There are a number of reason why people have a short attention span when reading, because they are tired, because the text is in a foreign language, or there are thoughts of other more pressing matters. Annie on…Dogs! (Dogwise, 2002) is just the sort of book to pick up when you don’t feel like reading a book. Each ‘chapter’ is in fact one of her monthly articles written for ‘Dogs in Review’ (editor, Bo Bengtson) which she began preparing in 1997. The feeling of Mrs. Clark’s writing is conversational, the reader enters into her thoughts and reflections, and how precious is that when the author is one of the most prominent figures in the dog world! She muses on a wide variety of subjects, Westminster, Poodles, Cockers, travelling, type, ring procedure, she tells funny stories, many of which concern her own blunders, and each article feels like a souflè it is so light and tasty. When we find ourselves reflecting on some aspect of her discourse, we discover the truth and substance of her observations.
There is much substance to Anne Rogers Clark. Her mother was a breeder of Cocker Spaniels, (she won Best Brace at Westminster in 1943) and so dogs were Anne’s life from the very beginning, and she continued the Surrey Kennel name founded by her mother throughout her adult life. By 21 she was a professional handler, one of the very few women at that time. She was the fiercest competitor, and closest friend of her female contemporary, the great Jane Kamp Forsyth. In the late 1960’s Mrs. Clark became a judge, and this brought her even deeper into her passion for dogs. Invited to judge all over the world, Mrs. Clark was among the most authoritive representatives from the USA. She identified herself as a New Yorker all of her life though she lived later in Delaware. She considered Westminster her own ‘local’ show, she won BIS as a handler (three times), as a breeder, and she judged BIS in 1978, moreover she was the commentator for the Television broadcast of ‘The Garden’ for 20 years.
The respectful authority she commanded in the dog world, however, is the last note one hears in her writing which is informal, and personal. By the end of this book, one feels she counts among your most pleasant acquaintance, you might pick up the phone and invite her over for an evening until it occurs to you that you have never really met her! She occasionally gives good advice on cooking such as her duck recipe in the article on field trials. She recounts her courtship and marriage as it was intertwined with Whippets. We also meet several of her friends, most notably the late Bob and Jane Forsythe, Mrs. Liz Cartledge, Frank Sabella, James Reynolds, Tom Bradley and many other more or less famous men and women in the dog world up until her final article in 2002. Mrs. Clark transpires in each passage her awareness that ours is a sport made up of people as well as dogs. Our aspirations, hard work, and above all our love of these marvelous animals is what makes our sport, and this is reflected in her dedication of the book:
I am pleased to dedicate the book, Annie On… Dogs!, to the sport of pure bred dogs worldwide. I do this in the hope that the sport will endure for many generations of canines and their human guardians. To quote the late Jim Clark, “Everything good in our lives has come from the sport of dogs, including our lives together.”
Liz on Annie…
Mrs. Elizabeth Cartledge
She was a lovely person, I was frightened of her at first, my husband and I organized trips to Westminster for many years, and you know she was so tall and had a big voice and such an imposing presence that I was completely in awe and a bit frightened, but then later on we became very good friends. She stayed with me when she came to do groups and BIS at the Windsor show, and we went to Wimbledon to see the Tennis and as luck would have it Pete Sampras was playing which happened to be her favorite player at the time. We made several day trips together, one with Ferelith Somerfield who was the editor of ‘Dog World’. We judged at a small open show in the North of England which Mrs. Sommerfield and I thought was great but Annie did not enjoy. To start with there were only four Poodles, nobody here knew who she was, the weather was bad, then she was stung by a wasp on the nape of her neck! She went to the secretary and asked if they could medicate her, but the man just said ‘Well nobody else has got stung…’ and she said ‘Is there nothing you can do?’, and he said ‘Go over to the fish and chips stand and pour some vinegar over it.’ On top of all that, the bed and breakfast they had booked had small beds and Annie’s feet came out at the bottom, so it wasn’t very comfortable, but we had a laugh about it. She was the epitomy of a ‘good sport’.
Jim Clark was a charming man but I only met him a couple of times before he died. I stayed with Anniein the USA and she had designed her own house and kennel as a sort of condominium with quite a few dogs. In England I had a rare breed called a Lancashire Heeler and she was the sort of dog who had to make friends with you rather than the other way around. Annie completely ignored her from the first moment, so soon enough the dog jumped into her lap and they were best friends. When Hilda had a litter Annie asked for a pup and of course I gave her one but the Heeler joined in with a couple of Norfolks and set about a a favorite old standard Poodle of Annie’s, so the Heeler went to live with Betsy, a career and friend. The dog loved Betsy and her mother but hated Betsy’s Father and used to wait behind the curtains for him to walk by so she could nip at him!
We were fast friends until the end. Annie as you know became very ill indeed, so when a close friend and colleague of mine called one day to say she had died, I thought I had better get a call to her friends who were surely still there at Annie’s place. But when I called and said I’d heard the sad news about Annie, they said ‘yes, we’ll give her the phone, thanks for calling.’ I had a wonderful long chat with Annie, then I learned that three days after our conversation she really did die, and I was grateful we’d had the opportunity to talk once more. Her friends had been with her and she was joking and drinking whiskey and her spirit was amazing despite the pain and discomfort that necessarily attended her illness. She was a very strong, unique person. She had achieved so much, she was an extremely successful handler in many breeds, and bred well, and was such a great judge.
I remember a Corgi national special I was invited to judge in the USA many years ago. I was doing bitches, and the club had the show filmed. At the end of the day the cameraman came up to me and said, ‘You know your style of judging reminds me of our American judge, Anne Rogers Clark, but you probably don’t know who I mean.’ I was surprised since I hadn’t ever made a study of Annie when she was judging, but I said: ‘Oh! I do know her, and you couldn’t ave paid me a greater compliment!’
by Anne Tureen
Published in Best in Show Spring 2017