Dog Breeders Paying it Forward

AKC Announces Group Honorees for the Breeder of the Year Award

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If there is one adjective that describes the great dog breeders of yesteryear and today, it has to be “generous.” That generosity manifests itself in many ways: the faith placed in a sincere novice who genuinely wants to become a success; the time invested in mentoring an enthusiastic newcomer who shares your passion; the willingness to place a good puppy with a student of your breed who will learn on that dog, then a better puppy that will benefit from your protégé's progress.

Each year at our Show Dogs dinner, I am touched to witness so many talented dog breeders, owners and handlers of the country’s top dogs — individuals who are held in the highest esteem by many of the guests in the room — pay homage to the unforgettable breeders who were their mentors and role models. That’s the point. All great breeders reach the top by standing on the shoulders of those who came before them.

As I write this column, I think back on the recent Santa Barbara Kennel Club show where I had a chat with a breeder who flew in from Europe to exhibit. He produces stunning examples of his breed and enjoys enviable international success. Yet attending this show reminded him of several important California breeders whose bloodlines form the foundation of his kennel.

One is a pioneer no longer active in the sport. He told me how he tracked her down in the US when he was getting started, sent her pictures of his dogs and spent long expensive hours on the phone seeking her advice on how the dogs should be bred. All these years later, he has saved her faxes because they are a tangible link to his American idol in dogs. This well-respected, top-winning breeder-exhibitor a world away hopes the dogs he produces are a credit to her and the vision they share.

We all know other kinds of dog breeders. The crooked ones who take advantage of newcomers, drowning them in paperwork for the privilege of co-owning dogs of questionable quality. The greedy, insecure ones who keep a basement full of nice dogs instead of paying it forward, sharing the wealth, giving a dedicated novice a break and basking in the glow of their success. A sad byproduct of their paranoia is that their dogs are deprived of any quality of life. Of course by the time these breeders are ready to bring the dogs up from the basement to show, they are several years of age and an unsocialized, ungroomed, untrained mess. So how is this benefiting the breed they profess to love?

These are not the dog breeders whose names are mentioned in acceptance speeches.

Thankfully, we have breeders of integrity committed to their dogs and to the newer fanciers coming up through the ranks. You’ll find many of them in this issue. Ten were selected by the AKC as Group Honorees for the Breeder of the Year Award. We are pleased to acknowledge them here:

Sporting: Pluis Davern, Sundowners Sussex Spaniels
Hound: Gretchen Bernardi, Berwyck Irish Wolfhounds
Working: Thomas Oelschlager & Marlene DePalma, Kontoki Siberian Huskies
Terrier: Elena Landa, Doubloon Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
Toy: Sharon and Raymond Stevens, Sharbelle Toy Poodles
Non-Sporting: Barbara Wood, Anbara Lhasa Apsos
Herding: Alice & Steve Lawrence, Fuzzy Farm Pulik
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