Each year, The American Kennel Club recognizes and celebrates an outstanding purebred dog breeder with the Breeder of the Year Award. The award honors those breeders who have dedicated their lives to improving the health, temperament and quality of purebred dogs. At a special presentation held during the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship show, a breeder, or pair of breeders, is recognized in each of the 7 Groups. At the conclusion of the presentation, one of the 7 Group recipients is chosen as the Breeder of the Year.
- 2017: Helyne E. Medeiros
- 2016: Alan Kalter and Chris Lezotte
- 2015: John Buddie
- 2014: Gwen DeMilta and Carissa DeMilta Shimpeno
- 2013: Winifred Stout
- 2012: James W. Smith
- 2011: Pluis Davern
- 2010: Debbie Butt
- 2009: Claudia Orlandi, Ph.D.
- 2008: Joan Savage
- 2007: Barbara Miller
- 2006: Douglas and Michaelanne Johnson
- 2005: Dave and Peggy Helming
- 2004: Catherine B. Nelson
- 2003: Mary Rodgers
- 2002: Wendell J. Sammet
2018 Breeder of the Year Group Honorees
Sporting Group: Wilson and Bonnie Pike, Silverhall Cocker Spaniels
Wilson and Bonnie Pike of Silverhall Cocker Spaniels grew up with a love of beautiful dogs and the dog show world. Since their marriage in 1983, they have bred 250 champions, including the top producing sire Ch. Silverhall Soldier of Fortune, also a multiple group-winning and BISS dog whose influence can be seen in the ring today. Most recently Gr.Ch. Silverhall Strike Force was the number one sporting dog in 2017. Striker is also becoming a sire of note and was Best in Show at the 2017 AKC National Championship.
Wilson and Bonnie are both life members of the American Spaniel Club (ASC) and in January 2018 they had the honor of being inducted in the American Spaniel Club Hall of Fame. Bonnie has served multiple terms on the ASC Board of Directors and as Breeders Education chair, and has presented judges’ education programs for clubs and the AKC over the years.
The Pikes are both proud AKC Breeders of Merit and members of the Cocker Spaniel Breeders Club of New England and the Cocker Spaniel Club of Rhode Island. The signature stamp of a Silverhall dog is unmistakable and seen all over the world with top winners in Russia, Asia, Europe and Australia.
Hound Group: Robert Urban, Foxfire Black and Tan Coonhounds
Robert Urban grew up in an extended family that hunted with both Beagles and Foxhounds and he quickly became infatuated with coonhunting. He attended his first AKC dog show in 1973 and knew in his heart that he would someday combine his two passions: hunting and dog shows.
After stumbling upon a dog book with a photo of an AKC-registered Black and Tan Coonhound, Urban became the proud owner of his first Black and Tan Coonhound, “Indy,” officially known as Ch. Twinlakes Blue Indigo. He became a member of the American Black and Tan Coonhound Club (AB&TCC) in 1981 and by 1985 he was the chairman of the first of four National Specialties as well as one regional specialty over the years. Urban has held multiple positions in the AB&TCC including: president, vice president and board member, and he wrote the breed column for the AKC Gazette for 24 years. He has been involved with judges’ education since 1994 and was on the committee that produced the AKC breed video in 1990. In 2012, Robert became the AKC Delegate for the AB&TCC, whose subcommittee played a role in the implementation of AKC Reunite’s Pet Disaster Relief program. Urban became a Life Member of the AB&TCC in 2006.
Robert has won four National Specialties over the years. In 2008 and 2014 this was accomplished with a sire (’08) and his daughter (’14) and then a great-grandson in 2017. Two of his hounds have also accounted for five (to date) all-breed Bests in Show. These were won by National Specialty winners as well.
Working Group: Victoria Weaver and Pamela Marsh, Gamegard Rottweilers
Victoria Weaver came to the United States in 1980 and soon after began her breeding program with a Rottweiler bitch imported from the U.K., Gamegards Black Britt. She bred several champions between 1985 and 1992 and the breeding program was effective, with close to 90 conformation champions, almost 40 obedience and performance titles, as well as several highly recognized therapy dogs. At the American Rottweiler Club (ARC) Nationals in 1992, the BOB, WB and Best Puppy were all Gamegard bred. Gamegard managed to produce some very successful dogs including BIS, BISS Ch. Gamegards Moonraker and BISS CH Gamegards Quiet Man v Lynos.
Weaver was a long-time member of the ARC and served on the board for two years. She was also a member of the Medallion Rottweiler Club (MRC), past President of the Colonial Rottweiler Club (CRC), as well as a board member and has served as specialty chair and co-chair numerous times over the years. Pamela Marsh joined Gamegards in 1997 and the pair feels very fortunate to have bred BIS, BISS Gamegards US Marshall RN, CGC, a wonderful dog and a great producer of 168 champions.
Terrier Group: Laurie Zembrzuski and Gaby Gilbeau, LAMZ Bedlington Terriers
The LAMZ Bedlington Terrier kennel was established by the mother and daughter team of Laurie Zembrzuski and Gaby Gilbeau. LAMZ Bedlington Terriers have earned over 140 titles and designations in Conformation and Performance events. LAMZ is home to nine different all-breed group winners, earning over 40 Terrier Group 1’s, which were all owner-handled. LAMZ has also produced 24 different Terrier Group placing Bedlington Terriers.
