Community Achievement Award

First Quarter Community Achievement Award Honorees

Vice President of Communications Noreen Baxter announced the 2004 first-quarter AKC Community Achievement Award honorees at the March 8 AKC Delegates Meeting in New York.

The Community Achievement Awards support and recognize outstanding public education and legislation efforts of AKC-affiliated clubs, AKC-recognized federations, and their members. The AKC selects award recipients who have successfully promoted purebred dogs and responsible dog ownership within their communities or who have successfully introduced, monitored, and responded to legislative issues affecting dog ownership. The Public Education department accepts nominations year-round and names up to three honorees each quarter. The nomination form is available on the AKC Web site, or by request. Each honoree receives a certificate and a $1,000 check payable to the club or federation's public education and canine legislation efforts.

Kathleen Holland, Great Dane Club of Arizona, Phoenix, Ariz.

As public education coordinator, corresponding secretary, and founder of the Arizona Great Dane Drill Team, Kathleen Holland dedicates her time to promoting obedience and responsible dog ownership throughout her community.

"Kathleen has been tireless in her efforts to educate dog owners in our community about the benefits of obedience training and responsible dog ownership," said Great Dane Club of Arizona Vice President Elizabeth Kapash in her nomination of Holland.

Holland conducts an ongoing weekly educational program for children who attend a learning center on the campus of John C. Lincoln Hospital. The 14-week program features the AKC online lesson plans, a performance by the Arizona Great Dane Drill Team, and a dog wash that gives children an opportunity to feel more comfortable touching dogs. The program provides children information on responsible dog ownership throughout the year.

Holland takes the drill team, which consists of 14 Great Danes and 11 handlers, to numerous schools in the area for demonstrations and classroom visits. She introduces children to obedience training and discusses the various events and activities available for them to do with their dogs.

"We feel that if only one person who sees us perform takes their dog to a training class or checks out a training book from their library, then we have succeeded," said Holland.

In addition to school visits, Holland visits nursing homes and hospitals weekly with her therapy dog, a Great Dane named Shea.

"There isn't a more rewarding way to spend an hour than bringing a little Dane love to those who don't have access to their own bundles of love," said Holland.

Holland also sponsors a free weekly training class for Great Danes at a local park. Occasionally other breeds join in the fun. Holland and drill team members educate new Great Dane owners about the breed. They demonstrate obedience at all levels. They also train and practice for the conformation ring. Owners of Great Danes not registered with the AKC are encouraged to apply for AKC's Indefinite Listing Privilege (ILP) so that they can compete in AKC Performance and Companion Events.

"I know of at least two Great Danes that now have Indefinite Listing Privileges, one of which recently qualified for his obedience CD title, that would have never gotten where they are without Kathleen's encouragement and guidance," said Kapash.

American Belgian Tervuren Club
Collie Club of Northern New Jersey
Princeton Dog Training Club
Lenape Tracking Club of Central New Jersey

Two Thursday nights a month, children, parents, dogs, and handlers gather in the basement meeting room of New Jersey's Parsippany-Troy Hills Public Library to participate in Read-to-a Dog.

"We have a few dogs come and visit the library and have children of all reading abilities read to the dogs," said Cynthia Stichman, children's librarian at the Parsippany-Troy Hills Public Library. "It's an exceedingly calming experience for the children to be reading and petting dogs at the same time."

"Children of all reading abilities may sign up, choose a book, and read to one of three dogs for 10 minutes in a quiet area away from other children and waiting parents," Stichman explained. "We take a Polaroid picture of the child reading to the dog and hand it to the child..."

"I try to be as low-key as possible," said Stichman. "I've had children who are 13 years old who are sitting down reading 'Hop on Pop.' These are boys, and they're big - a lot bigger than me - and it's taking them a long time to get through these books."

Stichman recalled a particular teenager who was a slow reader who found joy reading to a dog.

"He was a smiling, 13-year-old boy approaching 6-feet-tall," Stichman said. "He was speaking loudly. Clearly he was quite proud of himself. He was thrilled that he finished 'Hop on Pop.'… That's the magic of the whole thing. They are just focusing on the book and on the dog."

Since the summer of 2000, about 25 new children a month have participated in the Read-to-a-Dog program.

Members of the American Belgian Tervuren Club, Collie Club of Northern New Jersey, Princeton Dog Training Club, and Lenape Tracking Club of Central New Jersey helped Stichman launch the Read-to-a-Dog program.

Club members also spend many evenings demonstrating for children and parents how they train their dogs. They leave plenty of time for questions and answers.

"Each evening is unique," said Stichman. "I always receive thanks from parents, whether for creating a happy evening for an autistic child or for helping both parent and child who were previously afraid of dogs."

Responsible Pet Owners Alliance – San Antonio, Texas

Members of the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance (RPOA) provide assistance and information concerning animal welfare and related public health issues to community groups and legislators, make responsible dog ownership presentations to school kids and bring the warmth and comfort of purebred dogs into nursing homes and hospitals.

"We strive to change the attitudes of pet owners, addressing animal problems with a positive message, education, and assistance," said RPOA Board of Directors member Bob Wehner. "Responsibly caring for animals involves educating their owners and instilling realistic expectations of companion animal behavior and of the commitments involved in pet ownership."

RPOA presents an unrelenting stance against the animal rights agenda to abolish all relationships, use, and ownership of animals, including pet ownership. RPOA uses a quarterly newsletter to keep its members informed of pending animal legislation, animal rights activities, pertinent information relating to animal and public health issues, and education activities. It also moderates an information-and-announcement-only e-mail list.

RPOA also administers a rescue, adoption, and education rescue program, educates adults and school children about responsible pet care and bite prevention. Members set up and staff education booths at malls, pet stores, pet shows, the San Antonio Zoo, and other high-interest locations. Members make presentations at schools with RPOA's "Traveling Pet Show," where children learn how to care for and train their animals. And members visit hospitals and nursing homes as part of RPOA's "Paws for Service" dog and owner teams.

The RPOA also serves as a resource for San Antonio neighborhood associations that seek assistance with leash laws, spay and neuter information, or forming a neighborhood pet-finder program. In addition, RPOA operates a telephone hotline for area residents with animal problems.