Judge John Ramirez is on the left, the handler (on the right) is Joseph Berkau, handling King Charles Cavalier, Ch Hogan.
Judge John Ramirez is on the left, the handler (on the right) is Joseph Berkau, handling King Charles Cavalier, Ch Hogan.

In the end, you've got to win over the judge.

John Ramirez of Downey is one of a panel of 43 judges who will preside over the show rings at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City on Monday and Tuesday.

It's the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

"This is the ultimate judging assignment," said Ramirez, a sales representative for an international corporation.

Ramirez has owned and loved dogs since he was a child when his father would take him to Westminster just to watch.

He's gone nearly every year since then, but this will be the first time as a judge - he'll be judging during daytime hours on Tuesday (live streaming available on the show's website and mobile app) the Portuguese water dogs, St. Bernards and Rottweilers.

Ramirez has been judging dog shows - he averages two a month while juggling his full-time career - for nearly 40 years. After taking seminars, he received his judge's license in 1972.

"You have to love it," he said of judging. That's because while it may sound glamorous, it isn't, he said, adding that traveling judges see little more than the insides of arenas and hotel lobbies.

He also knows what it's like to be on the other side in the dog show ring, having owned and shown St. Bernards, Newfoundlands and Skye terriers through the years. He's certified as an AKC judge for all breeds in the working and toy groups, and for about two-thirds of the breeds in the terrier group.


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The invitation to judge at Westminster came two years ago, said Ramirez, adding that the plum assignment was especially welcome following a battle with cancer that kept him from attending Westminster for three years.

"I'm so excited," he said. Westminster "is the highlight of the dog world. These will be the top dogs in the country."

Calling a winner out of so many prize specimens can be tough.

"They're all great dogs," he said. "I'd like to say that sometimes it's impossible to pick the `wrong' dog."

While handlers and owners are disappointed when their dog isn't picked, "the sportsmanship in the dog world is generally good," he said.

The added benefit of judging at Westminster?

"It finally gives my nondog friends a chance to see what I do," he said.


John Ramirez of Downey will be judging three breeds all in Ring 11 on Tuesday: Rottweilers (26 entered) at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time (5:30 a.m. PST); and Portuguese water dogs
donna.littlejohn@dailybreeze.com, Follow Donna Littlejohn on Twitter at @donnalittlejohn