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In its endless pursuit to recognize outstanding members of the fancy, The American Kennel Club Lifetime Achievement Awards were established in 1998 to honor our Fancy’s 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 the finalists. Member clubs have now been asked to cast their vote for one nominee in each of the three categories. This final round of balloting will close on October 15, 2004. The AKC’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Dennis B. Sprung, will present these awards at our Open House on Sunday, February, 13, 2005.

The AKC is honored to present photos and bios of the nine finalists who were selected by their constituents in recognition of their exemplary participation in the fancy.

Nominees in Conformation

Maxine V. Beam, of Roanoke, Texas, was a professional all-breed dog handler for almost 30 years, retiring in 1972. She was approved to judge the following year. Ms. Beam handled three Poodles to Quaker Oats Ken-L Award wins, first in 1956 with the Toy Ch. Blakeen Ding Ding, who was also top all breeds Best in Show that year; again in 1957 with Miniature Am./Can. Ch. Adastra Magic Fame, who was retired with 53 Bests in Show; finally in 1963 with Miniature Am./Eng./Can./Mex. Ch. Montmarte Marie Nina.

In 1954 Ms. Beam handled Ch. Rockmont’s Glamour, who won all three awards given by the American Boxer Club for bitch, most breeds, groups and Best in Show; the Best in Show German Shepherd Dog Ch. Royal Rogue of Long Worth; the Cairn Terriers Ch. Milbryan McGillicuddy and Ch. Caihness Colonel; the great Lhasa Apso Ch. Kicos Kula La; and many more.

Ms. Beam is approved to judge the Sporting, Working, Terrier, Toy, and Non-Sporting groups. She has worked at national specialties, AKC Eukanuba/National Championship, Westminster, and other top shows in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as in Canada, Mexico, South Africa, and at two of Australia’s largest shows, Sydney and Melbourne Royal.

Michele Leathers Billings, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, among a family of dog and horse fanciers. In 1952 she moved to Stone Mountain, Georgia, and established Kings Creek Kennels, known for show-quality Beagles and German Shepherd Dogs. She trained, conditioned and handled all breeds professionally until retiring in 1970.

Ms. Billings founded the German Shepherd Dog Club of Atlanta and served as its first president, 1955 – 1959. She began judging in 1972 and is now one of eleven women all-breed judges in the country. She has judged at major shows all over the world, including Best in Show at Westminster in 1988 and the 2001 AKC/Eukanuba American Dog Classic. She judges approximately ten national specialties each year.

Ms. Billings was the recipient of the Gaines Fido award for Woman of the Year in 1983 and won the Kennel Review award for Judge of the Year in 1986. She was inducted into the New York Sports Museum Hall of Fame in 1993, the Nature’s Recipe (formerly Quaker Oats) Hall of Fame in 1998 and was one of three nominees for the 2004 AKC Lifetime Achievement Award in Conformation. Ms. Billings possesses a deep and abiding love for dogs and the sport.

Dr. Harry Smith, of Durham, North Carolina, began his involvement in dogs after he returned from World War II. He joined his father in breeding Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and showed them exclusively in Retriever Trials. However, in the early 1950’s, he acquired a Pug from the Soderberg’s kennel that had produced a Westminster Toy Group winner. The bitch he purchased became the foundation for the small kennel that Harry established in Southern Ohio.

Initially, Harry’s dog world activities centered around Southern Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, but not for long. He owned the first black Pug to win the Pug Dog Club of America Futurity, and was the co-founder of the Pug Club of Greater Cincinnati. His activity in the Parent Club increased as well, holding the position of AKC Delegate from the Pug Dog Club of America for 10 years.

Dr. Smith began judging Pugs in 1966. He steadily pursued his judging career, adding his final Group, the Hound Group, in 1999. This led to Harry’s approval as an AKC all-breed judge in that same year. In great demand as a judge, Dr. Smith has judged the Toy Group at Westminster, the Non-Sporting Group at the AKC/Eukanuba American Dog Classic, all Groups and Best in Show at the Welsh Kennel Club Show, and has judged shows on five continents.

Nominees in Companion Events

Rosalie Alvarez, of Los Altos Hills, California, became involved with obedience in 1957 when she started training Dobermans. She has taken ten of her Dobermans to Utility and Tracking degrees and competed the first Doberman in the United States to obtain the UDT Sch 111 degree. Ms. Alvarez has numerous High in Trials to her credit, including two at the Doberman National.

In addition to obedience, she has trained for tracking, flyball, agility, protection, and scent work for bomb and narcotics detection. The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department recognized her with a citation for developing and training their canine unit.

To dispel the myth of the vicious Doberman, Ms. Alvarez founded the Doberman Drill Team, which toured the United States and Canada for almost 30 years. With astounding demonstrations of obedience and agility, they visited hospitals and gave public performances including two half-time shows for the San Francisco 49ers.

Ms. Alvarez is an AKC judge of all obedience classes and holds active membership in Santa Clara Valley Kennel Club and the Northern California AKC Obedience Association. In addition, she is the training director of Town and Country and Deep Peninsula Dog Training Clubs. Ms. Alvarez has helped to organize and present four AKC obedience seminars and judged the AKC Obedience Invitational in 2001.

