Ellen Bartkus, Vero Beach, FL (WC/WCX)
I started in dog sports with a Miniature Schnauzer and the 4-Footed Leaders 4-H Dog Club in the late 60’s. I even convinced my parents to let me raise a German Shepherd Seeing Eye puppy. He became a permanent part of our family after being diagnosed with mild hip dysplasia. My husband and I got our first Golden Retriever in 1976. With Snowbird and her son Blue and my champion Cheers, we became active in AKC Hunt tests when the program began in the mid-80’s in Florida. Blue and Cheers earned qualifying ribbons in the first hunt test held in Florida. Over the years we have owned 13 Goldens, and our dogs have titled in hunt tests, obedience, rally, tracking, conformation, and more. I have judged through the Master level in AKC hunt tests, as well as many WC/WCX tests. I enjoy seeing our beautiful Golden Retrievers in the field enjoying what they were bred to do.
Andy Brittingham, Fleming Island, FL (WC/WCX)
Like many, I got my first Golden for two reasons: duck hunting and their great reputation with young children. I dove headfirst into training and was quickly exposed to the world of Hunt Tests and the WC/WCX. My interest grew and I eventually put a Junior Hunter and WC title on the dog. I thought I was a full-blown dog trainer!
Twenty-something years later and my children are grown, but my love for the breed and sport remains. I have learned a lot over the years, spending countless hours in the field with many dogs and trying to improve as an amateur trainer and handler. In the last few years, I have found a new enjoyment for judging various events. Looking back at my time spent in the field, my greatest surprise and joy comes from the number of friends from across the country that I have made while watching a few special dogs pick things up.
Jim Bryan, Edgewater, FL (WC/WCX)
I was born and raised in Ocala, Fla., and I currently live in the New Smyrna Beach, Fla., area. I have owned and hunted with Golden Retrievers since the age of 10. There's nothing more exciting than seeing a Golden Retriever perform in the field and that is why I can't wait for this year National Specialty.
I'm looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones and enjoying the breed of dog we all love.
Sherie Catledge, Clarkrange, TN (WC/WCX)
Thank you so much for the opportunity to judge Golden Retrievers in WC/WCX tests at this year’s National Specialty! I fully plan to take advantage of being able to watch a breed that I love, and that started my adventure in the world of dogs, have fun in the field!
I feel like I have come full circle after starting with Goldens in 1974. Through that one dog, Sinbad, I have met some of the most wonderful people and found venues that have taken me all over the country as both a judge and exhibitor. I have also had a very successful run with both Goldens and Flat Coated Retrievers both in the breed ring and in the field. I feel that I have made contributions toward maintaining the dual -purpose dog.
I am thankful that I have had several mentors that were willing to take chances with me. I currently have several awesome retrievers from breeders that are still out there 30+ years later producing Best in Show dogs, Specialty Winners, and FC/AFC dogs.
Making this assignment even more special is the fact that I am a founding member of the Mid-Florida Golden Retriever Club and have watched the club flourish and grow. I am happy to report that we are creating a new Golden Club in Tennessee, the Smokey Mountain GRC, which I look forward to becoming active in!
People laugh when I tell them that my first golden breed champion, Bear, was 100+ pounds and had to jump 36/72 in obedience. I have pictures of myself holding a duck by the foot so as not to touch too much of its body. Things have sure changed since back then. But what hasn’t changed is the breed’s adaptability to excel in all performance venues. To that end, I am hoping to give out lots of pretty ribbons.
Mike Greer, Columbus, GA (WC/WCX)
The first time I attended a dog event sanctioned by AKC I was too young to understand what a dog hunt test was all about.
In the late 1950’s in Western North Carolina, our neighbors took my sister and me in as their surrogate grandchildren. Our parents were very supportive of our surrogate grandparent’s desire to treat us as their own and we got to take many vacation trips with them. My sister and I still carry fond memories from the many experiences that our surrogate grandparents created for us.
One memory I have is that they owned a small herd of beagles and I fell in love with dogs because of them. On several occasions we would take trips with all the beagles loaded on a trailer. At the time I had no idea why but later learned that these trips were made to run their beagles in field trials.
Because of the impression the beagles had on me at such a young age they continue to perpetuate my love of dogs. The first retriever I owned was a Golden Retriever named Champ. He epitomized everything that a Golden Retriever can be. He was a loving pet, a great hunter and easily a best friend. After college I began to travel with work and had little time to devote to owning another retriever.
