2020 National Specialty

People Awards for 2020


The Heinrich Essig Award is the LCA’s highest honor. It is named after the man that tradition holds created the Leonberger breed in 1846; Heinrich Essig, a town counselor in the town of Leonberg, in what is modern day Germany. Originally presented to the LCA’s founders in 1994, the Heinrich Essig Award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to the club sustained over the course of at least five years. This award comes with a life-long LCA membership.

Astrid Robitaille

Astrid has served our club in many capacities over the course of several decades; on committees, as a board member, Vice President, and an impressive time as President. However, perhaps the most important of all of her many roles has been her role as AKC Gazette columnist for the LCA. When the LCA became the AKC parent club for the Leonberger breed back in July of 2010 we knew we were entering a new world where education about the breed would be critical to allowing the breed to continue to thrive as we entered our new future. Fortunately, we found the perfect person for the job. Astrid has excelled as the voice of the breed and the club in the AKC Gazette. Astrid has consistently represented us and the Leonberger breed with integrity, humor, intensity, inspiration, knowledge, wisdom, and eloquence. Accordingly, it seems appropriate to share those qualities from her writing with an excerpt from her farewell column in the October 2019 AKC Gazette.

My time as the AKC GAZETTE breed columnist began 10 years ago, when Leonbergers were given their own column in what was then the print version of the publication. I wrote many columns introducing the AKC world to our breed, our club, our “family reunion” national specialties, and all the traits that make our breed and our club unique and wonderful. It has been my distinct honor and privilege to serve as the voice of our breed and club for our inaugural decade in the AKC. …

In the coming years our breed will no doubt change some, hopefully in a positive way. There is much work to be done in terms of judges’ education, club communication, breed health, and all of the elements that preserve the heritage and well-being not only of a breed, but also a community of people dedicated to that mission. It is my most sincere wish that the breed that has brought so much joy into my life, and which has served as the catalyst for lifelong friendships, is one day depicted in some AKC Library and Archives social media post as the noble, gentle, and beautiful dog we have come to know and love. — Astrid Robitaille

No doubt, things will change in the future, but thanks to Astrid that future is likely a little brighter than it might have been without her efforts. For all of these reasons, and more, the 2020 Heinrich Essig Award is presented to Astrid Robitaille…

With love, gratitude, and recognition of the Highest Order for your decade of service as AKC Gazette Breed Columnust, and for your devotion to the Leonberger Breed and to the Leonberger Club of America.

Jim Carretta

This year was yet another in a long line of years at the helm of running our national specialty show. As chairman of the old Show Committee, Jim’s first year overseeing the event was 2002. He then filled the role of what later came to be called National Specialty Show Chair. In his role as Show Chair Jim does all of the paperwork for the LCA and AKC events, creates the catalog rough-outs for the LCA and AKC shows. He has dealt with all of the various superintendents we have used over the years, and he validates all the official results and submits these forms to those superintendents and to the AKC. In this role he has served as the rules interpreter and, occasionally, the enforcer of those rules. On top of all of his administrative tasks, Jim is also the day of show manager, overseeing all aspects of the shows and making sure everything is being attended to. And lest we forget, Jim has also served as an advisor to the regional clubs in putting on their own shows for many years too; assisting them with paperwork and rules compliance. For those of us who have called frantically on the day of a show to ask an urgent question, Jim’s calm expertise has been an invaluable and much appreciated resource. In addition to this, Jim has also handled essentially the same set of responsibilities for the Northern California Leonberger Club for nearly 20 years. For all of these reasons, and more, the 2020 Heinrich Essig Award is presented to Jim Carretta…

With love, gratitude, and recognition of the Highest Order for your decades of service as Show Chairman, and for your devotion to the Leonberger Breed and to the Leonberger Club of America.

Leo Award

The Leo Award is given for exceptional work on a particular project, or for a body of work on behalf of the breed or the club that takes place over the course of a year. It can be awarded for a particularly well-done individual project, or for more generally applied excellence.

