Judith Fellton Memorial Award
GENERAL INFORMATION: At the time the DPCA Rescue Committee
(known as COPE at that time) was founded by Judith Fellton in 1976, AKC Doberman
Pinscher registrations were number 2, second only to registrations of all three
Poodle varieties. This prompted the formation of "Committee On Population
Explosion." Upon Judith's death in 2004, the DPCA Rescue Committee decided to
honor her amazing legacy by establishing the Judith Fellton Memorial Award. This
award, presented annually at the DPCA National Specialty, acknowledges the
outstanding achievements of a rescued Doberman. The winner need not be present
at the National to accept the award; it can be mailed.
Each year we seek out a rescued Doberman that both embodies a success story and is a credit to the breed and to rescue. The strength of the Doberman Pinscher's noble character is often evident when these amazing dogs suffer the loss of their homes or their families, or when they have suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of a human. They often shine as ambassadors for the breed, and often against all apparent odds. Dobermans excel as therapy dogs, search and rescue (SAR) dogs, and service dogs, as well as faithful and loyal companions; the Judith Fellton Award is not limited to achievements in performance or to any title which the rescued Doberman holds
ELIGIBILITY: Any rescued Doberman is eligible to be nominated. For purposes of this award, a "Rescue Doberman" is defined as one that is adopted, generally from a rescue organization or shelter, though a stray kept by its finder is also considered a rescue. All rescues must be spayed or neutered, in keeping with the intent of Mrs. Fellton. A dog purchased from a pet store or breeder, regardless of the purchaser's motivation, or a dog that is directly re-homed by a breeder is not eligible for this award.
|YEAR||DOG'S NAME||OWNER'S NAME|
|2011||Jake||Bruce and Kim Parsons|
|2008||Fritz||Pete and Patty Fiordimondo|
|2004||Second Chance Diamond-Dax||Patrick & Joyce MacKay|
Vonnie Voorhis and Rueger
My eldest son was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and four months later suffered life threatening wounds from an IED. With severe burns over 33 percent of his body, he underwent numerous surgeries and skin grafts, including amputation all fingers. After seven months of rehab, progress slowed and he all but stopped trying. Then a miracle happened.
Four Therapy Dogs came to visit the wounded soldiers. A smile lit his face. Although bandaged from shoulders to hands, but was able to rub his elbows on them.
Immediately, I started looking for a young playful Dobe who would be able to engage my son and help him progress further in his home rehab. Hand Me Down Dobes had a shy, skinny nine-month old red Doberman looking for a new home. We named him Rueger – and he picked up on training easily and excelled at everything thrown at him. He is the gentlest, most caring, and focused dog I had ever met. He played a very big part in my son’s eventual recovery.
My son recovered, graduated from college and got married, but Rueger stayed with me. He regularly attended meet’n’greets, and accompanied me on home visits for prospective rescue adoptions. During such a home visit, we met a Therapy Dog trainer. As a nurse, I loved the idea of making him a licensed Therapy Dog as he is so aware of people's feelings and emotions. He knows when it's ok to be spunky and when to be calm. He flew through the training and passed the test with ease. In 2008, Rueger became a licensed Therapy Dog with Alliance of Therapy Dogs
Rueger's accomplishments as a therapy dog are extensive.
- He visits an elementary school for a children’s reading
- He attends Columbus City Schools during enrichment days helping children learn to treat and handle dogs appropriately and to dispel the myth that Dobermans are ‘dangerous’.
- For several years, he visited a Rehabilitation Home helping in the Physical Therapy
- He has an uncanny ability to work with Autistic children as he is so calm and He has attended Haight Autistic School during their enrichment days, and attended the Step by Step Autism Academy summer camp for several years
- Twice a year, he goes to Dennison University and Ohio State University to help calm the student's exam
- The past three years, he has visited the local ABC affiliate as part of a stress awareness program for the news anchors and
- After the Sandy Hook shooting, Rueger received a request from the local ABC news affiliate to demonstrate how therapy dogs can help children and adults cope with grief and
- Rueger is registered in two counties in Ohio for Therapy dog work in the aftermath of a disaster.
- He has been on live TV multiple times to promote his alma mater, Hand Me Down Dobes.
Rueger will be 10 this year but is still the spunky red Dobe with the heart of a warrior – albeit a kind, gentle warrior. He has given so much for so many years - bringing smiles to everyone he meets and impacting the lives of countless people at a time when they needed somebody lean on. Additionally he has paved the way to adoption for many Dobermans in need of a new home. He is one very special Doberman.
Cindy Hanahan and Stella
I contacted DARE in the spring of 2014 looking for a companion for my two year old male rescued Doberman. I adopted Stella, a petite, energetic eight month old female. Very shortly after becoming a part of our family, Stella took it upon herself to stay by my daughter Cindy’s side on a constant basis. Cindy has a connective tissue disorder which causes her joints to dislocate, extreme pain and fatigue. She is also subject to severe reactions to several allergens. When we realized Stella’s attentiveness to Cindy, Cindy started working with a service dog trainer. Stella excelled quickly and in just a few months completed multiple levels of service dog training. She assists Cindy with mobility issues, not only physically but also deterring Cindy from doing actions which could cause dislocations and/or pain. Stella also helps with minor issues by retrieving items such as car keys and a cell phone. In addition to the mobility assistance, Stella is being trained as a medical alert dog where she can pick up on Cindy’s pain levels and help Cindy take remediating action, and alert her to the presence of specific allergens thereby preventing Cindy from facing a severe reaction.
Stella has provided Cindy with the confidence, independence and sense of security that now enables her to live on her own. Cindy is able to work a low impact job in a public environment with Stella by her side.
When off duty, Stella is a typical playful, energetic young Doberman. Just what you would expect. On the job, she is all business. She has handled every public situation with a steady demeanor. Stella’s training is ongoing; she is always finding new ways to help Cindy and excels at her job in the private home as well as in public places. She is a fine example of the versatility of Dobermans and an ambassador for the breed.
