BROOKSVILLE — Ron Lombardi looks as if he could be out for a casual afternoon stroll, hands in trouser pockets, a slow but steady gait, eyes taking in the scenery.
In this case, however, the scene abounds with dogs.
Lombardi, 74, is among a corps of about 100 judges at the Florida Classic Clusters dog show, the largest canine competition in the state, which is taking place through Sunday at Florida Classic Park east of Brooksville.
Posed at attention or pacing under Lombardi's scrutiny on Monday were Great Danes, Siberian huskies, Samoyeds, Rottweilers, Portuguese water dogs, and standard and miniature schnauzers.
On Thursday, Lombardi's wife, Pat, 65, will judge miniature and standard schnauzers.
The couple, who have lived in northeast Hernando County since 2000, bring 40 years of dog breeding and showing experience to their official capacities at the classic. The pair have bred more than 100 champion standard schnauzers, including Bardwoods Blackjack, the Best of Breed standard black schnauzer at the 2008 World Dog Show in Sweden.
Their dogs have loped to winner's circles at the most prestigious U.S. competition, the Westminster Kennel Club Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and at events in their native Chicago and in California, Texas and "a myriad of others," Pat Lombardi said, adding the Florida Classic Clusters to the list.
"We started out with a mutt," she noted. "Then we got a purebred and started to think about showing. And then you're hooked."
Showing led to their desire to earn status as judges, which involves intensive training, studying and testing. They participated in seminars sponsored by the American Kennel Club, mentored with specific breeders, attended national specialty shows as observers, passed AKC and breed association exams, served as provisional judges alongside qualified judges and finally attained their licensing.
Each breed requires its own license, but many of the qualifications overlap, Pat Lombardi said. Nonetheless, Ron Lombardi spent some five years mastering the provisions to officiate over 12 breeds. Pat Lombardi qualified to judge the two sizes of schnauzers in three years. Both earned eligibility to preside over junior showmanship competitions.
The Lombardis have officiated at dog shows in Chicago, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Iowa, Texas and Florida.
Ron Lombardi took a break in his daylong chores Monday at the classic to talk about the canines he had been judging.
"Some are very top quality, some mediocre," he said. "This (show) seems to draw a lot of dogs starting in their new career."
Beth Gray can be contacted at email@example.com.