by Gregg G. Kantak
Perhaps like many of you, my first experience with showing dogs was in field tests. My Silver Standard Poodles, all corded, were waiting for the judge to begin the water fowl retrieval tests and I would happily let them off-leash to dive into the lake or marsh and bring back the “quarry.” Assisting the judge was a “runner” who took the Judge’s scorecard back to a desk for tabulation. Little did I know, that “runner” was the Judge’s steward. Later, when my Basset Hounds experienced hunt trials, and the Judge would check for packing ability, their “voice” and reaction to the gun-firing, I would either be whacking the bushes or yelling “Talley Ho!” when I saw the quarry while, again, this “runner” (Steward) would return to the desk with the Judge’s scorecard. Then came conformation….
As you may know, in an AKC conformation show ring, the Judge actually is assessing “breeding stock.” While all that is going on, however, the Judge requires an able assistant: the Steward. Since I am everything “dog-related” and enjoyed the energy of a dog show, I found stewarding a ring allowed me to participate when I was not actively showing one of my breeds. Over the past fifteen years, I have actively stewarded AKC shows and served as Chief Steward (the ring leader) for several AKC shows, most notably for the past ten years as MSDA’s Chief Steward.
From my many years stewarding dog shows, I have discovered that the Steward is a show’s finest “Ambassador.” Not only must the Steward ensure the Judge and ring are running smoothly, they, unlike any other show staff, have the greatest impact on the Exhibitor’s experience. A Steward is the first person an exhibitor meets prior to showing. The Steward marks them as present and provides them with their armband, calls them into the ring for their breed class and ensures the Judge maintains the schedule and accurately records the wins.
As an exhibitor, I can tell you that the most positive ring experiences have been when a Steward simply greets me, provides me with my armband, wishes me success, and eventually ushers me into the ring. The Steward can make or break a show and their ambassadorial skills set the tone for any exhibitor’s experience during the show.
From a Judge’s perspective, I rely on my Steward to be just that… my ambassador. The Steward maintains the ring’s order, ensures a table or ramp is accessible, pulls the ribbons for the classes, calls in the armband numbers, announces the winning armband numbers in each class, congratulates the winners, etc. They serve as my liaison with exhibitors, handlers and the superintendent. So, you see, stewards are integral to the success of the show. Whether your interest is in conformation, obedience, rally, utility, field or hunt tests, ultimately you have relied upon a steward to ensure you knew what was to come.
I believe I join you in our love of dogs and our enjoyment at seeing them perform in any capacity. Our sport becomes our social outlet, bonding experience and/or avocation. Being a part of it, whether exhibiting, judging or stewarding is truly rewarding. Stewarding, particularly, allows those who may have ended their “showing” years remain an active part of the show. If given a choice, most of us would be spending more time with our dogs or being around dogs, and there is no better way to do that then to participate in a show, especially as a steward.
If you have interest in pursuing stewarding or if you are considering a future judging (there is a stewarding fulfillment requirement to obtain licensure), please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to have you be an integral part of MSDA’s 2020 Show!
Acting as a steward at a dog show or obedience and rally trials is a great way to contribute to the sport, make friends, and get the inside scoop about these dog activities. However, we find many people are reluctant to participate because they think that they don’t know enough about what is involved. MSDA is organizing an introductory seminar for conformation and obedience/rally stewarding sometime during the weekend of August 17-18 (exact date, time, and location are to be determined). Check back to this website, contact Gregg, and/or sign up for our email list to find out more.