When we think of rescuing a dog, we think of providing a safe, loving home for a dog in need. Stella has what any rescue dog would love – a life where she is with her “person” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
But in this case, it is Stella who has rescued Cindy.
Julie Hoffman and Kiki
The recipient of the 2014 Judith Fellton Memorial Award is therapy dog Kiki, together with her handler Julie Hoffman they are regulars at their local VA Hospital.
Here is her story.
My rescued angel in a Doberman suit, Kiki, and I first met when I took her in, as I was a foster mom for Kansas City Doberman Rescue. Kiki was from the inner city, very skinny and lived outside where a Rottweiler had access to her, leaving her pregnant. I remember her being brought to my house where she quickly fit in and brought joy to my heart with her constantly wagging little stub and expressive floppy ears. You could look into her eyes and see a very old soul whose only desire was to please the person who cared for her.
Kiki had medical problems from her years of neglect and amongst those was a problem with leaking. We tried several medications and finally found one that would control her problem, most of the time. It is very hard to find a forever home for a dog that has a leaking problem and on medication. People sometimes are looking for a perfect dog and when people would hear that Kiki had problems they would choose the Doberman who did not. I took Kiki with me everywhere to get her used to all sorts of people and teach her things. There was a lot that she did not know because in her beginning years, she had little exposure to the life she deserved. She was mostly left alone in the backyard without human companionship.
I quickly saw in Kiki the ability to connect with people and their feelings. She came along with me to the nursing home to visit friends and made so many, we kept going back even after my friends had passed away. She would walk down the halls of the nursing home my Mom had been in, and select a room to wonder into. By the time I entered the room at the end of the leash, there she was charming the person either in bed or wheelchair. Kiki made no distinction based on incapacities or physical appearance. Everyone was exciting to her, taking everyone as they came without judgment. She started from acceptance and saw them as a person not a medical condition. I remember many times the elderly people that she met appeared to be having a really rough day. Tears would fill their eyes as they stroked her fur and she would give them little kisses on their hands. Probably the first nice touches some of them had experienced in a very long time. Many of them would start off the conversation with “I had a dog”, and then tell Kiki and me, about the dog that had made their life wonderful.
While visiting at the nursing homes I learned of a program where if Kiki and I could pass the exam, we could go visit the veterans at the VA Medical Centers. Of course I was the only one worried about passing the exam and with flying colors Kiki and I passed and we were granted permission to visit the fine men and women who selflessly fought for our country. For the past 5 years, every Friday, Kiki and I have been visiting the Topeka VA Medical Center where we have made countless friends.
One memorable patient was a gentleman who has dementia and due to physical impairment is unable to move around on his own or speak. It’s like Kiki knows the people who need her attention and every time we visit, this man’s room is the first one she goes to. During the first few months the Army veteran never said a word and just focused his eyes on Kiki as Kiki would nose and kiss his hand. Then finally one day after Kiki and I had been talking to him, he reached out for Kiki’s ears and held the velvet between his fingers and said, “Soft”, then smiled. So it began, now when he sees Kiki they always find something to talk about and we leave him as he waves at us goodbye, with the biggest smile imaginable.
Kiki also visits with hospice patients. We recently lost a very dear friend who we met at the VA. Every time Kiki would hit the door she knew where he was, even if he wasn’t in his room. He always kept a treat in his shirt pocket, just for her. On their initial greeting he would ask her to sit and then pull the treat out and hand it to her. Then she would give him a kiss and they would hug and continue to visit. One day when we visited, Kiki went to his room and he was not there. The look on Kiki’s face was one of concern and sadness. I asked one of the nurses where Mr. B was and she told me ICU. I then asked if we could visit him and the nurse said to wait, and she would see. We were granted permission to visit him as the nurse told me he had been insistently asking for Kiki. We walked across the street to the main hospital and up to ICU. When we entered Mr. B’s room his face lit up and Kiki’s whole body wiggled with joy, she had found her friend! We visited him every day for about a week before he was transferred to a hospice room, as his journey was ending. Kiki kept a vigil visiting him at least once a day. Soon Mr. B was in a coma like state and the nurses on the floor insisted that he would not acknowledge or recognize us but we could go down and see him anyway. I remember one of the nurses following us down to his room just to validate her opinion that we would not do him any good. When Kiki entered Mr. B’s room and I told him “guess who’s here” he opened his eyes and said “Kiki”! The nurse never said another word. In fact when we left that day, the nurses met us in the hall and asked us to come back to visit with them and all of the patients, even after our friend was gone. They said they needed cheering up too, as they worked in hospice and Kiki’s smile and cold nose was a welcome distraction. They were amazed at the reaction of the patients and of her abilities.
Lastly, I cannot possibly share with you all of the stories that have brought joy to my heart and many others. I can just tell you that Kiki is a wonderful creature and a wonderful ambassador to the breed. A breed that has sometimes been known as tough, protective and to some warped people, dangerous. Kiki is tough, despite being discarded and treated harshly but emerging unscarred. Protective, always watchful over the many she has loved and loved her. Dangerous, only to the fear and anguish faced by the many patients she has visited and the lives she has touched. Kiki I believe was a gift, sent to help us understand kindness, devotion, loyalty, gentleness, forgiveness and unconditional love, freely given! And I think as the old saying goes, she rescued me and is a true representative of the rescue community!
Rayanne Chamberlain and Bristol
Rayanne, a committed Doberman handler and founding member of Michigan Search and Rescue, first saw her future partner on a Midwest Doberman Rescue website. A 10 month old, pretty, little black and tan girl needed a home and definitely needed a job. She was deemed unruly and difficult to handle and definitely not a dog for a novice handler. A number of people had come forward to adopt the dog but none seemed experienced enough to be able to handle her. Each application had been rejected, until Rayanne came along.
In a combined effort between experienced Search and Rescue handlers who came forward and offered to test the dog for its potential, the support of the volunteers from Midwest Doberman Rescue and an enthusiastic and committed handler in Rayanne, the little doberman was soon on her way to Michigan to begin a new life and, in time, become a future FEMA dog prepared to save lives in disaster situations.