Laurie and Gaby own the AKC’s first Grand Champion Bedlington Terrier, NBISS GCHS LAMZ Eleanor Rigby JE CAX BCAT RATI RATN CGC, as well as the Lifetime number-one Grand Champion Bedlington Terrier, BISS GCHG LAMZ Heads I Win Tails You Lose JE CAX RATI RATN. LAMZ is also home to the first Reserve Best in Show winning Bedlington Terrier bitch, BISS GCHG LAMZ Strike a Pose RN CAA RATI CGCA TKN. Laurie and Gaby have produced multiple National Specialty Bests of Breed, as well as Best of Breed winners at Westminster, Montgomery and the AKC National Championship.
Although the show ring accolades of the LAMZ kennel are numerous, Laurie and Gaby’s greatest asset as preservation breeders is their ability to introduce new people into the sport and mentor them. A large portion of today’s active Bedlington Terrier breeders and exhibitors can attribute their start in the breed to Laurie and Gaby’s mentorship.
Laurie and Gaby are both AKC Breeders of Merit and recipients of the Bedlington Terrier Club of America’s Breeder of Distinction award. They are both approved breed mentors and actively provide ringside mentoring and kennel visits to aspiring judges. Laurie also serves as a director for the Bedlington Terrier parent club.
Toy Group: Larry and Penny Dewey, Ruffian Miniature Pinschers
Larry and Penny Dewey founded Ruffian Miniature Pinschers 40 years ago. Over the years, Ruffian has produced many Champions and top-winning show dogs, including multiple BIS and BISS Ch. Ruffian’s Starbuck HOF (the number-one Min Pin in 1984) and BIS Ch. Ruffian’s Cruz Control. The Deweys have also owned and handled such BIS dogs as Ch. Main St. March-On High Roller HR, sire of the 2005 National Specialty winner; Ch. Windwalker’s Cool Hand Luke; GCh. Windwalker Call in the Clowns and their current special GCh. Aztex March-On Buddha and the Chocolate Box, who is the winner of the Miniature Pinscher Club of America (MPCA) National Specialty in 2017 and 2018.
Larry has been a member of the MPCA since 1980 and has served as president for three years, as well as spending time serving as vice president and has remained on the board of directors. Penny has been a member since 1989 and is the club’s longtime Judges’ Education chairman.
Larry attended every AKC National Parent Club Health Conference between 1997 and 2017 as the MPCA representative and chairman of the Health and Research Committee. He manages the oversight allocation of the Health and Research Fund, coordinating funding with the AKC Canine Health Foundation, and provides the membership communication on research studies and grants. Larry and Penny organized and assisted AKC in collecting 154 DNA samples at the 1999 MPCA National Specialty as part of a research study.
Larry was the recipient of the Gaines Award and the AKC Award for Good Sportsmanship in 1990, 2000 and 2011. Penny received this award in 2012. Larry received the Dog World Award in 2003. Larry is an AKC judge of Great Danes, Miniature Pinschers, Italian Greyhounds, Chihuahuas and Junior Showmanship and has judged Specialties in all the breeds he is licensed for. He judged the MPCA National Specialty in 2008 and has judged Sweepstakes, Futurity and Top 20. Penny was president of the Miniature Pinscher Club of Greater Houston from 1996 to 2015. Larry and Penny are also members of the Houston Kennel Club and the Toy Club of Greater Houston.
Non-Sporting Group: Robert and Linda Love Banghart, Rebelrun Chow Chows
Robert and Linda Love Banghart have been actively involved with Chow Chows since 1976 with a focus on developing a sound Chow that can truly serve as “man’s best friend”. The health certification tools available, along with their work with rescue helped them to appreciate the importance of having well-bred Chows that are socialized and healthy.
The Bangharts believe that mentoring is a vital part of the education process regarding understanding and breeding any dog. One of the greatest rewards they receive is seeing Chows that they’ve bred complete their championships, owned and handled by newcomers to the breed. They’ve recognized that one of the best venues for learning was through membership and active participation in the national Chow Chow club, the regional clubs and the all-breed clubs. They have held working positions at each and continue to learn from and enjoy these associations.
As breeders, they have received the CCCI Breeder Gold Circle of Honor and have bred over 80 conformation champions, including BIS and BISS winners, with limited breeding of not more than three litters a year. Their Chows have earned 15 CCCI Circle of Honor awards and included 22 ROM recipients.
As owner-handlers, they’ve had many memorable National Specialty awards, have bred five all-breed BIS winners, owned and handled four all-breed BIS winners, won 40 BISS, co-owned and shown the number one Chow all-breed points 1994 and 1995 Supreme Chow, and owner-handled CCCI top ten Chows 26 times.
Herding Group: Kent Boyles and Liz Oster, Kenlyn/Marquis German Shepherd Dogs
Combined, Kent Boyles and Liz Oster have over 60 years of experience, having bred more than 100 champions and finishing more than 400 titles in the German Shepherd Dog breed. Their vastly differing backgrounds have ultimately led them together to breed, train, and show great dogs hand in hand.
Liz’s parents bred, showed, and trained German Shepherd Dogs since the late 1950s, making her a second-generation fancier. For Liz, breeding, owning and handling German Shepherd Dogs is a family affair that she hopes to continue. Kent purchased his first German Shepherd Dog when he was 15 and his passion for the breed has only grown deeper over time.
Between Kent and Liz, they have campaigned 17 animals to the Grand Victor/Grand Victrix title, along with countless Select titles and Winners Dog/Bitch titles at both the U.S. and Canadian Nationals. The pair is always striving to better the health and minds of the dogs they breed and they’re not afraid to think out of the box when it comes to their breeding program.
Among the many great German Shepherd Dogs Kent and Liz have bred, “Rumor,” officially known as BIS GCh.P Am/.Can. SELECT Excellent Ch. Lockenhaus’ Rumor Has It V Kenlyn, was the number-one Dog All Systems in 2015, the 2015 AKC National Championship BIS and the 2017 Westminster BIS.