"Going to the Dogs" Is Their Business
By: Pam Hudson - Reprinted with permission from "The Sporting Dog", September 1974
"So you're Claire Bradshaw!" exclaimed an excited dog show exhibitor, "That's a name I've grown up with." And to be sure, the name Jack Bradshaw has been synonymous with dog shows since Jack I superintended his first show in 1896. It was a benched Pekingese Specialty held under AKC rules at the St. Francis Ballroom in San Francisco. "Dogs were his business," observed Claire about her famous father-in-law, and from the moment he started working with dogs, he demanded a standard of excellence and efficiency that made him a legend in his own time and is still very much in evidence today.
Jack Bradshaw came to the U.S. from England in the 1890's and settled in San Francisco. While he showed all breeds of dogs, he was partial to Bull Terriers and Bulldogs. In those days, one could superintend, judge and exhibit in the same show and Jack I was a familiar and respected figure all over the country. His dedication to dog shows frequently included spending five days on a train to attend a function back east, arriving with his dogs in top condition and ready to go in the ring - a feat many of us find difficult after five hours on an airplane. In 1906 he judged a show in Hawaii that required a five-day boat trip, two days for judging, a day or so more for socializing and talking dogs, and five days back to the U.S. by boat. Today most exhibitors plan months in advance for a circuit of shows that would take up that much time. His efforts paid off in many ways, including a 1912 Best-In-Show at Golden Gate with his Bull Terrier "Sombrero" and a 1918 Best-In-Show at Golden Gate with his Bulldog "Country Model."
AKC didn't start requiring a license to superintend shows until the late 1920's. When they did, Jack I came to them with every facet of experience necessary to obtain a license. "He was a firm believer in the American Kennel Club," noted Claire, and supported it vigorously throughout his life.
The family moved to Los Angeles to officially "open shop" and Jack continued to run the business until 1932 when Jack II graduated from Berkeley and got his license. Their first big California show was held in November 1934 by the Los Angeles Kennel Club at the Ambassador Auditorium. It drew over 1,000 dogs in two days.
By this time, the family pattern was set. When Jack II married Claire in 1935, it was inevitable that she would become involved. "We did everything together," she said. "We went to the shows together, worked together, and spent every possible moment together with our children." (The "children" include Barbara, a teacher in Los Angeles now, who also superintends shows; Jill, who has a PH.D in Immunology and lives in Florida with her husband, Dr. Phillip Sildran and their new baby, Jeanine; and Jack III with his wife, Marion, and their children Eloise, Susan, John and Julie.) Claire got her license in 1948. When her husband became ill in 1966 she took over the business, assisted by Jack III, who had gotten his license in 1964. And so, a second generation of dog show lovers had grown with the Bradshaws and a third on its way.
While Claire is still very active in superintending, Jack III and Frank Sabella, who joined the team in 1973, are now in charge. With a staff of only six, they are maintaining Jack I's standards in a dog show world that has become incredibly complicated. "Our lives are just a series of deadlines," remarked Claire. They handle the various planning stages of as many as six shows per week and the work of some of the bigger annual shows goes on year-round. The recent Santa Barbara Kennel Club Show drew 4300 dogs - that's a lot of superintending!
When a club wants to hold a show, the phone starts ringing at Bradshaws. The club sets the location and date, chooses the judges, solicits advertising and makes all the decisions. The Bradshaws coordinate activities, lend their know-how and do much of the actual work.
First on the Bradshaw agenda is the premium list. The club sends it to Bradshaws, who forward it to the AKC for sanction. After the show is OK's, Bradshaws print and mail the premium lists. The have a regular mailing list of 9,000 and a number of other special-interest lists.
