A Look Back at the First 50 Years of The Heart of America Kennel Club
Written by Julie Lux, Member HOAKC, March 1997
As a tribute to Mel Schlesinger in celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Heart of America Kennel Club, long-time members Vic & Loraine Boutwell researched and wrote a history of the club in March 1980. For the 50th Anniversary, Bob Goodin asked me to write something. Upon reading it, I knew that I could not duplicate the Boutwells' highly researched and fascinating efforts, part of which have been reproduced here, so I have taken my own approach.

Because a kennel club, like many organizations, is only as strong as its leadership, and because interviewing people is what I do, I have chosen to tell the story of the club through its presidents. I had the pleasure to interview Bee Schlesinger, widow of club founder and first president, Mel Schlesinger, Paul Kean, the second president, and his wife, Juanita and current president, Bob Goodin, who might be doing something entirely different this weekend if he weren't married to Judy.

Click on picture for enlargement.

I found that in addition to their love of dogs, all three presidents share an appreciation and enjoyment of the people they have met in the dog world. So, what better way to look back on the first 50 years than through the eyes of the people who brought us to this historic point?

My thanks to Bee Schlesinger, the Keans, and the Goodins for taking me on a wonderful trip back through their personal stories of the past 50 years of dog showing in Kansas City and to the Boutwells for doing the really hard part. Any errors are entirely mine. Enjoy!

1st President - Melvin Schlesinger
Term of office: November 1947 - March 24, 1982
What constitutes a successful career in dogs? For Mel and Bee Schlesinger, the winning combination was Bee's devotion to her chosen breed, Kerry Blue Terriers, and Mel's dedication to putting on first class dog shows in Kansas City. Both more than met their goals.

The genesis of today's Heart of America Kennel Club began when the Schlesingers attended the International Kennel Club show in Chicago. "He was very civic minded, my husband," Bee recalls. "He decided that Kansas City should have a show like that where the public could go and really see the dogs."

"Mel was a very strong supporter of benched shows," she said. "He thought people who pay to get in should get a good look at the dogs." The Heart of America Kennel Club show was benched into the 80's.

Mel Schlesinger
Mel Schlesinger, Founder and 1st President of the Heart of America Kennel Club
It was at just such a benched show while living in Cleveland that the Schlesingers first encountered Kerry Blue Terriers. "As we came up to this bunch of dogs on the bench, all these Kerries stood up on their haunches and they all began to do this." Bee mimics dogs pawing the air. "So I said to him, if we can ever afford a Kerry, I would like to have one."

"Later on, we moved to Kansas City. On my birthday, Mel said, "If you can find a Kerry, I'll buy it for your birthday".

"I tore into the house and got the paper out, there was a litter advertised. So, we went and looked at it and bought a puppy."

When asked how they got into showing, Bee responds, "I'll tell you how ours started. I think it starts the same way for a lot of people. Somebody kind of pushes you. For us it was Helen Larson who was Mrs. Kerry Blue at the time. I think she figured that she'd get us in there and make points."

"Our first show, we showed this puppy and got a blue ribbon. My husband ran into the judge in the men's room and he told him that the Kerry puppy was ours. Mel asked the judge 'What do you think of him?' The judge said, 'It's a likely puppy." Bee laughs. "I think that was a real clever answer."

While Mel Schlesinger was busy putting the Heart of America Kennel Club on the map, Bee was busy showing her Kerries. "I did all my dogs. Tom, the big winning one, I finished. I used to do all my own handling." A portrait of Tom, Ch Melbee's Chances Are, hangs at the staircase of the home Bee shared with her husband and where she still lives. In a place of honor, is a gold scroll presented to Mel by the organization he founded, the Heart of America Kennel Club.

Bee Schlesinger
Bee Schlesinger, First Lady of the Heart of America Kennel Club
Also on the walls, a collection of framed American Kennel Club champion certificates. When asked how many champions she finished, Bee doesn't mince words. "I wish you hadn't asked that because I don't keep track. For a while there, Mel wasn't in very good health and we weren't showing too much. I would say about 32. And, we finished a Lakeland and a Welsh."

