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New York, NY – The American Kennel Club® announced today that Pamela Duke and Carol Linger, of Lompoc, California, have been named recipients of the AKC® Community Achievement Award for developing a successful Therapy Dog program in their community. Duke and Linger are co-chairwomen and coordinators of the Santa Maria Kennel Club’s Furry Friends program.  They received one of three awards this quarter – the Tampa Bay Kennel Club and Cheryl Costello of Wilmington, Del., also received recognition.

The AKC 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 promote purebred dogs and responsible dog ownership within their communities or who have successfully introduced, monitored and responded to legislative issues affecting dog ownership.

Duke and Linger established Furry Friends 13 years ago to provide dog-and-handler therapy visits to senior-care and resident facilities in northern Santa Barbara County.
The program’s 15 members make eight scheduled visits a month, as well as unscheduled visits when necessary. They even schedule extra visits at holiday times, when feelings of loneliness and isolation among senior residents are known to be most acute.

Therapy dogs from Furry Friends are required to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen® test and meet other requirements to ensure good behavior on the job. Furry Friends handlers have reached out to the area’s other dog clubs to help them establish similar programs.  The program has won several awards from local service organizations

“Pamela Duke and Carol Linger, through the Santa Maria Kennel Club, have been highly influential in promoting the healing power of dogs in their community,” said Noreen Baxter, AKC’s VP of Communications.  “The American Kennel Club is proud that Furry Friends has gained the respect of so many assisted-living professionals and applauds Duke and Linger for their efforts.”

Nominations for the AKC Community Achievement Awards are accepted year-round. Up to three honorees are named each quarter. They receive a certificate of appreciation and a $1,000 check payable to the club or federation’s public education and canine legislation efforts. To nominate a club, visit