Anne Rogers Clark, a mentor to many, shown winning Best in Show with Ch. Dunwalke Black Tulip. The Miniature was shown in the Continental trim, setting a trim trend in the breed. Photo: AKC Library and Archives.
Fri, 10/08/2021 - 4:05am

Question of the Week

Who was your first mentor in dogs?

Bill Stebbins

Port St. Lucie, Florida

My first mentor was a gentleman who is considered to be the patriarch of the Great Dane. Donald Gauthier was a man of many talents – pianist, artist, Arthur Murray dance instructor and classically trained chef, having graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris. His first love was always the Great Dane.

We met him as complete neophytes in the breed. We learned at his knee through his many seminars and by ringside mentoring. My wife and I hit the ground running due to his teachings and guidance. Our initiation into exhibiting and breeding brought us far more success than one could ever hope to achieve.

I have always given Don the credit for all of our great times during our initial years in the breed. The value of starting in the world of dog shows with a truly good mentor is simply invaluable. Many people become disheartened after a period of time, since no matter what they do, they seem unable to garner success. This is often because they try to do it on their own without any guidance, or the mentor they have chosen (oftentimes the breeder of their first show dog) is simply not the right person for the job of mentoring.


Richard Reynolds

Tenafly, New Jersey

Virginia “Ginny” Coleman sold me my first show dog, a Beagle, and helped a young kid along the way. In English Foxhounds, Nancy Penn Smith Hannum, MFH of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, was an unbelievable mentor and opened doors to a whole new world for a young adult.


Rich Bergman

Lakeside, California

I started at dog shows with photography. I later got into Whippets with Corky Vroom handling. 

My first true mentor was Joni Ludwig, the best dog-show photographer of all time. She learned that I was an engineer and quickly realized that I had an eye for balance. It worked for 51 years before I retired at the beginning of 2020. She was my mentor, idol and illegitimate mother, and left me with the honor of being in charge in 1989. I trained Kit Rodwell, and gave her my entire business and left her in charge.


Juli Lacey-Black

Mariaville, Maine

I was one of the unfortunate ones... I didn't really have a mentor.  At 13, I learned what I could by watching others and learning things the hard way.  For years ... learning things the hard way. Now after more than 40 years in dogs, I do what I can to help others whenever they are willing to accept it.


Erin McClurg McRobb

Diane McClurg 

Gainesville, Texas

My daughter Erin and I were very fortunate to be mentored by Shirley Reynolds of Far Hills Miniature Schnauzers and Henry McGill, professional handler (deceased in 1998).

They taught us how to groom, train and show our first mini, Christie, who was bred by Shirley. They also guided us to the show ring, as it was a new experience for us.

Henry was very generous with his knowledge in what to look for – structure, attitude of the dog, what judges preferred – and was very adamant that we learn about all dogs by watching group competition, not just our breed. Then would quiz us about what we learned the next week.

When Erin told him she wanted to be a professional handler, he said in his Scottish brogue that you can always be a handler, but you need to go to college, too. Erin went into Texas A&M and graduated with a master’s degree in animal nutrition.

His next lesson was that people are more important in life than a dog, telling us you can always find a good dog, but not always a good friend.

We have carried those lessons with us since we started showing in 1987 with the Labrador Retriever.

It was a privilege to have these two teach us. I still will reach out to Shirley to share an accomplishment with her or to ask advice. 


Ken McDermott

Newburgh, New York

My very first mentor was the outstanding Terrier handler Seth Campbell, as well as being a very important father figure. A great person who I still miss very much.


Robyn Michaels

Chicago, Illinois

My first mentor in dogs was Dale E. Miller, Barclay Square Miniature Schnauzers. I was 13 years old, I think, and she lived just a few miles away. This was the mid-1960s. She let me wash her champion dogs. What a thrill! She also taught me how to strip out a Schnauzer (you can imagine what my first coat looked like). 

But I was really a Sighthound person. I started with Afghan Hounds (virtually nobody helped me – although my first dog had an excellent pedigree, he was from a “backyard breeder” raising puppies to pay for college), and a few years later, became enchanted with Whippets. I had fun with a few pet dogs, putting obedience, rally and ASFA field championships on a few.  My first conformation dog, a Saluki, I kept in his breeder's name.

I knew that unless I married well, I couldn't afford to show dogs, or have the space to be responsible for every puppy I would breed – so I didn't. Lots of us fanciers are on the fringe. I am securely retired now. I still adore Whippets.



Marcia Feld

Libertyville, Illinois

My husband grew up without a single dog in his life, and he insisted it remain that way after marriage. Then one day he saw a picture of a Miniature Schnauzer and commented that if he ever had a dog, it would be that one. 