Elizabeth Burnham

Elizabeth is a long-time volunteer for the LCA. She has served multiple terms on the board and was a co-chair of the 2011 National Specialty in Warwick, Rhode Island. Several years later, after having committed to taking management of the membership list and other information into the electronic world, the club needed someone to help with the complete re-invention of membership office operations. Elizabeth cheerfully accepted the challenge and became Membership Chair in 2014 and, with the help of other talented volunteers, succeeded brilliantly. Elizabeth has stayed at this very important, if thankless, job for the past six years. Her work has helped to facilitate the club’s move to electronic balloting, which has saved thousands of dollars over paper balloting. For all of these reasons, and more, the 2020 Leo Award is presented to Elizabeth Burnham…
With love and appreciation for excellence, devotion, and sustained dedication over the years for your work transitioning the club’s membership system to the electronic age, and continuing to maintain that system for the Leonberger Club of America.

D’Nae Wilson

D’Nae has been working with the Leonberger Health Foundation since 2014, which only seems natural since she was the protégé of LCA founder, breeder, and Leonberger Health Foundation founder, Waltraut Zieher. However, D’Nae has fully embraced her work for Leonberger health, and in 2018 she became president of the Leonberger Health Foundation, overseeing its transition to what is now the Leonberger Health Foundation International. She has channeled her passion for Leonberger health into building bridges with, and reaching out to, people and organizations all around the world with a singular focus of improving the health of this breed that is so dear to us all. Under D’Nae’s time as president of the LHFI a partnership with the Worldwide Independent Leonberger Database has been established, fulfilling a longtime goal of the Health Foundation to have a database that could assist academic researchers with keeping track of health issues in the breed. She has also worked tirelessly to raise funds internationally to fund health research. Anyone who has been in the fancy for any length of time knows the health challenges our dogs face, and the importance of overcoming them. D’Nae, and many others, are working hard to make that happen; doing so with expertise, vision, and passion. For all of these reasons, and more, the 2020 Leo Award is presented to D’Nae Wilson…

With love and appreciation for excellence, devotion, and sustained dedication to Leonberger health, and for her work with people around the world as president of the new Leonberger Health Foundation International.

Jan Parola

Jan has been involved in the welfare of Leonberger dogs, and Leonberger rescue, for longer than anyone can remember. Literally, we asked, and no one can remember! Her tireless work over the years is one of the primary reasons Leonbergers in Need exists. She tirelessly volunteers her time for the rescue auction, donating items and coordinating the bidding website. And then there’s the Leo Fur. The heart of our Leo community is shown every time Jan puts out the call for knitters and crocheters to work on Leo fur offerings to prepare the Afghan and other items for auction. She has also seen to the creation memorial pieces made from fur for people who have lost their Leos. Jan has become a fixture at the club’s Meet the Breeds booth in NYC with representatives for other breeds, and AKC judges and officials coming to see her work year-after-year, including her eight-hour-long spinning demonstrations, so they can do the same with their breeds. She never turns away a person, or a question, and is always as welcoming as the Leos she loves… Jan was recognized for her work in rescue with a Leo Heart award in 2008. Since then she has continued to be at the heart of rescue, and we hope that continues for many years to come. For all of these reasons, and more, the 2020 Leo Award is presented to Jan Parola…

With love and appreciation for excellence, devotion, and sustained dedication over the course of decades, as the heart of rescue efforts for the Leonberger breed in America.

Pixie Baber

This is the 35th Anniversary of the Leonberger Club of America. The heart of the club, besides the Leonbergers themselves, are the members. As the club grew over the years we started to notice a problem: New people attending the National Specialty either felt lost, or were getting lost in the shuffle of old friends, shows, and activities. How to overcome that was a problem solved by long-time LCA member, Pixie Baber. Pixie helped to create the club’s Mentorship program ten years ago. Each year she works tirelessly to contact mentors and new members who will be attending the National Specialty, so that they will be sure to interact with one another at the show, and relieve the isolation that “Newbies” can feel. In addition to her wonderful Newbie Orientation at the National, Pixie also works to be sure that color coded name tags are produced, so that Mentors and Newbies can recognize each other, and has created fun games to further encourage interaction. Anyone who has been accosted at the national for a selfie with someone they don’t know has a sense for what those games look like. No organization can survive without new generations of support and leadership. Pixie has spent the last decade to ensure that future through her work bringing longtime and new members together. For all of these reasons, and more, the 2020 Leo Award is presented to Pixie Baber…

With love and appreciation for excellence, devotion, and sustained dedication over the course of more than a decade, as the Mentorship Chair for the Leonberger Club of America.

