Preserving the Standard.
Improving Breed Health.

Located in the coastal region of North Carolina, Guardian Bears Kennel is home to one of the world's rare and most intriguing dog breeds – the Black Russian Terrier (BRT). The kennel is owned and operated by DeAnne Hawkes, a registered nurse, with the support of her veterinarian husband Dr. Richard Hawkes. As co-owners of a small animal practice, the Hawkes hold deep compassion and respect for all animals. Their passion for the BRT makes this breed an integral part of their daily lives.

Established in 2009, Guardian Bears Kennel was created to formally train and breed exceptional quality Black Russian Terriers, and offer breed-specific guidance to owners of these highly intelligent dogs. The goal is to produce BRTs who add greatness to the breed by preserving the breed standard and improving breed health, and to give select puppy buyers the opportunity to share their lives with a Guardian Bear. Joining the Guardian Bears family comes with lifetime BRT support.

Guardian Bears Kennel has raised and bred multiple champion Black Russian Terriers. In 2017, the Hawkes' Slovenia-born BRT Arisha Krasa Russkaya Nochnaya Zvezda became the USA's number one Black Russian Terrier bitch of all time - and there are a number of Guardian Bears on Arisha's heels!

Industry involvement

DeAnne and Richard are active members and supporters of parent breed clubs in North America, including the Black Russian Terrier Club of America (BRTCA) and the Black Russian Terrier Club of Canada (BRTCC). Involved in formal training, competition and titling, the Hawkes and their BRTs participate in conformation showing, and sporting and achievement programs sanctioned by the parent clubs in conjunction with the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), as well as the International All Breed Canine Association (IABCA).

Saying good-bye and saying hello

In 2005, Dr. Hawkes had to euthanize DeAnne’s long-time companion, Tyson, a beautiful and loving 12.5-year-old Rottweiler. Tyson had lost his mobility to osteosarcoma, a fast-spreading bone cancer. To fill the void left by Tyson and help animals in need, the Hawkes began rescuing. But there remained an emptiness that only a big dog could fill.


While researching Newfoundland breeders, DeAnne came upon the Black Russian Terrier. She was drawn to the familiar appearance and quickly learned why. BRTs carry ancestral bloodlines of the Rottweiler breed she loved and missed, and the Newfoundland breed she loved as a child.

After a year of research and traveling North America to interview breeders, in 2009 DeAnne brought home her first “Blackie” – Russian Bears Juri Tupolev. Juri was the Hawkes’ first AKC registered purebred dog, with a keen ability to learn and retain, even as a pup. Juri became an excellent ambassador of the breed, achieving top rankings in the United States year after year.

The birth of a breeding program

Richard Hawkes, DVM and DeAnne Hawkes with the first Guardian Bears - BreeAsha (left) and Juri. BreeAsha passed in late 2016 at just six years of age due to her struggles with multiple, inherited health issues. 

While breeding was not initially part of the Hawkes’ plan, after formal obedience training began with Juri, and seeing how he excelled, they soon realized more Juri’s would be a great contribution to this young and rare breed. But after bringing home their first female BRT – BreeAsha (Czar’s Pride Beachside Beauty at RBK) – their plans for future breeding were nearly destroyed.

Hyperuricosuria (HU): Young BreeAsha was found to be affected with HU, a potentially life-threatening genetic disease that predisposes dogs to form bladder and kidney stones. Dr. Hawkes was familiar with HU but unaware of the emerging issue in BRTs. Most common to Dalmatians, HU came to the forefront in the BRT breed as owners began sharing their stories through social media. BreeAsha's diet was changed to stabilize symptoms and eliminate discomfort from crystals that formed in her bladder. At 13 months, she was spayed due to her HU status, poor conformation and visually obvious bow-legged, inflexible knees and legs.

Not long after, there was another upset.

Hip and elbow dysplasia: Two-year-old Juri was diagnosed with Moderate hip dysplasia (HD), with arthritic changes reflected on x-rays. Elbow x-rays also revealed Level 2 elbow dysplasia (ED). Unfortunately, dysplasia is far too common in BRTs.

Rather than discourage breeding plans, these experiences created the desire to develop a program that would have a positive influence on the future of the breed. There began the quest for BRTs healthy enough in body and mind to breed. This involved years of research into pedigrees worldwide, and bringing home select puppies for the program.

Improving BRT health

Poor health in the breed will not improve overnight, but the Hawkes are committed to health and temperament testing before breeding to improve the chances of producing offspring with good health and sound temperaments. As part of their commitment, discounts are offered to any BRT owner who chooses to have PennHIP x-rays or OFA hip and elbow x-rays performed at Arendell Animal Hospital. And to expand pedigree information and health statistics available to their own program and other breeders around the world, the Hawkes also offer money to puppy buyers who perform requested health testing.

Wellness beyond the breed

The Hawkes enjoy making a difference in the animal kingdom. Since owning Arendell Animal Hospital, they have rescued, medically rehabilitated and re-homed many dogs and cats. Guardian Bears Kennel and Arendell Animal Hospital are members and/or supporters of many animal health organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Therapy Dogs International (TDI), the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the AKC Veterinary Network, Pets for Patriots®, PennHIP, The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, the SPCA, and the Soi Dog Foundation.

"Richard and I have spent our lives helping animals in need. It is our passion, our life work, and we're blessed that through Richard being a veterinarian, we have been able to help countless people with their pets, including Black Russian Terrier owners worldwide." -- DeAnne Hawkes
More about DeAnne

DeAnne is a retired registered nurse with broad experience in forensic psychology, which she finds valuable in reading cues, forming bonds with and training dogs. She began training dogs in Canada in 1989 and has since gained extensive experience through exposure to various methods.


DeAnne Hawkes with Juri (left) and BreeAsha


DeAnne is an AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator. She trains BRTs for obedience titles, trained Juri to become a Therapy Dogs International (TDI) Certified Therapy Dog, and has continued education with behaviorists and trainers, including the world-renowned Ivan Balabonov. She also spent several months in the To Become a Dog Trainer program.

More about Dr. Hawkes

Dr. Hawkes has been a small animal veterinarian since 1996. He graduated with honors from Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island. With extensive background in animal orthopedics, he is relied on for the more challenging surgeries required to restore mobility and health, and he continues to expand his expertise. In 2012 Dr. Hawkes became a PennHIP-certified veterinarian.

Dr. Hawkes in surgery at Arendell Animal hospital


With his life work devoted to keeping animals healthy and free of debilitating disease, Dr. Hawkes uses his expertise to help champion health improvements in the Black Russian Terrier breed.

Dr. Hawkes has produced in-depth articles on health issues related to the Black Russian Terrier. The series is available on this website, and Dr. Hawkes also blogs on this site for the education of puppy buyers and breed enthusiasts everywhere.