65-Year Love Affair Started with a Brittany
When Loraine Boutwell and her husband, Victor, acquired their first Brittany in 1953 they paid $35. The puppy traveled by train from Oklahoma to Topeka, Kansas in what Loraine describes as something like a wooden orange crate
Victor Boutwell, who passed away in 2003, owned a Brittany as his hunting dog when the couple began dating. Eventually they attended field trials and Loraine says she loved watching the dogs work. She fell in love with one of the field trial champions and decided they needed one of his puppies. According to Loraine, Victor said it was her idea, so she had to pay for it!
Beautiful Field Trial Brittany Goes to the Dog Show
The Boutwells were smitten with their new puppy and decided she was so beautiful they had to take her to a dog show. Thus
began their long history with the Heart of America Kennel Club and love affair with dog shows.
From breeding a champion in every group to handling all-breeds, from active all-breed club involvement to judging six groups, Loraine has been long involved in every aspect of the sport.
She said sound, correct movement remains her top priority in any of the breeds she judges.
“… when a dog comes in, I don’t want to see them stacked first,” Boutwell said. “… I’d rather see them moving. And I have them come in one at a time. And I spend quite a bit of time, I usually watch them go almost all the way around… And then I think this is a quality class or I’m going to have to work at this. I have a clue from just going around what kind of quality I have. And then I’ll think, well I have about five dogs there that are just wonderful. And one I’m going to have to move several times because the owner is new. And we can spot it right away. Because you want to evaluate that dog, even though the person may be not a wonderful handler, but you want to be able to evaluate that dog as best you can.”
Boutwell still retains the love for performance work that was sparked in a young woman’s heart so many years ago.
“I just love to see the dogs work doing what they were bred to do. That, to me, is icing on the cake if they can do that,” Boutwell said. “If they win their championship that’s perfect but they’ve got to be able to do what they were bred to do.”
Loraine and Victor Boutwell celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary the year before Victor passed away. Purebred dogs were their lives, Loraine said.
“I’ve been judging for 38 years,” Boutwell said. “And they’ve been wonderful and if I had had any idea that I would still be judging now, at my age I would say ‘oh no no. Couldn’t do it.’ Well I am. And I’m loving it. I had to cut back, but I still want to do it. I still want to be able to judge.”
I hope you enjoy this delightful conversation with one of our sport’s most enduring and charming participants. I know I did!
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Transcript Loraine Boutwell
Pure Dog Talk is the voice of purebred dogs. We talk to the legends of the sport and give you the tips and tools to create an awesome life with your purebred dog. From showing to preservation breeding, from competitive obedience to field work, from agility to therapy dogs, and all the fun in between – your passion is our purpose!
LAURA REEVES: Welcome to Pure Dog Talk. I’m your host Laura Reeves and I have a very, very special guest with us today – Mrs. Loraine Boutwell. Loraine is an American Kennel Club judge of many, many breeds – all breeds now, Loraine? Yes?
LORAINE BOUTWELL: No, no. I lack the Herding Group.
LR: Lack the Herding Group. OK. I knew you were close.
LB: Uh-huh I have one through six which is nice and neat. <laughter>
LR: And I have been showing dogs to Mrs. Boutwell for a number of years and I enjoyed showing dogs to her husband, before he passed away – Mr. Victor Boutwell – and I think we’re going to have a great talk today about kind of the background of the sport and Mrs. Boutwell’s background in dogs. So, thank you for joining us. I really, really appreciate it, Loraine.
LB: Well you’re welcome my dear. I’m happy to do it.
LR: So, talk to me. We like to tell people the – we call it the 4-1-1, right? The background. Give us a little bit of history about how you got involved in dogs.
LB: OK. When my husband and I were dating he had a Brittany which he used for hunting and he hunted for quail and pheasant and upland game. And everybody in our area either hunted and you fished. That’s what you did. Then when we were married we started going to field trials, showing his Brittany and I, of course, didn’t hunt. I just loved to go along and see the dogs work. And that’s one thing I enjoyed so much about the field trial. And I fell in love with a field trial champion and talked to the owner about getting a little bitch from him. And he said they were expecting a stud fee puppy and I said, “Well I would like a little bitch from him,” and they said, “Well we will let you know.” Well they let me know, and I decided I’d better tell my husband I had done this <laughter> – we hadn’t been married very long and didn’t have any money! So, I had to tell him that I had this puppy coming and it was going to be 35 dollars. Well, we didn’t have 35 dollars. And my husband said, “It was your idea, so you get to pay for it. I said, “OK.” So, I scrounged around and found thirty five dollars and paid for this little girl. And she came to us on the train from Oklahoma. We lived in Topeka at the time. She came in like, an orange crate. Field trial people were a little rustic in those days <laughter> and we just loved her. My husband loved her as much as I did. And she was very much like her father – she was beautiful. So when she was 11 months old I said, “We have to take her to a dog show – she’s so pretty.”
