Interview with Thomas Coen – 2023 WKC Dog Show Herding Group Judge
Can you describe your reaction to receiving an invitation to judge the Herding Group at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?
Thomas Coen: It was a total surprise when the invitation letter arrived… and it was one of the best surprises I’ve ever had!
What does it mean to judge a Group at this historic show?
Thomas Coen: To judge a Group at Westminster is the highest honor and the assignment carries with it a huge responsibility.
In your opinion, how does this show differ from other AKC events?
Thomas Coen: No other show has as long a history as Westminster. It is a celebration of purebred dogs and preservation breeders. In a time when the trend is to level the playing field, Westminster provides an arena to reward the best of the best.
What were you thinking or feeling moments before you stepped into the center of the Group ring?
Thomas Coen: I was anxious, excited, and of course, I had trepidations!
Was there a heightened energy coming from the dog and handler teams? Did you feel the energy of the spectators?
Thomas Coen: The experience of being in the center of that ring was really unlike any that I’ve had. The lights, the roar of the crowd, and the energy of the dogs and handlers definitely added to the excitement. I found that all of that faded into the background and my attention became focused on judging the dogs.
How challenging was this assignment? Can you share your selection process?
Thomas Coen: This assignment was challenging in a good way. The quality of the Group was exceptionally deep and that makes judging enjoyable and satisfying. I judge on virtues and there was no shortage of them in this entry!
Do you have a word or two about your Group winner? About the dogs that placed?
Thomas Coen: The Australian Shepherd bitch made it her night. She was so balanced both standing and in motion. On the move, she held her topline and had exceptional foot timing that resulted in smooth, easy, athletic movement. She was the whole package and I was pleased to reward her in this quality Herding Group. Congratulations to the Aussie breeders for consistently producing dogs that are top contenders in this Group.
Second to the exceptionally handsome Bouvier des Flandres who presented a striking, balanced silhouette that exuded power and strength. He was in great, hard, muscular condition and it definitely showed up on the move. I was later told he works on a farm when he’s not at the shows and I did not find that surprising at all—form follows function.
Third to the Shetland Sheepdog who possessed a balanced, curvaceous outline that reflected his angulation on both ends. He has correct head shape with beautiful eyes, ears, and expression. He moved smoothly and was the total package.
Fourth to the German Shepherd Dog, a stallion of a dog, who was really an eyeful with his outline of smooth curves and harmonious balance. He possessed that elusive look of strength and nobility in spades. He moved with ease and covered ground smoothly with his long stride. There is beauty in motion.
There is no other show quite like Westminster. Is there anything you’d like to say on behalf of the Westminster Kennel Club and its members?
Thomas Coen: I would like to say THANK YOU to the members of the Westminster Kennel Club for all they do. To put on a show of this caliber has to be a monumental task, with so many details to be handled, and they do it beautifully year after year.
Are there specific ways in which this show furthers the cause of purebred dogs?
Thomas Coen: The show brings such positive attention to purebred dogs and preservation breeders. Even the television commercials were well done this year and were right in step with the message.
Now that your assignment is complete, what does Westminster mean to you personally?
Thomas Coen: This assignment at Westminster will definitely be one of my lifetime memories and I will always consider it one of the highest honors of my sixty years in dogs.