Leo Heart

The Leo Heart Award was created because sometimes people do things that may not necessarily benefit the breed or the club as a whole, but which show remarkable and exceptional heart nonetheless. The Leonberger Heart Award has been created to honor these people.

Susan Cipolla

Susan Cipolla has been the club’s Election Committee Chair since 2016. This is a position that can be pretty bureaucratic: Coordinating elections, sending out notices for nominees to the board of directors, checking qualifications for office, encouraging members to vote, and just generally making sure the whole process is done in compliance with our Bylaws. However, Susan has done all of this with a warm personal touch, enthusiasm, and energy that bears recognition. It’s one thing to do a job well. It is another thing entirely to do it well and always leave people feeling glad you are in the job. This was especially true when the voting for the Member Practices document had to be re-done in 2019 for procedural reasons. For all of these reasons, and more, the 2020 Leo Heart Award is presented to Susan Cipolla…

With love and appreciation for your heartfelt devotion to the integrity of the election processes as Chair of the Election Committee of the Leonberger Club of America.

Honorable Mention (Last year’s Leo Heart recipient)

Pamela Isaacson

The LCA wishes to recognize the continuing efforts of Pamela Isaacson, who was the 2019 Leo Heart recipient. Pam and her four legged partner, Burton, have shown great heart and dedication toward putting a great face on the LCA’s presence at annual Meet the Breed booth at the Westminster show in NYC. The LCA’s booth even won Best in Show in 2019. Although we do not give out the same award twice, we were faced with a problem. Pam and her team of volunteers won booth honors for Best in Show AGAIN in 2020. Accordingly, we are taking the extraordinary step of issuing an Honorable Mention, to remind everyone why Pam won the Leo Heart Award last year, and why she would receive it again this year… if we could do that. Accordingly, a grateful club says, “thank you Pam,” and please keep up the great work!

Certificate of Appreciation

Pat McDaniel

Pat McDaniel is not just a great breeder, she is also a leader in the Portland area, getting owners and Leos involved in activities that strengthen the bond between Leo Lovers and their dogs, and also the bond between Leo Lovers themselves. Her efforts have contributed to a community of Leo lovers that reflect the true spirit of the LCA.

For this reason, the club presents Pat McDaniel with a Certificate of Appreciation for…

With appreciation for your dedication to the Leonberger Community in Portland Oregon and beyond, from the Leonberger Club of America.

The Show Event Committee

The Show Event Committee is the group that puts on our National Specialty every year, something they excel at and for which they received Certificates of Appreciation last year. However, this year they were faced with the extraordinary and first-time-in-club-history un-putting-on of the National Specialty due to the global pandemic. There are no rule books or procedures for doing that, especially less than two weeks before the event. However, in large part due to their sound judgment, thoughtfulness, and creativity they have allowed the club to do so with a minimum of disruption and economic loss. For this reason, the club presents Don James, Jim Carretta, Pamela Isaacson, Wendy Jones, Kimberly Mallory, Matt Messley, Marietta Mennone, and Shelly Mabbs with Certificates of Appreciation for…
With appreciation for your dedication to the best interests of the breed and the club, and for your extraordinary efforts in successfully un-planning the 2020 National Specialty due to the global pandemic


Thank you to all of our 2020 award recipients. Volunteerism is the heart of our club. We wish to thank those who submitted names in nomination for the various awards. If your nominee was not presented with an award this year, please re-submit next year!

Respectfully submitted, LCA Awards Committee – Carin Shadwick, Yves Parent, Mary Decher, Beth O’Connor, and Glen Ferguson.


Representing the truly loved rescue leonbergers – our 2020 National Specialty Rescue Parade
Our never ending gratitude to Leonberger Rescue Pals and everyone that helps with rescue!
To view as a video –
Rescue – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1l2lrl4PKyc90jXRI8UnyGk7n1bHYoznS/view?usp=sharing

Giving love and comfort comes naturally to our Leonbergers. Representing the many leos in Therapy – the 2020 National Specialty Virtual Therapy Parade.
Therapy – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hVhp49Ez0oIxdtkLJbi63hO9NpWsaG0x/view?usp=sharing

Growing older, but never more important or more loved. The parade that always brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. Representing the most precious of our Leos – the Veterans of the 2020 National Specialty Veteran Parade
Veterans – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1e1qrnjl3NAlOpo4H8juMZwRpWf_xVRtk/view?usp=sharing


2020 LCA National Specialty – Postponed!