Well, when he got home the next day there was a puppy in our lives. I knew nothing about breeders, and since if you need something – milk, clothes, whatever – you go to the store, and that is just what I did.

When the puppy matured, I thought it might be fun to have a litter. I searched my Schnauzer books and came up with a person in my own town! Alice Downey was no longer in dogs, but she was more than willing to help, so she referred me to Marilyn Laschinski of Suelen Miniature Schnauzers (now better known as Aljamar Fox Terriers).

Marilyn did not tell me to take my pet-store dog and go away. Rather, she told me to bring her a copy of the pedigree and to have the CJC eye exam. She then agreed to the breeding and was beside me along the way. My first champion came from my first litter: Ch. Suelen Snow Flurry, CD, CG.

At that point, she told me it was time to have my own kennel name; hence Feldmar began.

Marilyn taught me how to strip coats, how to whelp puppies – everything I needed, she was there.


Deborah Mulvey

Waterbury Center, Vermont

I’ve had several mentors over the years, and each has given me invaluable help and advice, from the breeder of that first show dog I bought to the vet who took my calls no matter what hour. But the one I always remember fondly with so much gratitude was Anne Simoneau.

As a teenager whose only introduction to the dog world was Popular Dogs magazine, she took me under her wing and through the years taught me dog shows from the ground up … that as a club we invite the dog fancy to our shows and should always treat them as guests so they will come back. As outgoing show chair, she presented me with a large bag of toilet paper and gave me a most important piece of advice: “If you do your job right, the only thing left for you to do the day of the show is make sure the porta potties have toilet paper!” 

That bag of toilet paper got passed on to several newer show chairs over the years. One committee member even caught me coming out of a porta potty with that bag of paper. They blew that photo up to poster size and presented it to me at the next meeting … I still have it.


Carol Horner

Bluffton, South Carolina

My first mentors were my parents. Rather unusual, I suppose, but we had a dog all my life at home, and they had one until they died. 

Our home was filled with a mix of purebred AKC dogs, one at a time, with very few repeats. 

I remember tiny Chihuahuas, teaching us to be kind, careful, protective. Cockers taught us the necessity for weekly grooming and baths. Dachshunds taught us to walk slowly and never let them jump off the sofa. An Airedale taught us to hold the leash tightly and eventually how to train him not to jump. 

Every dog we owned was spayed or neutered – that was responsible dog ownership – and we read a book about how puppies were born when curiosity came up. 

I was the older sister, so I learned first how to feed my dogs: how much, how often and the huge importance of fresh water. Of course, no kid likes to scoop poop, but if that wasn’t done daily, we missed a TV show. 

When I was an adult, I chose the toy breeds for apartment living, and they varied over the years. Being married and having a nice yard gave me the opportunity to try larger breeds like Boxers, Dobies and then my forever favorite, Irish Setters!  

I read as much as I could find about the breeds I bought for myself, remembering how our family did the same as I grew up. I spayed and neutered my dogs until I was sure of my plans for the future of the Irish Setter line I wanted to produce. I bought the finest foundation pair who had close common ancestry because I had read the history of many of our famed breeders in the last century. 

So there’s truly no one spectacular breeder-mentor I can point to. Just the great honor of being raised by parents who saw the value of a dog in every child’s life, and how that one incredible childhood experience taught me love, respect, responsibility and value for one of God’s greatest gifts to us. 


Angie Diehl

Granada Hills, California

My first serious mentor in dog conformation was Mary Dukes. She was handling the number-one Whippet in the U.S. when I met her, and she obligingly took my class girls on. Mary could teach more in ten words than others could teach in ten volumes. When she was about to take on the Whippet that would become my number one in the breed, she was simultaneously offered a job at the AKC and thus retired from handling. One of her ardent students went on to show Moxi to make history in the breed several times over. Since then Bo Bengtson (Bohem), Iva Kimmelman (Merci Isle), Deann Christianson (Chelsea) and Molly Rule Steele (Taejaan) went on to teach me invaluable lessons in breeds that may look simple to evaluate at a glance, but may be incredibly complex to judge and breed. And of course, nods to my parents, an avid scientist and hound afficionado and an OB nurse, on breeding and whelping as a youngster. 


Lisa Weiss

Huntington, New York

I had a fantastic mentor: Mrs. Joan Read ("Chidley"), who had had Labradors since the ’30s. Not many people know that she was also mentor to James and Helen Warkwick of Lockerbie Labradors. Both went on to be famous and highly respected judges. She was also a world-famous Norfolk and Norwich Terrier breeder, having bred Westminster winner Chidley Willum the Conqueror. Beth Sweigart lived at her place for many years until she passed away, and she was no doubt was a mentor to her as well.

