Meet Your Judges (2019)

Region 1 – North Carolina

Ellison Armfield

Congratulations on qualifying for the 2019 Master National!  H. Cooper Black holds so many special memories for me, most notably when I set the dumpster on fire about 15 years ago requiring the services of the fire department.

I started duck hunting when I was 16. In 1974, I was given a black lab whose field trial career tanked due to a lack of steadiness.  Tying him up to the boat with a leash was my answer to that problem.

As someone who had bred and personally trained four CH Master Hunters and some more not-so-pretty Master Hunters, I have been fortunate to earn two Master National plates and two Master Amateur plates.  I understand what it takes to go to the line at the Master National – thank goodness for port-a-johns.  

As a judge my philosophy is simple: design fair and challenging tests that bring out the best in dogs and their handlers.  Without our training group, “The No You Don’ts,” none of my success would have been possible.  We are a rough and tumble bunch of old codgers who are dear to each other’s hearts and we are recruiting strong and healthy people under 35 to join us!  To Carole, for all of her love and support, and Dean, the best farm manager and shot of all time, there are no words.

Thank you Region 1 for your votes and confidence.  May all your dogs sit and your birds land belly-up.

Region 1 – North Carolina

Stacy Atkins

First, let me start by saying how excited and honored I am to be judging the 2019 Master National.  I have always considered it the Super Bowl of our sport so it is an honor and a privilege to be a judge.

My beginning in the Hunt Test world was by pure accident. In 2002 I purchased a puppy from a Master Hunter line with the intentions of making her my next Obedience competition dog. She quickly showed me what she was born to do. With a ton of help and some great training partners we navigated our way through the Hunt Test ranks. Callie was my Heart Dog. She made me look good and she got me hooked on this amazing sport.

I attended my first Judge’s seminar to improve my handling and learn to watch from the judge’s point of view. Ten years later, here we are.  For the last 17 years I have served in almost every capacity there is to do with Hunt Tests from Bird Boy to Marshall to Handler to Judge to Hunt Test Secretary. The most wonderful part of this sport is the people that have become my best friends and my family along the way. I learn something new from each one and from their talented dogs.

In 2014 my husband, Josh, and I turned our passion into our profession and opened our boarding kennel. We currently own SkyMark Kennels in Cleveland, NC. We share our home with two spoiled yellow Labradors, Pink and Fancy.

My judging style is very simple. I try to set up tests that challenge true hunting scenarios and to be fair and to always be on the side of the dog. I am really looking forward to watching some great dog work, making some new friends and seeing some old ones as well. 

Best of Luck to everyone entered this year! And thank you to all the organizers and workers. An event this size is quite an undertaking and you are all appreciated. I look forward to seeing everyone in Cheraw, SC!
Dog to the Line!

Region 1 – South Carolina

Jane Doolittle

I have lived in Newberry, South Carolina since I was eight years old.  I don’t own a gun; I’m not an avid hunter and I’m really not a good shot.  I am though, very competitive and love the outdoors.

As a young girl I showed Arabian horses and was a successful amateur.  I married after college and started a family.   As my children grew, I longed to compete again and saw a Super Retriever Series competition on TV.  I thought that to be an interesting and competitive sport.  My children agrees as it would become a family adventure.

I purchased my first puppy about 1999.  I made many mistakes with training; therefore I was not very successful.  I joined Palmetto Retriever Club where I met many new friends and joined a training group using my children as bird boys.  I borrowed a dog and put a Senior Hunter title and a Master Hunter title on him. The rest is history as I have been privileged enough to have owned and titled many Master Hunter dogs, QAA dogs and a Super Retriever Series Crown Champion.

This sport has allowed me to meet so many wonderful handlers I now call friends and their talented dogs.  I am a founding member of the Cooper River Retriever Club. With this honor I am looking forward to meeting new friends and handlers and in judging the best dogs in the country.  Bless you, my children, Cameron, Connor and Claire for hanging tight with me.

Thank you Region 1, for your vote of confidence in me to represent our region as a judge at the 2019 Master National event.  This is a true privilege and an honor that I hope to make you proud.  Good luck to all the handlers and much appreciation to everyone that helps to make this event possible.

