Interview with Nancy Russell – Working Group AKC Judge
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as an AKC judge?
Nancy Russell: I now live 18 miles west of Walsenburg, Colorado, in the mountains with all kinds of wildlife in my backyard. I purchased my first AKC registered Alaskan Malamute in 1964, and I have been judging 22 years.
What is my original breed? What is/was my kennel name?
Nancy Russell: My original breed was the Alaskan Malamute, and I still have two older ones today. I started out with a kennel name of Timberlane and had 20 champions with that name. However, BIS BISS Am. Can. Mex. Int. Ch. Glaciers’ Storm Kloud CD ROM ROM-CD ROM-WD became so well-known that we changed the kennel name to Storm Kloud. There are 237 champions with that kennel name, and more than 250 AMCA Working Titles.
Have I judged any Working Breed/Group Specialties?
Nancy Russell: I have judged Specialties in 10 different Working Breeds and judged all of the breeds in seven Working Club shows.
Are there specific qualities I admire most in the Working Breeds?
Nancy Russell: Working Breeds, in general, are very adaptable. They want a job and they want to please, so anything you want to teach them they are willing to try. Working Breeds often put their own ideas on how to do this activity, but this makes them fun to work with. They are not robots.
How important are the breed hallmarks in the Working Breeds? Can I offer a few examples?
Nancy Russell: Because the dogs in this Group were bred to do so many different jobs and in different environments, the hallmarks are unique to each breed. Because I have made an in-depth study of how it is possible for the Alaskan Malamute to survive in the environment above the Arctic Circle, I will use this breed as an example.
In the Arctic, the temperature can go to minus 70 below zero, with 60 mile per hour wind. He must have a coarse, thick, water-repellent guard coat, long enough to cover a dense undercoat. His plume tail is used to cover his face when he curls up, or he puts his head between his back legs with the area between the legs filled in with the tail, which still allows him to breathe. His small, thick, well-furred ears are set on the side of the head so that he can fold them back against the skull to keep them warm. This set also allows him to rotate them back, sideways, and front to alert him to anything in the environment or to listen to a command from the musher.
He must have large bone and large snowshoe feet. The large feet help to keep him upright on slippery ice. (For example, if you see a puppy in your ring spread his toes, he is unsure of his footing as he would be on ice. Wait until he is standing still on a mat and then judge his feet.) Of course, large feet are also “a must” to help keep him on top of the snow or to dig in to plow through soft snow.
To pull heavy loads, you have to have a powerful rear and a strong, level topline to transfer that force forward. The heavier the load, the more the head will go forward and down to lower the center of gravity. Watch the dogs in a weight pull contest. If you have dogs in your ring that try to lower their head when they move, they may be weight pull dogs. Do not fault this.
Can I speak to the general presentation of the Working Breeds in my ring today?
Nancy Russell: General Presentation. Too many handlers seem to think going faster is better.
Do I have any thoughts/opinions on dividing the Working Group in two?
Nancy Russell: I would like to see the Working Group divided the same as the FCI.
What advice would I offer newer judges of the Working Breeds?
Nancy Russell: It is important to study not only the work each breed did but also the environment they worked in, as both determine their structure. Study coat and the unique breed characteristics.
Which Working Breeds provide the greatest challenge to judges? To exhibitors?
Nancy Russell: I find that judging breeds with low entries or those that you only see in certain areas makes them the most challenging to judge. I think that the herd guardian breeds are most difficult for exhibitors to show, as they often do not bait or seem interested in being in the show ring.
If I could share my life with only one Working Breed, which would it be and why?
Nancy Russell: It would be the Alaskan Malamute. They are a challenge because they are so independent. I am a cat lover and I have found that most Malamute owners have cats. I think we appreciate a dog that thinks about its own welfare and tries to keep one step ahead of you. We like a challenge!
If I could share my life with only one dog, which dog would it be and why?
Nancy Russell: It would have to be BIS BISS AM. Can. Mex. Int’l. Ch. Glaciers’ Storm Kloud CD ROM ROM-CD ROM-WD, known as “Daddy Bear.” Not only was he the foundation for our bloodline of Mals, when I purchased him from Lois Olmem she had him so well-trained that both my daughter, Jeri, and I learned how to show with him.
Jeri was the first Junior Handler to qualify for Westminster in Junior Showmanship with an Alaskan Malamute. He was a born alpha. No other dog ever challenged him, and back then Malamutes were very dog aggressive. (We have either bred this out or learned how to control it.)
We traveled the world with him and he was loved everywhere he went. He loved people, children, and all other animals, and he even let the chickens eat out of his dish. He played to the crowd. When he turned a corner, he “woo-wooed” at the audience. They loved him. When he passed at age 12 we received over 100 letters of condolense. I still miss him so much.
Interview with Nancy Russell – Working Group AKC Judge