The first task was to build a bond with the little girl Rayanne had named, Bristol. The success of a search team is based on a foundation of trust and understanding that can only develop after months of working together in all kinds of situations. The bond between handler and dog is vital. The dog must be able to communicate with the handler and the handler must be able to trust what their dog is telling them. So for Rayanne, establishing a bond with Bristol came first.
At the same time, the little Doberman was already a 10 month old dog with habits that had been formed from previous life experiences. These habits were likely inappropriate for a search dog and she would need to be completely retrained with the necessary skills for search work.
When a handler starts working with a puppy, that dog is generally a blank slate and the necessary skills can be imprinted from the start but with a rescued doberman old habits must be identified and replaced with new ones that are vital for search dogs. This process may not only take months but is often a lifelong quest.
So for Rayanne and Bristol, the months that followed were arduous. For Rayanne it was constant training and thousands of miles commuting to work with other FEMA handlers in other states. A skill would be taught and then needed to test. If there was a problem, the skill must be retrained or adjusted until the dog could perform it flawlessly. With people’s lives at stake, a FEMA dog team responding to a disaster must be as close to perfect as possible. It is a commitment of time and money and is often filled with many disappointments.
For Rayanne Chamberlain and her rescued Doberman, Bristol, that commitment prevailed. With the mentorship and guidance of Shirley Hammond, the support and assistance of fellow team members at Michigan Search and Rescue and an unwavering determination to succeed, Rayanne and Bristol achieved their goal.
In the spring of 2013 almost three years after their first journey as a dog team together, Rayanne Chamberlain and Bristol became the 4th doberman dog team in history to have achieved FEMA Level 1 (internationally deployable) status.
The journey has been bittersweet for this team but Rayanne and those who stood by her side it is a huge achievement whose reward is in knowing that when the call comes, she and Bristol will be ready to contribute to saving someone’s life.
Scott Blank and Dacie
Dacie was originally pulled from a Dallas/Fort Worth area shelter by
an all-breed rescuer
who thought she could train Dacie for work in a police department. She soon learned, however,
that the police departments in the area had no interest in working a Doberman Pinscher, let alone
a rescue dog. The all-breed rescue asked Doberman Rescue of North Texas (DRNT) to take her
since they did not believe she was suitable for adoption as a family pet.
Dacie is on the small side of the Doberman Standard. She is a black and rust female with
cropped ears that do not stand. When she arrived at DRNT she was underweight, heartworm
positive, and a troublemaker. She would bark and try to fence fight with any dog that walked
past her kennel. She bounced constantly in her kennel like the floor was on fire. Dacie spent
many months at DRNT and a lot of potential adopters looked her over. But every time, her
extraordinary energy level and forwardness made the adopters choose a different dog. The
DRNT volunteers were beginning to despair of ever finding her a home. Finally, in November of
2010, Julie Munford, the director of DRNT, asked Scott Blank, one of the DRNT volunteers, to
foster Dacie and see whether it was possible to get a police officer to adopt her. Scott was asked
because his hobby is training and working drug detection dogs. He works with an organization
called Dogs Against Drugs.
“Dogs Against Drugs” or D.A.D. is part of the nonprofit “Children’s Crisis
Prevention Network” out of Athens, Texas. D.A.D. provides inspections and
education programs with dogs. Most of the work is inspecting middle and high
schools for drugs. We also take the dogs to parades, adoption fairs, and other
public appearances to do demonstrations and to promote drug prevention. Dogs
Against Drugs is not a police agency and does not arrest kids. They are private
citizens that do random inspections at the request of school authorities to protect
schools and keep the campuses drug free. D.A.D. uses mostly Labradors and
Golden Retrievers for its dogs because they are considered to be more
approachable than most working breeds.
I started taking my foster dog, Dacie, to the training sessions for D.A.D. I
hoped to get her ready for work and possibly certified to make it easier to find her
a department to work at. Dacie did not recognize any odors in the beginning, but
she showed some potential. After a couple of months of training I talked the
director at D.A.D. into letting me use Dacie for inspections. The director was
concerned about what the clients would think of a Doberman in the schools. The
director requested that Dacie be worked in the parking lots only.
In addition to becoming a drug-detection dog, Dacie was becoming a member of
our family. I adopted Dacie in February of 2011. I took Dacie to the National
Narcotic Detector Dog Association national event that April in Angleton, Texas,
to become certified. The National Narcotic Detector Dog Association (NNDDA)
is a professional, nonprofit organization dedicated to the utilization and
proficiency of scent detector dogs for the benefit of Law Enforcement and Private
Industry. The purpose of the NNDDA is to provide training pertaining to the laws
of search and seizure, utilizing scent detector dogs and a method of certification
for court purposes.
While the NNDDA Basic Certification is for only marijuana and cocaine, I was
very proud that in six short months we were fully certified. Dacie and I are
certified as a team to find marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and
Dacie was very helpful finishing the 2010/2011 school year. At the start of the
2011/2012 school year, Dacie was the first D.A.D. dog to locate a stash of illegal
In April of 2012 we went to the NNDDA National Training Conference in
Vicksburg, Mississippi. We were fully certified again and this time we
participated as a team together in the competition. In this competition, held once a
year, the dog and handler team are given three minutes to find as many hidden
drug stashes as possible out of more than twenty stashes in the room. The law
enforcement officials observing her work were very impressed with Dacie’s
are smart dogs! This year Dacie and I did not place but next year I think we
should. We are training with more targets and varying the number.
Dacie is an amazing athlete. She has good toy drive and a great work ethic. She
never gives up and always wants to work. Her hunting I.Q. is much higher than
my other detection dogs. She can locate the odors much faster. Now that she has a
job and an outlet for all her energy, she has become a wonderful companion. Her
small size allows her to work longer than a dog with a big frame. She is like a
lightweight boxer. She keeps going round after round. Her floppy ears are even a
benefit. They make her more approachable and make it easier to read her body
language when she smells an odor. I am thankful every day that Doberman
Rescue of North Texas treated her heartworms and helped me find such a great
Earlier this year, Scott was concerned that Dacie’s career as a drug
detection dog might
be over. The budget crunch in Texas meant a reduction in funding for education, which limited
the amount that schools could contribute to cover D.A.D. expenses. But in late August, Scott
was able to obtain insurance coverage for Dacie so on August 31, 2012, she went back to work
making schools safer.