I had a little Welsh pony, and Mrs. Read got me involved with Pony Club as a youngster and then mentored me through my early days of Labradors in the ’60s. She remained my rock until she passed away in the ’90s. Her home was a museum of all the early dogs in the breed, and her bookshelves were my library.

Once I could drive, I spent many a late night there with her, talking dogs and going through old pictures. By this time I was old enough to drink, and a few cocktails after dinner were always on the menu!

She left me some wonderful pictures that I will treasure forever.

It was Mrs. Read who encouraged me to judge Labs, and she came to watch me judge many times. Afterward we'd always have in-depth discussions on my choices, of course not always agreeing.

It's so important to have a good mentor, and as years go by you should become a mentor as well.


Lydia Coleman Hutchinson

Middletown, Maryland

Initially I had three mentors. In Cairns it was Miss Helen Hunt ("Shagbark"), who lived nearby in Connecticut. My parents bought their first show bitch from her. She also bred and judged Toggenberg goats.

In Poodles it was Miss M. Ruelle Kelchner ("Hollycourt"). Not only did I learn a great deal about Poodles from her, but, more importantly, she taught me about breeding successfully. She used line-breeding very effectively, and I used what I learned from her to establish a strong line of Cairns ("Wolfpit") that has produced nearly 300 champions.

As a mentor in all things dog, it was Anne Hone Rogers (later Clark). She took me under her wing and let me help her at shows. That was before the handlers had paid assistants. I felt so honored when she actually let me brush the mini Ch. Fontclair Festoon, Westminster BIS winner. She also guided me when I began judging in 1964.


Arlene Grimes

Martinez, California

My first mentor in purebred dogs was Jacques Levy, a newspaper reporter for the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa. He had been a student of Bill Koehler (the fellow who did most of the dog training for Hollywood movies at that time). He mentored me through the AKC's Open Dog obedience exercises with my Collie, my first purebred dog, when I was 16. This pet earned her UD degree with a score of 200+, defeating a Miniature Poodle shown by a pro handler (Larue Grimm) in a run-off.

Jacque owned a male German Shepherd, Ch. Daring By-line of Rocky Reach. I have a photo of my dog jumping over the back of his Shepherd.

I am so grateful to have been introduced to the sensible Koehler method of dog training so early on in my “doggie life.”


Sam Houston McDonald

Weatherford, Texas

My first mentor was a wonderful lady named Sue Summers of Summerset Irish Setters, who worked for more than 30 years as a librarian at a university in Texas. She was an avid reader of books and articles about the world of dogs. I contacted her about breeding my first litter, and from there it was the beginning of a long-time education about structure, movement, genetics and what made a reputable breeder. I learned about whelping, caring for puppies, socialization and so much more. From there it led me to the parent club and even more wonderful mentors like Ted Eldredge, Joyce Nielsen, Lucy Jane Myers, Clair Andrews and Anne Savory.  

I have been truly blessed in this sport of dogs, and I owe my start to my friend, Sue Summers, who is so missed!


Mary Ann Alston

Ocean City, Maryland

My first mentors were Sally Howe and Jane Slosson of Clariho English Setters. My first English Setter champion was bred by them – shown and finished by me under Anne Clark back in the ’60s. 


Thomas Bavaria

Kutztown, Pennsylvania

Ruth Zimmerman took me under her wing and taught me about dogs and dog-show ethics.


Beverly Vics

Leesburg, Florida

My first mentor was John Mazzola of N-Bar-J Alaskan Malamutes. He was an incredible wealth of knowledge. Most important of so much he taught me, I learned how to create a pedigree that would prove to breed consistently for decades. I chose my foundation Akita bitch based upon what I learned from John about the importance of pedigree. Tightly inbred, she produced and continued to influence the quality of my breeding program for more than six generations. 


Barbara Alderman

Moon Township, Pennsylvania

When I first started going to shows, I was best friends with Mike Billings – she was Mike Leathers at the time. Much, much later we both had homes in Ft. Lauderdale. We only lived a few blocks away. I miss her still.


Tracy Potts

San Antonio, Texas

My mentor in dogs was Jack Potts, my dad. I became his assistant at 17 in 1977, and my family and I have been active in breeding, handling and working in dog clubs ever since.

Xiomara B. Larson

Glastonbury, Connecticut

Believe it or not, my first mentor was my own breed, a Cocker spaniel that I named Woody. He taught me what the Cocker Spaniel is not supposed to be: bad tempered and poorly bred.

