Integrity Wrapped in a Towel: E.S. Montgomery’s Reign of Terrier

AKC Gazette, “Times Past”: Dr. E.S. Montgomery was a man of many parts, and most of them were evident as he emerged from the bathroom at 8:45 a.m. wearing nothing but a towel and a straw hat. Walter Fletcher, dog writer for the New York Times, had just arrived at the Waldorf Towers to interview the breeder-handler-judge. Mrs. Montgomery offered the reporter coffee and explained, “Edward always wears a hat when he steps out of the shower to try and flatten his curly hair.” Even fully clothed, the distinguished physician from Tarentum, Pennsylvania, was a sight not soon forgotten. At six-feet-four and 350 pounds, sporting a natty mustache and boutonnière, Montgomery cut a commanding figure. And as Fletcher wrote in his memoir, My Times in Dogs, the doctor’s reputation for brutal honesty was as imposing as his frame: “As an exhibitor and judge, he was controversial. … Strongly opinionated, he could be relied on to stir up a commotion when he talked.” Montgomery was in New York on this morning in 1961 to give a speech at a Dog Fanciers Club luncheon. “He wasn’t one to talk off the record,” wrote Fletcher, “so when he delivered a speech, there was always a good turnout.” The dean of dog writers added that his interviews with Montgomery generated sacks of reader mail seething with “protest and indignation.” Montgomery could back his bruising opinions with a keen intellect and a lifetime of practical experience. “I’ve been a Bull Terrier aficionado since I was 5 years old,” he told Fletcher as he dressed, “when I found a bedraggled white pup and brought him home.” The breed became a lifelong passion. Known to the fancy as “Mr. Bull Terrier,” Montgomery breeder-owner-handled dozens of his Monty-Ayr Bullies to breed immortality. In his pursuit of knowledge, he bred his way through the entire Terrier Group and became one of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject. (The photo shows Montgomery during this period, handling his Ch. Romany Ritual.) As a judge, Montgomery held breeders to the high standards he set for himself. Some feared the doctor’s uncompromising verdict, but all respected it and the integrity behind it. Montgomery paid his own expenses and gave his fees to charity. He played no favorites among exhibitors; the dog’s quality was his only consideration. Fletcher accompanied Montgomery to the Dog Fanciers speech. As the writer expected, the room was full. Montgomery began his assessment of the show scene: “The lack of emphasis of the dog in motion is rapidly deteriorating a half-dozen breeds into unsound entities. It is only in motion that the true anatomical structure of an animal can be observed. …” This was followed by many more typically blunt opinions—blunt, but sound as a Monty-Ayr terrier. Fletcher sat back and smiled. His next column was writing itself.

—Bud Boccone Read the latest AKC Gazette here.