Bruce and Kim Parsons and Jake
It was October 2009. Fort Worth Animal Care and Control received a call from someone who said their neighbor had been abusing two dogs. The dogs were always chained outside on the deck where they could only walk as far as their empty food bowls. They had no place to keep warm during the cool autumn nights.
What the animal control officers saw would haunt them for years. Before their eyes were two Dobermans. To say they were nothing but skin and bones is no exaggeration. The dogs were seized and Doberman Rescue of North Texas was contacted to see if the organization could help. “Sure!” was the immediate reply. Both dogs were taken directly to the rescue’s veterinarian.
The female appeared to be the mother. Although thin, she was obviously in better health than her son. It’s not a mother’s instinct to attend to her own needs before her child’s, but this was life or death. Her survival instincts had kept her alive and she was well enough to be enrolled in the adoption program at Doberman Rescue of North Texas. Her son, well, he was nearly dead.
The young, fawn, cropped-eared male was emaciated. His thin, withered skin draped over each of his protruding bones. He could not stand. His prognosis was grim, at best. The veterinarian performed a few blood tests to determine if the best decision might have been to humanely end this dog’s short, but horrific, life.
As soon as the lab results were available, the vet rubbed his eyes, again and again, in disbelief. This boy had not gone into renal failure. His kidneys and liver were functioning normally. It was a miracle! It was also a signal for the vet to proceed with vigor to help this dog fight for his life.
News travels quickly in the world of dog lovers. A few members of the Doberman Pinscher Club of Dallas had heard of this tragic case. They wanted to visit this dog, as if to see for themselves that human beings could be so cruel. Nothing could have prepared them for what they would see. This gaunt figure; the distant gaze in his eyes; the limp form that remained motionless in order to conserve what energy it could in order to keep his basic body functions going.
After recovering from the initial shock, they realized that what was before them was more terrifying than any nightmare either one of them could imagine, and they broke into tears. Tears brought forth from deep seated anger and complete sadness. One had brought a new fluffy bed for him to lie on. When it was placed before him, he had no idea what it was. He didn’t know what to do with it. Nobody had ever shown him such kindness.
They asked, “What is his name?” The staff shrugged their shoulders as if to say, “I don’t know.” With Halloween around the corner and his light coloration, the ladies named him Kasper . . . the friendly dog. Knowing Kasper had a long road to recovery, his story was shared with the members of the Doberman Pinscher Club of Dallas at that evening’s meeting. Kasper needed everyone’s thoughts and prayers. The Doberman Rescue of North Texas was also going to need financial assistance for his medical care. In less than twenty minutes the club members donated more than $760 to help defray his medical costs.
Three weeks passed and he continued to hang on. He was on a continuous I.V. drip which provided hydration and nutrition. Once the dedicated medical staff could feed him food slurry, they decided he could now go to a foster home. He weighed 29 pounds. A volunteer from Doberman Rescue of North Texas brought Kasper home with her to foster. His foster parents would need to exercise strict self-control and not overfeed this ravenous boy. His meals came at 3 hour intervals around the clock. Kasper eagerly devoured each speck of food and licked the bowl clean every time.
Within four weeks, Kasper gained 17 pounds. That’s a 4 pound weight gain every week! Although he was putting on weight, his hair and skin sloughed off in large patches as newly generated tissues grew in their place. Eventually, Kasper made a full recovery from his neglect and abuse, and reached a healthy weight.
On June 6, 2010, a couple visited Doberman Rescue of North Texas. The Doberman they had adopted from the same rescue years before had sadly reached the end of her life, and left a void in theirs. They just wanted to visit with the Dobermans and had not intended to adopt right away; until they met Kasper. After taking Kasper for a walk around the grounds, the man felt an immediate bond with him. Kasper went home with his new family the next evening and then left on a trip with them to San Antonio the following weekend. Kasper happily strolled with his new Mom and Dad along the River Walk and the mission trails, dined with them at outdoor restaurants along the river, and even managed to gain a sleeping spot on the bed instead of in his crate.
No longer emaciated and ghostly, but healthy and energetic, the name Kasper lost its fit. His new family mulled over a long list of names and decided to call him Jake. Jake? Why Jake?? You see, Jake is an honorable name. A jake is British slang for something that is satisfactory. When referring to a person it means that an individual is trust worthy – someone you can count on to be there when you really need them.
Due to his earlier neglect, and pending heartworm treatment, the family was prepared to work through possible behavioral issues, but they never had to. Despite his rough beginnings, this Doberman turned out to be extremely well-balanced. Jake underwent his heartworm treatment with an admirable disposition. He was always respectful of the bird and two cats already in the household and of a second rescue dog introduced a few weeks later. He and the female German Shorthair Pointer became fast friends. Yes, she was a keeper. This experience went so well that the adopters continue to foster and find new homes for more dogs.
None of this would be possible without Jake at the helm. Proving to be a mentor in this capacity, he welcomes the new dogs, patiently helps them learn the ropes, and encourages them when teaching them to play. He really is a natural when it comes to rescuing and rehabilitating other dogs. He is a Jake.
When we think of people whose job it is to rescue people, firefighters come to mind. Firefighters are the essence of trust worthiness and to be known as a Jake by other firefighters is a noble compliment. Upon the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, the events of that day and the heroic efforts of those who responded are still fresh in our memories. That day 343 firefighters lost their lives, as did thousands of American civilians. Firefighters relied on Search and Rescue Dogs to help them go through the rubble of what was once the World Trade Center.
