Page 273 - ShowSight, March 2020
P. 273

                            Most important thing about my breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Initially I was attracted by the unique rustic look of the Bergamasco. Unfortunately, this is not what I am seeing in the show ring today.
The Bergamasco should remain as natural as possible, with minimal overall grooming. Trimming and brushing should be kept only on a need basis. The Bergamasco should be judged on the day of the event and not be persuaded by magazine ads, handlers or the ranking systems.
Best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? The breed attracts people; speaking with and educating those who seek out the breed so they can have a clear understanding of whether the breed is the right fit for them. Owning a Bergamasco is a privilege and a responsibility.
My ultimate goal for my breed? For me, it is important to pre- serve the Bergamasco’s characteristics of yesteryear, with their natu- ral rustic coat, at the same time maintaining their well being.
Favorite dog show memory? I will never forget Westminster 2017, Whope won the breed and went on to the Garden. While waiting her turn to go up for the judge’s examination, she turned around and jumped up on the sides saying hello to the crowd, or looking for help, “Mom, where are you?” In any case, she brought a lot of smiles that night at the Garden.
Anything else I’d like to share about my breed? The Bergamasco should be treated as an integral part of the family. In return you will have a friend for life and memories to last life time.
I have been involved with the Bergamasco Sheepdog since 2005. I fell in love with an image of a Bergamasco in a rare dog ency- clopedia and lived on a farm in Nova Scotia, Canada at the time with herds of goats and sheep. I imported Lothario, our first male from the U.S.A., and one year later imported a female, Mezza, from England.
Over the next several years I learned all I could about the breed and became heavily involved in efforts made by the Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America (BSCA) to promote the breed. On July 13, 2007 the first Bergamasco litter was born in Nova Scotia out of our Mezza and Lothario.
I moved back to the U.S. shortly thereafter and worked with the BSCA to help gain breed recognition with the AKC. This would be a long process and in the meanwhile I attended shows and events and continued to create awareness. For the next several years I served as the BSCA Vice-President and was able, along with the help of my colleagues at BSCA, to gain full AKC recognition for the breed in 2015. I am the former President of the BSCA and have worked diligently to achieve parent club status with the AKC. Before I resigned my position as President, I helped to organize the club, draft the bylaws, partner with the CHIC registry and set health testing standards for the breed. I have been involved with the AKC Judge’s education program since breed recognition and con- tinue to enjoy long and short term Judge mentoring as well as ring side mentoring. In addition, my husband and I were the founders of the Bergamasco Companion, a quarterly publication of the BSCA no longer in print.
In 2018, I founded the Bergamasco Shepherd Association of Canada and am currently working on breed recognition with the Canadian Kennel Club. I am the current President of this asso- ciation. I am also a member in good standing of the Bergamasco National Sheepdog Alliance and Societa Amatori del Cane da Pas- tore Bergamasco (S.A.B.). I fully support these two organizations for their continued work to preserve this breed as it was intended.
I live in Connecticut where dogs are my primary hobby and passion. My family lives on a farm and we also have horses, chick-
ens and goats. I also do photography and I am an RN, but not currently working.
Do I hope the breed’s popularity will change or am I comfort- able with the placement? I am comfortable with this placement. The breed is still so rare and there isn’t enough supply for more demand. I have always been interested in rare breeds and the fact that they are considered unpopular just means hopefully less oppor- tunity to do harm to their already fragile gene pool.
Do the numbers help or hurt the breed? I think the numbers help the breed basically for the reasons I described in the last ques- tion. There aren’t enough Bergamascos to keep up with a higher demand. The breedings that take place now should be carefully planned and chosen in order to keep the breed healthy long term.
Does the average person on the street recognize the breed? Gen- erally, no. There have been one or two times where someone in public has recognized one of my dogs as a Bergamasco and I am always surprised when that happens. Most folks will think they are a doodle if young and not in coat, or a Puli or Komondor.
Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dispel? Yes. The breed is not a livestock guardian. They can be protective of their family and their territory, but they do not function as a LGD. They do not bond to livestock over people and they do not fair well with living outdoors. They are a true herding breed and their natural style of herding is tending. Another misconception is that they can’t be bathed often. They can be bathed frequently as long as they are fully dried within a short time and don’t have the chance to mildew.
What special challenges do breeders face in our current eco- nomic and social climate? Breeders face a lot of challenges today. Obviously they are facing more and more AR legislation which is making it more difficult to breed and to keep dogs in many states and towns. Breeding is also a very expensive “hobby”. I say hobby because I am a hobby breeder, but it is expensive for anyone who is doing it right. The responsible breeders are not making much money or losing money which is detrimental to some of our rarer breeds that need a new generation of breeders to carefully carry them into the future.
At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I try not to look at my puppies structurally until eight weeks and, even then, I know it’s not a sure thing. I get a good sense of person- ality as far as confidence goes around five weeks. The puppy willing to try it all, who doesn’t shy away, who learns quickly that reward is worth their attention is usually promising. I look for balance and smoothness of movement around eight weeks also. I don’t make a final decision until they are almost two years old and out of their awkward growing phases.
The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? I think the most important thing is that this dog is meant to herd. They originally herded cattle and, later on, sheep. They performed this work in the Alps. They should be well con- ditioned, sound, muscular with good substance and they should move effortlessly.
The best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? Social media has been great for this and for spreading awareness, especially for rare breeds like the Bergamasco. Being available and willing to stop each time and explain the breed and what makes them special is necessary. The coat can look very intimidating to a newcomer and it’s honestly one of the easiest dogs to show in regards to grooming. There is almost no grooming involved and the maintenance of the coat is much easier than it looks.
My ultimate goal is for this breed to be healthy and to have a lot of available breeding choices in the future without genetic bottlenecking.
My favorite dog show memory? Winning the breed at the West- minster Kennel Club with two of our home-bred bitches for three consecutive years, 2018-2020.

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