Sadly, and too soon in life, we lost one of the greatest remaining dog ladies in the dog world. Jo-Ann Kusumoto was a very private person, but one of the kindest, most sincere, and loyal of human beings. She had a full life of traveling, owning businesses, playing with her personal house dogs, staying in touch with people she knew throughout the years, and caring for those in need. If Jo-Ann felt that you were a good person, she would stand behind you until the end. However, she also had “the devil” in her. Besides doing things her way, she would fight to the finish.
In dogs, she started years and years ago with her Dobes, and a little-known fact for today’s Shar-Pei people is that Jo-Ann was involved with the breed before they were even in AKC; not just breed, even before Miscellaneous! The late Peter Belmont, Jim Deppen, and Darlene Wright were involved with her in those days. Jo-Ann owned many different breeds, but was devoted for most of her life to the Doberman Pinscher, owning many top exhibits, including the #1 Working Dog, Ch. Marienburg’s Repo Man, shown by Moe Miyagawa. Jo-Ann was a staunch supporter of Mary Rogers’ dogs, and helped her until she passed away.
As the years progressed, Jo-Ann and I became friends—many years before she was a client. I showed a Shar-Pei that she bred, “Rambo,” owned by Ann Coleman, TailsEnd. This was, again, before the breed received total recognition. Ann had a Tibetan Terrier of mine that I was campaigning, and Jo-Ann thought that the TT would be a great breed for her mother. (Of course, Jo-Ann took total care of her mom until her passing too.) So, she flew out and took home a charming puppy named “Stuffy.”
Jo-Ann and I became fast friends, and the story that comes to mind immediately is one that saved her life! Anyone who knew Jo-Ann knew that she could talk… and talk she did. One day we were on the phone, and she kept saying, “I have to get home,” but we kept talking for several hours. Well, that was the day in 1991 when there was a big earthquake, and if she had not been talking to me she would have likely been on the bridge that went down!
Back to Jo-Ann: She started showing Chinese Cresteds and had a great run in those too. I showed the Multiple Best in Show dog, “Toby,” bred by Karla Matlock, to many victories and a Top Toy Dog too. We continued with Cresteds, but Jo-Ann also fell in love with Maltese—and the rest is history. Jo-Ann owned several Best in Show Maltese and several #1 Maltese, including BIS “Citrus” and BIS “Timebomb.” She supported her people not just by financing campaigns, but also through her friendships and by always staying positive, even when the chips were down. (She would laugh at the school-like behavior of many of our current competitors/breeders.) A true lady, few people like her are left in this game.
Jo-Ann Kusumoto was on the Board of AKC Canine Health Foundation for many years. Besides being a big financial supporter, she also had the skills of leadership. Take the Lead touched her heart for the work they have done for so many in need within our community. She participated behind the scenes, supporting many dog charities, dog clubs, Davis University Vet School, and others too numerousy to name.
Jo-Ann Kusumoto was a beautiful person and, with the exception of a few people left in our dog show community, her passing likely signals the end of an era. She may be gone, but Jo-Ann will never be forgotten. My heart goes out to her devoted husband who cared for her 24/7 these last few years. Roy, you are an angel too.