Frank Sabella awarding Best in Show at Westminster in 1990 to the Pekingese Ch. Wendessa Crown Prince.
Wed, 09/29/2021 - 11:39pm

Life, Survival and the Delegate Meeting

Battling Covid, remembering friends, catching up with AKC

As some of you may know, I contracted Covid and pneumonia, and lived through it. I had gotten both vaccine shots, and I am sure without those vaccines I would be in my grave in Lufkin, Texas. I highly recommend everyone get the vaccines – not just for your benefit, but for those around you.

My doctor and I decided that I should not travel during the month of September, but I will resume my travels by going to the fantastic Morris & Essex Kennel Club, where I am judging on October 6, 2021. It is such an honor to be asked to judge at this show of shows. I then plan on staying a few days with my dear, precious friend Marjorie Tuff in Freehold, New Jersey.

With that said, I would like to express my sincere thanks and love to all of those who reached out to me by phone or email or get-well cards. (I got so many I could not believe how precious my friends are.) I never in my life would have thought how many friends I have and for that I will always be thankful. Without the love and concern I do not think I would be alive today.

I went to the hospital on a Sunday night at 11 p.m. and spent the next 15 hours in the waiting room. There were no beds, so I had no sleep, as you never knew when they would call you into the ER. Finally, after the 15 hours I got a bed in the ER, where I stayed for two days, and finally was sent up to my own room on the third floor. I got lots of sleep and medical care there, and was released on the fourth day.

I arrived home and was met by my precious Toy Poodles, Nicky David and Lorrie Beatrice, who could not understand where I had been. My wonderful husband Phil is the best “nurse” you can have, and I love him even more for showing all his love to me. I was on oxygen for about a week, and then my doctor told me to wean myself off, which I am doing. I retested myself for Covid and am now negative! I still have some signs of the pneumonia, but not the kind of suffering I had before I went to the hospital.

I hope everyone knows what a great “family in dogs” we have. They may not keep in contact with you a lot, but their thoughts and prayers are out there for you when you need them the most. How can you have a better family than that one? Thanks so much, as my life has changed and that is for the better … understanding and love.

I was raised on county music and still love it today. One of my adventures I had was with country singer, songwriter and dog lover Tom T. Hall. Tom was a good friend of Bob Wills (the AKC judge, not the country-music performer).  Years ago, my mother and I went to Nashville to visit the Grand Ole Opry. Bob Wills picked Mother and I up at the airport and took us to the hotel. The following day Bob took us to a recording session at the recording studio of Tom T. Hall. He was recording an album, and Mother and I and Bob had the pleasure of being there and hearing the recording. For those not familiar with Tom T. Hall, he and his wife Dixie raised and showed Basset Hounds! He wrote the song “Harper Valley PTA” and “I Love.” One of my favorites is “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.” His wife Dixie was also a songwriter but mostly bluegrass music.


Singer-songwriter Tom T. Hall.


The following day Bob took us to the Grand Ole Opry and then to the home of Tom T. Hall in Franklin, Tennessee. I was told by Tom that he would be appearing in Los Angeles soon and would love it if I came to visit him in his traveling bus after his performance, which I did. He was so down to earth! I shall miss him. He died at his home in Franklin on August 20, 2021, at the age of 85. Dixie had passed away in 2015 after being married to Tom from 1968. Rest in peace, Tom.

September 20, 2021, was to be Frank Sabella’s 92nd birthday! Frank passed away at 91 years old on February 14, 2021. Frank has been my friend since 1966, up until he passed away. Frank wrapped his wings around me and never let go until he went to Heaven. I shall see Frank and my first partner, Jack Heidinger (without whom I would not be in the sport of dogs), and we and our dogs will have fun and play and think about the “good ole days.” In the meantime I shall be thinking of Frank and Jack every day. Rest in peace, Frank and Jack. 

The AKC Board has been busy, and at the August meeting President Dennis Sprung reported that they are planning on resuming the Marketing and Educational meetings with The Kennel Club (UK) to exchange ideas, explore new opportunities and share successes. Additionally, an enhanced training program will be provided to field representatives, inspectors, directors and key managers. This program will provide training in numerous areas of communication, soft skills and dispute resolution. I think that is sending a message to some people.