Mel, however, concentrated his dog related activities to running the kennel club. "He showed once," Bee recalls. "His keys fell out of his pocket and hit the dog on the nose. That was the last time Mel went in the ring."

Bee remembers one memorable moment of her own showing career which came close to home. "I won Best in Show myself and that was quite a highlight. It was at Topeka. That was way up in my career."

Bee shares a January, 1962 article in Dog World Magazine titled "Dog World Salutes Mel Schlesinger," by Harvey Barcus. In that article, Barcus quotes Mel Schlesinger's rules on putting on successful dog shows. "Most important of his rules is: Keep politics out of shows. Another rule: A show is as good as its judges."

According to the article, bringing a quality dog show to Kansas City was not an easy proposition.

"No one encouraged Schlesinger in his efforts. The mayor was cool to the proposition; the local papers weren't willing to give the project space and officials of the municipal auditorium had never had a show. They let Mel know in unmistakable words that they weren't going to alter their stand. Schlesinger, however, liked a fight and took on this one. He organized a citizen's committee which brought pressure to bear in certain places and eventually the show was approved," the article states.

Later in the article Barcus describes the show Schlesinger fashioned. "Kansas City is a distinctive show to those who have seen it. 'Mel goes for the spectacular, particularly in the group judging,' (Show Superintendent) A. Wilson Bow, said. 'There's soft organ music and lighting effects and all is given red carpet treatment. The organist plays music of the dog's native land while a spotlight is thrown on the dog.' Sterling silver prizes and cash awards are given, while all officials and judges dress in evening clothes. Capt. Will Judy is the commentator, describing each dog as he parades before the judge."

Bee looks forward to the kennel club going back to this tradition for the Golden Anniversary show. Although she remembers that one feature which was not appreciated by some of the handlers. "Some of the handlers objected to the spotlight. Doug McClain was one. He thought it spooked the dogs. Although, it really was very nice, especially having the organist play music that suited each dog."

Bee has her own opinion about why the Heart of America Kennel Club has been successful for nearly 50 years. "I really think the club has been a success because it was run by businessmen - hard-headed businessmen. Always has been. Especially after he retired, Mel would work on a show. After the show was over, he'd start working on his puppy match. After the puppy match was over, he's start working on the next show. That was his life, to put on a good show. Past his business, of course."

The 1962 Dog World article gives us Mel's advice to show-giving clubs. "Encourage the beginners, they make your show."

Bee adds her own words of wisdom for those new to the sport of purebred dogs. "Just persevere. Be sure to get a good dog and show it. That's what we did. It's fun. If it's not fun, it's no use. That's what I think."

Bee is rightly proud of her husband's accomplishments and of the high regard with which he is still held by the dog fancy across the country.

True to her own advice, Bee is still having fun at the dog show and celebrating with her many friends the show her "hard-headed businessman" husband made possible 50 years ago.

2nd President - Paul J. Kean
Term of office: March 24, 1982 - April 30, 1993
The second president of the Heart of America Kennel Club, Paul Kean, joined the club, just a few years after its creation, in 1952. These days, Paul and his wife, Juanita, are usually seen collecting ribbons in the Miniature Pinscher ring but they experienced their first taste of victory in the dog showing world with German Shepherds.

"We bought a German Shepherd bitch, showed her and then we decided to breed her," Juanita recalls. "If we were going to breed her, she had to be bred to the best possible dog. So we used a freight train and shipped her down to Lang Skarda and bred her to the top-winning Shepherd at that time."

The Keans have been involved with dogs ever since, and their interest has always extended outside the show ring. Paul served for many years as president and on the board of the Greater Kansas City German Shepherd Dog Club. He was Show Chairman for specialties, including the 1966 nationals in Kansas City.

The loss of a Shepherd of whom Juanita was "extremely fond" was the catalyst to move into other breeds. "We were enjoying going to the shows with the kids but we knew if we didn't change breeds completely, we'd never go back to another show. I was pretty heartsick about losing that dog," she said.

