without much fanfare, a visit to Montgomery County has the power to reaffirm one’s commitment to breeding purebred dogs. For novice exhibitors and seasoned fanciers in search of a little relief, there’s no better show to attend. Montgomery is, indeed, the best medicine for whatever ails you.