Carmel’s dog aficionado makes the call to Westminster – Monterey Herald


Patricia Craige Trotter had been out for a walk with her husband, Charles Trotter, as they waited for the limo that would take them to the finals of the recent 145th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Moments after judging the Best in Show competition, the Westminster veteran
encountered a group of PETA attendees hoisting signs reading, “Purebred Dogs Kill Shelter Dogs.”

After announcing the winner, “Wasabi the Pekingese,” Trotter took a quote from his own book, “Born to Win, Breed to Succeed,” and said, “As dog lovers, we all love dogs. ,mixed breeds and pure breeds.These are all pets.Now every animal may not be a show dog,but rest assured that every show
the dog is a pet.

When it comes to dogs, Patricia Craige Trotter has quite the pedigree. Particularly when breeding, breeding, training, showing, judging and most importantly love.

Patricia Craige Trotter of Carmel judged the Best of Show contest at the 145th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show held recently. (Photo by Diana Han, Nor Cal Bulldogger)

The longtime resident of Carmel who herself has won an unprecedented 11 victories at Westminster with her Norwegian Vin-Melca Elkhounds over the years, has been involved in the quintessential canine competition for 50 years. In 2012, she received the AKC Lifetime
Excellence Award.

“People who breed purebreds,” she said, “love their dogs as much as a man does with a mixed-breed pet. Being a breeder is a big responsibility. We like to think of ourselves as breeders of conservation dogs to preserve their qualities.Each dog has a breed standard, a written description of
desired and undesirable traits of a breed. It is a judge’s responsibility to know the standard, so that we can evaluate the dog correctly.

It was against these “breed standards” that Trotter judged the seven best-in-breed winners who then competed for best-in-show.

“On a show like Westminster,” she said, “the seven finalists are very dignified. There is no perfect dog, so the judge tries to assess how far each can s “step away from perfection. Breed standards don’t require you to be pretty or beautiful or gorgeous – although we never hold that against the dog. They do determine if the dog has the characteristics that allow it to do that for what he was raised.

The Pekingese breed standard, she says, requires the dog to be built like a small lion. As Wasabi stood there, Trotter could imagine him on guard. The Pekingese body, she says, is supposed to be pear-shaped, so judges go under the thick coat, feel the structure and
substance. The compact body should have a heavier front end, narrow hips and a lighter hind end. The head should have the shape of an envelope, with a flat, wide and deep skull. The face is flat, with dark, staring, luminous, round eyes.

Wasabi was the norm.

“When I watch the contestants,” Trotter said, “I have to love their courage and their soul. There is nothing better than the soul of a dog. When judging, I also pay close attention to the way the dog and handler interact. It’s a really important relationship, with the respect and compatibility of a
dance partner.

The show must continue

For the first time since its inception in 1877, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, legendary in its pageantry and celebration at Madison Square Garden, was staged 27 miles to the north, on the spectacular grounds of historic Lyndhurst Mansion on the hudson river. The show, second only to the Kentucky Derby as the longest continuous sporting event in America, which prevailed through two world wars and the Spanish flu, has been moved to the grounds of the estate, where it could be performed at the outside, in accordance with pandemic protocols.

It was, says Trotter, absolutely beautiful.

“The setting was rather fitting for the Westminster Kennel Club,” she said, “which began as a sporting gentlemen’s club in the late 1800s. The common denominator was that they were all wealthy people and affluent, who liked to shoot birds above their dogs, so they focused on setters, pointers, retrievers and spaniels.

Over time, these gentlemen developed their sporting dogs to be more adept at their task. The setter, raised to squat, would find a company of birds and squat nearby, so that the hunter could quietly slip a net over the birds and throw it over his shoulder, says Trotter, as Father Christmas with his gift bag.
Dogs have long been bred, she says, to perform a special service for man.

“Designing a dog,” Trotter said, “has always had to do with their work. That’s what we look for when judging them at Westminster.

Developing a Canine Judge

Patricia Craige Trotter’s devotion to dogs began some 75 years ago in Virginia Beach, when her parents introduced their fifth-grade student to her first dog, a mongrel named Queenie, sparking a love affair with the animal and everything related to dogs.

When she was in middle school, she saw sturdy dogs with gray, white, and black coats and tightly curled tails. Delighted, she asked a man what kind of dogs they were, and he replied:

“Bear dogs.

Carmel’s Patricia Craige Trotter has won an unprecedented 11 wins at Westminster with her Norwegian Vin-Melca Elkhounds over the years. (Photo by Diana Han, Nor Cal Bulldogger)

Actually a Spitz-type breed, these were Norsk elghunds or “Norwegian moose dogs”, used to hunt bear and moose. An alleged translation later led to their current name, the Norwegian Elkhound.

“What I liked,” Trotter said, “was that they looked natural, had never had a tail bob or altered ears, and they looked brave and smart, with such beautiful color. It is truly a splendid breed.

Trotter obtained his first Norwegian elkhound, a female, in 1949, and began training and then breeding her, “correcting any physical shortcomings by careful choice of mates”. She registered her first litter of Vin-Melca Norwegian Elkhounds – the title an abbreviation of meaningful names – in 1951 and most recently in 2020. All of her breeding stock descended from that first female in 1949.

Come to Carmel

Originally from Virginia, where she had taught for three years in Norfolk, Patricia Craige Trotter arrived on the Monterey Peninsula in 1961, accompanied by two Norwegian greyhounds, to visit a friend and attend local dog shows. Eventually, she decided to stay. After teaching eighth grade United States history for a year at Salinas, she transferred to Carmel Middle School, where she continued to teach for nearly 35 years.

“Teaching eighth graders is like teaching dogs,” she says. If they don’t kill you, they’ll keep you young. Of course, during the pandemic, teaching was put on hold, but not the dogs. People who are around dogs live longer. Dogs bring life to people.

Trotter married Charles Trotter, a canine judge, in 1994, and retired from teaching.

“I’ve bred and shown dogs most of my life, traveling to Norway, Sweden, Croatia, England, Australia, New Zealand, all over Asia and South America,” she said. said, “but it wasn’t until I married Chuck that I started judging dogs.

While it makes sense that a resident of Carmel, the self-proclaimed capital of the canine world, would be asked to judge Best in Show at Westminster, Trotter wasn’t the first in the community to do so. Derek Rayne, who ran his eponymous fashion empire for over
over 50 years in Carmel, reportedly began his judging career in 1939. Recognized as much for his Pembroke Corgis as his style of dress, Rayne was a founding member of the local Del Monte Kennel Club, to which Trotter belongs. He was also a Best in Show judge at Westminster in 1983, awarding the title to an Afghan hound.

“Derek Rayne was a wonderful gentleman, a most dignified human being and a very distinguished canine judge,” Trotter said. “He was considered by canine fantasy to be one of the most capable canine judges in the world.”

Other Carmel-based Best in Show judges at Westminster include the late Dr. Jackie Hungerland, a member of the Del Monte Kennel Club, a resident of the Peninsula from 1959 to 2000, who awarded a Scottish terrier in 1995. And Dottie MacDonald of Carmel , who died at 94 in May. , began his judging career in 1974. The Del Monte Kennel Club member was Best in Show judge at Westminster in 2001, giving the title to a Bichon Frize.

“What makes the Monterey Peninsula a great place to have a dog,” Trotter said, “is that there are so many places to walk and hike, and it’s a community so welcoming to dogs.The people of the Peninsula fully understand the bond between man and dog.


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