Paul Kean
Paul Kean, 2nd President of the Heart of America Kennel Club
"So we bought the best black miniature Poodle that we could find. I learned how to groom him and it's just snowballed from there."

"Miniature Poodles, we finished five of them to their championships, but they were a lot of care," Juanita said. "I did all my own grooming and we had a kennel at the time, it was a lot to do.Then I found that when I got down on my knees and they said 'take them around', I couldn't get back up," she said.

"That was the end of that," Paul adds. "No more dogs you had to get down on the floor with."

"We still wanted to show, so we went to these little characters." Juanita indicated the Miniature Pinscher sitting in her lap. "We bought a couple of Min Pins down in Florida. We had to wait two years to get a Min Pin at that time."

"And, we've finished somewhere between 30 and 35. We've stuck with them ever since." Min Pins have brought more showing success, their CH Janeff's Sparkle Plenty, whom Paul named, was the number one Miniature Pinscher bitch in the country.

In 1957, the Keans built an 18 run kennel on 13 acres in south Kansas City. For 21 years, they boarded dogs there. "They were almost all show dogs," Juanita noted. "When Bee (Schlesinger) went to a show, one side of our kennel would be her Kerries."

For the Keans, who celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary in July 1996, showing has always been a family affair. Their kennel name, Janeff, comes from the names of their two children, Janis and Jeffrey. While Paul and Juanita have ventured into other breeds their daughter, Janis, is still in German Shepherds where she has had many top winners. She currently serves as president of the Ventura, California GSD Club.

Involvement in dog clubs has always gone hand in hand with dog showing for the Keans. In addition to Paul's involvement with the German Shepherd Club, Juanita helped to start the Heart of America Poodle Club and served on its board of directors.

Unlike the other HOAKC presidents, Paul did handle dogs when the Keans showed their German Shepherds. But his involvement in club activities soon took precedence, and he found himself more involved behind the scenes than in the ring.

While president of the local GSD Club, Paul met Mel Schlesinger who asked him to join the Heart of America Kennel Club. Later he was elected vice-president and served in that capacity until Schlesinger's death in 1982 when he became president.

During his presidency, Kean instituted conformation handling classes and brought the Topeka and Leavenworth Kennel Clubs together for the cluster shows that still exist today. "Clusters became popular back in the 70's, during the time of the gas shortage," Paul recalls.

"I tried to follow in Mel's footsteps, to run the club the way he did," he said.

When asked what he enjoys most about dog showing, Paul does not hesitate in his answer. "I enjoy the winning," he laughs. He is quick to add, "and the friendships. In dog showing, you meet people from all over the country from all walks of life. It's a very diverse group and I like that."

"Of course, you also have to like to win, if you're going to be successful. And, you have to have the desire to improve your breed," Juanita agrees.

As for the next 50 years of the Heart of America Kennel Club, Paul has his usual high expectations. "I hope that the entries stay among the top and they grow. The most important thing is to continue to put on good shows."

3rd President - Robert D. Goodin
Term of office: April 30, 1993 - October 26, 2014
The third president of the Heart of America Kennel Club, Robert D. Goodin, freely admits that his involvement with purebred dogs is a labor of love. Not love of dogs, but love of his wife, Judy. With a note of pride in his voice, Bob lists Judy's accomplishments from successful breeding programs to judging the Working Group at the Westminster Kennel Club show in 1996 and the Sporting Group in 2004 as well as multiple breed assignments in 1999 and 2002 along with the Working Group at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in 2003 and multiple breed assignments at the same show in 2001. "Not bad for a little girl from Leavenworth, Kansas," he noted.

What Bob does like about dog shows is the people who exhibit and the interesting people he's met in the sport through the years. "I think we've each channeled our interests into different areas. Judy likes the puppies and the dogs. I like the people," he said.

"The dogs aren't my whole life. They are Judy's, I think. I can honestly say that if, heaven forbid, something happened to Judy and she was seriously ill, I wouldn't have the dogs," Bob said. "I'd have a dog. I'd still be active in the club, because I enjoy the people. But I wouldn't drag myself all over the country to dog shows."

Bob Goodin, 3rd President of the Heart of America Kennel Club
"You don't now," Judy pipes in.

