Best in the Biz

The 2009 top show dogs and other bright stars in dogdom are honored.

It takes a village to raise a child — and almost as many to create a canine champion. That’s why the 55th Annual Purina ProPlan Show Dogs of the Year Awards, presented by Dogs in Review, honor the grit and dedication of the many players in the dog world.

Shelter of the Year
During its 41-year history, Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton, N.Y., has extended a helping hand to animals in need. This dedication has earned Kent the 2009 Shelter of the Year, sponsored by North Shore Animal League America.

“We’re thrilled,” says Pam Green, executive director of the shelter for 24 years. “The shelter is a small shelter, but we do significant work in animal welfare.”

From the start, Kent was established as a no-kill shelter and has stayed true to its vision. More than just a haven for abused and neglected animals, the shelter also provides many services to the general public.

Through the shelter’s adoption program, thousands of animal lives have been saved and 700 pets placed in loving homes each year. And efforts extend beyond the shelter through the successful rescue program.

“We reach out to try to help where there’s a need,” Green says. “We took animals from Hurricane Katrina. We try not to have any boundaries.” The shelter has rescued animals from as far away as the Caribbean.

In addition to rescuing lives, Kent is committed to preventing pet overpopulation by offering low-cost spay/neuter procedures and sterilizing more than 4,000 animals a year. The shelter also offers affordable pet care via low-cost vaccinations and veterinary products.

Humans benefit from the shelter’s services, too. The pet therapy program fosters the human-animal bond by taking animals to visit local nursing homes and adult care facilities, and the unique retirement home program offers a forever home to cats who survive their owners.

The shelter looks forward to continuing its mission and hopes to improve the lives of animals with construction of a new facility, Green says.

Veterinarian of the Year
Whether working with the Pennsylvania state legislature to improve animal lives or tending to her patients with care and compassion, Jennifer Muller, V.M.D., is an exemplary individual deserving of the 2009 Veterinarian of the Year award, sponsored by Summit VetPharm.

But surprisingly, the Philadelphia vet didn’t initially consider a career in veterinary medicine — until she found two puppies.

“Rather than thinking that I didn’t have room in my life for these dogs, I found room,” Muller says. “I moved apartments, got up early to walk the dogs, and brought them with me wherever life took me.”

Life eventually took her to Los Angeles, where she began fostering dogs for the local animal shelter and realized her calling. At age 30, she went back to school to become a vet. That decision changed her life — and countless animal lives, too.

She is now a member of Pennsylvania’s Dog Law Advisory Board and was appointed chair of the Pennsylvania Canine Health Board, created to improve the lives of dogs in commercial breeding operations in a state with numerous puppy mills. Her expertise was instrumental in the passing of Act 119, a law reforming the state’s breeding industry by requiring increases in cage size, exercise, veterinary checks, ventilation and temperature controls, and more.

“This is groundbreaking legislation for the nation that I hope encourages other states to follow suit,” Muller says.

Today, she continues to work tirelessly for animal welfare and encourages others to do the same.

“It is an honor to receive this recognition,” Muller says. “I hope the award inspires others to get involved in efforts that benefit animals.”

Trainer of the Year
Victoria Stilwell, host of Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog, is known worldwide for taking on some of the toughest training cases, using poise, patience, and positive reinforcement. It is these qualities that have earned her the 2009 Trainer of the Year award, sponsored by Dog World.

Before she had a hit TV show and international acclaim, Victoria Stilwell started as a dog walker in Great Britain.

Encountering trainers and behaviorists on her daily rounds, she was inspired. “When I watched these people work, I became fascinated with how dogs learned and how we as humans have this wonderful relationship with them,” Stilwell says.

It is that unique relationship that Stilwell’s training aims to cultivate. Proud that she’s able to make a difference in the lives of dogs and their people using positive reinforcement, Stilwell is particularly passionate about using the method to train dogs with aggression issues.

 “I think it’s been misunderstood for so long. Traditional training methods really don’t address the problems,” she says. “My job is to tell you there’s another way — a better way — to train.” Using her Think Dog approach, she encourages owners to understand how their dog sees the world in order to interpret his behavior.

Stilwell continues to spread this message through her various endeavors, including the launch of her new site and her TV show.

“I feel really proud,” Stilwell says. “People are beginning to realize that positive reinforcement is a better way to train.”

Despite snowy, rainy weather, the standout stars of the dog world convened at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York on Feb. 13 to celebrate a year’s worth of success — and a lifetime of hard work. From breeder, groomer, and judge to owner and handler, every top dog was ready for his award.

The Show Dog Awards are presented annually to the seven dogs who win the most Group Firsts at American Kennel Club conformation dog shows during a calendar year, and to the single dog who wins the most Best in Show awards.

The canine winners: 

Terrier/Best in Show: Scottish Terrier, Ch. Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot. Sadie went on to win Best in Show at Westminster.

Toy: Toy Poodle, Ch. Smash JP Moon Walk

Hound: Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen, Ch. Rokeena Carte Blanche

Herding: Puli, Ch. Cordmaker Field of Dreams

Working: Doberman Pinscher, Ch. Allure Blazing Star Alisaton

Non-Sporting: Standard Poodle, Ch. Hillwood Dassin De-Lovely

Sporting: Golden Retriever, Ch. Toasty’s Treasure Island

Obedience: Shetland Sheepdog, OTCH JusDandy Solar Flare UDX18 OGM RE

Honoring those who embody the best of the sport, the Anne Rogers Clark Hall of Fame recognized its newest inductee, former professional handler Frank Sabella. The Cardinal Crystal Grooming Achievement Award went to Afghan Hound breeder and owner-handler Beth Collins of Cloquet, Minn.

Also honored during the evening were the winners of the coveted Winkie Awards, sponsored by Cherrybrook. Each year these winners are selected by votes from their peers. The winners were: Jere Marder, Best Owner-Handler; Larry Cornelius, Best Professional Handler; Carol Harris, Outstanding Breeder; Sandra Goose Allen, Judge of the Year; and the Atlanta Kennel Club, Show of the Year.

Katy French is the assistant editor of DOG FANCY.

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