Is it a coincidence that the dog, Jake, was adopted by a firefighter? Someone who cherishes life? Someone who isn’t afraid to commit to a dog that surely would have a bushel full of special needs? For those who have worked with rescued animals, especially those who have taken them into their homes, it’s not until the defenses come down and the trust is built; it’s not until the joy and the healing love of a sad animal take flight that we think to ask: “Who rescued whom?” Which one is the real jake: the human or the dog?
You see, this isn’t just a story about saving a dog. It’s a story about every cog in a great big wheel turning together with other wheels, like the workings of a masterfully crafted clock. It’s a circle of life where everyone plays an important role. It’s organizations like Doberman Pinscher Club of America, Doberman Pinscher Club of Dallas, Doberman Rescue of North Texas, Fort Worth Animal Control, the Search and Rescue Community, veterinarians, and a population of people who care all working towards a common goal.
It’s about Finding One Another TM. It’s a story about being Jake.
Leslie Garabedian-Franzes and Blaze
The DPCA Rescue Committee received many wonderful nominations for this year’s Judith Fellton Rescue Dog of the Year Memorial Award. We chose "Blaze," a dog whose story was submitted by his owner, Leslie Garabedian-Franzese, and whose words we have excerpted and paraphrased to briefly tell his story.
Leslie wrote that in February 2008 she found a Doberman puppy listed on PetFinder as she searched the ads there. She searches frequently, and even though she wasn’t in the market for a Doberman (she already had two at home), this particular ad caught her attention. Leslie wrote, "His pictures stopped me in my tracks, and I just had to find out more about this beautiful boy. He was listed as a 4 month old male red [Doberman] expected to be extra large when full grown. They said he was a lovebug, very smart, knew how to sit, give paw, and listen well" She decided she wanted to offer him a forever home. When she went to pick him up after her application for adoption was approved, she discovered that he was outside the main adoption event facility in a van because he had developed kennel cough. When she first saw him, she said, she discovered a "little [Doberman] boy, so very skinny, underweight, malnourished, [and] sick-curled into a little ball on the back seat shivering from the cold (it was March 1st and freezing outside). He looked like a little skeleton with all of his bones (ribs, spine, etc.) showing. He had no body fat at all to keep his little body warm. On the way home, we stopped at the Arby’s drive thru window and I bought him the biggest roast beef sandwich. I thought he deserved it. Now every year on his anniversary date of March 1st I take him back to Arby’s for a roast beef sandwich in memory of his first day with us."
Almost from the moment he entered her life, Leslie says, she knew he was special. "There is a special calmness about him that I’m not even sure I can explain. I realized he had a beautiful spirit and soul with an amazingly calm temperament and demeanor. Three days after bringing him home I took him for his first puppy check-up with my vet. Needless to say the vet was horrified at his overall condition, especially his ears. Both ears were so infected that the ear tissue was necrotic and black with puss pouring out. His left ear was missing chunks of tissue on the sides and looked as if someone had taken bites out of it." Blaze lost one of his infected and necrosed ears right there in the vet’s office; Leslie knew the previous owner had cropped Blaze’s ears himself, and she knew they were infected as a result, but this was completely unexpected. She took it in stride, as did Blaze, and the vet did emergency surgery to remove the rest of the necrotic tissue from both of Blaze’s ears. His ears could never be cropped to the Breed Standard now, of course, but the vet was able to make them even by rounding them, giving Blaze a kind of "teddy bear" look.
Leslie goes on to list Blaze’s accomplishments: "At 8-1/2 months he passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. He then went on to take therapy dog classes at 11 months old and then passed the therapy dog test at 1 year old. Since then Blaze has used his therapy dog skills in many different areas:
• Holy Name Hospital visiting all patients with and
emphasis on the cancer center including chemo
• Banyan School reading program
• Central Avenue School reading program
• Children’s Therapy Center working with cerebral palsy children
• Children’s Institute working with autistic children
Because of his exceptional abilities in working with children, Leslie decided to have him take his therapy dog training to the next level of "Animal Assisted Therapy" (AAA), which is organized by an organization called Dogs in Service (DIS). Leslie says, "DIS AAA dogs visit acute pediatric patients and help the children through their medical ordeals. It is a goal oriented program as there is a specific desired outcome for every visit with every child. The dog’s visit is designed to assist in some way with treatment, recovery process or hospital stays. Orders come down from the physicians and the program is run under the guidance and supervision of a Child Life Specialist. Patients are specifically selected to participate in the program and goals are set for each child. All visits are documented and the progress toward the established goals are noted. Examples of visit goals are:
• Ambulation (post op walking)
• Medical Play (when a child is afraid of a procedure)
• OR Prep (prior to surgery)
• Range of Motion Exercises (encouraging use of limbs)
• Compliance Protocols (taking meds, etc.)
• Reintroduction of Solid Foods
• Communication (speech therapy)
AAA dogs are required to have specialized training and pass tests in addition to those typically required by therapy dog training. To participate in the DIS, every dog/handler team must have already successfully completed the AKC CGC as well as a national therapy organization test (we are affiliated with Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs). Finally, the dog/handler team must pass the DIS’s own stringent exam."
Leslie was notified on a Monday that the DIS exam would be given that Saturday - five days away. She felt unprepared for this exam, one for which most dogs and handlers participate in an 8 to 12 week training program that she had been unaware of until that moment. She decided to take it anyway, at the program director’s suggestion, if only for practice. She scheduled a time slot to take the test that Saturday with no expectations of passing. Of course Blaze came through with flying colors, and passed the test. She says, "I actually started crying when we found out [we passed]. I felt like the biggest fool sitting there crying, but the feeling of pride was so completely overwhelming. The program director, Susan, then advised us that we are the first dog/ handler team, since the inception of the program, to pass the test on the first try without having taken the 8-12 week preparation course. WOW! I can’t begin to explain how this felt. This whole process just reassured me of how special Blaze is. I felt like the proud momma as he received his beautiful new vest, collar and leash. DIS really believes that Blaze is going to make a wonderful addition to their program, and so do I. There has never been a dog better suited to do this type of work, and we are anxiously looking forward to getting started." We’d like to thank Leslie for sharing this wonderful story with all of us. Along with Leslie, we couldn’t be prouder of Blaze. He is truly an exceptional Doberman, with a "mom" to match. Congratulations to both of you!
