Interview with 2022 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Herding Group Judge Sharon Ann Redmer
When did you learn that you were selected to be one of this year’s Group judges? What was your reaction?
Sharon Ann Redmer: It was later in the year than is typical for Westminster, so it never, ever occurred to me that I would be invited to judge the Herding Group! My reaction… disbelief, then elation, then disbelief again. I was excited and thrilled! Knowing that I had to keep the assignment secret, I thought I would surely explode… but I didn’t! All this was followed by what I can only describe as terrified anticipation… national TV… formal dress (could I really judge in something like that?). Looking back, I wasn’t worried in the least about the actual judging of the Herding Group dogs. Herding Dogs are my passion—that part was great to contemplate.
The show was once again held at the beautiful Lyndhurst estate. Could you share your thoughts on this historic location?
Sharon Ann Redmer: Lyndhurst is spectacular. Being on the grounds, touring the mansion and carriage house takes you back in time to another era. I was honored to first judge breeds there in 2021. There I was selecting the Westminster Saint Bernard Breed winner at Lyndhurst, home to generations of top-winning Saints… where there are massive Saint trophies in the mansion. I actually had shaking hands as I examined each entry in Saints. Lyndhurst is a wonderful venue for judging. Westminster KC had fabulous days there both in 2021 and ‘22.
The third day this year was rainy, but as my mother always said, “If you are gonna have flowers you have to have rain!” So, we had a rainy “garden party” on Wednesday… and everyone survived! The Group ring “tent” was recreated from the ground up again this year. And it was amazing. I must admit to being a huge Lyndhurst fan and I think WKC rose to the occasion yet again.
How did you prepare for the assignment? What were you thinking/feeling when you stepped onto the floor?
Sharon Ann Redmer: I must’ve reread my standards a dozen times in the weeks preceding the assignment. I looked in my files at every Illustrated Standard for the Herding breeds. And then, of course, I shopped! For dresses, for shoes… the UPS/Amazon/ USPS trucks were regular visitors! I knew what I wanted… classic, elegant, functional, and as perfect as I could find. Full disclosure: My actual Herding Group attire was the first item I purchased! Then I spent six months trying to improve on it. Silly!
When I stepped onto the floor, I was concerned about two things—no trip and falls, please, and dear Lord, let me keep on time for the TV. I was totally excited to see the dogs… and they did not disappoint. This was the finest Herding Group I have ever had the honor to judge. Westminster KC so wisely selected four extremely talented Herding breed specialists this year to judge at the Breed level. Thank you to Tom Coen, Nioma Stoner Coen, Jimmy Mitchell, and Janina Laurin for sending such wonderful winners to the Group. Well done!
Breed judging was live-streamed each day, and Groups were featured live on Fox Sports. How important is this coverage?
Sharon Ann Redmer: ANY time our sport of dogs gets this much TV time it’s a very GOOD thing! Today we face so much negativity from the anti-dog breeder groups. We all shake our heads over the misinformation. National TV gives our preservation breeders a platform to share their passion with the world.
Could you say a few words about Westminster’s significance to the sport of dogs in the 21st Century?
Sharon Ann Redmer: Westminster is the second oldest sporting event in this country. There is history, tradition, and a focus on excellence, no matter if the venue is “The Garden in Winter” or “Lyndhurst in Summer” Westminster is… well, WESTMINSTER!
In your opinion, how does Westminster reflect positively on the value of the Preservation Breeder?
Sharon Ann Redmer: Our sport is filled with dedicated, self-sacrificing, passionate preservation breeders. It is only at dog shows like Westminster and the AKC National Championship that the general public actually can see not one but multiple entries of these very low entry breeds competing against the very best dogs of their breed from across the country.
Let’s talk about those dogs! How challenging was the assignment? Could you share your selection process?
Sharon Ann Redmer: The dogs were grand. Typically, I hate to make cuts in my Groups… so I don’t. Left to my own devices, I give every Breed winner one last go-round before I place my four winners. Well, that just wouldn’t fit with the realities of TV time. So, I gritted my teeth and made a cut…and it was so hard. There were fabulous dogs that didn’t make the cut that could easily win Groups and Bests on another day.
I judge Herding dogs with the idea that type and movement must be married in the perfect Breed dog. None of our dogs are without faults (except, perhaps, the oldest Terv bitch who sleeps on our bed), so I try to not focus on their faults, but try to find dogs with the most virtues for their breed. Some dogs were a bit naughty, some were deigning to only offer one ear lift, some had happy feet… in other words, they were dogs being dogs. They were still wonderful!
Do you have a word or two about your Group winner? About the dogs that placed?
Sharon Ann Redmer: My Group winner is a stallion of a German Shepherd Dog. He has that wonderful combination of masculine type and movement. He was giving his handler some gray hairs on the individual gaiting, because he wanted to GO! On the final individual pass after the cut, he sealed the Group win! The dog led out, moving into a flying trot effortlessly with perfect foot timing and full extension. His back didn’t move. He could’ve carried a wine glass and not spilled a drop. He gave me goosebumps!
Group 2 went to a beautiful Blue Merle Australian Shepherd male, perfectly presented and showing his heart out. He is clean, balanced, and effortless in his movement, and never placed a foot wrong.
Group 3 was a fabulous Old English Sheepdog bitch, absolutely square with the correct topline and pear shape to herbody. When she moves, she holds that beautiful square shape and covers ground as if she could work all day long.
Group 4 went to a delightful Pembroke Welsh Corgi bitch, correct in proportions, with a rock-solid topline and such a lovely, typical expression. Beautiful girlie… she simply made me smile back at her every time I looked at her.
Would you like to share a few words with the members of the Westminster Kennel Club?
Sharon Ann Redmer: Westminster Kennel Club always rises to the occasion. This was my third assignment for this marvelous group. They selected me to be the inaugural Master Obedience Championship judge in 2016, my lovely Breed assignment in ‘21, and then the Herding Group this year. Each time there have been challenges to overcome. Each time the WKC has risen to meet and beat the challenges. They’ve expanded to three days of Breed judging, and dealt with not one but TWO cancellations of their NYC show—only to pull off the impossible in Tarrytown. And the thing I am most impressed with is the willingness to learn from their challenges and make it better NOW! David Helming and David Haddock are great show chairs and will move heaven and earth to make their show traditional yet modern AND spectacular. They are supported by a committed WKC membership AND a fabulous staff. Together they make things happen!
Have you got any advice to offer next year’s Group judges?
Sharon Ann Redmer: Oh, I hope you will enjoy your assignment as much as I did. You have been chosen because you know your dogs! Once you step into the Group ring, your judging will be pure joy and all the nerves will fall away. Do listen to the TV crew, they know their jobs… but you know yours, so don’t be intimidated. It’s still a dog show.
2022 WKC HERDING GROUP RESULTS:
G1 GCHG CH Gem-N-I River Of Urloved CGC
German Shepherd Dog
G2 GCHP CH Lk Michigan I’M Your’S
G3 GCHB CH Wynsilot Ain’T Misbehavin’
Old English Sheepdog
G4 GCHG CH Trifecta Fantasia CGC TKA
Pembroke Welsh Corgi