Good, better, better: Palmyra man reaches career peak as Westminster Dog Show judge
Richard Powell has very advanced observation skills. He pays great attention to detail. And his propensity for focus and concentration is off the charts.
In other words, he has what it takes to be an excellent judge.
A 77-year-old resident of Palmyra, Judges Powell shows dogs at the highest level. Last month he judged the group of terriers at the 146th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, NY
“If you don’t have the ‘eye,’ you shouldn’t be judging dogs,” Powell said. “You have to have an artistic attitude. You have to understand beauty. You have to recognize the quality.
Powell explained that the dogs are judged according to a standard written by the designers of the breed and approved by the American Kennel Club.
“When you first look at a dog, you look at overall balance, symmetry, and closeness to the breed standard,” he said. “Then you start with the face, his eyes and the way he looks at you. But the most important thing in a dog is the shoulders. If done right, it will be fine.
In the canine world, Westminster is the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Kentucky Derby all rolled into one. The second longest continuously held sporting event in the country, it features 3,200 dogs of all breeds from across the United States.
But a show is only as good as the dogs that compete and the human beings that judge them.
“Our mottoes are ‘only the best’ and ‘there is only one,'” said Gail Miller Bisher, communications director for the Westminster Kennel Club. the best dogs and the best dog exhibitors, they are waiting for the best judges, and we have the best judges.Having excellent judges is essential to the success of the Westminster Dog Show.
Powell never wanted to be a dog show judge, much less a judge of the most distinguished show in the world. In many ways, it was the culmination of a career centered around his love of dogs.
After years of breeding, handling, and showing a variety of breeds, Powell began judging in 2000, in his mid-50s. Through his many judging assignments across the country and abroad, through seminars and through learning from books, he became an expert in his craft.
“It’s very prestigious. It’s an institution,” Powell said of the Westminster show. “To be asked to judge is quite an honour. I think it will be the culmination of my judging career. Everyone wants to win there and everyone wants to judge there.
The feeling is mutual. Westminster treasures Powell’s commitment and expertise, Miller Bisher said.
“The most important thing about Mr. Powell is his dedication to the sport of dog shows,” she said. “It’s a lifestyle. You have to be someone who wants to learn. You must be dedicated and loving, loving dogs.
Retired from full-time work, Powell lives with his wife on 1.5 acres of farmland outside Palmyra, with a lawn, garden, chickens and vintage cars. Unsurprisingly, he said he couldn’t imagine life without his own dogs.
“I’m from England, and dogs are so much a part of life, more there than here,” he said. “People who have dogs are very lucky to have them in their lives. I don’t think I’ve ever been without them. Dogs are so loyal. They don’t expect anything.”
Slowing down is not part of the current plan for Powell, who is as busy as he wants judging dog shows. Although Powell appreciates the opportunity offered by the Westminster show, I left with the distinct impression that, if this was indeed his last, that would be good too.
“I have no idea,” said Powell, pressed on his desire to judge a third Westminster Dog Show. “If I was invited, that would be great, and I would think about it.”
For more information on the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, visit www.westminsterkennelclub.org.
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