Gwen Gerow and Remington
Although our 2009 Fellton Award winner was unable to be present to receive his award, we want to honor him here. He is an outstanding example of a rescued Doberman, one who epitomizes the essence of the breed. "Remington" belongs to Gwen Gerow. This is what Gwen wrote about "Remington" when she answered our call for submissions for the 2009 Fellton Memorial Award:
"How do I convey in words, the essence of a dog that has brought so much to my life? Not just my life, but to almost everyone he meets. A dog who becomes dubbed "My Favorite Doberman" by those who know him. A dog who has changed my life forever. That dog is Remington and this is his story.
The journey begins six years ago. Several months after the loss of our first Doberman, I contacted Susan Roberts-Grew of Pixie’s Legacy Doberman Rescue in Rochester, NY to inquire about the adoption process. A few months later, Susan contacted us to say that she had a dog available that met our "criteria", which were pretty basic: Had to be able to live with a cat, and could be trusted with children, even though we don’t have any, many of our friends and family members do. Sex, age, color did not matter to us. On October 24, 2003, we met Remington. I will never forget the first time I saw him, a young, black male with docked tail and cropped ears that didn’t stand erect. Full of energy. He jumped in our car as soon as the door was open, and came home with us for what was supposed to be a "trial weekend". Remington bonded with me almost immediately, and by day 2, it had become quite clear that he had found his forever home. Little is known of Remington’s history prior to coming with us. His age was guessed to be around 3 or 4 at that time. He had been originally picked up as a "stray", roaming the streets of the Buffalo/ Rochester area. He spent time in at least two or three homes, none of which worked out for unknown reasons, before coming to live with us. The first few months were fascinating, as I watched Remington break free of his past, leaving behind the unknown things that haunted him, and beginning to develop into the confident, self-assured dog he is today.
Remington’s boundless energy was evident from the beginning. Clearly, this was dog that wanted and needed to work. Rather than attempting to harness that energy, I embraced it. Looking back, this seems to be exactly what we both needed at that time. I did some research and in January 2004 decided to sign on with a local club for some basic Obedience training. This would be the first formal training of any kind for either of us. The first night was nearly a disaster as Remington was completely over-stimulated by the class setting, and I was not equipped to understand how to manage those behaviors. I did not think we would return for week two. However, with assurances from our instructors that his behavior was entirely "normal", we did return. Remington proceeded to finish that session at the head of his class. We both discovered that we really enjoyed training and working together, as we were both eager to learn, and training provided an outlet for Remington’s strong work ethic. We continued to take more advanced lessons. In November of 2005, we entered our first ever Obedience Trial. Remington qualified in three consecutive days, earning a first place Finish in Novice A on day 3, and "High Scoring Doberman in Trial", en route to his "Companion Dog" title. During that first basic Obedience class, I discovered what would turn out to be both my and Remington’s true passion-Agility. We began taking lessons in the summer of 2004, and Remington proved to be a natural. Later that year we entered our first ever AKC Agility Trial. Remington finished both of his AKC Novice titles in two shows, all with first place finishes. We were hooked. We continued to train, compete, and learn together, Remington was excelling in Agility. We made many new friends, both human and canine. Life was good.
Then in the summer of 2005, we faced our first crisis together. I had taken Remington to see a specialist regarding an ongoing issue he had prior to coming with us. He underwent surgery in June 2005 to remove what would turn out to be rectal carcinoma. His long term prognosis was "guarded". During weeks of leash walking only, I accepted that I would be content with this as our only form of exercise so long as I had my dog. Remington however, was not content with that assessment. Not only did he rebound from his surgery, he thrived. It was visibly apparent that Remington felt he had a new lease on life. To this day, people who are faced with similar circumstances will approach me to inquire how Remington is doing, looking for assurances and a success story. Looking for some hope to cling to that their dog can also survive seemingly dire circumstances. Remington is living proof of that, and has likely provided more inspiration to people than I will ever know.
After taking a few months off to recuperate from his surgery, we finally returned to Agility where things just took off. Throughout 2006, Remington continued to compile successes in the Agility ring, but nothing compared to what lie ahead in 2007. It began with a trip to Ohio for our first appearance in the AKC Agility National Championships, where Remington was the 2nd highest scoring Doberman, finishing 39th out of 139 dogs in the 24" class. Shortly thereafter, he qualified for the 2008 event as well. He continued to compete throughout the 2007 season qualifying at an amazing pace, en route to what would prove to be the crowning moments of his Agility career. In October, we traveled to Fitchburg, MA for our first ever trip to the DPCA National Specialty and Remington’s appearance in the DPCA Agility Top Twenty event. The week started out with Remington participating in the Working Aptitude Evaluation, where he displayed true Doberman spirit by successfully completing each test to earn his Working Aptitude Certification. Then came Top 20 night. As the only male and only rescue in the event, combined with his obvious enthusiasm for the game, Remington quickly became a crowd favorite. In an exciting and unforgettable finish, Remington ended the event as first runner-up. For the rest of Nationals week, people recognized us wherever we went, congratulating us and commenting on how much they enjoyed watching Agility Top 20.
Remington’s hot streak did not end at the DPCA National. Two weeks later, at a trial in Springfield, MA, Remington qualified in six out of six runs, earning "Double Q’s" #19, 20, & 21, along with his AKC Master Agility Champion (MACH) title. In just two full seasons of competing, Remington had gone from Novice A to Champion.
Then in January 2008, we were dealt a devastating blow, as Remington was diagnosed with every Doberman owner’s worst fear - DCM. Life as we had known it suddenly was turned upside down. His long term prognosis was not good. At the prime of his life and the height of his career, we stopped training and competing in Agility. But the story does not end there. Despite competing for only half of the 2008 season, Remington had amassed enough points to once again land a spot in the DPCA Agility Top 20, finishing at #18 overall. But the best part of all is that Remington continues to defy the odds, still going strong a year and a half after his original diagnosis. And once again, he continues to be a source of inspiration to others who are battling this disease. People want to know what his treatment regimen consists of, and how he responds to the medications. He continues to be a success story and a hope for others who face this disease.
