Share This Page

Murrysville resident judges Westminster Kennel Club dog show

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Thirty-eight years of dedication brought Mark Kennedy to the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.

A lifelong dog lover, Kennedy was invited to serve as one of 44 judges for the 138th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City.

“It's right up there with the Kentucky Derby and U.S. Open as far as U.S. sporting activities,” said Kennedy, 60, of Murrysville. “Westminster brings in the top judges from around the world. It's an honor to be asked to judge for them.”

The show, which ended Feb. 11, is considered to be the most famous and prestigious dog show in the country. It featured judges from Canada, Ireland and 20 states. Kennedy was one of three judges from Pennsylvania.

Kennedy has spent his life surrounded by dogs. His family raised bulldogs and, at age 24, he was approved by the American Kennel Club, or AKC, to judge the breed — making him one of the youngest judges in the club's history.

By day, Kennedy works as IT and accounting manager for the Ruskin Group in Pittsburgh. But his free time is devoted to the dogs.

As a entrant, Kennedy has “finished” more than 20 champions, and one of his bulldogs produced five champion offspring.

“Bulldogs, they're the ideal family pet,” Kennedy said. “It's a nice pet that bonds with people.”

It was his love of the breed that prompted him to become a judge. Until about five years ago, he still kept his beloved bulldogs as pets. But now, traveling for 15 to 20 dog shows each year, it becomes difficult to keep a pet.

While he began judging exclusively bulldogs, under the AKC, Kennedy is permitted to judge nonsporting dogs, five toy breeds and four sporting breeds. At Westminster, he judged the American Eskimo, the Boston terrier and the bichon frise. None of those breeds qualified for best of show — that title went to a wire fox terrier this year.

“The quality of Westminster is unsurpassed. It's dogs you don't see at a local all-breed show,” Kennedy said.

Among his favorite breeds to judge are Dalmatians, poodles and, of course, bulldogs. The dogs he judges aren't from a pet shop or a puppy mill, he said.

Judging isn't as simple as just looking at a dog and making a snap decision, Kennedy said.

“You're evaluating different types of dogs within the breed,” he said. “You're assessing its background and being able to judge what is the next best, the next best and the next best. You have to determine if it's a good representation of that breed's standard or not.”

Becoming a judge was not an easy thing, he said. His background in breeding and showing helped, but he still needed additional training.

“It takes a number of years of successful breeding of a purebred dog to make it,” Kennedy said. “It's not something you do and just automatically get accepted. It's a very strict process.

“You're taking years of experience, training and knowledge and combining them,” Kennedy said.

He hopes for another invitation to work with the Westminster show in the future.

“It's an incredible honor to be invited,” Kennedy said.“I really enjoy judging the dogs — being able to find that dog that is the best.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at dkurutz@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.