Velma Janek, of Muncie, Indiana, attended her first obedience trial more than 50 years ago. She and her husband, Joe, were inspired to purchase two Doberman Pinschers after watching the performance of Clarence Alexander and his Doberman. Ms. Janek learned by observing others, and without ever attending a formal training class, was able to train the two dogs to countless High in Trials and High Combined awards. One of them is still the only Doberman to score a perfect 200 in both Open B and Utility B in three separate trials.

Ms. Janek has put many titles on Dobermans, Miniature Pinschers, Miniature Poodles, Shetland Sheepdogs and Belgian Tervurens. With only limited showing, she has earned 325 High in Trials, as well as OTCH's and High Combined awards. She is currently training a Doberman and a Parson Russell Terrier.

Ms. Janek has instructed thousands of students, many of whom have gone on to earn OTCH's and become AKC approved obedience judges. She continues to teach weekly basic, advanced and competition classes. Ms. Janek has judged throughout the United States, Bermuda and Canada. Her life has been enriched by the sport of dogs, and she feels she has been blessed with wonderful friends, students and competitors.

David Maurer, of Urbana, Ohio, became involved in obedience in 1975 when a dislocated shoulder derailed his baseball career. Over the past 28 years he has earned over seven utility degrees and four OTCHs. He considers winning the German Shepherd National and Obedience Victrix award in 1979 as a highlight of his career. His highly successful breeding program is devoted to German Shepherd obedience dogs, several of which have gone on to earn obedience titles and tracking degrees. In all, his dogs have earned more than 50 obedience degrees and four OTCHs.

Mr. Maurer began judging obedience in 1980, crediting George and Louis Pugh with his start. He has since judged the first AKC National Obedience Invitational in St. Louis, The 2003 AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, as well as several other obedience championship events and national specialty shows. A well-known obedience expert, he is a fixture on the seminar circuit.

Mr. Maurer has been a member of the Dayton Dog Training Club for 25 years. In all his years of showing and judging, the real highlight of his career, he says, are the many friends he has met through the sport.

Nominees in Performance

Dennis Bath, of Belleville, Illinois, has been dedicated to retrievers since purchasing his first Labrador in 1967. His greatest success was with Lawhorn’s Cadillac Mack, with whom he won back-to-back National Amateur Championships in 1979 and 1980. Mack accumulated 218 all-age points, and was inducted into the Retriever Hall of Fame in 2000.

Mr. Bath has held every office in the National Open Retriever Club, including president and secretary-treasurer, and is a past president of the Mississippi Valley Retriever Club. He is a founder and current president of River King Retriever Club and acts as Midwest Captain of the Guns for both the National Retriever Club and the National Amateur Retriever Club.

In 1985, he was instrumental in creating the Nestlé Purina Outstanding Field Trial Retriever Award program and still holds charter membership. In recent years the program has expanded to include the Amateur Award (1997) and Outstanding Derby Award (2003).
Mr. Bath conducts judging seminars throughout the country and has judged over 100 Open and Amateur Championship Stakes and three Nationals. In 2000, he was inducted in the Retriever Hall of Fame and was further honored when in 2002 the Central Time Zone dedicated the National Open Championship to him.

John Rabidou, of Hondo, Texas, has been involved in the sport for more than 40 years, primarily distinguishing himself with German Shorthaired Pointers. His field successes have yielded five National All-Age Champions, six National Shooting Dog Championships, five German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America (GSPCA) Gun Dog Championships, one AKC All Breed Gun Dog Championship, 47 American Field Hour Champions, more than 80 AKC Field Champions, and five National Futurity Champions. His Uodibar kennel has produced two GSPCA Hall of Fame dogs.

Endeavoring to share his knowledge, Mr. Rabidou conducts seminars throughout the United States and Canada and is the author of numerous articles. He served as president of both the GSPCA and the National German Shorthaired Pointer Association (NGSPA). He is currently a GSPA board member, and has served on the boards of the Pointing Breeds Advisory Committee, and National Bird Dog Hall of Fame.

Also in demand as an AKC judge, he has judged national specialties for the Irish Setter Club of America, GSPCA, German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America, and the American Brittany Club. For his service to the sport, Mr. Rabidou received the prestigious McGinnis Award from the National GSPA and the Honorary Life Member Award from the GSPCA.

J. J. Sweezey, of Chestertown, Maryland, began attending sanctioned club trials with his first Labrador Retriever, Honker, in 1948. In 1952 he bred a litter that produced two field champions. With one of them, El-Jay's Ace Scenter, he qualified for his first national championship after winning the very first licensed trial held by the Maine Retriever Club. Sweezey was a finalist in 13 of the 36 national championships in which he participated. In 2002, after an unprecedented six decades of qualifying for the national, he ran his last, finishing as a finalist.

During his long career he won more than 160 open stakes, trained 40 field trial champions, and was the first trainer to use black gloves and jacket. Three of his dogs are in the National Retriever Hall of Fame, each one winning over 100 points. In a single season, he won four consecutive open stakes with the same dog. In 1970, he was a consultant on retrievers to be used as off lead scouts for trip wires and mines in Vietnam for the Limited Warfare Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland.

He was a co-founder and past president of the Professional Trainers Association and served twice as president for the Maryland Retriever Club. In 1995, Sweezey was inducted into the National Retriever Hall of Fame.