After that experience I was fortunate to meet the late Ted Young Jr. of Tedwin Kennels in Rockyhill, Connecticut. I remember going to his kennel to learn how to care for dogs in general, browsing through old magazines, learning pedigrees and the different lines. With his help I was able to obtain my foundation bitch, Hillside at Last Adriana. I have been so lucky to live in the Northeast, where there were many prominent breeders of well-known lines back in the ’80s. Here we are, 65-plus champions later, mostly breeder-owner-handled, with five top-winning specials in the top five of their breed and all-breed standards in 35 years. I would not change anything for a minute – it’s been a fun ride.

Gay Dunlap

Lakewood, Colorado

Although I am best known for my role as breeder/exhibitor/judge of Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, my initial interest in purebred dogs began with Yorkshire Terriers. My first mentor was the great Ann Seranne of Mayfair Kennels. Ann and her partner, Barbara Wolferman, bred top-winning Yorkies in the 1960s and ’70s, and were also involved with Standard Poodles, the latter with Wendell Sammet.

I have fond memories of meeting a very young Joseph Vergnetti, who worked for Ann and Barbara at their kennel. Certainly, Ann’s expertise and reputation as a primo “foodie” did not escape me since I fall into that group myself. (Ann was, among other things, editor of Gourmet magazine and author of more than two dozen cookbooks.) And who doesn't use Ann’s awesome, time-honored and foolproof recipe for prime rib?

My love of Yorkshire Terriers never really waned, but I found myself irrevocably involved with a breed not yet recognized by AKC, and they quickly became my passion. Since the Wheaten Terrier had no history here in the U.S., those of us dedicated to its recognition and perfection had no choice but to “mentor” each other! There we were, "the blind leading the blind," to name a few … Carol Carlson, Jackie Gottlieb, Emily Holden, Marjorie Shoemaker, Cindy Vogels and of course, me.

I remember, down the road, reading in the now defunct Terrier Type magazine, its editor, the consummate Terrier man, Dan Kiedrowski, commenting that we had succeeded in “creating a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” 


Charles Olvis

Lakes Wales, Florida

I had four mentors: Robert Stein, Joyce Wetzler, Jackie Mingles and Elizabeth Muthard. Would not be where I am today without them.



Lynda Lamensdorf

Memphis, Tennessee

LaMar Mathis, who died late last year, and his wife Elaine. Along with Harlan Hoel, I had the BEST mentors/friends anyone could ask for. They shared their knowledge unstintingly. The great Norma Warner (Norbill) was the founder of all of our bloodlines. (She was also the first mentor of Rick Beauchamp). The picture is of LaMar and I.


Louis Krokover

Sherman Hills, California

Wow, this is a great question. The answer, though, is not that simple for me, as it depends on which breed you are asking about.

My family’s very long history of breeding dogs, and our sport, goes back to before I was born, to 1912.

My parents, Morton and Judith Krokover, were my first mentors. In fact, my late mother was pregnant with me when she showed at the Garden in 1952.

Every breed that I was introduced to had its own mentors. My parent’s foundation breeds were for my mother Toy, Miniature and Standard Poodles, and for my father Beagles, Bassets and Pembroke Corgis.

I started with English Springers, and American and English Cockers.

Julia Gasow, Annie Clark, Frank Sabella, Michele Billings, the Shear Sisters and so many more. If you want to learn about a specific breed, then go to the best and main source – if possible, the leaders in that breed who are still around to give guidance.


Barbara Miller

Brookville, New York

When I was a child of about nine, Edith Levine of Glen Knolls Rough Collie fame became my first mentor. As time went on, she introduced me to match shows. Edith allowed me to spend time with her pups, brushing and feeding them. It was Collie heaven. She introduced me to Jack Simm when I got a bit older and the wonders of Mardomere kennels, home of famous Whippets in Brookville. 

I became involved with Soft Coated Wheatens in 1967, and Jack encouraged me to trim a bit and not let them be so shaggy. It was because of Jack I purchased my first Norfolk Terrier in 1973.  Jack was full of dog knowledge concerning terriers, and I lapped up all the information he handed out. We became extremely close, never letting a day go by without a telephone conversation. 

I don’t think any of us just sought out a mentor. I think it just happens. I believe the mentor sees something in the person – in my case, a child, then a teenager, then a young woman. Interest in canines is a two-way street, and my street led me to wonderful people along the way.  


Nancy Cavallo

Hilton Head, South Carolina 

I grew up in suburban Long Island, the oldest of three children. My parents said no dogs, as we lived in a small house, and it was pretty packed with people!