The Goodins joined the Heart of America Kennel Club shortly after getting their first show dog, "which happened to be a Saint Bernard," Bob notes. That was in 1964. "We really got involved a couple of years later," he explains. "We helped with matches; I think I judged a couple of them." It is the Schlesingers that Bob credits with their longevity in the sport. "If it hadn't been for Mel and Bee, we would not be as active in dogs or as successful. They sort of took us under their wing. If we ever had a problem, Mel was always there," Bob said. "He was a great guy. He was probably the most sincere person, even though he was rather stern. He wouldn't do anything morally or ethically wrong. He made the kennel club."

It was Schlesinger who invited Bob to become a director of the club. "That was in the early 70's," he recalled. "I was a director until '82, when Mel passed away. Paul (Kean) went in as president and I became vice-president. Then, I was appointed to serve out Paul's unexpired term when he retired. The first year I was elected was in 1994."

"I believe that much of the success of the club is because of the first two presidents, they were really strong people," Bob observed.

He makes no secret that the March show is his favorite and that he has high aspirations for the 50th anniversary show. "I'd like to see us have a 3000 dog entry at the March show. Then, I'd put any money we made back into the club, to do something for the members."

Through the years, the Heart of America Kennel Club has contributed substantially to a variety of canine charities including trusts at both the University of Missouri and Kansas State University Colleges of Veterinary Medicine. The club has also made donations to organizations including the Dog Museum, Kansas Service Dogs, Kansas City Veterinary Society and the American Kennel Club.

From their original breed, Saint Bernards shown under the kennel name Alpler, meaning son of Alps dwellers, the Goodins have moved to their current primary breed, Pointers, under the registered name, Emerydon. "Emery is my mother's maiden name, and she is from England. I don't know where the don part came from, I just added it," Judy explained. At one time or another, they have also owned Shih Tzu, Chinese Shar Pei, Salukis, Japanese Chin, and, soon, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Bob Goodin reserves his dog activities to outside the ring. "I've probably shown a dog three or four times," he said. "When Judy had won a couple of classes, and I had to go in. Every time I did that, I won. That's why I don't show, because I don't want to win all the time," he added with a grin.

The Goodins' advice to newcomers to the sport of dogs, "Start small, at local shows," Bob advised. "Of course get a good dog. People who think they can breed and supplement their income, that's the wrong approach. Any money you might make from selling some puppies is more than offset by the cost of exhibiting."

"First of all, you have to love the animals," Judy adds. "People have to be willing to dedicate the time and the attention and the money it takes to show dogs. I'd also advise people not to get caught up in the gossip and the politics."

On his intentions for the Golden Anniversary show, Bob says, "I want it to be a tribute to "Bee, she is a very knowledgeable dog person. She means a lot to Judy and me. Also for Mel. I have always admired Mel Schlesinger. Probably more than any individual that I know, other than certainly my parents, he has been the most positive influence on me. We learned a lot from him. Not only was he a great dog person, he was a successful businessman. Mel never, ever had anything bad to say about anybody that I can remember. He always had something positive to say about people," Bob recalled.

"I'd also like for the show to be successful. Something that people will remember for the next 50 years. And, I'd like for everybody to have a good time," he said.

4th President - Wayne H. Brower
Term of office: October 26, 2014 - Present

Written by: Dick Rees, HOAKC Board Member & Web Site Coordinator, December 2014

A childhood desire led to an adult commitment to raising and showing Bulldogs for the 4th president of the Heart of America Kennel Club. As a youngster, Wayne Brower often dreamed of owning a Bulldog puppy but it wasn't until he was an adult and married to wife Joan that they bought their first puppy. According to Wayne, "The loss of that dog at an early age convinced us that we needed a Bulldog in our lives."

After breeding several litters, a prospective puppy buyer invited Wayne and Joan to a meeting of the local Bulldog Club. Hesitating at first, they soon reconsidered and agreed to attend. As a result, they were soon introduced to the excitement of a puppy match. That led to the proverbial "The rest is history."

