AKC Announces Lifetime Achievement Award Finalists

The American Kennel Club® (AKC®) is proud to announce the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award finalists in the categories of Conformation, Companion Events and Performance.

New York, NY – The American Kennel Club® (AKC®) is proud to announce the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award finalists in the categories of Conformation, Companion Events and Performance.

The Awards, created and first awarded in 1999, are presented in recognition of exceptional participation and achievement within the dog fancy. The finalists chosen, based on nominations from AKC member clubs, have impacted the dog sport on a national level through club involvement, judging, exhibiting, breeding and teaching.

The three finalists in each category will be voted on by member clubs, with voting ending on Friday, October 9, 2015. Winners will be announced before the end of October. Presentation of awards to the winners will be made in conjunction with the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, Florida this December.

This year’s nominees are:



Hon. David C. Merriam, of Bonsall, California, entered the sport at 14 with a female white Bull Terrier. His first Bull Terrier litter was whelped in 1954 and his most recent in July of this year. David was approved to judge Bull Terriers in 1996 and went on to judge the Terrier Group and Best in Show. Judging highlights include the Group at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship (twice), Montgomery County Kennel Club (twice), and Westminster Kennel Club. David was an AKC Delegate for more than 25 years and served as AKC’s Chief Executive Officer in 1996. He was AKC Chairman from 1996 to 2002, and Vice Chair from 2002–2009. Read more.

Dr. Claudia Orlandi, of Essex Junction, Vermont, has been in the fancy for over 50 years. She has successfully bred Basset Hounds for more than 25 years under the Topsfield prefix and with her late husband, Dom, has produced over 140 champions. Claudia’s enthusiasm for breeding is matched only by her passion for teaching and working with other breeders. Her ABC’s of Dog Breeding and Practical Canine Anatomy & Movement self-study courses form part of the AKC’s Bred with H.E.A.R.T. education program, reflecting her belief that anyone can understand the practical rules of genetics and canine structure in their quest to breed better, healthier dogs. Claudia never charges for her popular seminars and has spoken at over 150 dog clubs and AKC/CHF Breeder’s Symposia. Read more.

Patti L. Strand, of Portland Oregon, breeds (along with her husband, Rod) Merry-Go-Round Dalmatians, known for good health and temperament and for producing some of the top-winning Dalmatians in history. They were the recipients of the 2014 Non-Sporting Group Breeder of the Year Award. As anti-breeder legislation and anti-purebred sentiment mushroomed in the late 1980’s, Patti found herself lobbying, writing articles and forming alliances advocating purebred dogs. In 1991 she co-founded the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), an advocacy organization dedicated to preserving the human-animal bond, raising animal welfare standards, countering negative propaganda and protecting the rights of responsible animal owners. In 1995, Patti was elected to the AKC Board of Directors, serving four consecutive terms. Read more.


Companion Events

Susan (Suzi) B. Bluford, of Carmel, California, received her start in the sport during the early 1970’s with her Golden Retriever, Wendy, who became a breed CH, UD, WC. She has since been an active participant in conformation, obedience, rally, tracking, retriever hunt tests and field trials, herding and agility. Suzi is a member of National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI) and is also a founding member and consultant for the therapy dog program at her local hospital. Suzi is an AKC judge, approved for all levels of AKC obedience, rally and agility, and has judged many AKC hunt tests for retrievers at the Master Level. Read more.

John Cox, of Shoreline, Washington, received his first Saint Bernard, Nicklus, in 1969. This puppy went on to become the breed’s most-titled (at the time) American and Canadian Champion, as well as American and Canadian Utility Dog. Since Nicklus, John has lived with eight other Saints earning additional championships and UDTs, and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi earning a Tracking title. John started judging AKC obedience in 1978, making 2015 his 37th year of judging. Over the years he has been writing the “Dog Talk” and “Random Little Tidbits” articles for Front & Finish. Read more.

Donald A. Levinson, of Alexandria, Virginia, began his involvement in dogs with a 10-month-old Doberman puppy in 1973. This dog went on to become a breed champion and earned her Utility Dog Title in Obedience. Donald has been exhibiting since 1974 and judging AKC Obedience since 1985. Donald is a member of, and past president of, both the Mount Vernon Dog Training Club and the Potomac Valley Doberman Pinscher Club, and a member of the Doberman Pinscher Club of America. For the past thirty years he has been a volunteer instructor for the Mount Vernon Dog Training Club, teaching a basic obedience class. He has had the honor of judging the NOI/NOC three times. Read more.



Ray (Jerry) Cacchio, of Staatsburg, New York, received his first dog when he was 15. His introduction to the sport was through his grandfather, who owned, trained and handled a two-time Best in Show at Westminster. Jerry later served as President of the American Spaniel Club for five years, and Field Trial Chairman for two Nationals. He has judged more than 100 U.S. trials, as well as five Nationals, more than anyone else in the U.S. Jerry won two Nationals with two different dogs and was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 2012. The following year, his NFC Pondview's Left In The Light ("Lefty") was inducted into the Hall Of Fame. Read more.

John Russell, of Gainesville, Texas, began in retriever field trials in 1970 at age 20. He judged his first licensed field trial in 1975 and has been an active judge ever since. John made his first amateur field champion in 1981, and his first field champion in 1984. Since then, he and his wife Martha have had 14 additional field champions. John is an AKC Delegate and was elected to the Delegates Field Trial and Hunting Test Events Committee. He serves on the Retriever Advisory Board and was appointed Chairman in June. He currently serves on the Performance Events Trial Board. Read more.

Grant Stanfill, of Ovilla, Texas, was raised on a farm in southwest Oklahoma. Grant spent 26 years in the Air Force flying fighter and training airplanes. In 1960, while still in the Air Force, he bought a German Shorthaired Pointer and started hunting birds. Grant began showing dogs, finishing two show champions as well as five Field Champions and four Amateur Field Champions. One of his females, FC/APC SpareTime's Kandoit, produced one National Amateur dog and two Dual Champions. Grant started field trialing in 1971 as a member of San Antonio GSP Club. Read more.

For more about the nominees and the Lifetime Achievement Awards, click here