Our neighbors were a childless couple who had a wonderful Standard Schnauzer, Indi, and I instantly fell in love. She was a show and obedience dog, and I went to their house every day after school to walk her for miles.

When I was 10 years old, the Williams asked if I would like to go to a dog show with them. I eagerly accepted, and my mother agreed, and off I went to the Garden City, Long Island, dog show with them. That day began a lifelong passion for breeding, exhibiting and training dogs!

When I was 15, the Williams bred CH UD Indi, and I, of course, had to get one of the puppies! My mother couldn't say no! I spent every afternoon after school in the puppy box trying to decide which would become MY SHOW DOG!

I finally made my decision, and I used my babysitting earnings to go to obedience classes and to enter dog shows. 

I showed Andi myself, and I was always competing against professional handlers. It was my proudest day when Andi earned his championship. 

The Williams taught me all about dog shows and how to groom a Standard Schnauzer, which required some tedious hand stripping.

That was more than 50 years ago. I eventually went on to breed and successfully show Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and my major breed ... Flat-Coated Retrievers. 

I have recently been approved as a provisional judge and have the Williams to thank for opening the dog world to me!


Judy Silker

Winfield, Pennsylvania

My first mentor in dogs was Maggie Mott of Kamgaard Elkhounds. In addition to providing invaluable guidance and advice, she sold me my first champion, which went on to become a Best in Show winner. 


Rosemary Leist


My mentors were primarily books: “New Knowledge of Dog Behaviour” by Pfaffenberger (I attended a seminar he put on and bought his book), “The Dog in Action” by McDowell Lyon, etc. And a couple of pro-handlers who I got acquainted with when we were all racing sled dogs, Bill and Jeanette Bedingfield, and John Wier (sp?). Breed mentors were non-existent where we lived. Our first registered Malamute was purchased from Delta Wilson Smith in Georgia! We were in Oregon ... She answered questions for me, and as I became more active in showing and learning, I attended many seminars, including Rachel Page Elliot. Breed specific was basically not available.  


Leslie Simis 

Temple City, California 

I had the great fortune to spend my early childhood at the Granada Hills Kennel of Frank Sabella. My mother Beverly was a close friend who did many personal errands for Frank, and I was lucky enough to be able to tag along. We also attended many dog shows and an occasional horse show with Frank, and my mother traveled with him on occasion.

It was a magical time for me to be around such an incredible and talented man, and spending time with some of the most prolific Poodles in history. Through Frank, I also met his assistant Gary Wittmeier , who would become my dearest and best friend for more than 40 years. It’s so difficult to believe that they are both gone … but I’m forever thankful, as they brought so much joy into my life. 


Kathleen Kolbert

Naugatuck, Connecticut

For my birthday in March 1964, my husband gave me a Yorkshire Terrier. We named him Lord Pickwick of Oxford. I knew nothing about the breed, and I wanted to be sure that I took proper care of him.

Bob and Jane Forsyth lived about 15 minutes from our house, and I called Jane and asked her would she evaluate my new puppy. Jane agreed and I made an appointment, and took Pickwick over to meet with her.  

After Jane’s evaluation, I was told he had possibilities to be a show dog. However, the dog would need special care to condition and grow his coat. Jane recommends I call Terry Child.

I made arrangements with Terry, and I went to his kennel three times a week for lessons. Terry encouraged me to go to handling classes and invited me to join the Naugatuck Valley Kennel Club.

This was the beginning of my showing dogs, and the very first points that Pickwick received were under Mr. William Kendrick at the Armory in Hartford. Now, 56 years later, I am still doing what I love best and ever grateful to Terry for all the time and knowledge he gave me.


Jackie Stacy

Durham, North Carolina

Peggy Hogg was my mentor. She was amazing. She not only taught me about dogs. Perhaps more importantly, she taught me about life … respect, fairness, sportsmanship, objectivity, work ethic


Leslie Shriner

Warrenton, Virginia 

My very first mentor in dogs, specifically Standard Schnauzers, was my breeder Patricia White (Halcyon), back in 1991. She taught me how to be a good dog owner and how to take good care of them and, later, taught me about breeding, whelping and puppy rearing. 

As a result of learning from her how to pet groom my SS, I decided to go to grooming school in 1994, where I met my first mentor in the world of dog shows, Dolores King. Dorrie bred and showed Bedlingtons and Lakelands under the Sudor name. She taught me how to strip my Standard and be competitive with her while I traveled with her to all the local shows, and she taught me how to take care of dogs on the road, and to keep them safe and secure. I still use what I learned from Dorrie every day and at every dog show. She’s been gone since 2007, and I miss her.


