Judge’s Interview by Allan Reznik
Where did you grow up?
Sulie Greendale-Paveza: For the first eight years of my life, my family lived in Chicago, in an apartment building (which meant no pets except Mr. Kelly, a parakeet).
Do you come from a doggie family? And if not, how did the interest in breeding and showing purebred dogs begin?
Sulie Greendale-Paveza: When I was eight, we moved to Skokie, Illinois, a primarily Jewish suburb of Chicago. I got my first dog, a Rough Collie, from a farmer in Wisconsin in 1958. I still vividly remember sitting on a bale of hay with nine sable Collie puppies to choose from. Ever since I was a toddler, my family had an interest in dogs, so we attended the International Kennel Club dog show every year. The show, at that time, was held at the International Amphitheater, which was right next to a slaughterhouse. You could often hear the cows mooing during the show.
My brother, who was eight years older than me, married a woman whose aunt and uncle were Naomi and Harold Chapman, of Camelot Shelties. After meeting them, I fell in love with the breed. However, my other life was singing in many university and professional theater musicals and operas, which were primarily on weekends, so going to dog shows was not an option until I was in my late 20s. After I finished my Master’s degree, I chose to give up the professional singing in order to attend dog shows. However, I did, for many years, sing the National Anthem at many dog shows.
Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their influence.
Sulie Greendale-Paveza: Through the Chapmans, I met Joe Molloy, who was a professional handler, primarily of Shelties and Collies, and started travelling with him most weekends. Back then there were very few four-day clusters, so one could still have a “real job.” I got my Master’s degree in Recreational Therapy and worked on a psychiatric unit (where I met my husband who was a social worker in the ER), doing music and art therapy. I was fortunate enough to show Collies for three of the top breeders in the country.
I give credit to Joyce Houser, Joyce Weineman, and Rita Stanzick, and, of course, Joe Molloy for teaching me how to assess each dog and how to highlight their positive points when presenting them. The transition from exhibitor to handler just sort of happened as I was always willing to assist anyone who needed it. This willingness to help was very useful as it gave me the opportunity to learn about and show many other breeds. I have always said I like dogs (and cats) better than most people. As I worked with many different breeds, I learned I was able to work with the difficult, shy ones, and that I could bring them around to liking dog shows quite quickly.
How did that give way to judging?
Sulie Greendale-Paveza: I decided to judge 25 years ago, when I was 48, and I love doing it. I did not want to be the “little old lady” having to unload a van full of dogs and equipment. Of course, travelling by plane presents its own challenges as one is not in control of delayed or cancelled flights, something all judges encounter way too often. Judging changes one’s relationship with others in our dog family. I was fortunate enough to have four of the best mentors as I was coming up in the judging community. Dorothy Welsh, Michele Billings, Anne Katona, and Annie Clark took me “under their wings” and offered valuable advice early in my judging career. I still follow their sage advice regarding ring procedure and how to handle certain situations.
You are known for your continued love of stewarding. Why do you feel it is an important skill and one that more judges should participate in?
Sulie Greendale-Paveza: Stewarding is most important to me. I have always felt that role is an integral part of the system. The steward is the first person to greet the exhibitors; answer questions; keep the ring running on time by having the next class ready to come in; remind new exhibitors who won two classes to have folks lined up who can help them in the Winners class; remind the judge if they are falling behind schedule; explain the judging process to the public who attend the show; and look out for the welfare of the exhibitors, the judge, and the dogs, especially at outdoor shows. I have always felt that judges should be required to steward several times before they can apply to judge. A steward can make or break a judge’s day.
The sport has changed greatly since you first began as an 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?
Sulie Greendale-Paveza: Changes in the sport since I have been involved are many. The number of shows has greatly increased, giving the owners and handlers numerous options every weekend. There are positives and negatives to this. Large clusters tend to have more major-point entries in most breeds; and it is fabulous for the exhibitors to have to unload only once, rather than changing venues daily. The negatives are that often, you are competing against many more dogs in your breed which means chances of winning have lessened. Quality is very deep in all the Groups, which makes judging them more difficult as there are only four placements when you might have many more in the Group that deserve recognition.
How could judging be improved? Does AKC do the sport a disservice by discouraging communication in the ring between judges and exhibitors?
Sulie Greendale-Paveza: Having some communication with exhibitors in the ring is essential. Obviously, after being in the sport for more than 40 years, one does have a relationship with many exhibitors on one level or another. I always chat a little with all exhibitors while examining their dogs, those I have known for 40 years as well as those I have not seen before. I see no problem in asking about the family, saying “Nice to see you,” or making a new person feel more at ease in the ring by complimenting them on their attire or jewelry. It is a judge’s job to make everyone in your ring feel comfortable, and it helps a new dog feel more at ease if the tension of the handler is lessened.