In its endless pursuit to recognize outstanding members of the fancy, The American Kennel Club Lifetime Achievement Awards were created and first awarded in 1999 to honor our best. The purpose of the awards is to celebrate those individuals whose many years of dedication have led to significant contributions to our Sport on a national level.
As in the past, this year’s nominees were selected by AKC Member Clubs that cast their votes for one nominee in each of three categories: Conformation, Companion Events, and Performance. The three nominees receiving the most votes in each category were selected as finalists. Member Clubs are asked to cast their vote for one nominee in each of the three categories. The final round of balloting will close on Monday, April 18, 2022.
A special video presentation will be created as a tribute to the winners.
The AKC is honored to present photos and bios of the nine finalists who were selected by our Member Clubs in recognition of their exemplary participation in the fancy.
Nominees in Conformation
My AKC journey was unplanned and unexpected as I had no youthful experience with dogs. However, the introduction and journey have been enjoyable and without regrets. As a wedding present from my mother-in-law we received a field bred Weimaraner. This lasted for a few years as the dog lacked field skills and conformation merit. In 1971 we found the breed that we loved and still do – Black & Tan Coonhounds. My wife was great in the show ring, and this was not my field of interest. Although I greatly enjoyed teaching, in 1970 I left the college classroom and shifted to university administration. The involvement in dog club administration and dog shows was a logical move, as I was using many of the same skills. Thus, many offices held and show chair for over 125 shows.
Overview – Dog Clubs and Dog Shows:
- Portland KC – Show Chair, President [1982 to date]
- Tualatin KC – President, Show Chair, Delegate [27+ years]
- Vancouver KC – Show Chair
- Cascade Hound Association – Board
- Longview-Kelso KC – President, Show Chair [current]
- Portland Dog Obedience Club – President, Obedience Trial Chair, Event Secretary [obedience, rally, tracking]
- American Black & Tan Coonhound Club – President, Show Chair, Secretary [current]
- Coonhound Field Events – Field Marshal [water races, night hunts, field trials]
- AKC Delegate – member of Field Trial/Hunt Test Committee for 20+ years, committee chair [three years to current]
- AKC Delegate – served on numerous ad hoc committees [AKC Relocation Committee, Board Nominating Committee, Judge Application/Approval Process Committee, and others]
Overview – Professional:
- University Faculty – Duchesne College, Marylhurst College
- University Administration – Marylhurst College, Oregon State University
As we approach 55 years in American Kennel Club activities, we can look back in pride. Each in our own way we accomplished much. Above all, we enjoyed the journey, and the journey continues.
James Crowley retired as AKC Executive Secretary after nearly 46 years on March 17, 2017. Crowley graduated from Boston College in 1969, and after a year on Wall Street, and active duty in the Army National Guard, he joined AKC in 1971 as Assistant Manager in the Show and Field Trial Plans Department, and at various times over the years was responsible for Event Operations, Club Relations, Publications, the AKC Library and Archives, Curating the AKC Art Collection, Human Resources, acceptance of new breeds, relations with foreign kennel clubs. For six months between General Counsels, he was also responsible or the Legal and Compliance Departments.
From 1993 as Executive Secretary, Crowley attended and recorded the minutes for hundreds of AKC Board and Delegate meetings, as well as for various Board and Delegate committees and special Board-appointed committees. The latter included the Bylaws Committee, chaired by Ron Menaker, which met in the late 1990’s and proposed many drastically needed Bylaw changes which became effective in 2001, updating and completely revamping AKCs Bylaws which had been in effect from 1884.
During Crowley’s time at AKC, first all employees and then AKC officers were understandably prohibited for competing in AKC events. However, Crowley was a member of the Westbury Kennel Association for over 40 years and was on its Board for years until that was prohibited for AKC officers. He and his wife Ann also always had one or two Cavaliers as members of their family.
In 1997 Crowley joined the AKC Museum of the Dog’s Board. He still serves on that Board as well as Museum Secretary. From his retirement in March 2017 until the return of the Museum to NYC in 2019 Crowley worked as a consultant to AKC on details of the relocation and build out of the Museum.
