We Are Family | Diversity, Losses, Prayers & Orlando

We Are Family | Diversity, Losses, Prayers & Orlando


When you become involved in the sport of purebred dogs, you will eventually become part of a huge new FAMILY. That’s right, a “Family.”


A Diverse Family

The dog world is made up of possibly the most diverse group of people you will ever find. We have all ages, all races, social and economic diversity, religious diversity, and sexual orientation diversity, as well as a variety of political and other views on the world in which we live.

Yet, even with such a wide range of people, we are a family. When you become part of this family, the people in our sport will go out of their way to assist you and be with you when you are in need—regardless of your differences.

Organizations like Take the Lead have been there on many occasions to help people in our family in times of medical and other pressing needs when life throws them an unexpected “curve ball.”

We indeed have our black sheep of the family, our weird uncles and crazy aunts, as well as any number of crazy relatives, but we all have a love for our four-legged friends and a mutual desire to see everyone succeed in our sport.

Just like all families, we have weddings, births, and life’s milestones that we share, clubs that we join, and so many things that we do together in our crazy little world.


Family We Miss

We also share in the great losses of life of our many members. It seems like over the past couple of years we have experienced a rise in the number of people we have lost. Recently, long-time breeders, exhibitors, and well-respected judges, Pat Laurens and Pat Hastings, crossed the rainbow bridge to the great dog show in the heavens, and both will be missed as they leave behind a legacy to our sport.

More recently, however, we lost a precious member of our family who was in the prime of her life. The recent loss of Jamie Donelson has shaken our family like no other that I can remember. Jamie, taken from us at the tender age of 39, was truly one of those special people who probably did not have an enemy in the world. A beautiful young woman, a super-talented professional, and just a truly warm and loving person, Jamie was always living life to the fullest. She could brighten your day and bring a smile to your face just by being there. A humble winner and a gracious loser in the ring, Jamie was the epitome of a consummate professional.

In my 50 years in this sport, I have never seen such an outpouring of love from the entire dog community on her loss. It is truly a testament to the wonderful person she was. She will be a bright light at the dog show in the heavens and she’s left behind a legacy that our younger family members should try to emulate. Jamie will be missed, but I am sure she will not be forgotten.


Orlando & the YEAR’S END

Well, it’s that time of year again when the focus moves to Orlando for the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin and, of course, the Orlando Cluster that takes place on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before the main event. The Cluster Liaison is Linda Rowell, and the other two Show Chairs are Glenda Stephensen for the Space Coast Kennel Club of Palm Bay and Leslie Kovacs for the Brevard Kennel Club. Of course, Linda represents the Central Florida Kennel Club. This cluster, along with the AKC Royal Canin show, has in recent years been the determining factor in the final tally of which dogs will end up Number One All-Breed, along with the top rankings for many Group and Breed winners.

These three ladies work so hard with Michael Canalizo and the AKC show to put on the fantastic week of shows that many of us look forward to attending. The facility provides us with huge rings and plenty of grooming space in a very clean and well-lit building. When it comes to facilities, this one is, for sure, right at the top.

There are very few shows in the country that draw the level of competition that the Orlando shows provide. If you have never attended these shows, you are missing out on a great experience. Seminars for judges, numerous specialties, great vendors, majors in most breeds, wonderful hospitality, and a “who’s who” in the dog world will all be on hand.

If you attend, please be sure to say “Thank You” to the Show Chairs and all the volunteers who work all year to provide this great cluster that brings an end to the show season.


A New Year & New Goals

As 2022 comes to an end, many are already plotting their goals for 2023. The new year will kick off quickly and it will be interesting to see which dogs retire after AKC/Royal Canin, since Westminster will not be held until May of 2023. When “The Garden” was traditionally held on the second week of February, many of the top dogs ended their careers at that prestigious show while many new and up-and-comers got off to a great start with a nice win at The Garden. It has been an unfortunate result of the pandemic and other outside issues that have forced Westminster to once again change dates and locations for the most recognized dog show in the world.

The great leaders of the Westminster Kennel Club have always worked hard to protect and preserve the history and traditions that have made it the second longest-running sporting event in the United States. We can only hope that a permanent date and location for this great event will be achieved sooner than later.


Prayers Needed

Multiple Group Judge and Cardigan Welsh Corgi Breeder David Anthony is scheduled to enter UPMC Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, on December 7th to receive a stem cell transplant due to bone marrow cancer “myelofibrosis.”

He will spend one full-month in the hospital followed by two months of regular monitoring in a facility nearby. Please keep David and his family in your prayers. You can mail cards and encouragement to Dave at UPMC Shadyside Hospital, 5230 Center Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 16232.

As this year comes to an end and another begins, my hope for everyone is that we live every day of our lives as if it were our last and that we learn to appreciate all the good things we have. We all need to learn to be kind to one another and follow the example that Jamie Donelson gave to all of us in her very short life.

  • Walter Sommerfelt of Lenoir City, TN has been involved in the sport of purebred dogs since acquiring his first Old English Sheepdog in 1972. He is a former professional handler as well as a breeder, and exhibitor of breeds in all seven groups, most notably Vizslas, OES, Pointers, Bearded Collies and Weimaraners. Judging since 1985 he is approved for All Sporting, Working, and Herding breeds and groups, Junior Showmanship and Best in Show and has had the honor of judging on four different continents. Mr. Sommerfelt has judged many of the most prestigious shows in the United States including the herding group at the 2014 Westminster Dog Show in New York City where he has judged on three separate occasions. Mr. Sommerfelt was the founder and chairman for the St. Jude Showcase of Dogs from 1993 until 2009, a unique event showcasing the world of purebred dogs. This special event was the largest collection of various dog events in one location, featuring an AKC all Breed Dog Show, AKC Obedience and Rally Trials, AKC Agility trials, (prior to AKC adding agility NADAC trials ) One of the largest Fly ball tournaments in the U.S.A., Herding and go to ground demonstrations, A main stage featuring performances by Canines from Television and the Movies, Freestyle, Demos by drug and various therapy dogs, A full room of booths for meet the breeds, over 50 AKC judges seminars annually, Lure coursing, A fun Zone for Children, and other dog related fun activities for the general public and their dogs. Over the years the event not only raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, but also raised awareness of the many activities for people with their dogs as well establishing a voice for dog people in the Memphis area with regard to legislation. Many aspects of today’s AKC Royal Canin show can be traced back to the St. Jude event. Along with Carol his wife of 36 years they have bred well over 90 AKC Champions including Group, Best in Show and Specialty Winners, dual Champions and multiple performance titled dogs. During the past 40 years Mr. Sommerfelt has been active in a number of dog clubs and is currently the President of the Tennessee Valley Kennel Club. He is recipient of the AKC outstanding Sportsmanship Award and is also a career agent and financial planning specialist with Nationwide Insurance. The Sommerfelts’ have two grown children, both former Junior Handlers and they are still active breeders and exhibitors of the Vizsla breed.

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