Colorful Corgi Characters

Cardigan Welsh Corgi Breed Column

Many of us thoroughly enjoy listening to the veterans of the family reminisce about those unique characters from the past in the dog show world. One particular Corgi exhibitor who comes to mind as truly distinctive made a lasting impression on those who were fortunate enough to make her acquaintance. She belonged to the North Jersey Sector Dog Club and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of New York. She was from Paterson, New Jersey, and appeared in the show ring of Madison Square Garden in the mid-1960s with both Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis. She learned early on to dress cautiously when presenting her dogs, because she did not want to compete against them

Now that we have you burning your brain about this character of the Corgi world, we will reveal her name. Mary Elizabeth Goodneighbor absolutely adored her dogs and was regularly photographed with her many canine companions. One of the few pieces of jewelry she would wear on the street was a button with a picture of a dog on it. Common street attire was actually quite unusual for this well-known performer, as most of the time she wouldn’t have had much clothing on to pin a button to. How is that, you ask? Ms. Goodneighbor was a burlesque performer, better known in the entertainment world as Irma the Body. She was adamant about keeping her dog show acquaintances separate from the much different world in which she worked. Performing paid the bills, and quite nicely at four figures a week, but in reality she led a very respectable life off the stage.

We know that Ms. Goodneighbor had several Pembrokes and a blue merle Cardigan that she exhibited on a regular basis. She also had ties to the Canadian corgi world. It seems that well-known Cardigan fancier Charles MacInnes from up north was desperately searching for other Cardigan fanciers to find a dog for breeding. Rumors spread about this woman from the U.S. who showed in southern Ontario several years before. Mary Nelms, of the historic Brymore Kennels, sold two Cardigans to Ms. Goodneighbor, and she loved showing them herself. Ms. Goodneighbor made numerous jaunts to Canada to exhibit her dogs and obviously was not an individual one would easily forget. She was quoted as saying that she chose a Corgi for the show ring because she didn’t want a dog who looked better than she did.

In 1965, Sports Illustrated reported, “Champion Crago’s Red San of Cote de Neige, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, has won Best of Breed in dog shows from New Hampshire to the Lehigh Valley, and is entered in this week’s Westminster dog show. Mary Elizabeth Goodneighbor, Crago’s owner, has won some titles of her own, among them Miss Guaranteed All Woman and Miss Heavy Armored Maintenance.”

Celebrities have long been attracted to the supposed pomp and circumstance of the dog show world, and this world certainly it has had its share of memorable participants. The great thing is that no matter your occupation or family tree, the love of your favorite breed and desire to continue its strengths via the sport of purebred dogs will permit each of us to go “down and back” in the ring with equal opportunity. Just remember what Irma said, though: “When you’re at the dog show, you can watch my dogs, if you want to watch me, you have to buy a ticket.”

—David L. Anthony


First published in the AKC Gazette Digital Edition, December 2016.

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