There was an update on COVID Provisions-Event Application Process Across All Sports. The Board reviewed a recommendation to allow two temporary exceptions to the standard event application process that were implemented due to COVID to expire at the end of 2021. (1) Event application fees for cancelled events will NOT be rolled forward to the next event of the same type, and (2) The standard lead time for event applications will be reinstated. Unless extended, the pre-COVID event application process will apply to all events to be held after January 1, 2022.

2021 will be the eighth consecutive year of increases in dog registration, the seventh consecutive year of increases in litter registration and the seventh improvement over 2019 – the best since 2004. At the last meeting, Dominic Carota, Vice Chairman of the AKC Board of Directors, said that the AKC recently announced its collaboration and affiliation with the USPCA (United States Police Canine Association):

“This association is new to AKC but is the largest and oldest dog-certification association in the United States. What is important is not just our collaboration but our future together. This fall, with dates to be announced, we are sponsoring a Bomb Detection Competition. AKC.TV is on board to film the competition and we are in discussions with other entities for additional distribution. How important is this collaboration? Several months ago, Government Relations submitted a letter to the California legislator in charge of bill AB 702 which included very onerous licensing requirements for breeders. AKC collaborated with USPCA and sent a letter signed by both organizations and it literally stopped this legislation in its track. So, there is a practical application to this collaboration aside from what these dogs and great handlers do.”  

A few new developments from President Dennis Sprung, reported at the September Delegate Meeting:

“Three weeks ago we participated in ESPN’s Bark in the Park that aired for two hours on International Dog Day, August 26. It took place on August 24 at Dunkin Donuts Park in Hartford, Connecticut, and highlighted Agility, Flyball, Diving Dogs, and a new Weave Pole Challenge. It also included a mini AKC Meet the Breeds event, highlighting some familiar breeds featured in Disney films. This gave us yet another opportunity to introduce our sports and the AKC to a national audience and dog lovers everywhere, providing a lot of branding and messaging about AKC.  Many thanks to our clubs, exhibitors and staff.

“Our new DNA test kit is now available. The kits contain a barcode and activation code, which customers will enter via an online portal. Paper forms are no longer required, and customers will mail their DNA samples directly to the lab. The new process will automatically send status updates and notifications via email, keeping customers informed. These enhancements greatly reduce turnaround time and streamline the process. 

“At the end of this month, AKC Public Education will begin utilizing a platform called Outschool to offer live, interactive classes to children, both nationwide and internationally, on topics such as responsible dog ownership and AKC sports. Everyone in this department is certified to teach by Outschool and the state of North Carolina.”

Hot off the press: The Nominating Committee appointed by the Board of Directors has nominated the following Delegates as candidates for such vacancies on the Board of Directors as are to be filled at the next Annual Meeting of the Club on March 8, 2022:

                                        Class of 2026

Christopher L. Sweetwood, Trap Falls Kennel Club, Inc

Harold “Red” Tatro III, Fort Worth Kennel Club

Ann Wallin, Atlanta Kennel Club

All three of those nominated by the nominating committee are up for re-election from the Board. From what I heard there were two others running but were not selected by the committee. These two can run from the floor, but I know that one of them will not. I believe the three selected are good choices and have done a good job on the Board.

Just posted on the Delegate Portal by Ted Phillips, CFO of the American Kennel Club, is the Financial Report as of June 30, 2021.

Dog registrations 2021 YTD 31.9% ahead of budget and 21.6% better than 2020 YTD.

Litter registrations 2021 23.4% ahead of budget and 19.6% better than 2020 YTD.  

Entries increased over Q2-2020 by 86%.

Events increased over Q2-2020 by 109%.

Net Operating Income (In Thousands):

$52,057 in June 2021 compared to $40,171 YTD in June 2020 YTD

$31,167 in June 2021 compared to $24,856 YTD in June 2020 YTD

Controllable Expense Lines (In Thousands)

Payroll & Benefits in June 2021: $15,430, compared to $15,377 in June 2020.