Region 2 – Wisconsin

Richard Ellis

What a great honor to be chosen to judge at the 2019 Master National. We all know how much work goes into qualifying for such an event. I promise to give it my all to set up a fair and fun test. I will give my full attention to every team. This is why I love hunt tests, it’s a team sport. 

I hope you all enjoy the experience. Please take a little time out of your busy week to thank all the workers and people behind the scenes for all their hard work. Without them we could not enjoy such an event. 

It took my wife Lynn 21 years to talk me into our first Lab, which is what she grew up with. Our first dog was a Dalmatian and with a lot of work he became a pheasant machine, and yes he pointed. His downfall was not being a team player. I had to run to keep up with him. Then I started to hunt pheasant and ducks. I went to a German Wirehair, he was a team player. He by far was the best hunter I have ever owned.  

Over the years, I started hunting ducks more, so I gave in and went with a yellow Lab by the name of Chief. I knew nothing about training a retriever other than throwing a stick. So we joined Blackhawk Retriever Club, where I met and made some great friends. I remember watching these guys run blinds and hoping someday I could run a 100 yard blind with Chief. Lucky for me he was so forgiving and overcame all of my mistakes.

We started in the hunt test game and that led to field trials. By the end of Chief’s career he was a MH, QAA and had Amateur points. Not bad for an amateur trained dog, with a lot of help from my friends Nathan Robinson and Lance Hughey. Now we have Otter, who is following in his father’s footsteps, and a new yellow female. 

Lynn and I started judging to become better handlers. You learn a ton sitting in that chair, and it’s a great way to give back to the game. Even though Lynn is giving me a hard time for signing us up to judge together on our anniversary this summer, I believe everyone should judge and belong to a club. 

Our newest project has been a new Retriever Club. My good friend Lance bought a 160 acre pine tree plantation near La Crosse, Wisconsin. Lance, Nathan and I, with help from many of our new club members, have spent the last three years clearing land and putting in ponds. The La Crosse Amateur Retriever’s Club held its first hunt test there last year. It has been a great project. I am looking forward to what the future brings for this club. 

Region 2 – Kentucky

Helen Romain

I am honored to have been selected by Region 6 to judge the upcoming 2019 Master National. I am looking forward to visiting these beautiful test grounds for the first time as a judge.

I became involved with the AKC Hunting Tests for retrievers in the mid 80’s after being invited to a Central Kentucky Retriever Club training day.  From that day forward I have been an active participating member of CKRC.  I was involved in obedience trials prior to that.

 My husband, Clifford, and I have had Golden Retrievers for most of our 50 years of married
life.  In the early 90’s we purchased our first Labrador and have had several since then. Presently we own a Golden Retriever and a Yellow Lab. We lost our black lab, Amigo, this year. All are Master Hunters.

I have owned and trained and qualified many Master Hunters. My personal dog Torch passed two Master National tests, one in Thomasville, Georgia and another in Oklahoma. She ended her Master National career after running at Big Woods.  She was diagnosed with cancer shortly after that.

We were partners in a local hunting club located on the Ohio River bottoms and our dogs were used extensively there.  The hunting test proved valuable in keeping them fit and ready for their real jobs.

 After retiring my husband and I both trained and ran dogs as well as judged many hunt test.
Seven years ago we made a major lifestyle change and moved to Lake Barkley, Kentucky.  Here we spend our retirement training our own dogs,  fishing,  and playing on the water with grandkids.

I truly enjoy judging the retriever test. I can think of very few things that are more enjoyable than a day in the field with dogs and friends. I strive to be a fair and conscientious judge. I will test the dogs in respect for the AKC rules and regulations.  I hope to make the test challenging and enjoyable for the dog and handler. 

A good marking dog is invaluable and I expect to see the accomplished retriever show accurate marking skills as well as inherent abilities in locating the birds. On blind retrieves a dog should respond readily to his handlers’ commands. I judge the dog and handler as a team throughout the test and when that team works in sync with one another they are a joy to judge.

I appreciate and understand the dedication, time and hard work the handlers have spent preparing for the MN. I wish each of you the very best and I look forward to seeing you in Cheraw.

