Conformation/Junior Showmanship

Paula Nykiel

Paula Nykiel photo

Paula NyKiel of Washington, Missouri, has been involved in purebred dogs for over 40 years. She began as a breeder-owner-handler of Pointers and has bred over 50 champions under the Sydmar banner, including the breed’s all-time top producer, Ch. Sydmar the Heartless Wench. She handled her Pointers to number-one rankings in 1978, 1979, and 1982, scoring 15 all-breed Bests in Show, over 50 group firsts, and Best of Breed at the American Pointer Club national specialty.

Mrs. Nykiel is approved to judge the Sporting and Working groups and 26 Hound Breeds. She has judged at twenty two national specialties and numerous international venues.

Mrs. Nykiel is a past director and Futurity/Maturity chairman of the American Pointer Club. She was a founding member and officer of the Missouri Rhineland Kennel Club and the Gateway Sporting Dog Association, and is a member of the Three Rivers Kennel Club.

Mrs. Nykiel and her husband of 45 years, Frank Nykiel, have two grown daughters and three granddaughters and one grandson. The Nykiel family converted an 1860’s corn-cob pipe factory into their home and gardens on the Missouri River.


Kellie Fitzgerald

I started in dogs in 1975 with a Shetland Sheepdog. I took her to a local obedience club and started training her. She attained her American and Canadian CDX.  We could not go any further due to an eye issue. From there, we acquired a Belgian Tervuren.  She was another great obedience dog and I showed her to her championship. It was through my obedience club that I met various confirmation people and started learning about showing a dog.

In my junior year in high school, I went to work for Karen Prickett Miller and learned how to trim, show and care for Springer spaniels. I worked for her for two years. I went to work at Salilyn Kennels part time while still continuing to work for Karen. Karen then decided to retire from handling, and it was then I went to a full-time kennel manager position at Salilyn. I worked there for the next 18 years, learning about well-being, raising puppies, breeding bitches that other breeders sent to Salilyn stud dogs, and training young hopefuls that were kept as show potential puppies. Julie Gasow passed away in April 1999. I continued to stay at Salilyn for a year after that then moved out east to Delaware to start my handling career, showing for other clients, in April 2000.

I have had many highlights in my handling career showing Springers. Best In Show Westminster in 2000 (with Samantha) and in 2007 (with James), Best in Show at American Spaniel Club and also Best in Show at the AKC Invitational (with James), as well as 4 National Specialty Bests of Breed. On a personal level, I was awarded handler of the year in 2016. This award meant a great deal to me, since it is voted upon by your peers.

I am currently breeding Springers under the Legacy prefix, since that is what was left to me by my mentor and close friend Julia Gasow.

Obedience/Rally Judges

Mrs. Betty RibbleBetty Ribble

My introduction to the sport of dogs came by way of training classes with Standard Poodles, the first love of my life.  Along the way Bichon Frise came to our home and I began showing and breeding them.  I realized a long held desire to have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and they now share our home.  Outside the world of dogs I enjoy playing the harp and have a passion for my fathers’ Scottish culture.

I belong to the Obedience Club of San Diego, The Bichon Frise Clubs of America and San Diego, Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of Southern California.  I have held the offices of Recording Secretary as well as Vice- President and President of The BFCA.

Ms Cathy Dutra

Cathy Dutra picture croppedI currently share my home with two Shelties, one Papillon and one Miniature Pincher.  I grew up with dogs but did not get involved with the sport of obedience until I was taken to a dog show by my neighbors who bred English Bulldogs.

Over the years I have trained a variety of dogs in obedience and agility learning from each one of them. Each dog has their individual challenges and because of that I am always working on ways to improve their performance.

My judging career began when I was asked to judge a Specialty Match which then led to judging at workshops and other Specialty matches.  As I got more invitations to judge I made the decision to apply for my judge’s license. I enjoy judging tremendously and love being able to judge so many wonderful obedience teams.

I want to wish all the exhibitors the very best of luck and most of all have a great and wonderful time with your dog.

Scent Work Judge

Virginia Huxley PhD CNWI

Virginia HuxleyDogs, thankfully have always been a part of my life with a few notable, stressful intervals (like moving to New York City and having to leave the family dogs in the country). Serious training and participation in performance sports now spans 4 decades. English Springer Spaniels are my chosen breed: US, UK, and European lines. In addition to conformation, obedience, rally, agility, and free style, I became addicted to the sports/work of springers catering to their strengths:  Field, tracking, dock diving, and Nosework. Barn Hunt had posed a bit more of a challenge with various of my dogs showing disinterest, disdain, or huge enthusiasm for the endeavor. Working the other scent-based sports though has facilitated a break through with 4 currently now playing Barn Hunt too. I have instructed and titled in all the fields in which I perform/compete; currently my canine instruction focuses primarily on Puppy Training and Nosework/Scentwork. To support my dog habit and settle my all too enquiring mind I teach and conduct research as a Professor of Medical Pharmacology & Physiology at the University of Missouri – Columbia and Director of the National Center for Gender Physiology.  In my ‘free time’ I became a certified Nosework instructor (CNWI) in 2011, a Barn Hunt judge in 2014, and an AKC Scentwork Judge in 2017.


Jean Hilbig

Jean has been training dogs for performance events since the 1970s. She started with a

Team Rendezvous 2
Jean Hilbig

Labrador Retriever, and then fell in love with English Springer Spaniels. She has shared her life with 9 Springer spaniels. She has earned titles in obedience, rally, agility, tracking, CGC, conformation, AKC Scent Work, Dock Diving and NACSW K9 Nosework.

In 1996, Jean’s Springer Spaniel, Dodger,  became the 12th dog, and the first Springer Spaniel to earn the AKC Champion Tracker Title. She became a tracking judge in 2003 and is licensed to judge all four levels of AKC Tracking. Jean and her Springers have earned a total of 4 Champion Tracker Titles.

Jean extended her fascination with a dog’s scenting abilities into NACSW Nosework in 2014. She has a Springer competing in the Elite Division.  She became an AKC Scent Work Judge in 2017. She is currently competing in AKC Scent Work.

Jean Chaired the ESSFTA Inaugural Scent Work Trial at the 2018 National at Purina Farms. She is very excited about getting the opportunity to judge the 2019Trial.


Robert LongBobNRickieAtPurina

Mr. Long has been competing with his various Belgian Malinois for over twenty years. For over fifteen years he has judged from coast to coast in the continental United States as well as in Alaska and Hawaii, judging everything from small regional specialties to the National Agility Championship. He lives in San Diego and teaches agility full time.