Barbara A. Cole 

St. Charles, Missouri

I didn't have a mentor in conformation – I had to learn the hard way. In obedience, it was Ray Diaz, a renegade who used kind methods in a time of force methods. He only taught small classes in the San Francisco area. I achieved the first Samoyed OTCh. in AKC history with his help and guidance.


Bo Bengtson

Ojai, California

I didn’t have a mentor until I got to California and met Tom Stevenson. I miss him and his wife, Ann, to this day. I learned a lot from our walks on the beach, always on Mondays, when Tom had come home from a weekend of shows. Mostly he just thought aloud, talking about why he did what he did and also what he could have done differently. He was very critical of himself and pretty unforgiving if he felt someone took themselves too seriously. (As opposed to the dogs and the judging.) He could be critical of me, too: I remember hearing a lot of “I’m sure you can do a lot better than that!” 

Of course, it was great to have an opportunity to watch as Tom and Ann spent all year fine-tuning “their" Santa Barbara Kennel Club show, which they made into the best and biggest (some years) dog show in America, and to sit in on the after-show talks with legends of the sport (Jim and Annie Clark, Frank Sabella, Tom Bradley … and Abbe Shaw, providing a link to today’s shows), but it’s the walks on the beach with Tom that I remember the best.

P.S. Tom Stevenson hardly ever spoke of his earlier life, which was colorful by any standards, including living in Tahiti in the 1930s with a marriage that produced two sons, or acting at Pasadena Playhouse and in Hollywood movies against stars such as Bette Davies, Ingrid Bergman and Angela Lansbury. I didn’t know it at the time, but Tom actually had a small part in a classic movie, “Gaslight.”  


Virginia Murray

Island Lake, Illinois

My first mentor was Clint Harris. I was in my early 20s and was working for his sister, Mary Lee Hendee, and her husband Chuck Hendee, helping run their boarding facility and showing their Springers and Silky Terriers. Mary Lee decided it would be good for me to go spend a summer with Clint at his facility in Louisville and travel to the dog shows with him. It was definitely an experience! I have several crazy stories about that time … but I did learn quite a bit because Clint hung out with George Ward at the shows. And to answer the question that many people assumed was happening ... NO, there was never any relationship besides working, much to Clint's dismay. We were friends for years, and I adored his wife Joanie.


Jane Maddox Bishop

Bridgeport, West Virginia

I was a teenager and purchased my first Borzoi puppy from Lorraine Groshans of Loral Borzoi fame. Naturally, that was prior to the internet. There were no specialized magazines available. Even though she was several hours drive away, Lorraine was my mentor and always available to answer questions. Sometimes I would even mail pictures to her to get her thoughts. Very different from today! Back then Borzoi fanciers/breeders were few and far between, and contact when not in person at a show was by phone (long-distance rates) or letter.

Lorraine provided me with a great foundation of knowledge in the breed. First and foremost, she entrusted a quality puppy to a young teenager who had never had a show dog before. Through her guidance and expertise, I owner-handled Am/Can Ch. Lorals Matvey CDX to top-ten rankings five years in a row, with championships in two countries, group wins and multiple group placings. THAT is a terrific mentor, and I was very blessed to start my dog career under her tutelage. 


Iva Kimmelman 

Stow, Massachusetts 

In the early ’70s, when I moved from Seattle to San Diego, I met a woman named Betty Wolkonsky (Folquin Whippets). She introduced me to Isabell Stoffers, Runners Whippets.

I purchased dogs from each of them. Both of these women were equally my first mentors because they BOTH concurrently were my advisers.

Although mentoring can be a way to educate you about your breed, it is also a window into how to raise dogs. 

I consider Isabell a pillar in that regard. She genuinely loved her dogs and made sure I understood proper animal husbandry.

She was careful where her dogs went and was ultra careful about sharing her stud dogs. 

I owe her everything.


Sid Marx

Mesa, Arizona 

I was very fortunate to have a number of excellent mentors in my early life of dogs. George and Barbara Brodie (Seaforth) and Joyce Nilsen of Thenderin kennels helped establish my understanding of what is a good Irish Setter. 

Larry Carswell mentored me in what it meant to be a professional.

And Marianne Cook help me to understand how conformation and function work hand in hand in Sporting breeds.


Ellen Cottingham 

Longview, Washington

AKC handlers Don Foster, Wayne Nelson and Alvin Lee, Sr. All three mentored me in different aspects of dog showing when I was in high school and started showing my German Shepherd Dog and Dalmatian puppies. 