Region 2 – Iowa

Troy Tilleraas

It is an honor and privilege to be selected by my fellow dog enthusiasts to be among the judges for the 2019 Master National event in Cheraw SC.  I began my love for dogs when I was a small boy on a farm in northeast Iowa where we purchased a Sheltie for a cattle dog for the price of $800 back in the early 70’s.

It wasn’t until we whelped a litter of pups from our first lab in 1995 that I became interested in the hunting dog games.  I started in NAHRA, ran through all the stakes and putting a MHR on my own dog along with my 2 youngest children throwing birds. After the years went by people asked if I would train their dog and along with a full-time career of installing elevators across Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota.  Almost 20 years of part time pro trainer I was done and wanted to concentrate on my own dogs and family.

My wonderful wife Niki and I have been married for 26 years, our two children DaKota -a vet student at ISU and Tucker a senior at NDSU  for mechanical engineering have all given up many a weekend where I have taken some or all of our current 10 dogs to AKC Master events, NAHRA events, AKC Field Trials, or now SRS Super retriever events.  We are now blessed with 4 grandchildren from my two oldest Nicolas and Brittany who have Dallas and Wade, and Brianne and Payne who are the parents of Paysen and Ryggen.

We moved to Iowa last year and am currently a member of Mid-Iowa Retriever Club. I am a lifetime member of Four Points Retriever club in Minnesota, and a former member of Watopa Retriever Club in Minnesota.

I like to incorporate actual marking or blinds scenarios that I have seen while hunting into our tests.  I love judging, setting up very challenging tests and watching how the teamwork unfolds in front of us.  I am known, in my opinion, as a very challenging judge who appreciates excellent dog work who looks at the little things that can affect a dog at the line.  Talking to the amateurs and pros alike before during and after the day is done is a great time.  I am an avid pheasant hunter. I and Tucker guide for a premier hunting lodge in SD with our 8 dogs we own and 2 others we co-own.  Six of the 10 are Master Hunters currently.  

I wish you all the luck and look forward to watching some great dog work, meeting old friends and hopefully making many new ones.

 I would like to thank all of the clubs, all the workers and all of the behind the scenes folks that commonly go unnoticed.  Putting on this large of event is a great commitment of work and time!   Thanks, and hopefully we will see you again with our dogs at 2020 Master Nationals in MN!

Region 2 – Minnesota

Lin Gelbmann

I am excited and humbled to be a 2019 Master National judge, and I consider it a privilege and honor to be selected. I have previously participated at the Master National (with my MH Labrador and my CH Standard Poodle HRCH, MH, MHU) as set-up and test dogs, but the true highlight of my life was when I ran a dog and qualified at the National.  Qualifying at this level required all the knowledge and know-how I have acquired over 50 years of training dogs, and I was exhilarated!

I have been an avid bird hunter since the age of 12 when I was my father’s retriever.  As soon as I was old enough, I got my first dog. Oddly, she was a Doberman, not a Labrador. I trained her in obedience through Utility and Tracking titles; I took her hunting and trained her to retrieve my birds. But there were no Hunt Tests back then, only Field Trials, so I felt I still needed a “real” hunting dog to participate.  

In 1978, I bought a puppy from a Field Trial line; Hunt tests became available, and the rest is history.  Since then, I have trained and titled 6 Labradors and a Standard Poodle—yes, a Poodle who is another highlight of my life as he is the only Conformation Champion to have MH, MHU, and HRCH titles. Best of all, he is a great hunting dog. There is nothing better than a well-trained hunting dog. Every year I hunt and guide with my Lab and my Poodle for pheasants in the Dakotas and Canada trips for geese and ducks.  As a result, my hunting experience enables me to set my tests in true hunting scenario.  

My life and career have always evolved around dogs and horses. I retired after 30 years at the University of Minnesota Veterinary School as a Veterinary Rehab Practitioner where I established the Canine and Equine Rehab Center. I continue to see and treat horses and dogs for rehab and conditioning.  I have written the book, Canine Structure Performance and Conditioning, and I frequently give seminars across the country.  

I have been extremely fortunate to have wonderful mentors along the way who have helped me teach my dogs and coached me as a handler. Learning is a life-long venture, and training techniques continue to develop and evolve. I love judging because I learn new things with every assignment, and that makes me a better handler, trainer, and judge.

