What’s a dream photo assignment? For me, it’s being around people who are the best at what they do, like Anne Rogers Clark. It was 2002 and the series for USA TODAY was called The Road to Westminster. It was all about dogs. Perfect.
“Annie” was the first female professional handler to win the coveted “Best In Show” honor at Westminster, and she won it three times. She was the focus of our story about getting a dog to Westminster, from the judge’s perspective, and she was about to teach me a lesson.
At a dog show in Ohio, I stood ringside taking pictures of Clark as she judged Weimaraner puppies and I thought of our Weim, Boomer, who is still going strong at age 13. At some point, I told Annie about Boomer’s recent surgery to remove a toy from his stomach. I remember telling her he was a “bad dog” for swallowing it and in an instant, I knew that I had just walked down the wrong road.
The words came out of her mouth and I felt about an inch tall. “Bad Dog??? Bad Owner.” That awkward moment forced me to reach down to the floor to pick up my pride. It wasn’t Boomer’s fault. It was MY fault.
Carried Annie’s lesson with me
So, I don’t blame puppy Merlin (our youngest Bernese Mountain Dog) when he has an accident in the house. Chances are that I wasn’t listening when he asked to go outside. I don’t blame Teddy (our oldest BMD) when he doesn’t come when I call him. I probably needed to reinforce the behavior more during training. When the TV remote (we’re on Number 5) gets chewed up, it’s because we left it around. Raising dogs is a joyful experience with many lessons. I’ve carried Annie’s lesson with me to this day.
Anne Rogers Clark passed away in 2006. If you’d like to see the “Road to Westminster” interactive, you can see it here. That’s Mrs. Clark at home in Greenwood, Delaware, with one of her dogs “Ch. Rimskittle Shot in the Dark”, aka “Chance.”
During this series I met a breeder of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs and that began my love of the beautiful tri-color Swiss breeds. Now we are blessed to have two Bernese Mountain Dogs, Teddy and Merlin.
Extra: If you’re interested in buying a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, check out our buying guide.