I grew up in a family of educators and dog lovers. My father loved chows so that was our family dog. When I was in elementary school, my mother let me pick out a dog of my own. I had to do research before selecting one and then off we went to the Raleigh Kennel Club dog show to see the breeds in person. It was one of the most memorable & exciting days of my young life. I chose the Shetland Sheepdog so we met and talked with a Sheltie breeder from Asheville, NC and several months later my puppy arrived. That was the beginning of my love for the purebred dog as well as dog sports and events.
I purchased my first show Pug puppy some thirty years ago and I am still just as excited today about my puppies, older kids and the next show down the road as I was back then. Over the years, I have been blessed to have campaigned some outstanding #1 Pugs and Pug Dog Club Of America National Specialty winners, some of which I have bred and others that have been bred by fellow Pug breeders. It was a great privilege for me to own and campaign two BIS record breaking pugs, CH Kendoric’s Riversong Mulroney, aka Dermot, and GCHP Hill Country’s Puttin’ On The Ritz, aka Biggie. I also campaigned the record-breaking Skye Terrier GCH Cragsmoor Buddy Goodman, aka Buddy. Biggie was the #1 Toy dog in 2018 and Buddy was the # 1 Terrier in 2011.
I have always done my best over the years to remember where I came from, to give back and support these dogs, and the sport I love. I am a Charter Member of the AKC Canine Health Foundation and I am on the Board of Trustees for Take The Lead. When we lost our dear GCHP Hill County’s Let’s Get Ready to Rumble we set up the annual “Rumble” Clinician-Scientist Fellowship, which supports a canine health researcher for future advancements in canine health. We also sponsor two AKC Junior Versatility Scholarship each year in memory of Rumble. I am truly honored and humbled to be a nominee for the 2022 AKC Lifetime Achievement Award for Conformation.
Nominees in Companion Events
Mr. Curtis began training dogs at the age of 8 in 1960 and has been training and working with dogs ever since. At the age of 16 he began to instruct and train professionally, working full time at a kennel in the Portland, Oregon area while attending school.
In 1972, Mr. Curtis founded his own dog training and consultation business, where he met his wife, Karla.
Curt has conducted dog training and tracking classes in the Pacific Northwest, with new training ventures developing in his new home area of Pahrump, Nevada. During this same period of time, Mr. Curtis acted as a consultant and trainer to several Police Canine Programs, in obedience, tracking, scent detection and man work.
Mr. Curtis is currently approved to judge all AKC Obedience, Rally and Tracking Classes, as well as being an evaluator for CGC, Trick Dog and Temperament Testing
In 2005 Curt was hired by the American Kennel Club to oversee and run the Companion Events Department, governing the sports of Obedience, Rally, Tracking and Agility until his retirement in 2012. During his time with the American Kennel Club, his team developed the Beginner Novice Class along with creating many new companion event titling classes. Another highlight during his tenure with the American Kennel Club was the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Obedience.
After leaving his position with the American Kennel Club, Mr. Curtis has served as the President for the Tualatin Kennel Club and Portland Dog Obedience Club.
Although Mr. Curtis started training with a Black Lab, the past 61 years have allowed him to work with and title numerous dogs from many groups, in obedience, rally, tracking and conformation. Curt and his wife Karla are currently having fun working and showing their Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
In closing, Mr. Curtis stated his love of dogs and our sports would not have developed, if not for the support and guidance of his mentors and tormentors who helped to guide him along the way. My thanks to them.
Minta (Mike) Williquette
My lifelong passion for competing and judging Obedience started out of necessity. We added 8-week-old Irish Setter to the family that included two small children. It was chaos and I realized the puppy needed training. We became members of the Irish Setter Club of Milwaukee and joined their Obedience classes. As I had previously shown horses, I was familiar with competitive animal sports.
This Irish Setter became my first Champion Utility dog. I have always trained and shown in several events concurrently. When my daughter wanted to train and show in Junior Showmanship we added a Longhaired Dachshund for her. My next adventure was to start a grooming shop and Obedience training school. I was lucky to have Pat Krause, a longtime friend, train the Novice classes and my husband the advanced classes. It was a few years later when Pat was at AKC that she and Ron Roberts suggested I might be interested in judging. I considered it and my husband encouraged me to do so. I studied and passed my test and observation, so I was on my way to a long career as an Obedience Judge.
