Judging Legend 2003 Nominee
Approved for: All Toy Breeds, All Non-Sporting Breeds, All
Setters, Span-Cocker, Span-Eng. Cocker, Span-Eng Spr, Hound
Group, Afghan, Basenji, Basset, Bgle, B&T Coonhound,
Bloodhnt, Borz, Dach, Am Foxhound, Eng Foxh, Greyhnd, Harr,
Ibizan, Ir Wolf, Nor Elk, Otter, PBGV, Pharoah, Ridgeback,
Saluki, ScotDeer, Whip, Boxer, Dobe, Giant Schn, Grt Dane,
Std Schn, Terrier Group, Airdle, Am Staff, Austr, Bdlgton,
Border, Bull Ter. Cairn, Dandie, Fox Ter, Irish Ter, Jack
Russell, Kerry Lakeie, Std Manch, Mini Bull, Min Schn,
Norfolk, Norwich, Scotti, Sealym, Skye, SC Wheaton, Staf
Bull, Welsh, Wst Highland, WC-Card, WC-Pemb, JS, Groups 2,
4, 5, 6.
Sabella was hard to catch. He was out of the country for
nearly two weeks on judging assignments. He does not have
email but was kind enough to return our call and grant the
request of so many of you who nominated him in the Judging
Legend Category. You will find he’s a man of few words but
having been to one of his seminars, I can tell you he is a
dog master and able to convey intangible ideas.
Frank is already a Living Legend, not just to Poodle people
the world over, but to all students of dogs and their
presentation. Few people are as physically graceful yet
deliberate in methodology while judging. When he judged the
Group at Westminster, he wowed spectators at home and at
ringside while never detracting from the dogs he so
obviously enjoyed. His magnetic presence may be attributed
to training as a dancer.
His artistic flair is also evident in a demand for beauty,
style, and breed type. Many will remember the Tournament Of
Champions held in Detroit. It was the brainchild of Richard
Beauchamp and the glamorous evening competition was made
even more dramatic by Frank Sabella’s attention to detail,
including the Tulip centerpiece (imported from Holland!) on
each beautifully laid table.
Photo by Phyllis O'Reilly, courtesy of Kennel Review
He responded to this interview while in flight to a show. It
is much too brief because he has so much to impart and we’ll
try to catch him (on the ground) soon. In the meantime, we
thank Frank for giving us this small glimpse into a
TDP: What was your first breed? First show dog?
FTS: My first breed was a black standard poodle bitch and
she was also my first show dog. She completed her
championship being shown by Ann Rogers Clark. She was later
bred and produced three champions. As I was a dancer in
those days, she was only bred twice.
TDP: Were you a professional handler and which dogs did you
most enjoy showing?
FTS: I assume you mean which dogs did I most enjoy when I
was a professional handler. If so, it was definitely Ch.
Tranchant Annabelle and Ch. Tedwin’s Top Billing. Both were
TDP: When and why did you decide to become a judge?
It seemed the natural order of
things when I retired as a handler after going BIS at the
TDP: Are you online and if so,
do you find the internet useful?
I am completely computer
Do You think the sport is better today than it was ten years
Oh, the sport is better today.
What about the dogs? Better than 10 years ago?
I would say some are the same,
some are worse. Very few are better. The real changes are
Does the commercialization of the sport bother you?
I don't think so. Look at how
many people are more aware about dog shows because of the
large number of people that watch. The ratings on T.V. are
tremendous. Look at all the people that watched the
AKC-Eukanuba American Dog Classic and Westminster.
Are foreign assignments of interest to you?
Many times I have judged in
England, Germany, Italy, Australia, Finland, Norway, Brazil,
Argentina, Sweden and Japan. My two favorite places to judge
are Sweden and Japan. Sweden because the dogs are so good
and I love their system of critiquing and grading every dog.
Are you nervous or excited about so many new breeds being
I don't have an opinion either
Are you bothered by flamboyant clothing or behavior in the
I don't really notice. The thing
that really bothers me because it's an insult to my
intelligence is when an exhibitor tries to sell me parts of
their dog, particularly when that’s where their dogs are not
Which do you rely more on, visual or manual examination?
Both. The visual attracts me to a
dog and the manual confirms what my eye has seen.
When you first look down the line, what draws your eye?
Balance and Proportion.
TDP: Should showmanship and presentation be considered?
Showmanship and presentation are
very important to me because I was a handler. But it would
never be the deciding factor between a good dog and a
TDP: Do you plan to apply for new breeds?
TDP: Do you learn more from personal talks with breeders or
Here again, it depends on the
breeder and it depends on the seminar and who is giving it.
You have to be very selective about where you get your
information. Billy Kendrick's was one of my best mentors and
most of the information I got from him was on a social
TDP: Mr. Sabella, what do you most enjoy about judging?
Seeing a good dog.
TDP: What advice would you give to today’s new judges?
Go slow - It's better to judge
one breed well than do several badly.