Then the entries start pouring in. Each entry must be checked for accuracy (properly filled out, properly signed, proper fee, etc.) and, time permitting, improper entries will be returned. Often Bradshaws will call handlers with multiple entries in multiple shows to advise them of a problem and the show-giving club is also advised of problems so that they may send a representative to go over individual entries and make necessary changes. The Bradshaws are not permitted to tamper with entries in any way, but their concern for putting on a good show has saved many an exhibitor from the disappointment of last-minute ineligibility.
At the close of entries, Bradshaws make up the judging program, tallying entries to make sure no judge has more then 175 dogs and advising the club of overloads so that changes can be made. The judging programs are then mailed as acknowledgements tot he exhibitors along with entry tickets.
While the club is responsible for selecting judges, the Bradshaws choose the ring stewards. "They are extremely important to a good show," stated Claire and the Bradshaws use professionals.. The discretion or indiscretion of a ring steward can sometimes make or break that aspect of a show.
Catalogs are then printed almost overnight and with miraculous accuracy by Bookman Press, a long-time associate of the Bradshaws. Ribbons and arm bands have to be ordered. Together with the judge's book, badge, pen and pencil, all is organized by ring, breed and catalog order. When a judge arrives at a Bradshaw show, all he has to do is report to his ring. "We do as much as possible before we ever leave the office," noted Claire. "It makes the operation much smoother."
Bradshaws are on the scene the day before the show to set up and to iron out bugs. Some clubs have their own equipment; others use Bradshaw equipment. And they're on the scene at dawn the day of the show to make sure everything is ready long before the first exhibitor shows up.
From start to finish Bradshaws are on the scene, answering for the umpteenth time questions on how to register a dog, why half-breeds cannot be shown, where's the phone, bathroom or catalog table. Any incident on the two grounds - a fainting woman, duplicate entry, measurement, dog-fight, you-name-it - brings the announcement, "Superintendent to Ring 0," and a Bradshaw representative responds.
Just getting everyone through the day with as much grace as possible is often a Herculean task. The exhibitor who wrote "late judging, please" on her entry may be angrily showing now at 9 a.m. without realizing the care and consideration that Bradshaws had already put into ring assignments long before that day. Short-nosed breeds usually have to show first because of the heat; breeds that require much grooming need to show later on. There are a myriad of considerations that are more important to the exhibitors over-all than how far one has to drive or if someone's having dinner guests that evening.
Another exhibitor may have written "dry grass, please" or "shady ring, please" and if his or her dog doesn't do well that day, it's the judge or the ring assignment or both to blame. "If it's raining, it's our fault," said Claire with a smile.
The coordination of Group Judging presents more problem in timing. The dogs may be ready, but the judge is still in the class ring. Announcements must be made often and in time enough for the dogs to be readied.
Finally, the Best-In-Show is chosen and weary exhibitors head home while the Bradshaws collect the judges' books, examine them for corrections, and post an office copy for those who want to mark their catalogs. The equipment comes down and the show is over for everyone but the Bradshaws. The very next day they airmail to AKC the judges' books and entries, a marked and an unmarked copy of the catalog, and a full report of any incidents (the fainting woman, the complaint on wet grass, a late judge, you-name-it again) that occurred during the show. And waiting for them are the very same tasks in various stages of completion for several other events. The show is never over for the Bradshaws.
In addition to the jobs involved in coordination and superintending of the shows, the Bradshaw office is a bee-hive of activity unrelated to the actual operation of a show. Phone calls pour in all day with requests for information on stud service, match and show schedules, statics on the current popular dogs, AKC Regulations - anything to do with dogs. Each caller is given an answer to his question or referred to the appropriate authority.
Claire and 'the Jacks,' as she calls them, have believed for years that the top dog competition in the country is in Southern California. Certainly it can be said, then, that The Jack Bradshaws have played a large and valuable role in the quality of that competition. Exhibitors, judges and spectators alike can enter a Bradshaw show with the confidence that three generations of expertise is providing with the best possible showcase.
Copyright © 1999, Jack Bradshaw Dog Show Superintendents - All Rights Reserved