Wyoma Clouss

Meridian, Idaho

As we began to search for our first Miniature Schnauzer, we were so fortunate to have a series of referrals. The worker at a local pet store warned, “You don’t want one of these!” and pointed us to local Sheltie exhibitor Edie Reid, who helped us find a quality puppy and referred us to Knox and Virginia Buchanan, all-breed handlers and Dachshund breeders. They referred us to Paul Booher, all-breed handler in Reno, Nevada. Paul won a group with that first puppy, and finished our first three champions, gradually shifting coat work to me as I learned. He taught us so much, and mentored us long after.  

All that we have accomplished and experienced in the dog-show world, we credit to those referrals, and to the guidance of Paul Booher at the beginning.   


Sue Mills

Elmira, Oregon

I got my first Rough Collie in 1962 when I was in high school. When I moved to Flagstaff for college, I made arrangements with Lois Hillman of Roneil Collies to board my dog with them in exchange for some work at their kennel. Lois actually asked if I could come a bit earlier than planned as she had a litter due and had to be gone for a few days right after her bitch’s due date.  That was the beginning of my education!

At that time, breeders and veterinarians often gave bitches antibiotics shortly before whelping, hoping to prevent any potential infection. No one realized at the time that the antibiotics killed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, and puppies couldn’t digest mom’s milk. Such was the case with this litter. 

I don’t remember how many puppies were in the litter, but after a long fight, we managed to save two bitches. One was pet quality and the other seemed promising. I remember sleeping by the whelping box and rubbing cold, fading puppies under warm water in an attempt to save them. I believe the bitch Lois kept was registered as M’Liss.  

I cleaned many runs, brushed many coats and trained several dogs in the two years I kept my girl, Vicki, at their kennel.  

While I had Collies for about 10 years and produced two litters, I ultimately moved on to Belgian Tervuren and have had Tervs for the last 50 years.



Denise Wilczewski

Wall Township, New Jersey

I was so, so lucky to have Peter Green as our handler, and mentor. Peter is so full of knowledge. Our Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Jerseys Super Stripe, was Peter’s last exhibit at Westminster when he retired. Everything I learned in dogs, came from Peter! We were honored.


Beth Cloven Hernandez

Oak Park, Michigan

My grandfather, James Bennie, started our Scottish Terrier kennel, Benscot, in 1957. I grew up with the breed and learned so much from him. I miss him and his knowledge very much.


Sally Futh

Washington, Connecticut

I was fortunate to be mentored as a teenager by one of the deans of Collie breeders, Edwin L. Pickhardt. He also gave me my second-start foundation bitch to whom the 23rd generation traces today, 63 years later. Such generosity is probably pretty rare today.


David K. Qualls, DVM

Jacksonville, Florida

My first purebred dog mentor was Milo Pearsall. In 1972 I had just gotten my first Siberian Husky and happened to meet Milo while visiting a friend in the hospital. Unbeknownst to me, Milo was a world-renowned trainer and instructor, and he took a true interest in me and my disobedient first dog from the pet store. 

My involvement in obedience training that first dog is what eventually led me to become a veterinarian and to strive to excel in a career breeding and showing Siberians. I have also been an approved judge for more than 30 years now. I often think back to that casual meeting and how it totally changed my life. 


Missy Wood

Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

My first mentors in Norwich Terriers were Constance Larrabee and my mother, Patsy Wood (Penllyn Sealyhams). Constance taught me to take myself less seriously, and my mother taught me to "brush, brush, brush.”


Tom Bradley

Watertown, New York

Betty Hyslop. She lived in Canada, but less than an hour’s drive from me. I was 15, and she would pick me up and we would go to shows. She won her third BB at Westminster the year I was born. She was good friends with many people in the sport, which was a huge benefit to my future. There are many others also to whom I am indebted, but she was the first. I won my first breed in Cairns at Westminster showing her WB under Mr. Kendrick. She had the number-one Cairn, so beating her was a mixed blessing. My favorite story was that we placed fourth in the Terrier Brace Group. My bitch was in full season, which caused remarks from friends saying Betty and Tom were 4th in the group. They were tandem!

We did have lots of fun.


Linda Scanlon

Eagle, Colorado

I go back a few decades! Milton and Nell Fox took a chance on a teenager getting her first purebred dog and shared their love and knowledge of the Australian Terrier and showing. Charles Deer, their kennel manager and handler, was also a contributor in those early days. Dick Hammond gave me the greatest support with his friendship, encouragement and many long discussions about type and structure in multiple breeds, greatly enlarging my interest in going forward in the sport.


