TRADITION, LEADERSHIP AND THE AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB
Excerpts from the AKC Delegates Meeting Minutes, September 13, 2011
Dennis Sprung’s President’s report: Please stand for a moment of silence in memory of the tragedy which occurred during our meeting ten years ago.
(A moment of silence was observed.)
Thank you. A great deal has changed in each of our lives as a result of that day ( September 11, 2001 ). Let's share some of what occurred and AKC's accomplishments in this area. That morning, Ron (Menaker) and I were in the lobby of this very hotel, when Blackie (Nygood) came up and said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center . We walked over to the deserted bar area in the lobby where an elderly gentleman was watching the news. When we approached, he said to us, "My son called last night. One of our planes is missing and they're coming to get us." Moments later, the second plane hit. When we turned around, the gentleman was gone.
That day, we were all together. There were 284 Delegates in attendance, approximately 152 of you are still serving. Naturally, the meeting bordered on chaotic. We hugged and reassured each other outwardly, but inside many of us felt fear and anger. There were many valid but opposing thoughts of what to do. After a discussion about the agenda and a vote for the standing committees, we adjourned and helped one another begin going home or finding safe haven for the night.
In reflecting upon the 9/11 anniversary, the thought that always resonates with me is the type of special people that make up our community. I recall how the DOGNY project came about, allowing the American Kennel Club to honor search and rescue dogs that helped in Pennsylvania, Washington and New York City, and will provide some behind-the-scenes facts.
It was very much a shared success. Delegate Tom Davies’ Springfield Kennel Club was the very first sponsor, and many clubs followed. FedEx, IAMS, J.P. Morgan and Hartz became major corporate sponsors. Before too long, numerous other organizations heeded our call for support, and we received help from many more household names.
It took until the following evening for me to arrive home. The Ladies Kennel Association was holding a meeting in my house, so one could find me in the basement. CBS Radio began broadcasting a plea for the donation of a portable x-ray machine for rescue dogs that were hurt searching through the rubble. My thought was: Dog people could do that, so I went up the stairs and asked the ladies to post an on-line request to purchase an x-ray machine. About nine p.m. , a call came in, and we were able to get everything we needed from a salesman in West Virginia .
Our next challenge was how to transport the x-ray machine, cartons of film, aprons and gloves. So another request went out to relay the equipment to Ground Zero. Dozens of our own caring dog people called throughout the evening, and by early morning the race was on. From West Virginia to Maryland to Pennsylvania , ending up in New Jersey with Afghan Hound breeders Bob and Angela DiNicola, who passed it off for the final delivery.
Luckily, AKC had presented one of our very first Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) to a member of the K-9 Unit at the Queensboro Kennel Club the year prior, through the courtesy of Linda Lacchia and Rey and Viola Burgos. A call was made to Lieutenant Donadio, and he instructed us to have the equipment brought through the Lincoln Tunnel and to proceed down 11th Avenue until we were stopped. And indeed we were stopped, and allowed to make one phone call to the lieutenant. Within minutes we were surrounded by police and unmarked cars with sirens blasting, and escorted to the very street corner of Ground Zero. Just as the car was coming to a stop, the veterinarians from the Suffolk County SPCA , headed by Gerald Lauber, came running towards us and started to assemble the x-ray machine. We weren't there long enough to see it in use, as we soon were escorted out of Ground Zero. But I knew then and there: The American Kennel Club did the right thing. It was really the most emotional moment of my life. The streets lining our departure had tens of thousands of people waving flags and cheering us. But I knew a lot better -- they were cheering you, the AKC family.
In the back of my mind was another thought: We could do more. So the idea for DOGNY actually evolved just two days after 9/11, eventually raising over $3.5 million dollars for search and rescue organizations throughout our country as we worked with fanciers, corporations and the public. In fact, it was with these funds that the AKC CAR Canine Support and Relief Fund was begun. Since that time, AKC CAR has made numerous significant grants nationwide.
Interestingly, following 9/11, the government chose to keep secret which search and rescue organizations came to the three cities with their dogs but AKC staff did the research and identified over 90 amateur and professional organizations that went to all three cities. Each organization was sent several thousand dollars as a thank-you and as a way to defer their costs. After all, this could occur again -- where you live.
Looking back, the project almost didn't happen. Daphna Straus was hired as a consultant. Today she is our AVP of Business Development, and she, along with our legal team, began working through the maze of red tape necessary for the City to give us contractual permission to have statues displayed on the streets to commemorate the very first anniversary of 9/11. For some unknown reason, the newly-elected Bloomberg administration, taking over from everybody's hero, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, seemed to concentrate on things other than the AKC -- can you imagine? Almost two months into the project, it was time to call Co-Chair Karen LeFrak, and tell her about my frustration. Actually, I bitched a whole lot. This project may not go anywhere. Surprisingly, early the next morning I received a call from the First Deputy Mayor stating the City was ready to sign. After patting myself on the back about a hundred times -- I mean, this was like going best -- I remembered to call Karen to tell her about this coincidentally good news, which I did -- dead silence. "Can you hear me?" There was more silence. "Okay, what's going on?" After my call the previous day, Karen walked over to Mayor Bloomberg's townhouse and left a note on his kitchen table.
