The American Kennel Club (AKC®), the world’s largest purebred dog registry and leading advocate for dogs is proud to announce the winners of the 2022 AKC® Lifetime Achievement Awards: James (Jim) Crowley (Conformation), Linda Mecklenburg (Companion Events) and Pluis Davern (Performance).
The Awards, created by AKC President and CEO Dennis Sprung in 1999, are presented in recognition of outstanding participation and achievement within the dog sport. The finalists and winners are nominated by AKC member clubs and have impacted the sport on a national level through club involvement, judging, exhibiting, breeding and teaching.
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 and relations with foreign kennel clubs. For six months between General Counsels, he was also responsible for the Legal and Compliance Departments.
From 1993 as Executive Secretary, Crowley attended and recorded the minutes for hundreds of AKC Board and Delegate meetings and 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 1990s 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, all employees and then AKC officers were understandably prohibited from 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 their family members.
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.
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 the AKC agility began, Linda Mecklenburg has been a driving force in the growth and evolution of the sport.
Pluis Davern acquired her first Golden Retriever as a family dog in 1967 and joined the local Specialty club. She was invited to attend her dog’s field day workout and after watching her jump into the pond, retrieve a live Mallard and deliver it to her, she 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 four small children Pluis was unable to continue in that exciting venue. Her grandson became Pluis’ first show CH. UD, WC, WCX dog.
She 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 retained that position to this day. Many students have gone on to advanced titles and some to develop their own training business.
She began breeding Sussex Spaniels in the early eighties and has 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 a CH CDX MH.
Having trained and certified her own Goldens for Search and Rescue work Pluis was invited, after the Oklahoma City Bombing, to become the lead trainer for the newly formed National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. She designed and implemented a regimen based on her knowledge and experience of retriever field work, that expedited the certification of teams for FEMA. They subsequently sent 12 certified teams to Ground Zero, and later teams to Japan and Haiti.
In the late nineties, Pluis 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 Pluis is acutely aware of the tasks these dogs were designed to perform and the importance of honoring their Standards.
For more information on the recipients and all of the nominees, visit https://www.akc.org/about/awards-and-honors/lifetime-achievement/nominees/2022-lifetime-achievement-award-nominees/.