So, how do I convey in words the essence of a dog whose courage, confidence, loyalty, stable temperament, and zest for life are, in my opinion, unparalleled? Sometimes there is more to a dog than meets the eye. You can measure ribbons and titles earned, accomplishments achieved. But you cannot measure what is in a dog’s heart... his will to live and embrace life. You cannot measure the friendships formed... the lives touched... even of those who we have never met.
Remington’s trialing days are behind him. He has traded them in for a life of leisure on the couch, and an occasional game of Frisbee. But his indomitable spirit and love for life are ever present. The journey continues. We do not know where it leads, but we will go there together." So to Gwen, and to "Remington," we off our sincere congratulations on a job very, very well done. Thank you for representing us all so wonderfully.
Pete and Patty Fiordimondo and Fritz
“Fritz” was a stray in East St. Louis, IL at a kill shelter. Midwest Doberman Rescue received a call telling them if they wanted him they could come and get him. They did. My husband and I had Doberman experience so we thought we may make time for the “challenging guy.” Shortly after we got Fritz, my husband had to have back surgery. When my husband came home from the hospital, I worried that Fritz would knock him down or jump on him. Pete, my husband, had to walk around the house as recovery and Fritz would walk gently and slowly beside him. Then, I knew that he was different.
Fritz’s first job was to donate blood at the St. Louis Animal blood bank. He was very good, and never minded all the needles. Fritz earned his TT, his CGC, and then added a TDI. Fritz also has his VCC and VCCX titles. He was a therapy dog at St. John’s Medical Center and now visits the patients at St. John’s Rehabilitation Center in Chesterfield, MO.
Every year, Fritz works at the AKC Museum of the Dog at Summer Camp for Kids. He is a great ambassador for the breed, as well as, handsome & very sweet. Kids get to learn about dogs, dog safety, and caring for dogs. The kids also get to pet him… That is his favorite part. No child leaves the building without a Fritz Kiss!
Fritz also won Courageous Canine of 2005 from the Animal Protective Association for all his hard work he did throughout the year. I recently became a Canine Good Citizen evaluator and Fritz is my “test dog.” Fritz’s job is to meet other dogs, and my job is to see if those dogs have manners in public with humans and animals. Fritz teaches our fosters how to be “dogs.”
Congratulations to Patty, Pete, and Fritz! Thank you for setting such a great example of what rescued Dobermans can accomplish.
Laura Holum and Terra
Terra is a rescued female with a heart of gold. She was adopted in 2002 by Laura Holum. Terra has been by Laura’s side since. Terra has saved Laura’s life on more than one occasion. Terra has an uncanny sense of knowing what Laura needs. One time Laura had fallen from her wheelchair and could not get up. Laura told Terra to get the phone and Terra got the phone. Since Terra has received the Judith Fellton award she has saved another woman’s life. Terra instinctively knows what her to do to help the humans around her. Terra is an outstanding example of the Doberman breed. She is also a wonderful example of Dobermans tossed aside and given a new chance through rescue. Congratulations to Terra 2/3 UCD CDX VC WAC HIC THD CGC TDI and the 2007 UDC Service Dog of the Year.
Sandy Earnshaw and Bailey
In nearly two years of life, the female Doberman had never known human kindness, care or affection. Passed from one set of irresponsible owners to the next, she was kept outside with little human contact. Her last "owners" simply departed Virginia, leaving her penned up outside with no food or water as winter approached. Somehow she survived many weeks of freezing temperatures and starvation, existing on nothing but rainwater, before she was found.
The rural ACOs where she was impounded, otherwise very seasoned workers, were so horrified with this dog’s condition they bought her canned food out of their own pockets. When I went to examine the dog they named Baby, they held forth photos, exclaiming hers was the most gruesome case they’d ever seen.
After days of "fattening up", the dog remained a walking skeleton. She deferentially accepted my every move, not shyly but respectfully. I examined and vaccinated her, obtained blood and fecal specimens, and proceeded to bathe her. Clearly this dog had never had a bath, nail trim or ear cleaning, but to each procedure she acquiesced quizzically but politely. Despite a wholesale lack of socialization, she was gentle and accepting. A heart of gold shone through horrendous neglect, mistreatment and filth. We offered her toys, but even the concept of "play" was, sadly, foreign.
Baby entered a Doberman Rescue foster home and not long afterward was adopted by a wonderful rescue Mom, Sandy Earnshaw. Sandy took Baby, now "Bailey" through obedience classes. She poured time and effort into socializing her, teaching her from the ground up the meaning of love and trust and showing her that humans really can be decent. Sandy then took Bailey for her Canine Good Citizen test, which she passed on her first try!
Most incredibly, Bailey passed her Therapy Dog test with flying colors! She began her life’s work of uplifting spirits and bringing love to people on November 3, 2005 with her first visit to Saucan Valley Manor, an assisted living facility, representing the organization Pleasure of Your Company Therapy Dogs, Inc. "Bailey is gentle and wonderful, everybody loves her and she brings many smiles to residents’ faces!" come the frequent reports.
Bailey now visits residents and patients at several facilities each month. She and Sandy also have two other great accomplishments. They single handedly established the first therapy dog reading program for children at the Reading, PA Public Library. And not long ago, Bailey began accompanying chemotherapy patients as they receive their cancer treatments at a local hospital. She now works bringing comfort, joy and improved health to people five or more days each month.
A neglected, throw-away Doberman that was rescued from death’s doorstep never having known decent care or human kindness, Bailey now devotes her life to sharing her own special brand of "healing magic" with all of mankind!
Cindy Sidell and Polo
Losing my training partner and soulmate "Wheel" to cancer in May 1999 was so
painful that I retreated from all dog activities and Doberman lists. By chance
or fate, however, the very day that I logged back on to the Doberworld list I
happened to read a post that Bruce Rogers of Doberman Rescue of North Texas (DRNT)
wrote about a special Doberman.