We had to figure out how to transport 111 raw sculptures from the foundry to different artists’ studios around the city, then have each one individually picked up and brought to another company to be mounted on bases. We reached out to fancier Honi Reisman who arranged a conference call with Ken May, the Senior Vice President of Fed Ex. Again, AKC was lucky, perhaps because we were doing the right thing. He said, "We can do this." but I missed his meaning, as my response was, "I know you can do it, but can we pay for it?" Ken's answer was astounding. He said, "You're paying for nothing. Your company's a hero. We're just going to help make it happen." And they did, providing tens of thousands of dollars of free shipments and logistics.
I'll also tell you about what was a guarded secret for quite a while with another member of our family. AKC received a call from the Police Department that some of the approximately 300 dog teams that came to New York were injured and were being treated at an animal hospital, but their owners were being charged, so I called a member of their Board of Directors to ask who I could speak with. The response was quote: "Dennis, I'll make you a deal. I will pay for the care of every single dog, if you keep it a
secret between the two of us." Well, that deal is long over and that angel is Tony Sosnoff, another example of the quality people with whom you and I are blessed to share our passion.
The cooperation amongst our clubs, fanciers, corporate America and the media was extraordinary, growing into our largest public outreach up until that time. However, without passionate dog people, it would have been simply another good idea. I’m just going to stop my speech because I want you to take a good look at this statue. This is a handsome German Shepherd in good coat, just what it should look like. But there's a lot of passion and emotion behind this statue. The coat is made up of the name, age, city and state of every person in America who perished on that day. I am very proud to tell you AKC's Board of Directors instantly supported this public art exhibition and fund-raiser. Rubenstein Associates, American's premier PR firm, required a presentation before agreeing to work on the project. Midway through, they proclaimed, "We're in." With their efforts, AKC benefited by a wide variety of media appearances. Sculptures bearing AKC's name that were displayed for the first anniversary still remain in some places: St. Vincent's Hospital, PACE University, the Fire Department Museum, the Veterans Administration Hospital, Purina Farms, Station One of the Portland Fire Department, and at AKC headquarters. Statues were painted live on The Today Show during numerous segments, and the NASDAQ screen in Times Square featured our program.
In Georgia , Governor Sonny Perdue unveiled a bronze DOGNY statue at the State Capitol Building in Atlanta with Delegates Ann Wallin, Karen and Asa Mays, and Carmen Battaglia representing 32 clubs and associations. In Oklahoma , Onofrio and four of our All-Breed Clubs dedicated a statue near the site of the bombing of the Federal building. A bronze version marks the entrance to the world headquarters of Hartz in New Jersey , and one welcomes visitors to our Operations Center .
AKC was made appealing to the public from a canine perspective and a human one. For shoppers and tourists, when Saks Fifth Avenue blackened all but two of their 34 windows to commemorate the anniversary, both windows displayed only DOGNY dogs. Broadway buffs saw a pair of sculptures over a three-month period in the heart of Shubert Alley, where two and a half million people visit every week. In the sports arena, we were fortunate that the three-year wait for a special event at Yankee Stadium was handled in one week, and their organization offered DOGNY Day, at which 25,000 special edition pinstripe "Help a Hero" toys were donated by Hartz. A statue purchased by breeder/exhibitor Amy Kiehl bears the signatures of the entire Yankee team. Major League Baseball as well as the New York Mets organization and their owners, obedience exhibitors Fred and Judy Wilpon, also sponsored statues. Plush dog mementos carrying AKC's messaging appeared in over 12,000 stores across the country. Some will recall that the President of Hartz, Robert Devine, attended our meeting in September, 2002 as a guest of this body when he presented a check to Ron Menaker for $775,000. Soon after, Hartz donated an additional $500,000. Ron did a great, great deal as co-Chair throughout the entire DOGNY project.
TFH published a commemorative book and after the public art display Sotheby's auction house donated their main gallery, along with the services of Vice Chair Benjamin Dollar as auctioneer. Famed columnist and dachshund fancier Liz Smith also donated her time
as Guest auctioneer, and graced us with more publicity.
This gives you a bit of history about DOGNY and its accomplishments during a time of crisis in our nation and the numerous reasons to be proud of yourselves, your clubs, and the many special people in our community, as well as AKC Companion Animal Recovery (CAR) and the American Kennel Club. Thank you.
(Prolonged standing ovation)
Thank you very much. But I must repeat what I said during my speech. It was a shared success and you deserve the applause.
Editors note: That is what the purebred fancy is about, and also what true leadership is about – Thank you Dennis and the American Kennel Club. There are many other untold stories of how various members of the fancy aided in the 9/11 recovery efforts, Katrina, and other national emergencies. The tradition started with World War II and Dogs for Defense – and this continues to this day in our commitment to purebred dogs and the improvement of society via purebred dogs.