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In love with judging...

Angelo 'Doc' Docherty's path into judging was not an easy one as he did not come through the usual agility training route. Nevertheless he is celebrated his 300th Kennel Club appointment in 2018 and looking for more.

My wife Jude used to drag me along to agility, first to Easington DTS and then to Barnard Castle to train with Jacqui Tarn. Then we went to fun shows and eventually graduated to Kennel Club shows.

Truthfully, not running a dog was boring so one day, when Eileen Jamieson asked me to hand out tickets, I jumped at the chance. At the time, I wasn't at all confident, but I gave it a try and have loved doing this job ever since. What an opportunity to talk to people it was, something I really enjoy!

Then John Jacobs asked if I would like to learn how to scribe. Feeling very nervous, I gave it a go and loved it especially the bit about having lunch with the other scribes and judges and listening to all their agility stories.

Then came the biggest challenge. I was asked if I would consider judging.

I never thought I would be accepted as I had only occasionally run and trained our German Shepherd who was Jude’s dog. So when Jude was training with The Tossers (def. Anyone trained by Jacqui Tarn), I was out there judging. The Tossers provided a lot of helpful advice, especially those who were already judges or had competed for a long time. They never got fed up of my endless questions.

I started judging at Dianne Talbot's Up North fun shows and Michelle Ainsworth's Delinquent Dogs in Rotherham, a two hour drive.  A big thank you to them both.

Endless fun shows followed where I learnt a lot about judging, course building and I discovered a passion that has continued to grow every time I step into the ring.

First appointments
In 2008 I took my KC judging exam at a course organised by Ian Malabar and presented by Cath Keith and Joanne Hart. I enjoyed doing the course and thankfully passed.

What next? Would I ever get an invitation to judge?

My first invitation came from Woodside DTS. Before I was able to take it up, I saw a post on Agilitynet from Pam Costello from Otley DTS who needed a replacement judge. Did I dare? I offered, and she agreed. My first contract, therefore, was the Otley show on 5th July 2008 at the beautiful Pontefract Race Course. My classes for the day would be Medium and Large G1-4 Combined Agility and Medium G3-5 Combined Agility, a total of 245 dogs.

Off to the shops I went for new suit, shirt and tie. I wanted to be smart as I was representing Otley, myself and the Kennel Club. I wanted to do well and hoped that maybe someone would invite me to judge at their show.

What I remember of that first appointment was quite a few nights sorting courses. Then it was off to the Pontefract to build my course, tweak it, tweak it again and again and again. I did not get a wink of sleep. I was so desperate to get it right I would have been out with a torch if Jude had not stopped me. After a very long night time, I gave the course a final check and did my briefing. Not even the heavy rain could dampen my enthusiasm. I loved my first KC judging appointment. It was brilliant. I just wanted to judge more.

I was still unsure if I would get any more appointments but amazingly by Woodside I had five.

Over the years, the appointments have kept coming.

  • 27th May 2012 - At Hare 'n Hounds in Stanhope I reached my 100th

  • 21st August 2015 - At Adams my 200th

  • 24th June 2018 - At Lune Valley my 300th

Currently I am at 333.

Since I started judging, I have judged over 100,000 dogs and travelled over 100,000 miles. I think nothing of finishing work on Friday at 17.00, driving 4-5 hours to a venue, judging two days and then driving back home, ready for work Monday.

My philosophy is to try my very best to make my courses open and grade friendly and I like to have an open course.  More than anything, I hope I bring an enthusiasm and encouragement to the table. No matter how many I have judged, I will not put out that same course again or not for that grade.

People often ask me which appointment or show has given me the most enjoyment, I can honestly say I have loved every one. You could say I live for it.

It has been quite a journey
I have a saying that every time I leave the ring hopefully
I will hopefully be a better judge than when I went in. I continue to learn and have enlisted in the Global Judging Programme.

Writing this article has not been easy as I find it hard writing about myself. Looking back, I am proud of all my judging and hope to continue for many years to come, basically for as long as I am invited.

I am grateful for this opportunity to thank every single person who has nominated or invited me to judge. Also a massive thank you to anyone who has worked on my ring. I hope if we came to the ring as strangers we left as friends. To those who continue to give me advice and support, thank you. And not forgetting Jude who has always been a great help.

But my biggest thanks goes to every handler who has come into my ring and shared their beautiful dogs with me. It has been the biggest honour of my life.

Author credit...
Born in a pit man's town Seaham (Co Durham) on North East coast in 1960, Doc Docherty admits to being an Aquarius.

He currently works as a transport clerk at Sunderland Royal Hospital where he was previously a porter.

In addition, he runs a support group for people suffering with fibromyalgia.

He lives with his wife Jude and seven merlie girls in Durham.


First published 31st January 2019


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