Wayne said, "We joined the Heart of America Bulldog Club in 1973 and our show career was underway." Joan fondly remembers when they finished their first champion, CH Brower's Radiant Rosemary. "She was a sweetheart," Joan proudly added. From that first champion, the Brower's went on to finish over 60 champions, mostly home bred.

Wayne Brower, 4th President of the Heart of America Kennel Club
Meanwhile, they joined the Bulldog Club of America (BCA) with Wayne getting immersed in various committee activities and holding many offices through the years including vice president and president. They are now Life members of the BCA. The Brower's were inducted into the BCA Breeder Hall of Fame when they reached 25 homebred champions. An interesting fact of their Bulldog career is that two of their champions were featured on several Hallmark cards.

In 1984, they joined the Heart of America Kennel Club and Wayne took on more club duties. Early involvement included coordinating vendor relations and he steadily built a diversified group of vendors offering a broad range of products at the club's all-breed shows. He became a board member in 2000 and the club's vice president in 2005 then became president with the passing of Bob Goodin in October 2014. Wayne remarked, "I regret having to assume leadership of the club in this manner. I have great respect for Bob and his dedication to the kennel club and dogs in general."

Many dog exhibitors eventually turn their ability to analyze a dog's strengths as well as faults and Wayne is no different. He commented that, "I was approved by the American Kennel Club to judge Bulldogs and French Bulldogs in 1998 and thoroughly enjoyed it." Joan chimed in, "He won't admit it but the traveling wasn't always enjoyable." Wayne has now added Boston Terriers, Chinese Shar-Pei, Dalmatians, Keeshonden and Poodles including Toy, Miniature and Standard to his repertoire. He is proud to say, "One of my judging highlights was being invited to judge the French Bulldog Club of America's National Show in 2004." "What a thrill," he added.

Wayne is about more than just dogs. He served his country as a Navy Seabee and retired from the service as a Chief Petty Officer in the Naval Reserve after 22 years of service. Wayne commented that, "During my active service years in the Seabees, my duties included construction of naval installations that equipped me for a life career. I became a building contractor and built all kinds of buildings, from homes to churches to commercial buildings to mortuaries. I've built some of about everything."

Judging by his career in Bulldogs and his career in building, there is no doubt that Wayne will lead the club and the Heart of America Cluster to new accomplishments of which all can be proud.

Heart of America Kennel Club 30th Anniversary History
Written by Vic & Loraine Boutwell, Members HOAKC & AKC Judges, March 1980
The year was 1949....
  • Harry S. Truman of Independence, Missouri was inaugurated as the 33rd President of the United States
  • Milgram Food Stores were selling Club Steaks for 27 cents a pound
  • TWA advertised a flight from Kansas City to Los Angeles in 10 hours and 15 minutes for $59.50
  • President Truman announced the explosion of an atomic bomb by Russia, the first by anyone other than the United States
  • Kansas passed a packaged liquor law making liquor available to Kansas for the first time in 69 years
  • Construction began on the new WDAF-TV tower which will rise 724 feet introducing television for the first time to the Kansas City area
  • The United States exported $108 million worth of gold to foreign nations at $35 per ounce
  • The most valuable player in the National League was Jackie Robinson and the American League MVP was Ted Williams

An article in the February 28, 1949 Kansas City Times read:
"It was a happy homecoming for Mrs. Edward E. Loebe of Glenco, Illinois who returned to Kansas City yesterday for the first time in 17 years bringing her Kerry Blue Terrier which last night was named Best in Show at the first Heart of America Kennel Club Dog Show. After 13 hours of judging, Mrs. Loebe's 22 month old terrier, Gered's Candy Lamb, was named best among the 761 dogs entered in the show. Douglas McClain of Chicago showed the dog in the ring... winning a $125.00 trophy and a silver frame which will have the head of the Kerry Blue sculptured inside. Sixty-five breeds overall were entered and present from nearly every state in the union. Melvin Schlesinger, president of the club, said he believed it was one of the biggest ever held in Kansas City. Schlesinger appealed to the crowd to watch for the poisoner who had caused the deaths of 18 dogs in the Kansas City area. Police were assigned to the show to guard against any attempt at poisoning dogs."