LB: So, we took her to her Heart of America Kennel Club which was a big deal in those days, and course we knew nothing. We’d never been to a show and we were just really, really novices. Well, it was benched – of course we had not a clue what that meant. But anyway she went on to win a five point major that day! And we stayed – of course it was benched so we had to stay all day and we were so fascinated! And in those days the heart of America had just more wonderful groups. They were in the evening and the spotlights were on the dogs, and organ music, and it was spectacular. There was nothing like it. It was just lovely – just lovely. But anyway we were hooked. Needless to say that did it, and we didn’t go back to the field trials any longer anyway. So we just went to dog shows and we finished her. Took us a year but there weren’t many shows in those days. But she was never defeated much – didn’t win every time – but she won most of the time. And we finished her and then we decided to breed her and then we decided to show her son, one of her sons, and he finished this championship. And then we decided that we would breed a dog in each of the six remaining groups. <LR: Oh my gosh!> And that’s what we had in those days six groups of course. Well we did, but it took us 30 years
LR: That’s pretty good, though! And so what year was it that you got that little Brittany puppy on the train in an orange crate – I love that story.
LB: That was in 1953, dear, long before most of you were ever born.
LR: Yes absolutely true.
LB: And the dog show was February 21st, 1954, and it was heart of America’s sixth dog show. I looked some of this information up, but it was their sixth dog show and the judge that day was Hugh Lewis. He was from Pasadena, California. But on the panel, Louis Muir, Lloyd Brackett, Haworth Hoch, Alford Lapine and Blanche Saunders did obedience.
LR: Oh my gosh <LB: Can you imagine?> that is so cool!
LR: So you set out on this mission to breed a litter from every group. And what were the breeds that you selected?
LB: OK well of course the Brittany and then Wire Haired Standard Dachshunds and Boxers, Miniature Schnauzers, Min Pins, Bichons and Corgis after they added the Herding group. Pembroke Welsh Corgis. And we didn’t do a lot of breeding mainly because, well, Vic became an all-breed handler. After we’d been showing about 10 years, he decided to be an all-breed handler. We both had full time jobs, but in our part of the world you couldn’t make a living at just handling. Unless you were willing to go like on the deep south circuits or the Texas circuits or whatever. We couldn’t do that – we didn’t want to leave our home that long anyway. We had family obligations, so we both continued working and then we didn’t do much of anything else. We worked in the grooming every evening and went to shows on weekends. Not that many weekends because there were not that many shows, but we loved what we did. Vic was very good at trimming, so we showed a lot of Poodles and we showed a lot of Terriers.
LB: We showed all breeds and then, Vic, when they decided to take the handler’s licenses away, he decided that was a good time to retire so we retired in 1977 and he started judging the following year. But I didn’t start judging – I didn’t apply for a couple of years mainly – because I wasn’t sure that he would like it that well or that I would enjoy it that much. And I decided after judging a Poodle sweepstakes – I decided, “Yeah, I think I would like this,” so I applied in 1980 and well I did my first show in 1980. And of course this was our life. We enjoyed it so much and we traveled all over the world. We had wonderful, wonderful invitations to places we would have never gone otherwise.
LR: Absolutely. And you are actively involved with some of the judges education groups right?
LB: Yes I am. I’m on the board of the American Dog Show Judges.
LR: And talk to us a little bit – I think that’s so important and you know the sport’s in this sort of transition phase of, you know, how we approve our judges and all of that. Can you talk a little bit, for our listeners who may not know, what that process is – what the judges need to go through in order to learn how to judge breeds, to be a better judge, to develop their eye – all of that.
LB: Well one thing I try to tell people is that they, really, should ring steward. Whether they’re showing or handling or whatever. If they have any opportunity to ring steward – maybe even at a specialty where they’re not exhibiting or at a show where they’re not involved with showing. Rings stewarding – they kind of understand a little bit better what judges go through and why judges have to be on time and why we can get cranky at times <laughter LR: I’ve never see you cranky, Loraine> Well, you know judging is wonderful except that sometimes there are just a lot of things that go wrong. And this way if you’re in the ring with the judge then you will see what happens and how they react and why they react sometimes when you think, “They’re sure grouchy!” Well they have reason to be grouchy they can’t get the dogs in the ring, or the wrong dog comes in, or the dogs are not behaving properly. And there are just so many factors that they don’t understand if they’re just outside the ring or inside the ring exhibiting. But in fact, if anybody is interested in going into judging, or even into handling, they should ring steward because you can see what the judge sees. And either that, or if they have the opportunity to judge, we don’t have many matches anymore. We had many matches that we judged. Now we don’t have that opportunity. Sometimes they have matches after the regular show, and that would be a wonderful opportunity for someone to learn. They learned how to examine a dog and also realize that sometimes we have very close decisions. And also maybe they don’t know that breed that well and they’ll go back to their standard and they will look at it they’ll think, “Well I didn’t know this, I didn’t know that, I didn’t know that they could be that color or they could be that whatever.”
