For all her impatience with the humans around her, Moore was by all accounts far more tolerant of the dogs. Betty Baxter of Farnby Mastiffs in England remembers one of Moore’s judging assignments there in the late 1960s. “She was not the sort of person that you made instant friends with,” Baxter recalls. “She was very much a wealthy lady, she knew her place, and you knew yours.” At the show, Baxter showed a 10-month-old bitch, Alice. “Dear Alice got hold of Marie’s dress, and they went down the ring together.” Rather than being annoyed, “Marie was fine about it,” Baxter recalls. “All was well.”
Mrs. Davies fell flat, and Moore, sitting in an easy chair, was pitched over backward. Eventually, Emrys got up off Moore, “and around and around the room they went, Mrs. Davies calling at the top of her lungs for Mr. Davies to come to her rescue.” It took three people to corral the unruly Emrys, and Moore declared it “a wonderful way to wind up the happiest of Mastiff weekends.”
Moore judging Mastiffs at Crufts in 1970. She was the first American to be given the honor of judging the breed at Britain’s highest-profile show.
At home, Moore’s house dogs were just as indulged. Turner Moore remembers having a date settle into the couch, only to emerge with his blue blazer and gray pants plastered in Mastiff hair. “If any friends came over, the dogs would race outside to the car, and just stick their heads in the window,” she recalls. “They would eyeball you right through the window,” though her friends soon learned that these giant dogs were really “pussycats” at heart.
Despite being a self-described “temperament fanatic,” Moore seemed to have a respect for those dogs who expected others to honor personal boundaries much as she did. Stockwell remembers Rhinehart of Blackroc having a less-than-friendly temperament, and when Bolte tried to accompany her maiden bitch “Pumpkin” (Ch. Mooreleigh’s Joyce) into Rhinehart’s pen to assist with the breeding, “he lifted his lip at me, and I said, ‘I guess you can do it yourself.’”
But Rhinehart was one of Moore’s favorites, and New York City art dealer William Secord remembers Moore telling him how she had worked to win over the great fawn dog: “She went in the kennel, literally sat on the floor, and waited until the dog came to her.”
When she watched Moore judge the 1986 national specialty in Hampton, Virginia, dee dee Andersson remembers being struck by how Moore approached an imported bitch in one of her classes.
“Have you ever seen a Mastiff that tries to look at you out of the side or top of their skull, maybe showing the whites of their eyes? Well, this was not that bad, but it could easily have become so,” Andersson says. “The bitch stared at Marie as though daring her to touch her. Marie stared back, and they silently spoke together. Then, ever so slowly, Marie approached, and, with the merest touch possible, like the weight of a butterfly, Marie put her hand on the top of the bitch’s head.”
Moore did not attempt to check the bite, and never, at any time, did the two break eye contact, Andersson remembers – even as the bitch was sent around, she continued to watch Moore over her shoulder.
“I was always impressed by what happened between the two of them, which is why I have never forgotten it,” she concludes. “That bitch told Marie, ‘If you push me, you will be bitten.’ Marie told the bitch, ‘Do not be afraid, I will not hurt you.’ It was a tense moment, but it spoke volumes about how well she knew her breed.”
Unidentified mother, father and son at Mooreleigh. Photo courtesy Virginia Bregman
Joanne Williams remembers that Moore also owned a Tibetan Mastiff. “Marie said it wasn’t a breed for everyone,” she remembers. “She loved that dog, but she said, ‘He’s very aloof and you have to be very careful with him.’”
Perhaps Moore was drawn to these difficult dogs because she understood their need for self-protection, to be on the defensive and so less vulnerable.
“It saddens me a little bit, but a lot of people thought Mother was different, that she was fey, that she was difficult, but she was really so far ahead of her time,” Turner Moore says, adding that her aloofness was really a means of self-protection.
“I think there were times when Mother seemed panicked – at that time, women weren’t taught how to manage money at all, and I think at times, Mother had no concept” of how she was going to accomplish her ambitions, which she was fiercely determined to achieve, Turner Moore continues. “I think there was this knowing that she didn’t know. She went through life, in my opinion, so totally misunderstood. Being an ice queen was the only protective front she knew. She didn’t trust a lot of people – because she wasn’t connected that way."
Whatever Moore’s internal struggles, they manifested themselves in a woman who was an assemblage of contradictions – one who wanted relationships, but also wanted control; one who didn’t like to be contradicted, but in the end respected – if grudgingly – those with the backbone to stand up to her. She built a shelter on the corner of her property because Fauquier County, Virginia, did not have one, and would drive for miles to rescue animals that had been horribly abused, knowing all the while that the dearth of homes meant they would likely have to be euthanized. She came from a successful family and had her fair share of accomplishments as well, yet she walled those off from many who were close to her: Turner Moore says she only found out about her famous great-uncle Gustav Heye and saw the gorgeous trophies from her mother’s show-jumping and polo-playing youth when Moore was on her deathbed.
Eve Olsen Fisher, who was perhaps Marie Moore’s greatest rival in the breed they both championed, remembers the two would go “head to head,” and when Fisher had a judging assignment, she says she sometimes found Moore ringside, critiquing her decisions.
“I think I was a thorn in her side, but at the same time I think she respected me because I was gritty right back to her. She appreciated the fact that when I had made up my mind about something, I’d get up and fight for it,” Fisher muses. Moore herself was equally as tenacious. “You couldn’t move her if she had an idea – you couldn’t move her left or right. She would never give in. You could never break her. Like a Mastiff … just not as friendly.”
Fisher later went on to breed Chinese Shar-Pei, and was instrumental in lobbying to get the breed AKC recognized. When Moore died, she bequeathed Fisher a small statue of a Shar-Pei. The note on it read, “Fondly, with kind memories, Marie.”
Fisher was floored, and saw the gesture for what it was – an expression of affection, as best Moore could muster it. “That, in a way, touched my heart,” she admits.
Marie Antoinette Moore died in her home on June 10, 1987. All her Mastiffs were put down, and, as her will instructed, there was no funeral or memorial service. She left the breed as mysteriously as she arrived, her ashes scattered on her beloved High Hope Farm.