The catalog from the first show in 1949 carried an ad from Quaker Oats Company announcing their third annual bench show awards to the leading winners in the nation.

In 1947, the Heart of America Kennel Club filed its "non-profit" corporate papers in Jefferson City, Missouri for the operation of a kennel club in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The first sanctioned match was held at the Municipal Auditorium parking lot on February 15, 1948 with Rex and Leota Vandeventer and Ernie Smith judging.

Mr. and Mrs. Will Judy, who were editors and publishers of Dog World magazine, judged the second sanctioned match at the same location on August 15, 1948.

The third Sunday in February was designated as the date for the Heart of America Kennel Club Dog Show. The first show, February 27, 1949, was part of what was then called the "Missouri Weekend" with St. Joseph Kennel Club being held the Sunday before, Joplin, Missouri the following Tuesday, Springfield, Missouri Thursday and then to Kansas City for Heart of America on Sunday.

This February date gave an opportunity for dog fanciers of the Midwest to view some of the top winning dogs in the nation as they came from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show in New York, which was held two weeks earlier.

February 26, 1950 ... Miss Laura Delano judged the Sporting Group and awarded first to the Irish Sett, Ch Tyronne Farm Clancy, owned and shown by Jack Spears. This dog went on th win Best in Show under T.H. Carrothers. Laura Delano was the aunt of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the sister of Franklin's mother, Sara. Miss Delano was known and called "Aunt Polly". She was reported to take all of her jewelry with her when she raveled for fear it would be stolen while she was away. In most cases, she wore it all when she judged.

In 1960, the American Kennel Club began a drive requesting all show giving clubs to consider having their shows without offering Group competition or Best in Show awards. The reasoning behind this request was to eliminate the strong competition and promotion for national honors as top dog in the nation, as computed by number of Group wins or Best in Show won. The AKC felt that more emphasis was being put on the Group and BIS aspect of dog shows than that of its original purpose of improving the individual breeds.

Mel Schlesinger agreed to try this new concept at a separate show. The first attempt at a no Group, no Best in Show was held June 18, 1961, drawing an entry of 641. The second attempt was June 17, 1962, drawing an entry of 548.

This new concept was not accepted by exhibitors... However, the idea of a second annual show for the Heart of America Kennel Club caught on with the fancy and it was decided to inaugurate a second show on an unbenched basis. With the cooperation of the Topeka Kennel Club, the last Saturday of September was designated as the Topeka show date with the Heart of America show on Sunday. The first unbenched fall show for the Heart of America Kennel Club was held on September 29, 1963, with an 825 dog entry. (Heart of America has since moved earlier to Labor Day weekend to accommodate the American Royal Barbeque Contest held at the same site.)

Recent History
Written by Dick Rees, HOAKC Member & Web Site Coordinator, July 2007, Updated January 2017.
Since 1980, when Loraine and Vic Boutwell compiled the Heart of America Kennel Club's 30-year history, many changes have occurred for the club and its dog shows. As the Boutwell's noted, the Topeka Kennel Club and HOAKC joined forces to present their first consecutive dog shows in Kansas City on September 28 and 29, 1963. The two clubs continued to share the fall weekend with two days of dog shows in late September until they were joined by the Leavenworth Kennel Club in 1986 establishing a three-day cluster show.

Also in 1986 and in concert with the national trend to the cluster show concept, Leavenworth joined with Heart of America at its March show date to begin presenting an annual two-day show weekend in the spring. The AKC granted approval in 1993 for the three kennel clubs to change from a late September show date to the Labor Day weekend to avoid a conflict with the advent of a barbecue contest to be staged by the American Royal. Then in 2000, the clubs again received approval to move their fall dates further ahead to late August when the earlier weekend dates were vacated by another kennel club.

The site of the dog shows in Kansas City moved several times through the years. The club's original show site was in the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium, where the shows had been held since February 27, 1949. On September 30, 1979 the dog show was moved to much larger and more convenient quarters in the Governors Exposition Building in the American Royal Complex. Then on March 19, 1995, the show was relocated to Hale Arena in the redesigned and reconstructed American Royal Complex.