LB: But there are so many ways that people can learn by just observing and being around in this setting and watching one whole breed – a large breed – like you know, Goldens or at some of the shows where they have a big entry – watching that breed all the way through.
LR: Right. And I think that too many people miss that opportunity to really develop their eye by watching a lot of different judges judge a lot of different breeds.
LB: This is true! Yes! We always – I tell people, I say, “I learn at every show.” Sometimes someone will ask me a question, I’ll say, “Well, yes, that is true and I’ve been doing that forever. But I can’t tell you exactly why.” Or maybe it’s just something that just comes up and you think, “Well that is very interesting and you know that’s how we learn.” And I’m willing to talk with the exhibitors if they don’t approach me at the wrong time, when I’m busy judging and I have a schedule to fulfill, I can’t stop and visit.
LR: But I think it’s important that if people have questions they can come to you and talk when you have time after the breeds in the day.
LB: This is exactly right, but many times they’ll have to bring the dog back. I don’t remember people – I remember dogs better than people – but sometimes I look at a person, I say, “What breed are we talking about. I have no clue.” And sometimes I look at their shoes – I think, “Well maybe I’ll recognize their shoes <laughter> or their hands – the hands and the feet are what we see most!”
LR: Oh my gosh I love that.
LB: In fact one of our mentors back years ago told my husband, said, “Always make sure your shoes are polished and your nails are clean. That’s what the judges see.”
LR: I love that and it’s great advice, even today!
LB: It is. It truly is. Yes, right!
LR: I always worry about that when you, like, you go to the garden – you’re like, “Oh my gosh my fingernails – are they ok?”
LB: Yep. Yep this is right. Very, very important.
LR: I think, too, the piece of continuing education, right, that exhibitors need to understand that judges are always, always learning new things, thinking new things, acquiring new information. And that this is an actual conversation or should be between the judges and the exhibitors, yes?
LB: That’s right – that’s exactly right! Well you know many of us in judging in different parts of the country, you see different types of dogs. Dogs are not the same all over. And sometimes it’s just a wonderful, wonderful entry. And many times I take longer with a wonderful entry than I do with an entry that isn’t maybe so large or isn’t quite the quality, because sometimes you just really do have choices. Which is wonderful. I love it when I do have choices, but many times we don’t. And I try not to be just automatic but sometimes everything just falls into place so quickly.
LR: So when you are judging, I think one of the things that again helps exhibitors understand a judge or their ring procedure or the entire concept of the dog show, for people that are new, when you watch a ring-full of dogs, how are you processing that? Right? Like, are you looking at every dog that comes in … yes, no, yes, no, oh heck no. <laughter> How are you doing that?
LB: Well yes I do that. When a dog comes in, I don’t want to see them stacked first. Now some judges do. They want to see them stacked. I don’t want to – I’d rather see them moving. And I have them come in one at a time. And I spend quite a bit of time, I usually watch them go almost all the way around, depending on the size of ring of course. And then I think, “This is a quality class, or I’m going to have to work at this,” or I have a clue from just going around, what kind of quality I have. And then I’ll think, “Well I have about five dogs there that are just wonderful. And one I’m going to have to move several times because the owner is new.” And we can spot it right away. Because you want to evaluate that dog, even though the person may be not a wonderful handler, but you want to be able to evaluate that dog as best you can. And to the best of that dog’s ability. And I sometimes say to myself, “Now if this dog were with a handler how would it look?” And that don’t mean a handler – licensed handler – I mean a handler that – someone that can show a dog. Because then I give it maybe several chances and sometimes I’ll talk to the handler and I’ll say, “Let’s just relax and enjoy this, OK?” And sometimes they even have the lead on backwards. You know there’s some reason that dog is not showing well. In fact I had that this last weekend in the St. Louis area. I said, “We’re going to have to change this dog’s lead. It’s on backwards.” And she said, “Oh …” she had not a clue. And I said, “Wasn’t that so much better,” she said, “Oh yes. It was just much better,” she said, “I had control,” and I said, “That’s exactly right.” But you know going around I sensed something was wrong with that dog and that was it.
