|Photo Credit: Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times/The New York Times/Redux|
Class of 1927
Walter Fletcher was on the staff of The New York Times for almost half a century. He was a sportswriter, copy editor, picture editor and makeup editor, but he became nationally renowned for his coverage of dogs and dog shows. Fletcher reported on more than 40 editions of the Westminster Kennel Club Show — the sport’s Super Bowl — becoming a celebrity within the dog world. He covered more dog shows for more years than anyone else and won frequent writing awards from the Dog Writers Association of America, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2005.He is the author of “My Times With Dogs” (1979) and “Dogs of the World” (1983).
Fletcher was born in New York on May 20, 1906. He got his start in journalism while an undergraduate at the College, working as the campus correspondent for The Times and for The New York Post. He was hired by The Post as a night copy editor in sports, but joined The Times a few months later. In the 1960s, Fletcher began spending most of his time covering the world of dogs and dog shows and writing about them in twice-weekly columns that became so popular, he received more mail than any other sports department colleague. Generations of Times readers sought his advice about what breed to buy and how to train a dog. He was on the staff of The Times from 1927 to 1976, when he retired, but he continued covering major dog shows for the paper until 1995.
That year, when Fletcher was 89, he was covering the Westminster show in Madison Square Garden when the spotlight picked him out and it was announced that he was about to retire from all writing activities. Fletcher — then working from a wheelchair because his legs could no longer support him for any length of time, and disdaining computers for his battered old typewriter — received a standing ovation from the Garden crowd that he called “the most touching moment of my life.”
Fletcher’s coverage was unusually informed by his deep knowledge of dog shows. Each year, after the Westminster field had been reduced from 2,500 entrants to seven, Fletcher would figure out what dog he thought would win best-in-show, call his editors and tell them to get a photo of that dog ready for the morning edition. For each of his last seven Westminsters, he picked the winner.
When he lived on Long Island, Fletcher owned many dogs, including a Dalmatian who won her championship as an 11-month-old puppy, a dachshund, a Boston Terrier and a golden retriever. His dog-owning days ended after he moved to an apartment in Queens. “The city,” he said, “is no place for a dog.”
In Fletcher’s obituary in The Times, Roger Caras, then president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as well as the public-address announcer at Madison Square Garden on the night the writer was honored, said, “He cared about the sport and knew about it. He had a sense of humor. I once called him the Walter Lippmann of the hydrant set, and he loved it.”
Fletcher died on Feb. 15, 2000. He was 93.