A rare breed

Wentzville resident is a world renowned dog handler and will be a judge at the 143rd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City

By Brett Auten

James Moses’ life has gone to the dogs.

Moses, of Wentzville, is among one of seven group judges at the 143rd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City set for Feb. 11-12. 

Moses will officiate over the Working Group during the evening competition held at Madison Square Garden. The two-day, all-breed dog show has turned into a national highlight.

Moses became involved in the sport of purebred dogs more than sixty years ago. Raised near Niagra Falls, he handled his first dog to its championship when he was 13-years-old. His mother was French-Canadian and living on the border allowed him plenty of access into Canada, where he built a wealth of experience. By 19, he handled the number one dog, all-breeds, in Canada. As a handler, Moses has won more than 1,000 Bests in Show. His emphasis has been German Shepherds and he has handled four dogs into the prestigious “100 Club,” including the top Best in Show winning dog of all-time.

His history in dog handling runs deep. In 1987, Moses had the privilege of handling the Best in Show dog at Westminster, as well as the AKC Centennial Show in 1984. In addition, he has handled six Westminster group winners. In 1999, he was inducted into the Dog Show Hall of Fame. Moses is approved to judge the Working, Non-Sporting, Toy and Herding groups and Best in Show. This is his second Westminster assignment.

“I have pretty much spent my whole life dedicated to handling, and now judging, dogs,” Moses said. “I have an intensive background and have shown probably 50 different breeds to championship levels. (Handling) has been my whole life and judging is just a continuation of it.”

The Westminster Kennel Club is America’s oldest organization dedicated to the sport of purebred dogs. Established in 1877, Westminster’s influence has been felt for more than a century through its famous all-breed, benched dog show held every year in New York City. Today 204 breeds and varieties of dogs compete in Best of Breed judging 

One of the biggest challenges as a judge is keeping current on the standards.

“Sometimes standards get revised and it is hard to stay current,” Moses said. “You have to adhere to each breed and its written standard of the ideal dog. There has never been a perfect dog but you look for what closely resembles that ideal dog. Each year it is always a learning experience.”

Another change in the sport has been the resurgence of small to mid-level breeders.

“The old time, wealthy breeders are not as dominant as they once were,” Moses said. “We don’t have as many large kennels as did 40 years ago. The average, smaller breeder can be competitive today. It used to not be that way.”

Interest in the event has grown exponentially over the years.

“You can live stream throughout the show,” Moses said. “People are becoming involved with even being there. We definitely didn’t have that back then.”

Though his schedule in New York is chalked full, he still makes time to catch up with his peers.

“It is a busy time but you do get the opportunity to see some friends from out of the country or different states,” Moses said. “Like myself, several of my former competitors are now judges.”

Moses would encourage anyone who is interested in handling or judging to look in their own backyard.

“If you have a passion of dogs, find a local kennel club,” he said. “There are quite a few in the St. Louis area. All you can to do is join up and become involved.”

CUTLINE: Submitted photos James Moses’ of Wentzville is a hall of fame dog handler and is among one of seven group judges at the 143rd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City set for Feb. 11-12.