At the present time I am showing PBGVs and have been successful with the hounds in Obedience, Rally, Scent Work and hunt tests. I also have a Beagle working on a UD. I have had several firsts in the PBGV breed including a UDX and RACH. I had the honor of judging the first AKC Obedience Classic. I also judge hunt tests for PBGVs and have judged Sweepstakes and a Top Twenty competition for my Breed Nationals. I raised litters on a very limited basis and several of the offspring are competing in Companion Events. It’s been a long run, but don’t stop me now.
Linda Mecklenburg has been dedicated to dog Agility for three decades. When AKC Agility began, she promoted the sport by teaching instructor workshops, judging fun matches, and even building equipment. She contributed dozens of introductory articles for aspiring Agility enthusiasts. As her handling and training experience increased, Linda shared her knowledge in lessons, seminars, books, DVDs, and online classes. Her book Developing Handling Skills, followed by the DVD series Balancing Cues, helped handlers understand the importance of body language. The books Developing Jumping Skills and Mastering Jumping Skills helped trainers appreciate the importance of jump training. Today Linda is nationally recognized Agility instructor and coach. Her students have ranged from those preparing for AKC Novice, to those crossing over from Obedience to those preparing for national or international competition. Many have become successful competitors and instructors themselves.
Always striving to raise the standard of performance in AKC agility, Linda has provided input on topics such as course design and equipment safety. She’s taught two course design courses and was one of the first proponents of electronic timing and rubberized contact obstacles.
Competitively, Linda’s dogs have earned multiple Master Agility Championship (MACH) titles, Top MACH Dog and Top Border Collie of the year. Linda has won the AKC National Agility Championships, Invitational, and World Team Tryouts. She’s been selected for the AKC World Team over a dozen times and represented AKC at Crufts. At the Agility World Championships, Linda has earned gold and silver medals in the Team competition and placed top ten Individually several times. Demonstrating that form follows function, one of her most accomplished agility dogs also finished his Conformation Championship. He then sired three Breeder-Owner Champions for Linda.
Since AKC Agility began, Linda Mecklenburg has been a driving force in the growth and evolution of the Sport.
Nominees in Performance Events
Pluis Davern acquired her first Golden Retriever as a family dog in 1967 and joined the local Specialty club. She was invited to attend their field day workout and after watching her jump into the pond, retrieve a live Mallard and deliver it to her, Pluis was hooked.
Fast forward two years and in addition to an Obedience title she became Gun dog of the year with that same club. Her son became a UD dog and ran field trials in the Qualifying, but with 4 small children, Pluis was unable to continue in that exciting venue. Her grandson became her first show CH, UD, WC, WCX dog.
Davern started professionally handling client dogs in Conformation, Obedience and field work and titled all the Retriever breeds, and many Spaniels and Pointing breeds in all three venues.
In 1982, Pluis became the Obedience trainer for the Del Monte Kennel Club and developed the program from two to five classes. She retains that position to this day. Many students have gone on to advanced titles and some to develop their own training business.
Davern began breeding Sussex Spaniels in the early eighties and campaigned several to top National rankings. Amongst others, her homebred AM/CAN/MEX CH Sundowners Heat Wave was a multi-BIS and National Specialty winning MH with Agility and Obedience titles. His son Gambler was a CH CDX MH.
Having trained and certified her own Goldens for Search and Rescue work she was invited, after the Oklahoma City Bombing, to become the lead trainer for the newly formed National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. Pluis designed and implemented a regimen based on her knowledge and experience of Retriever field work, that expedited the certification of teams for FEMA. Subsequently 12 certified teams were sent to Ground Zero, and later teams to Japan and Haiti.