Glen Lajeski 

Cloverdale, California

Kitty Kolyer of Kolyer Great Danes. I bought my first Great Dane, a brindle bitch, from Kitty while in high school. Though she didn’t turn out to be a show dog, I kept in touch with Kitty, who advised me on her breeding. While in college I began working for Kitty on weekends. Eventually I accompanied Kitty to dog shows, which pretty much took place only on weekends. This opened up a whole new world to me that I’ve been a part of ever since.

Breeding, handling and now judging, I owe it all to Kitty for including me as part of her family – a family and a sport she dedicated her life to. 



Jonathan Chase

Carlisle, Kentucky

My grandmother, Mrs. Harriet B. Long, founder and owner with her husband William of Willets Kennels in Carlisle, Massachusetts. She was an avid sportswoman who loved to foxhunt. In the dog world, during World War II, she trained German Shepherds for duty with the U.S. Army as war dogs. After the war, she concentrated her efforts on breeding, showing and judging Pembroke Welsh Corgis. She won the Working Group and Best American Bred in Show at the Westminster KC show in 1960 with Ch. Cote de Neige Sundew, handled by the late Steve Shaw. In the picture, she is on the far left.  


Daryl Martin

Highland Park, Illinois

My first mentor in dogs was my mother, Rena Martin. First and foremost she was a loving mother (in her own indirect way!) and an icon in anything she did. She was a business person, as was her mother. She taught me that you learn by trial and error and hard determination. Most important, the best skill was to be honest! (She hated B.S. artists, as I do, too.) She always said you learn your entire life. As long as you can do the best you can do, that is what is important, as sometimes the chips fall through no control of what you do. I feel that is why I am so successful, as through the years I have gone with all the ups and downs, realizing this and then can come back with new ideas and goals.

Everyone has to have a goal, but to be able to repeat them year in and year out is what smooths out the ups and downs and makes you successful. She said not to let your ego ruin your life, as life is too short. When I start to feel the lows, I remember her words, and that is why I have been able to have as many winning memories or success at breeding for the last 60 years!


Patrick C Byrne

Kansas City, Kansas

My first mentor was the remarkable Peter Belmont Jr, truly a man for all seasons. His knowledge of the Afghan Hound enriched my life on so many levels – breeding, exhibiting, and ultimately judging.

Peter was among the first to appreciate the enigmatic Chinese Shar-Pei, and our close addresses enabled me to witness the many characteristics that make up this wonderful breed.

I participated in countless breedings, whelpings and training of Peter’s legendary Elmo line.  He is no longer with us, but his legacy lives on through the beautiful dogs he produced and the knowledge he so generously shared.


Wendy Willhauck

Port St. Lucie, Florida

My first mentor in Alaskan Malamutes was Mrs. Eva Seeley, mother of the breed. She was responsible for their AKC recognition in 1935. She was also a foundation breeder of Siberian Huskies. 

I also learned a great deal about both breeds from my veterinarian, Dr. Roland Lombard, as well as from Lorna Demidoff, another well-known breeder.

Rhoda H. Weinman

Nantucket, Massachusetts

My first mentor in dogs is a wonderful woman name Cheryl Simsof Dachshire Standard Longhaired Dachshunds. She had and still has absolutely beautiful show dogs, and many walked away with ribbons from the Westminster Dog Show every year. During the years that her dogs were being shown, they were always ranked at the top of the breed.

I met Cheryl at my first dog show in Maine in 2007.  I had absolutely no understanding or experience in dog shows, but was happy to meet her, as I had heard her name and knew about her dogs for years before this show as I had owned Dachshunds my entire life. When we finally met at this show, I introduced myself and explained to her that it was my first dog show and I had no clue about anything that was going on. One of her first comments to me was that my dog had just beat hers in that show. You can only imagine how stunned I was to learn that from this woman with the famous dogs that I had admired and heard about for years. It was that day that began a very special relationship, and one that I value every day. 

After that first meeting, Cheryl became someone that I could go to for every single question I had about Dachshunds, and the dog-show world. To this day, whenever a question comes up, whether it be a health issue with one of my dogs or just a question about the dog-show world, Cheryl is there to answer my questions and to guide me in the right direction. I will be forever grateful to her for what she has done for me and my dogs.


S Marie (Miki) Cooney

Ocala, Florida

Robert L. Crews, PHA, my mentor and best friend. Bobby passed away at the early age of 51 more than 30 years ago. He was a wealth of knowledge and an incredible dog man.



Katherine Means

Merlin, Oregon

I would love to honor my mentor Stella Van Cleave for her tireless support in my journey into the dog-show world. She sold me my first Miniature Schnauzer show dog, trained me to groom and show, and traveled with me in full support. I am truly grateful for all she has done for and with me.



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