Over the years, I have met so many wonderful people and made friends across the country. There is nothing I like better than watching dogs work at what they love. I know all of the hard work you have put in over the past year will pay off, and I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. Good luck and let’s have all the fun we can!

Region 3 – Iowa

David Coffey

I am truly humbled that I have been selected to judge the 2019 Master National. I got my start in the retriever game in 1991 when we got our first yellow Labrador Retriever.
Like most it happened by accident really.  I shared with a friend that I had just gotten a new lab pup and he in turn invited me to a picnic test.  Long story short, when that little 12-week-old pup ran out as fast as her little legs would carry her and snatched up a wing clipped pigeon without hesitation and then return it to me, well I was hooked!

Since then my wife Michele and I have become empty nesters and now share our home with 2 labs and 2 yorkies.  I have been the president of our local retriever club for more years than not.  I’ve titled several dogs at the Master level and dabbled in the Field Trial game. I’ve judged more than a few weekend tests and had the honor and privilege of judging the Master Amateur Invitational in Sedalia, MO in 2018.  Most recently I was appointed to the AKC Retriever Hunt Test Advisory Committee, Mountain Time Zone.

I appreciate and recognize the time, effort, and expense it takes to qualify for the Master National and I commend all that have done so.  I will to do my best to make your time at the National this year challenging and rewarding, but maybe more importantly, fun! Safe travels to all.

Region 2 – Colorado

Dennis Long

What an honor to be chosen to judge the 2019 Master National, an opportunity to see some of the best dogs and handlers from across the country.

In my younger days, I always had a hunting dog – that is a dog I took hunting.  Some were actually pretty good natural hunters.  It wasn’t until I had one that would not pick up a duck or pheasant that I went for help.  I asked the trainer to teach my golden retriever to bring back a bird, and Sally tried to explain about first teaching “sit” and “come”.  Frustrated, I repeated that all I wanted was a dog to retrieve birds.  Ha!  That was the beginning of a long and great journey.

Since then I have had a number of great companions who have had the benefit of training.  Watching the expression on my friends faces every time my first Lab, Shadow, went on a blind retrieve to pick up a shot pheasant in the water or across the river was priceless.  I can’t imagine hunting without a trained dog now.

In the late 80’s, the hunt test boom was just hitting Colorado, and after seeing and helping at one, I was hooked.  My 2 labs both achieved Senior passes, but my work and family commitments kept them from achieving titles.  After a decade away from hunt testing, I was encouraged to try to run my yellow lab Toby in a Senior test.  After a great show on marks and blinds, he broke on the honor.  Not the last time he would do that, but it made me want to be a better trainer/handler.  He and Rio eventually got their Master titles and both qualified to run the Master National at Flint Oak in Kansas.  Toby got a bad break in the first series, and I committed to try to get Rio through to the end.  And he did!  He also qualified and ran the MN the next year, but I was unable to get there to run him.

Judging these weekend events has always been a fun experience for me.  Using the grounds for a challenging set up, hoping the weather cooperates, watching what decisions the dogs and their handlers make to succeed on each series is always eye opening.  I always have to fight the urge to offer a helpful suggestion on how to give the dog a better chance to succeed, because wanting each team to pass, and yet knowing some won’t, is part of the judging assignment.

Congratulations to all of the qualifiers. Dog to the line!

Region 3 – Texas

Christine “Scotty” Maddox

First, a huge congratulations to all those who have qualified to run this year’s Master National. To say I am humbled to have been selected to judge these elite dogs is an understatement and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible.

I would like to share a very condensed story about how my love for this sport began. I grew up mostly in Florida and Ohio as a typical tomboy, pretty much attached to my dad’s hip. We shared many hunting and fishing adventures together and I always beamed when my grandpa would join us. I was happy to see him, of course, but it was his dogs I looked forward to seeing most. He raised beagles and I found the best rabbit and squirrel hunts were usually the ones that I didn’t even pull the trigger. When the dogs were there, I was more satisfied to just watch and listen to them work.