A couple of years before retiring I started making a plan and created a bucket list. The first thing on the list was to add a retriever to the family. My wife and I fulfilled that bucket item and it has been non-stop ever since.
Lily, our Yellow Labrador Retriever, has taken us to many AKC and HRC events. She has earned hunt test titles from both AKC and HRC and has taken us places that we would never have dreamed. In another milestone, she was bred with an MH and a five-time GRHRC and gave birth to seven Chocolate puppies in November 2018. This litter is how we acquired Maggie, our second retriever.
I am a member of The Greater Atlanta AKC Retriever Club and treasurer of Old South HRC Club. I also volunteer with Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in the Canine Performance Science Department. I am there one day each week and have the privilege of helping trainers teach Labrador Retrievers to become detection dogs.
Thanks to Lily, I have had the privilege of judging dog’s hunting test skills for both AKC and HRC and have been able to meet great people, have made lasting friendships and will continue to make new friends in this incredible dog enthusiast sport.
Mike Orloff, Dover, FL (WC/WCX)
As an active AKC judge, Mike Orloff is frequently seen judging at Hunt Tests and WC/WCX events around the country, including judging multiple times at the GRCA National. He is approved to judge all AKC hunt test levels as well as HRC Upland tests. Mike has been a member of the Mid-Florida Golden Retriever Club since 1994, and a past board member. He chairs the club’s two annual hunt tests and judges at the club’s WC/WCX while also working at some of the club’s other events including agility trials.
Mike and his wife Pat Kopco have competed in field, obedience, rally, agility and conformation and have been involved with Goldens for almost 30 years. They bought their first Golden as a pet, but after seeing a handling demonstration at a local club event, it didn’t take long before they were hooked on field work.
Mike and Pat’s kennel name is RockStar Goldens. Some of their proudest moments came when their dog Jagger earned his Master Hunter title, then finished his Breed Championship and became the 29th Golden to enter the GRCA Dual Dog Hall of Fame. Jagger’s son Axl followed in his father’s pawprints, earning a Master Hunter title at the age of three, followed by finishing his Breed Championship to become Pat and Mike’s second dog in the DDHF. Jagger’s son Ozzy earned his Master Hunter title at the age of two and became their first dog to compete in field trials, earning a Reserve Jam at the 2014 GRCA National. Ozzy’s son Zevon just earned his Master Hunter title, and their youngest boy Journey, who is also a Jagger son, finished his Breed Championship just 4 months after earning his Senior Hunter title at the age of 2. Mike and Pat have also earned many titles in other venues with their dogs.
Mike retired after 30 years as a television technician for CBS News, a job that required travel all over the world. Mike said he is honored and thrilled to be judging at the 2021 GRCA National and he wishes everyone running, "good birds, good luck and a good time."
Kelli Riggs, Odessa, FL (WC/WCX)
My husband, Joe, and I have had flat-coated retrievers for 15 years. We got our first one from a local breeder to be our family pet and instantly fell head over heels in love with the breed. Joining the local flat-coat club introduced us to all the wonderful activities that retriever breeds can do and I wanted to give them a try. After being invited to watch a hunt test I immediately knew that is exactly what I wanted to try with my next flat-coat. The look of pure joy in each dog’s eyes as they watched the birds go down and the pride in returning back with the bird in a soft mouth was absolutely breathtaking. I knew then what “bred for purpose” meant. My next FCR was going to be a field dog!
Fast forward 10 years. I am a member of the Central Florida HRC and the president of Southern Skies Flat Coated Retriever Club. I have three titled field/hunting dogs. I run them in both AKC and HRC tests. All three of my girls have been 100 percent owner/handled and owner/trained. My youngest is 5 years old and just received her Hunting Retriever Champion title and has two master passes to date.
Although we participate in many activities such as conformation, obedience, dock diving and barn hunting, field work is my passion and true love. It has taught me more about myself than anything else in this life. Field training and the bond I share with my dogs has made me who I am today. This passion for the sport is why I became an AKC hunt test judge. I hope to spread my enthusiasm about the sport and be an advocate for owner/handlers who choose to enjoy this challenging yet fulfilling journey. I would like to thank the GRCA National committee for the invitation to judge your WC/WCX test. I am honored and humbled by the opportunity.