Each year since 1999 the clubs of the Thanksgiving Classic Cluster – the Holyoke, SouthWindsor, Springfield and Windham County Kennel Clubs – have selected a fancier who has performed “meritorious service to the dog world signifying the ideals manifested by William J. Trainor.” Trainor, a successful professional handler from 1950 until 1994, was a past president and life member of the Professional Handlers’ Association and showed two dogs to Best in Show at Westminster, Irish Water Spaniel Ch. Oak Tree’s Irishtocrat in 1979 and Pekingese Ch. St. Aubrey Dragonora of Elsdon in 1982, both owned by Anne Snelling.

Bill Trainor handled the Pekingese, Ch. St. Aubrey’s Dragonora of Elsdon, to BIS at Westminster in 1982 under Mrs. Robert V. Lindsay. ‘Lee Lee’ was owned by Anne Snelling and bred by R. William Taylor, both of Canada.

Trainor showed three dogs that became the top-winning dogs of all time in their breeds: the Golden Retriever Ch. Cummings Gold Rush Charlie, the Westminster Irish Water Spaniel ‘Dugan’ and the Chow Chow Ch. Wah-Hu Redcloud Sugar Daddy. But unlike handlers today, Trainor didn’t travel around the country to make records on these dogs. For the most part he went to shows year after year in his home area in the Northeast, and over the years he became beloved by fanciers in the area. More important than his success in the show ring was his reputation as a perfect gentleman, win or lose, a consummate professional and a mentor to many in the sport.

Thus it was that, after Trainor passed away on January 4, 1998, the clubs at whose shows he had exhibited for so many years decided to honor his contributions to the sport with the William J. Trainor award. Since Grace Brewin won the first award in 1999 it has gone to Wendell Sammet, Fred Olsen, Robert Smith, Tom Davies, David and Peggy Wampold, Mari-Beth O’Neill, Virginia Perry Gardiner and Anna Goulet, Patty Proctor, Ed Lyons, Charlotte Clem McGowan, Penny Kretchmer and Ron Menaker.

Rick Krieger, left, accepted the 2012 William J. Trainor award from former recipients Ed Lyons, Peggy Wampold and Tom Davies. Photo courtesy of the South Windsor Kennel Club.

Peggy Wampold, president of the South Windsor K.C., describes the 2012 recipient as “a young man who richly deserves recognition.” Professional handler Rick Krieger of Massachusetts was once an apprentice to the 2000 award winner, Wendell Sammet. Like Trainor, Krieger, who handles with his wife Jenny, is known for his professionalism and for working with young people to help them learn about the dog sport. But there are numerous examples, according to Wampold, of instances when he has gone above and beyond when helping fellow dog people.

He’s the guy who will stop to help if he sees a fellow fancier on the roadside who’s having car trouble. At one dog show when a car in the parking lot caught fire, it was Krieger who, as Wampold says, had “the presence of mind to see if any dogs or people were inside the car.” He then got a fire extinguisher and worked at putting out the fire. During the recent Superstorm Sandy and other major storms over the past few years, he has transported water to fanciers in the area for both dogs and humans, and after at least one tornado helped clear driveways for fellow dog people. Wampold says these are just a few of the good deeds Krieger has performed.

In an interesting twist, Krieger is currently handling an Irish Water Spaniel whose pedigree goes back to Dugan, the legendary dog that Trainor showed. Wampold says that, “judging by the cheers from the crowd” when Krieger was announced as this year’s winner, it was a popular choice. Trainor always stressed that people can’t just take from the sport, they have to give back too, and as Wampold notes, “Rick certainly does give back to the sport.”