In the late 70’s, I moved to Texas. Shortly thereafter, I experienced my first duck hunt. Though a sunrise over the marsh with the roost lifting is a beautiful sight, once again, I found myself more interested in the sight of watching a well-trained retriever doing what he loved. I was amazed! Actually, a better term may be flabbergasted. I was truly astonished that dogs could be trained to that level of expertise. I told myself then, “you gotta’ have one of those.”

That following spring, I bought my first lab. The training was so gratifying and I formed a bond that I did not envision possible with a dog. I began entering hunt tests in the early 90’s with 3 of my own pups. My passion has continued to grow for our “partners” ever since. My very first MH dog qualified for the 2000 Master National in Syracuse, Indiana.

At that same time I put training on hold and went back to punching a time card. In 2008 my husband bought me a new pup. I retired and bought a couple more pups and was back to doing what I loved. All three of those pups went on to earn their MH titles.

I like fair but challenging setups, same as everyone else. I don’t believe that trickery has a place in this sport and I strive to have good bird placement to properly evaluate each dog rather than a poor planned test to fail them. You get in trouble? I want to see the team pull together, work it out, and make an awesome recovery.

Looking forward to the great grounds, dedicated workers, fabulous retrievers and top notch handlers. Ya’ll have a safe trip and I’ll see you in Cheraw.

Best of luck to everyone. Let’s have some fun!

Region 4 – California

Richard Anderson

I want to thank the clubs who selected me to judge this years’ Master National, I hope to carry on the traditions of all the outstanding judges who came before me.  
I came into the Retriever sport backwards.  I had a dog who had too much energy and I needed to do something to keep her occupied. I was introduced to retriever field work at the local Labrador Retriever field day that was being run by Wendy Rowan, in 2000.

From there, my dog and I worked through getting our 1st Junior, Senior and Master Hunter titles.   I also taught myself how to duck hunt where I saw all the training put into practice.

Since my first dog, I have had 2 more Master Hunters and 1 Senior Hunter.  I first judged a hunt test in 2006.  I have also dabbled a little in field trials.

My day job is staring at a computer screen.  I know the challenges and dedication it takes to balance dog training and running tests with all the other demands on one’s time.   I have run two Master Nationals—2 years ago in Texas and last year in Roseburg.  After the first, and going home early, I did the long drive home thinking how I would change my training to be ready for Roseburg.   The good news was that focused training paid off and we went home a qualifier in Roseburg.

I enjoy seeing good team work between the handler and the dog, each helping the other to solve the test at hand.  I like challenging tests where good, stylish dog work is rewarded.   There isn’t anything better than watching a dog and their handler come up to the line, do a great job on a test and walk away with that happy bounce of satisfaction in their step for a job well done.  

I am looking forward to seeing all the great dogs and handlers this year in Cheraw, SC.

Region 4 – California

Julie Cairns

It is an honor to have been selected to judge the 2019 Master National. Many thanks to the clubs in Region 4 that made this possible.

It is ironic that retrievers and field training has been the one constant passion in my life. Many hobbies and interests have come and gone, but the retriever game has never faded. I have had Golden Retrievers since I was a teenager, but then I bought one that wanted to retrieve ALL of the time.  I discovered that there was a local retriever club and a phone call and a club meeting later I was involved in the Redwood Empire Retriever Club (RERC).  Suddenly my life revolved around training and field trials. 

The RERC was primarily made up of hunters who ran field trials on the side, and with their encouragement my husband and I started hunting in the fall.  

The RERC held the first Sanctioned hunt test on the West Coast in 1984 and a year later I judged the Junior stake at the first Licensed AKC Hunt Test on the West Coast. Soon I was judging all test levels as well as field trials. I was on the original Board of Directors of the MNRC in 1991-92 when the name of the organization was chosen and the By-Laws were drafted.  I judged the 1995 Master National in Vermont which was one flight of about 190 dogs and three judges. Three years later I judged the event that was held in Washington and was run as two flights with 90 dogs each. 

I served another stint on the MNRC Board until 2006 when I was President. For ten years, I published the Hunt Test Know How News in an effort to improve the understanding of hunt test training, testing and judging. Last year I had the privilege of judging the MARC Invitational test. I continue to be active with the RERC as well as the NorCal Golden Retriever Club. 