In the late nineties, Davern twice assisted Mari-Beth O’Neill and the AKC in the Advanced Judges Sporting Institute by arranging the field portion of that presentation, with every dog in the Sporting Group being represented. Each dog was a Champion and had a field title and thus could demonstrate the form and function of their respective breeds. For many judges this was the first time they had seen these breeds in action. As a Breeder, Conformation and Field judge, Davern is acutely aware of the tasks these dogs were designed to perform and the importance of honoring their Standards.
I received my first dog, a miniature Poodle, as a birthday present in 1966. In 1968 I joined the Greater Milwaukee Poodle Club as a junior member and titled my first Poodle in Obedience in 1970. I’ve proudly been 20 yr. member and Agility instructor of the Western Waukesha County Dog Training Club, a 19 yr. member of West Allis Training Kennel Club, former member and Utility instructor of K-9 Obedience Training Club of Menomonee Falls, the first Associate Member of Poodle Club of America, and member of American Chesapeake Club (my other breed). I formulated and initiated (along with two other members) the Upland Working Certificate Program and served as Test Chair for Poodle Club of America since its inception. That program was the catalyst for the breed being accepted into the AKC Spaniel Hunt Test program. I also Chaired the first three Spaniel Hunt Tests run by PCA.
I have been pleased to be chair or secretary of the WC/WCX tests held by the Greater Milwaukee Poodle Club for 18 consecutive years and was also the chair for the first licensed AKC Spaniel Hunt Test put on by GMPC, which was the first affiliate Poodle club licensed for spaniel hunt tests in 2021.
I am a strong supporter of the parent club certificate programs as that is the first step into the field for many people.
I have had the pleasure to have trained and handled the first Poodle to receive a Retriever Hunt Test title in 1999, and in 2016, the first Chesapeake to receive Junior and Senior Spaniel Hunt Test titles. Through those efforts I have encouraged many to follow my path.
I have chaired the GMPC Obedience and Rally trials the past 16 years.
I have also exhibited a Poodle to its conformation GRCH in the Modified Continental Clip, and as a professional groomer have given talks, seminars, and articles on the trim. This functional trim allows a Poodle to work in the field one day, and also win in the show ring, as I’ve done many times.
Long ago I was taught that you get more done in the trenches than on the podium, and if you take from dog sports, you need to give back… Giving back through working for clubs has always been and will continue to be my focus.
David M. Duffey (posthumous)
David Michael Duffey was part of the hunting dog scene for more than a half-century. Known for his authored works, Dave also spent a good deal of his life working as a professional gun dog trainer. He owned, trained, and hunted with most of the breeds of pointers, setters, spaniels, and retrievers, along with a few hounds and terriers.
His love for dogs started as a young boy in rural Wisconsin. Through hands-on experience, Dave’s passion and knowledge continued to grow over the years. At the height of his career, he was recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on sporting dogs. His writing brought attention to hunting breeds from the sporting, hound, and terrier groups.
Dave was well-known as a field trial judge and reporter, particularly for the National Bird Dog Trials held annually at the Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, Tennessee. He was a founding member of the National Bird Dog Museum and has been honored in their Hall of Fame. Dave was also a member of the Field Trial Hall of Fame Election Committee for several years.
Dave supported and participated in NAVHDA and NSTRA, among others. He was sought out by various organizations as a featured speaker. He worked with breed-specific clubs, supporting efforts to showcase what the dogs were bred to do through performance-based tests and events.
Dave was quick to encourage and engage with people who had a love for the hunting breeds. His love for story-telling was legendary. (No one ever heard him tell a “one-liner!”) But his words and tone could be harsh when the best interest of the dogs was not being upheld. In person or in writing, Dave didn’t mince words or pull any punches. This was evidenced in his nine books, as Dog Editor for Outdoor Life for 23 years, and as a contributor to many anthologies and national sporting magazines.
David Michael Duffey passed away January 26, 2014 at the age of 86. He felt proud and blessed having earned a living doing what he loved, and summed it up in the revised edition of his first book:
“Now I have more years to look back upon than there are to look forward to, but because of gun dogs and the men and women who hunt with them, I can still relish the present and have faith in the future. Training and hunting with good dogs will keep me in touch with people who share a passion for the good things in life.”