This Doberman had been rescued, by the Fort Worth police and the Fort Worth Humane Society, from a yard in a run-down house, where he was staked out and being used as pit-bull-training bait. He was covered with oozing, infected wounds and no less than 400 ticks. He was so weak that he had to be carried to the Humane Society van.
Bruce had gone to the Humane Society to pick up a female Doberman and was under instruction not to take any additional dogs, as DRNT was filled to the limit. However, a Humane Society employee asked Bruce to take a look at the pit-bull-bait Doberman.
Reading Bruce's experience tore at my heart:
"I contemplated the Doberman we did not have room for, as tears welled up in my eyes.
'Could we check his teeth, to see how old he is?' I choked out. We entered the kennel.
The dog stood quietly and let me rub his ears, and check his teeth. He looked to be five
or six years old. I had to be careful touching his face, to not hurt him by touching his wounds.
I stood up, took a few breaths to try to regain control and said, "When can I pick him up?"
I had to stare at the floor, after all this is Texas and real men don't cry."
I flew up to Dallas regularly during Polo's recovery and was thrilled to be able to adopt him a few months later. Despite his horrific background, he came with no baggage at all. He was scarred on the outside but breath-taking on the inside...part happy-go-lucky puppy and part wise-old-man -- and all those parts were in all the right places.
If a person went through what Polo did, that person would be in therapy or
prison...but Polo loved every person and every animal. He was truly proof that
we all do have guardian angels who tend to us in our darkest hours. And,
actually, although I'd love to believe that he was unique, I know there are lots
of Polo's in Rescue Foster Homes and Shelters all over the country. All they
need is a chance.
Patrick & Joyce MacKay and Dax
In October 1998 I lost my First Dobe to a Tragic Car Accident.
My wife and I were just Lost without our Dober companion. We are very big into
Agility and knew that we wanted an active female with a good amount of drive, a
good personality, and had to be a Rescue. We looked at several nice Dobes in WI,
but they didn’t have the drive or personality we were looking for. One day in
November my wife was surfing the Internet & called me into the Computer room, “
I think I’ve found the Dober-girl we’ve been looking for, her name is “Diamond”,
she’s at a rescue in Clinton Michigan”. We decided to pursue more information &
research further by contacting the Rescue Organization- ‘Second Chance Doberman
Rescue”. We talked with Arda Kuney on the phone many times. It was a very
difficult time for us. Arda was so patient, kind, and sharing- plus she has an
incredible amount of knowledge & experience! We were sure she had a good
understanding of the kind of Dobe we were looking for & we had a good feeling
about her honesty in describing “Diamond”. Arda said if we decided to come see
her, she wouldn’t adopt any Dobes, until we had a chance meet Diamond and the
others. So we drove 8+ hours to MI with our first dog (Mutley- an English
Setter), in the hopes of finding our newest addition to our family. When I met
Diamond, there was an instant connection & I knew “She’s the one”. We liked the
way she played and chased the other Dobes. Watching her interactions, she showed
an amazing, natural, communication- being more gentle & giving space to those
that needed it, while rough housing & body slamming with others. Diamond was 2
years old, very petite & skinny; 49 pounds when she went into rescue- 51 pounds
when we met her. She was shy and nervous meeting new people and in new
situations. She was a “talker” & a whiner! At Second Chance, they nicknamed her
“The Mouth”, since she was always letting them know how she felt. From her
rescue paperwork & history Diamond had 2 previous owners before us. A car hit
her, when she was 6 months old & she suffered a broken pelvis & a broken jaw. In
early ’98 she was dumped at a vet clinic, when they tracked down her owners,
they said they “just didn’t want her anymore”. In May of ’98, a lady adopted
Diamond from the vet clinic. She really liked her & tried to make it work, but
said Diamond was a digger, a runner (run away), nervous, high strung, and didn’t
listen… the lady decided Diamond was more than she could handle & that she
didn’t have the time or energy needed to work with her on all these issues, so
she surrendered her to Arda at Second Chance Dobes in Nov ’98. Arda knew she was
a great candidate for us and told us with love, trust & patience, plus obedience
work, exercise and a job- she could be an ideal companion. After spending a
Saturday afternoon at Arda’s, we agreed, adopted Diamond, and drove back to WI
to start our new life together.
We wanted to give her a new name, for her new life… being Star Trek fans, we chose "Dax" (a strong female character on Deep Space Nine). When we applied for her ILP# to compete in Agility, we wanted to honor the rescue that united us, so her AKC Registered name came to be “Second Chance Diamond-Dax”. Dax has always been smart, willing to learn, and eager to please. In the beginning she was very insecure, skittish & nervous in new situations, except with other dogs. We have always tried to be very patient and allow her to investigate new things & people at her own pace while rewarding any signs of confidence. We never pushed Dax to do things she was uncomfortable with and tried to slowly expand her world, although we had to take her to dog shows with us. At first it was sad how she would shut down and get so visibly agitated. We didn’t coddle her, but we quickly diverted her attention or moved to a place where she could be more comfortable and calm down. We think it helped Dax, that we had another dog to keep her company while we were at work. They became best buddies right away and played well together. Dax watched our other dog for behavior cues & reassurance when in new situations. Progress was slow but steady. After about 6 months we started to notice that her confidence had grown, she became more relaxed & able to handle the crowds & noise when she accompanied us to dog shows. She started agility training. She always loved the running & jumping & was a natural. She had a tough time with the A-Frame and dogwalk. She was terrified of the teeter and closed chute. So we would try a little, then skip it & try again another day/time. It’s been an amazing, rewarding journey to see her blossom from that skinny, nervous waif into a strong, confident, adventurous and easy-going Dobe.
We are grateful every day, for the pleasure of having Dax as part of our life, she always makes me smile. I’m so proud of how far she’s come and she never ceases to amaze me. Her nickname now is: “Wiggles” since her joy for life shows through & when she’s happy, her whole body wiggles!