LR: And I think, too, a lot of our exhibitors get frustrated because they think that they’re losing to a dog that isn’t as good a quality because the person on the other end of the leash is better at their job. How do you feel about that?
LB: Well you know I really don’t care who’s on the other end of the lead. I did three specialties last Friday and I had some handlers in the ring and I didn’t use any of them. Now wait a minute. I don’t know that that person I put up was a handler or not. They were no one I knew as a handler. They were from Canada, so they could be a handler in Canada. So I can’t say that they weren’t a handler but they weren’t a handler that I recognized. But the girl said she was showing to me because she thought I would like her type. Well, I did. In fact we had a picture taken. It was in Smooth Coat Chihuahuas, and they put four dogs on the table for the picture and I said, “Well now that what happened here,” and they said, “Well this is Best of Breed/Best of Variety, Best of Opposite and Select and Select.” And I said, “Well how are they related?” “Well they’re all sisters and brothers. It’s two litters.” And I had never seen any of these people before.
LR: But, Loraine, I think that’s so important for people to understand, and what I value about showing you dogs, personally, is if we know what type of dog you – or any judge – likes in a given breed and we bring you that dog, Merry Christmas right?
LB: That’s exactly what I said, “Well just continue breeding these wonderful dogs dear!” It was just so much fun, when you have that quality – just so much fun – when you have what you like.
LR: Right. Absolutely. And I love it there are so many judges in this sport – not as many maybe as we’d like – but so many, that are like you, that work really hard to help the exhibitor present their dog, their exhibit, so that you, the judge, can see it in its best light.
LB: We just have to. You know our sport is just really needing new people badly and if we don’t treat some of these new people with tender loving care they’re gonna leave. They’re just not going to stay. And especially in some of the breeds, it’s very hard to finish a dog without a handler. And I know that but it shouldn’t be that way. Anyone should be- we get it, and if we could do it, we didn’t have a clue what we were doing. And I have a lot of people in my ring that don’t have a clue and I say, “Well I was there, I know what you’re talking about.” But I said, “Just watch. Just watch what we do and watch classes. You can learn so much.” And if people would just learn what pattern we like it would make it so much easier. I try to be very explicit in my directions but I sometimes I think, “Don’t think watch,” and they don’t … they don’t. It’s just – it’s sad. But we always knew when we were at shows, when we were handling, we’d go around and see how the judges were working the ring and how they were using the ring. And people don’t do that anymore I guess. Or if they do, they don’t remember.
LR: That’s part of what we’re here doing at Pure Dog Talk is helping people learn how to do a better job. So this is great information for people to hear, if you will, straight from the horse’s mouth.
LB: <laughter> Well I hope that would help. And if they’re insecure then they should really look and watch and what they should do is focus on a handler that seems to know what’s going on and watch them and see what they do. And then try to do something that is similar to what they’re doing.
LR: Absolutely. So the only other question I wanted to talk to you about, and without getting too deeply involved in the politics of dog shows versus field trials and all the rest of it, but the idea that you started in a breed and in the performance end of that breed and what that brings you today in the dog show ring. How that helps you or colors your evaluation of the dogs in your ring.
LB: Well of course starting with hunting dogs, I really have to have a dog that moves – one that’s sound – and I have to have that even in my Toys. And if I don’t have that I just don’t have a dog. I really don’t. And I think that a lot of people that have started in Obedience – they can’t tolerate a dog that isn’t trained or isn’t well behaved in the ring. And that I understand as well, but I’ve gone to Retriever trials, all kinds of trials. And Herding – I’ve gone to Herding. I just love to see the dogs work doing what they were bred to do. And that, to me, is icing on the cake, if they can do that, if they win their championship that’s perfect. But they’ve got to be able to do what they were bred to do.
LR: Absolutely. Well Loraine thank you so very much for your time – I really, really appreciate you joining us.
LB: Well hey I’ve enjoyed it and I hope I just didn’t take off and go into personal things. <LR: Nope – you were perfect!> That was our life and that’s the only way I can say it. It just – it’s been a wonderful life. I’ve been judging for 38 years. And they’ve been wonderful and if I had had any idea that I would still be judging now at my age I would say, “Oh no, no. Couldn’t do it.” Well I am and I’m loving it. I had cut back but I still want to do it. I still want to be able to judge.
LR: And it is always a pleasure to see you at the dog show because you always are having a wonderful time and I think that is absolutely priceless.
LB: My husband used to scold me, he said, “You aren’t very sophisticated in the ring,” and I said, “No and I’d never will be! That isn’t me!”
LR: You are your own wonderful self and we always enjoy watching you at the dog shows. So thank you so much Loraine I appreciate it.
LB: Well thank you honey, I’ve enjoyed it.
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