Meet the OCOEE team!

Kathy in her favorite place-the recliner, with a lapful of Springers.
Kathy's passion for the sport evolved early in her life. She was very lucky that in her small town, she had a successful breeder of Shetland Sheepdogs just up the road who was more than willing to mentor her in all aspects of the sport. Starting in obedience at a very young age, Kathy added the first Golden Retriever to her tolerant parent's household in 1964. With the support and involvement of her mother, Ellen Reiss, she embarked on a limited breeding program in Goldens, and she finished her first homebred, owner handled Champion in 1971. In 1972 the first Springer was added and as the years went by the focus became more and more on that breed, although together with her mother Kathy bred a number of Golden champions. She also bred and owned Champion Flat-Coated Retrievers and Bouvier des Flandres, and owned a top winning multi BIS Afghan Hound.

Kathy has been active in English Springer Spaniels now for fifty years, producing 80 AKC Champions which include Best In Show, Group, Specialty and Parent Club award winning dogs. She has actively worked in the Parent Club of the breed, serving seven years on the Board, writing the AKC Gazette column on Springers for five years, and chairing the committee that produced the most recent revision to the AKC breed standard. She began her judging career in 1999 and some of the highlights of her AKC judging career include the Puget Sound ESSA Specialty, the GRCA Western Regional Specialty, the ESSA of NSW Specialty show in Sydney, Australia, the 2003 ESSFTA National Specialty and the 2018 ESSCC National Specialty. In February of 2006 Kathy judged at the Westminster Kennel Club show at Madison Square Garden in NYC and was thrilled when her Best of Breed Golden went on to win the Sporting Group. She has also judged in China, Japan and the Philippines.

Kathy has also worked hard to give back to the sport in the area of education and has created and presented programs on many different breeds, including a number that are in use by Parent Clubs for their National judges education presentations. She is also one of the co-creators and presenters of the extremely popular four day Workshop "Sporting Dog Excellence, An Intimate Look at the Spaniels and Retrievers". For several years she was a regular monthly columnist for the outstanding all breed publication DOGS IN REVIEW.

Kathy's daughter Melanie joined her in the Ocoee breeding program as a full partner in the year 2000. Together they have had many successes and they continue to strive to produce the best representatives of the breed possible.

a living pedigree-four generations, taken in January 2015.
Melanie was literally "born" into the sport of dogs, as the first Ocoee Springer litter was whelped only a few short months before she was born. (In 1975). As soon as she could walk Melanie had a leash in her hand, and she began showing successfully even before she was old enough to compete in Junior Showmanship.

During her teen years Melanie had a career in showdogs rarely matched by anyone else so young. When she was ten years old Melanie acquired her first Whippet, "Roxanne", and not only did Melanie show Roxanne to her Bench and Field Championships, with Melanie piloting her Roxanne became a multiple group winner and together they won Best of Breed at the American Whippet Club National Specialty show. Roxanne's formal name was Ch. Roving Roulette, F.Ch., and she was Melanie's precious companion for 14 years.

Melanie also completed Championships on a score of Irish Wolfhounds bred by her father and stepmother, John and Anne Schlenkert. One of those, whose name was "Blu", teamed with Melanie for a specials career that culminated in eight all breed Best In Show wins, a top ten Hound ranking, and Best of Breed and third in the Hound Group at Westminster Kennel Club in 1993.

Melanie also competed successfully in Junior Showmanship and won many top awards. She qualified for Westminster several years running, and her juniors career climaxed with the greatest honor any junior can have-winning Best Junior Handler at Westminster in 1994.

Mel prides herself on being a successful breeder, owner handler. She has finished many of our Springer Champions and piloted her dog George to top wins and #1 ranking in the breed. She also occasionally will show top quality Springers for others.

Mel is also beginning her judging career, and did a wonderful job of judging both the Veteran and Puppy Sweepstakes at the 2014 ESSFTA National Specialty. She has done other sweepstakes in Springers and also other breeds.

Melanie and Her George.

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