Because the NCAA Women's Basketball Championships scheduled Hale Arena for their tournament in 1997, HOAKC moved to Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City on March 16 of that year for its "milestone" Golden Anniversary show. The shows returned to Hale Arena in the fall 1997 and continued until another scheduling conflict caused the shows to be moved, once again, to Bartle Hall in the spring 2001. The Heart of America and Leavenworth shows returned to Hale Arena in the fall 2001 for their annual fall and spring dog shows with Topeka continuing to be a part of the fall cluster another year through 2002.

Heart of America was selected in 2000 as one of the designated shows in the American Kennel Club's National Championship competition co-sponsored at that time by the Iams Company and Eukanuba along with the AKC. Exhibitors had the honor of having the Group and Best in Show judging filmed at the Heartland Kennel Club's fall show on August 27, 2000 for national airing on the popular TV program Animal Planet.

The Heart of America club honored its late former presidents by dedicating the fall show in 1982 to the memory of its founder and first president, Melvin Schlesinger, and to the second president, Paul Kean, at the spring show in 2001. Both men served the club and the purebred dog fancy with dedication and enabled the club and its shows to achieve significant growth.

The most significant set of structural changes occurred in 2003, when the Topeka club moved its fall show to the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka. Concurrently, the Heart of America and Leavenworth clubs changed their fall show format by each initiating two-day back-to-back shows forming a four-day cluster show weekend that benefited exhibitors by offering more shows in the same location without the need for exhibitors to move to another show site. Simultaneous with the beginning of the four-day fall format, the two clubs discontinued their spring shows. At this same time, the Show Superintendent changed from MBF Dog Shows, Inc., to Onofrio Dog Shows, LLC.

A new competitive event was added to the show agenda in 2006 when both clubs introduced Rally to the competition at their respective shows. As stated by the AKC in their website, rally is a sport that encourages teamwork between a dog and its handler in order to complete a course of designated stations that each has a sign providing instructions regarding the next skill that is to be performed. Rally provides a link from the Canine Good Citizen program to obedience or agility competition, both for dogs and handlers.

Heart of America added another new dimension to the club's activities on May 10, 2008 when the kennel club's members joined with representatives from 54 other area dog clubs to present the AKC Canine Experience. HOAKC member Dick Rees served as the overall coordinator in planning the event. The American Kennel Club designed the event's concept to assist prospective exhibitors wanting to learn how to get started in canine competitive events and presented the first Canine Experience in Raleigh, North Carolina in February 2007. Approximately 170 dog club members devoted the Kansas City Canine Experience day to training the public on topics ranging from dog grooming procedures; handling techniques; show ring procedures; advice on specific dog breeds; completing show entry forms, and the various resources available from professional dog show superintendents, vendors, dog clubs, and the AKC. In addition, prospective exhibitors were able to participate in Junior Showmanship, enter their dogs in Canine Good Citizen testing; observe Obedience, Rally and Agility events; and enter the conformation match that simulated an actual dog show. The full-day event was conducted in the Governors Exposition Building, part of the American Royal Complex, and provided assistance to several hundred hopefuls wanting to learn about showing their dogs.

Starting in 2008, the club implemented several community projects that benefit canine related activities in the Kansas City area. A scholarship endowment fund was established with the Metropolitan Community College Foundation in Kansas City to award an annual $500 scholarship to a first-year Veterinary Technology student at Maple Woods Community College. The endowment fund was named the Heart of America Kennel Club, Inc. - Bob and Judy Goodin Vet Tech Endowment Fund to honor the club's long-time president Bob Goodin and wife Judy as our long-time show chairman. The first recipient of the scholarship received the award at the club's regular meeting on March 25, 2009. In 2010 the program was expanded to include awarding a new scholarship each semester and to make it available to both first and second year students. In 2012, significant funds were added to the endowment as a memorial to Judy who passed March 14, 2012 and the scholarship award was increased from $500 to $750 per semester. The second service project consisted of purchasing a trained dog for the Jackson County, Missouri Sheriff's Department K-9 Unit to replace the only canine member of the Unit that was being retired due to age. A German Shepherd Dog was presented to the Sheriff and staff at a formal presentation during the club's regular meeting on May 27, 2009. The third project involved purchasing high-quality stethoscopes for each member of the incoming Vet Tech class at Maple Woods. The first presentation of the stethoscopes to the students was on August 26, 2009 during their regular classroom activities. The stethoscope program has been continued annually since its inception and the club intends to continue it into the future. Details of each project are available at the Club Information/Bulletin Board link in this site.