Over the years I have had many wonderful Goldens that I have trained and titled at all levels. Currently I have a female black Lab that is in the first year of her Master career. 

Life isn’t all about retrievers and hunt tests. I retired a few years ago after 30 years with the U.S. Postal Service as a rural letter carrier. I am a ceramic artist and do volunteer work in the community. I have a two-year-old grandson that lives at the other end of the state and I try to visit him as often as possible.

Good luck to all of you and remember to have fun!

Region 4 – Washington

Linda Johnson

Congratulations to all handlers and their dogs and dams that reached the Master National.  This is an accomplishment in its own right.  

Thank you to all of the Region 4 clubs, their members, and my peers who put their confidence in me to judge the Master National.  I am deeply honored and humbled and will represent our Region with dignity and respect.  Thank you to the Carolinas Host Committee and all the volunteers for giving their time and to the National Board for their leadership and year round commitment. 

I was born and raised in Iowa.  Shortly after high school, I enlisted in the United States Air Force and served six years as a law enforcement officer, with assignments in the Philippines and New Mexico.  Upon discharge, I landed in Washington State, where my husband and I raised our daughter and participated in various sports, such as fly fishing, photography and hiking.  

About 14 years ago, we ventured into another sport, the retriever hunt tests.  The first event my dog and I entered was a local club’s 10-series.  Miss Elie and I earned the blue ribbon and needless to say, that is all she wrote.  Ever since, I have done everything from working a pop-and-throw station to marshaling and bird stewarding.  I have served as a director for the Golden Retriever Foundation and currently serve as the treasurer and hunt test chair for the Evergreen Golden Retriever Club and secretary and event secretary for the Northwest Retriever Trial Club.

My husband and I believe that both hunt tests and field trials are necessary for our sport.  We handle our Goldens in both hunt tests and field trials; two of our girls have master hunter titles, three are qualified all age and two have points in the field trial major stakes.  Our four girls are part of our family, living in our home.  Both Elie and Libby are retired, while Chloe and Dazzle continue to compete.  

As a judge, I believe in setting up tests that are fair, challenging and display the natural marking and training abilities of the dog.  I understand the commitment in training your dog and enjoy watching that teamwork.  

Again, congratulations to all the handlers who worked hard to get to the Master National. Above all else, enjoy it, visit with friends, and have fun.  

Region 4 – California

Laura Judd

My journey with my first dog, as I know many of you will attest to similar stories, quickly became an obsession and my first Lab was an extremely talented girl, who qualified at both Nationals I took her to, in Bend in 2002 and Georgia in 2003. By then I was hooked completely. She taught me so much and was so forgiving of my many, many mistakes. I’m now just retired her grandson, my fourth Master Hunter, and have two up and coming pups that I’m working.

My boyfriend and I now live on a small farm near Sebastopol, California, with four labs and the rest of the barnyard critters including a horse; chickens, and of course ducks a pigeons. I’ve been to several other Nationals, running in three, and still trying to complete my set of elusive plates!

The camaraderie of the people in this sport is second to none and the incredible places that we get to enjoy and run our dogs on, and the friendships developed, is the best part of the journey for me. I’ve been involved with the Marin Retriever Club for many years and have served as President for a good portion of that time. We hosted the Master National in 2006 in Morgan Hill, and again in 2014 in Corning. I am also on the Board of the California Retriever Trainers Association, and most recently the Western region Vice-President of the Master Amateur Retriever Club which keeps me pretty busy when not training!

I’ve been judging since 2002 and I truly believe that it’s the best seat in the house! I strongly encourage other friends in the sport to judge not only as a way to give back, but as truly a learning experience observing competitors, both amateurs and pros run dogs.

Teamwork is so important in this game. I like to set up challenging series that make you think and work with the dog when you come to the line. I will always give every benefit of the doubt to the dog in hopes the team will be successful, but I want to see them work together as a team, so that’s what I try to set up.

Series that are challenging are the ones you remember and you know when you come off the line that what you and your dog just did was really something special! There are series that we all remember, whether we did well or not because they were so fun to run — the river series in Bend in 2002 is my all-time favorite!

I wish all the contestants the Best of Luck in 2019. I will be rooting for you!

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