Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014
For contribution to the Breed
Sandra Bell, San Jo Cockers
For more than 41 years Sandy Bell worked to develop a breeding program that today positively impacts the breed throughout the world. Her commitment to the health and well-being of all Cocker Spaniels through conscientious selection for type, health, and temperament has given breeders an opportunity to confidently use her line to enhance their own programs.
Her breeding program was based on strong bitch lines and at any time she worked with a small number of Cockers. Her artistry was in understanding the merits and flaws of her dogs and then in the sire selection for them. She coupled this talent with a determination to move forward with her vision despite trends and fashions. Not every breeding worked, nor every puppy hopeful grow up to fulfill its potential, but Sandy did not give up. She did not allow the inevitable disappointments to crush her vision—and that is the mark of a breeder committed to the establishment of a family or “line.”
As new health tests were available Sandy used them. If a problem in a dog surfaced, she contacted the owners of relatives of the dog and paid for those dogs to be tested. Together with the owners they chose the path forward for those animals. Some were set aside from breeding programs, and others were kept based on all available information. Sandy’s decisions were informed and that information shared appropriately.
Sandy also shared her best prospects with others and was a generous and gifted mentor for many people. She shared her expertise with novice breeders around sire selection, health testing and puppy evaluation. And she consulted with her peers. She shared the joys and the disappointments of all whether the dog was related to hers or not and she was always kind and patient—and interested.
Sandy’s Champions listserv was among the first Cocker Spaniel Internet discussion lists available in 1997. Champions became a worldwide community dedicated to breeding and showing Cocker Spaniels. Carefully moderated, Champions was a “safe” place for genuine discussion where gossip and insult were not allowed. Sandy also provided a Champions website where members of the community could share pictures and litter announcements at a time when there were few digital places to do so.
Beyond discussions, Champions was a tool for fundraising and in the ‘90’s one effort Sandy worked on was her Baby Champions to the Rescue where specially designed “beanie baby” type Cocker Spaniels were raffled at the ASC Cocker Spaniel National show that year. The Baby Champions—represented by all varieties-- were created by Jolene O’Brion, Duet, promoted through Champions, and raffled at the National event. The project raised more than $2,000 for Cocker Spaniel Rescue.
Sandy also was on the work groups that developed the Ruby Memorial Award, and the fundraising Cocker Cuties Calendar that garnered more than $20,000 for ASC Breeder Education and supported the Michael Allen Veterinary Student Scholarship.
Perhaps the crowning of her efforts is seen in the magnificent multiple Best in Show, Best in Show at American Spaniel Club Flushing Spaniel shows and at Cocker Spaniel National shows AMCH San Jo’s Born To Win, Patrick. Born of generations of top winning dogs with a pedigree both wide and deep, today Patrick’s off-spring and their descendants have earned high honors at shows throughout the world including the prestigious Crufts Gun Dog group and at recent World Dog Shows.
In 2004 Sandy was selected as the American Kennel Club as Sporting Dog Breeder of the Year, and in her biography, she wrote about what years of dedication feels like, that instance when “…(f)or a moment when your beautiful champion strikes his pose for the judge and audience, the world stands still. You don’t know if you’re breathing or not—probably not. In that moment when the judge points to your young special for what will be the first of several Best in Show wins at the American Spaniel Club Flushing Spaniel Show, time stops. And each time, it happens it is the same experience. It never grows old or dull. When the judge walks over to your champion, now an older dog in the ring as a veteran, and names him Best in Show again at the ASC Flushing Spaniel Show, you glide over time and marvel at the world from the stars. Ups, downs, and through it all, you travel the path to emerge a dedicated breeder.”
Sandra L. Bell has dedicated a lifetime in working to advance the health and well-being of her Cocker Spaniels and all Cocker Spaniels. As mentor, a club supporter, and a member of many ASC work groups, her commitment makes her an outstanding example of a dedicated breeder and we respectfully nominate her to the ASC Hall of Fame for Contributions to the Breed.
Bobbie Kolehouse and Wilma Parker