The email came today. It’s an important one for me. I was notified that I am now an American Kennel Club judge of Labrador Retrievers. It’s been an ongoing process for the last two years.

I began showing Labradors in 1996. Since then, I’ve competed in conformation, field, obedience and rally. My dogs have earned well over 50 titles. I have also trained them in agility and tracking. It was a meaningful, enjoyable journey. Learning, making friends, and spending the time with the dogs is something I will always value.

Two and a half years ago, I decided to retire from competition with my dogs. My mind turned to judging the breed that is so close to my heart. I looked into the requirements to become a judge. I had most of them under my belt already. There were a couple of things that I needed to do in order to complete the judge application. I made the effort to get those things done and sent my application in by the end of May  2019.

I was apprehensive, as I had been told that very often the applicant is told that more needs to be accomplished in order to apply. When the email came telling me I could progress to the online tests, I was relieved. I took several tests about anatomy and judging procedures. I passed them with no problems.

The next step was two more tests: another anatomy and another procedural exam. The anatomy test was not an issue. The procedural test was……..awful. I failed it. I took it a second time and I failed it again! I read online that I was not alone. Many aspiring judges were struggling with it. I had never failed a test in my life. It was even open book. I had three chances to pass; only one incorrect answer was allowed. The third time was the charm. If I had failed that time, I would have had to wait six months to take it again.

The final step was the interview with the AKC field representative and the demonstration that I could properly use the wicket. The wicket is the equipment used for measuring dogs’ height. Again, I heard horror stories about failing that procedure by bumping the dog, holding the wicket improperly, etc.

My interview was scheduled on my birthday. I drove up to Bloomsburg to the dog show at the fairgrounds. I met the field rep at the superintendent’s desk. A good friend of mine works at the shows with the superintendent and she was there to cheer me on. I had to wait around for a while for the interview. It went smoothly. Then, I waited for the wicket test. A Golden Retriever was volunteered for the demonstration. The woman handling it could not have been nicer. She patiently listened to me as I stumbled through telling her about the formal procedure. Her dog stood like a rock, making it simple for me. Whew. It was over.

The results of my in person interview went to the AKC judges committee. When the email came today, I took a deep breath.