Investment Performance & Analysis had trailing investment returns that beat the benchmark and the broadly diversified asset allocation focus on US Equity Investments.

Financial Position (In Thousands):

Total Assets- June 30, 2021- $179,779 compared to December 31, 2020, of $152,744.

Total Liabilities- $95,050 June 30, 2021 compared to December 31, 2020- $95,810.

From what I understand, there were some committees that did not have a quorum, so no voting could take place; therefore, their business would have to be tabled until the December meeting in Orlando.

As I was unable to attend the September Delegate meeting, I asked my friend and AKC Board Member Steven Hamblin if he could share his notes with me and you. Here are Steven’s notes, and thanks so much, Steven!

“The first in-person Delegate meetings since March 2020 were held on September 13 and 14 at the Doubletree Hotel in Newark, New Jersey. It was great to be back in familiar territory with familiar faces, but there was no denying how much has changed since we last met in person. Distanced chairs and face masks in all meetings reminded us that we all had to be responsible for our own health and the safety of those around us. We all received hand sanitizer upon check-in, and even the microphone stands in the meetings had alcohol wipes attached to them so all microphones could be wiped down between speakers. I greatly appreciated the lengths that AKC staff (thank you, Paula Spector!) went to create as safe of an environment as possible for us to meet in. And I greatly appreciate the efforts of every Delegate to respect and honor those safety protocols.

“As always, the committee meetings were conducted the day preceding the official Delegate meeting. My first committee was Dog Show Rules, and, unfortunately, we did not have a quorum of the committee members. I counted 32 Delegates in attendance besides those of us present for the Committee. We were able to discuss pertinent topics, and the lack of necessity to adhere to a hard agenda allowed the Delegates in attendance to engage more fully in conversations by sharing their experiences and opinions, and to ask pertinent questions. It was great to engage in conversation with the audience after so many meetings where ‘attendees’ were not able to participate in real time. Because DSR ended early, I was able to catch the last third of the Parent Club Committee meeting.

“In PCC (Parent Club Committee), I counted 75 in attendance – standing room only because the distanced chairs were all full. When I arrived, Dr. Charlie Garvin was just finishing his presentation on the AKC Purebred Preservation Bank. Parent Clubs had a lengthy agenda, as they always do, but the final conversation was about the AKC Meet the Breeds tour. Few of us in the room had actually been in attendance at the one event that occurred in San Diego in August, and we were able to share our impressions and experiences with the group. Some Delegates voiced their concerns – as conveyed by their Parent Clubs – but had not been at the event themselves. Those of us that had attended San Diego were able to answer some question, provide some best-practices recommendations, and to encourage participation from all Parent Clubs (to the best of their abilities) when the tour resumes in 2022. A key take-away from the PCC meeting: There needs to be more and better communication in BOTH directions between AKC and Parent Clubs. Those Delegates who were familiar with MTB at Javitz Center in NYC had clearer expectations than those who had never attended. And attendees in the committee meeting were very happy to hear that the Pekingese folks, who worked the booth in San Diego, found it to be a very valuable educational opportunity with the general public – where we fielded questions about health and lifespan, and where we were able to allow people to see ‘the breed that won Westminster.’

“In the afternoon, I had Companion Events, where we had 13 attendees of which six were NEW DELEGATES! This committee had great, actionable conversations about actions taken by AKC to advance the sport during Covid.  We talked about what was helpful and successful, and what actions should be allowed to ‘sunset’ on their expiration dates versus what actions should be made permanent.  This committee also proposed a sub-committee (in conjunction with the All Breed Clubs Committee) to study how all-breed clubs can be encouraged to keep or resume Obedience trials as part of their shows.  I was able to share that AKC CHF is working with AKC Sports & Events to finalize a survey to be sent out to all companion and performance events participants to study how CHF can advance the health and welfare of our great canine athletes and the people who love them. The committee has been very supportive of this survey, and has provided great insights into how CHF can engage this community.