When planning began for the 2010 shows, the 11th weekend on the AKC's official show schedule became available and the two clubs received permission to change to the spring dates from fall. However, it was necessary to find a new show site for 2010 because the American Royal was already committed for those dates. As a result, the shows were moved to the newly constructed Independence Events Center for one year. Successful negotiations enabled the Heart Cluster to return to the American Royal site in 2011 and for years to come.

In July 2012, the club became aware that the American Royal show venue had been contracted by another organization on our 2013 show dates even though the club had received confirmation that we had the facility reserved through 2020. Accordingly, our March 14-17, 2013 shows will be presented for one year in the ultra-spacious, beautiful Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City. We have had good experience with this venue when the sponsoring kennel clubs elected to hold the Cluster in Bartle Hall in 1997 for Heart of America Kennel Club's Golden Anniversary Show and also in 2001 when the city asked us to change our show location for one year. Arrangements have been secured to return to the American Royal facility in 2014 with a guaranteed "hold" on the facility through 2020.

On November 8, 2012, the Metropolitan Community College Foundation honored Heart of America Kennel Club with its prestigious Outstanding Community Support Award at its annual Gratitude Reception. The club was recognized for its lengthy and on-going assistance to the Veterinary Technology program at Maple Woods Community College. The club's assistance includes awarding a $1,000 scholarship each semester to a Vet Tech student, presenting each incoming freshman Vet Tech student with a personally engraved quality stethoscope and enabling Vet Tech students to obtain hands-on experience by being responsible for conducting a microchip implantation clinic at our annual dog shows with all revenue turned over to the Vet Tech Student's Club.

During the MCC 2012 Gratitude Reception, the kennel club presented the MCC Foundation with a $30,000 memorial gift to the Bob & Judy Goodin Vet Tech Scholarship Endowment in memory of Judy Goodin, the club's beloved long-time member, Show Chairman and prestigious AKC judge. Judy passed on March 14, 2012, the set-up day of the 2012 Heart of America Cluster. The 2013 Cluster was dedicated in Judy's memory.

Starting with the March 2014 Heart of America Cluster, Purina became the Cluster's official sponsor. It is a pleasure to have Purina associated with our shows.

On October 26, 2014, an era of the Heart of America Kennel Club ended with the passing of the club's long-time president Bob Goodin. Bob served the club and the canine community with great dedication and commitment for over 21 years as club president and earlier as vice president for an additional 11 years. A remarkable length of service that benefited many in the sport of dog showing. The club is proud to have honored Bob and Judy during their lives by establishing the Bob and Judy Goodin Vet Tech Scholarship Endowment at Maple Woods Community College through the Metropolitan Community College Foundation to show our respect for their service. To further honor Bob and Judy, the scholarship award was increased to $1,500 each semester beginning with the scholarship recipient named in December 2014.

A change in our show dates was initiated when the weekend before our regular Cluster weekend became available and the AKC officially granted our request to move back one weekend on the AKC's Show Calendar starting in 2016. The Cluster has permanently moved to the 10th show weekend on the AKC Show Calendar (by definition, the first weekend on the AKC Dog Event Weekend is the first calendar weekend with a Saturday after January 2) at the same spacious show site. Leavenworth Kennel Club's shows will be Thursday and Friday and Heart of America Kennel Club's shows will be Saturday and Sunday.

The sport of purebred dogs and the Heart of America Kennel Club are constantly evolving. As significant changes occur in the future, they will be highlighted on this website. Be sure to check back often.

This page updated: January 28, 2017

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