“The Coordinating Committee was well attended, and the various committee chairs were happy to share the discussions and actions coming out of their committees. All Breed Clubs continues to learn from actions taken by clubs during Covid, and to share those key learnings as clubs move forward in their return to some sense of normalcy. This committee also had a presentation from their Heritage Breeds Committee, led by Eduardo Fugiwara. This sub-committee explores diversity and ethnically underserved communities as they relate to dog sports, and they are focusing on how breeds (from a specific region or country) can be leveraged as a part of cultural pride to engage the general public in advancing awareness and enthusiasm around purebred dogs. The Bylaws Committee was the only other committee without a quorum, but they were able to have discussion around the activities that the committee has been focusing on. The committee and their attendees did have a ‘robust conversation’ around hybrid meetings, and concluded that they are not in the best interest of the organization. Canine Health Committee reported on the success of the virtual CHF Parent Club Health Conference – they had 400 registrants for this conference! CHF has also maintained its 4 Star Charity Navigator rating as well as its Platinum rating from Guidestar. The Delegate Advocacy and Advancement Committee has welcomed over 60 new Delegates!  And they proudly announced that the Delegate Handbook is now posted on (at the top of the Delegate Portal). The Field Trial and Hunting Test Events Committee discussed getting low-entry field breeds more involved in events, and also the current shortage of ammunition for field events. They also discussed some very disturbing legislative actions in Oregon and Virginia that pose a threat to field events. Herding, Earthdog and Coursing Events Committee discussed the new Whippet racing proposals being considered by the AKC Board, the recent changes to Fast CAT, and the new virtual scent-work program.  (As a matter of business, the Coordinating Committee took action at this meeting to expand the charge of this committee to include Scent Work.)

“The official Delegate meeting commenced at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, September 14, with polls opening for the Delegate Committee elections. Then business was suspended for a Forum presentation from the Juniors Sub-Committee.  This committee put a lot of work into fully understanding the strengths and opportunities faced in fostering an environment for Juniors to find their place and thrive in our dog sports. This presentation was a culmination of that research along with recommendations to move forward successfully.  The presentation format is a video that is available to share with all clubs:

“Once the Forum ended, the business of the Delegates resumed under the leadership of President Sprung. Two clubs were voted in as member clubs:  Fargo-Moorehead Kennel Club and Jackson Tennessee Dog Fanciers Association. Next was a report from Chairman Davies, where he rightfully and respectfully recognized the great work of Paula Spector, Dennis Sprung and Gina DiNardo in getting this meeting up and running. And he thanked the Delegates for making the effort to travel for this first in-person meeting. He concluded with ‘Welcome back. Welcome home.’

“The President’s report followed the Chairman, and on this anniversary of September 11, Mr. Sprung played a video sharing the great works of our extended dog community in rallying to meet the needs of search-and-rescue dogs in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. The video also shares the evolution and success of DOG NY.  That video can be accessed here:

“Dr. Charlie Garvin shared the overview of the AKC Purebred Preservation Bank. This remarkable undertaking is based on the foundation laid by the Otterhound Club of America. Dr. Garvin’s presentation provided historical context around the need to preserve our beloved breeds, and then shared an overview of how this program has evolved under his guidance up to and including recommended next steps. His presentation can be viewed here:

“Lastly, Vice Chair Dominic Carota presented four Delegates with pins celebrating their 25 years of service. Recipients were Marcia Sherman Adler, Linda Flynn, Dr. Sophie Kaluzniacki and Sally Nist. Following Dominic’s presentation, Dr. Davies recognized three clubs celebrating their 100-year anniversaries as AKC Member Clubs: Bryn Mawr Kennel Club, Doberman Club of America and San Antonio Kennel Club. I’m always happy for us to celebrate our rich heritage and those who have served their clubs for years in advancing the great works of AKC.”

Until we meet again … stay safe and watch out for others.


© Dog News. This article may not be reposted, reprinted, rewritten, excerpted or otherwise duplicated in any medium without the express written permission of the publisher.

Stay Connected



YES! Send me Dog News' free newsletter!