Jody Garcini of Henryville, Ind., has been handling dogs professionally for 20 years — and breeding them even longer. “I had my first litter of Whippets in 1992, 23 years ago, but was raised before that with Shih Tzu, Lakeland and Wire Fox Terriers,” Jody says. The young mother of two maintains a demanding show schedule alongside husband Leonardo, yet she’s been able to breed an impressive number of champions to date. “We recently had a report from the AKC that lists 125 current AKC champions, [many of which] were co-bred with my parents.” Jody breeds Shih Tzu and Whippets under the Wenrick prefix, and English Springer Spaniels with Laurie Green under the Crossroad prefix. “We have been very fortunate in that we have had a couple of clients with the same breeds — owning dogs of our breeding — that we have shown and been very successful with,” notes Jody.
Jody and Leonardo Garcini enjoy a stroll with daughters Luciana and Victoria and Whippet GCh. Tripletime Silver Lining At Wenrick.
In the busy arena that is the modern dog show, conflicts are unavoidable. On the subject of professionals competing directly with amateur owner-handlers, Jody offers her experienced opinion. “Everybody who involves [him or herself] in any breed needs to look closely at every entry in the ring for their attributes as well as the faults,” she says. “They also have to learn to be very discerning of their own dogs and see where they can improve their breeding programs, conditioning of their dogs as well as their own handling skills. There are owners out there with beautiful dogs that make them look terrible, [just] as there are terrible dogs being shown by talented owners who make them look great.” Jody suggests that many amateur exhibitors with negative feelings toward the pros just assume that all professionally handled dogs are of poor quality. “At the end of the day, all professionally handled dogs have owners and breeders who love them and have worked very hard to get the quality of dogs they have.”
“I think it’s nonsense and an unhealthy mindset,” says David Fitzpatrick of the criticism leveled at the professionals by some novice exhibitors. “No one starts out on top.” At his home in East Berlin, Pa., David spends most days honing his craft as a professional handler and breeder of Pekingese. “The road to success is achieved through hard work, perseverance, talent and luck,” he says. “As with any sport or business, success should be earned in order for it to be fully appreciated. I don’t think an amateur is an amateur for long if they are good.”
Judge Luc Boileau awards BIS to Pekingese GCh. Pequest General Tso and breeder/owner-handler David Fitzpatrick.
David started in dogs in 1970, working for a professional handler after school and traveling to shows on weekends. “Most shows were just weekend shows back then,” he notes. “I then worked for successful breeders who also campaigned their dogs.” In 1984, David ventured out to handle on his own, and he’s stayed true to his profession and devoted to the breed through which he is celebrated worldwide. “I bred my first litter in the mid-70s, having obtained my first Pekingese from Mrs. Wilson’s West Wind Pekingese in Wilton, Conn.,” he recalls. “I paid $50 for Cherry Blossom of West Winds.” Since that time, David has strived to breed, condition and present Pekingese at the highest possible level. “I don’t know exactly how many champions I’ve bred, but I do know I’ve bred 12 Best in Show winners.”
Clarence “Jay” Lee of Sand Springs, Okla., attends shows virtually every weekend. “I’m typically on the road three, sometimes four, weekends a month throughout the year,” says this professional handler who breeds both Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs under the “Jute” prefix. “The number of shows would be hard to count. I normally show a minimum of two dogs [and] at times in excess of eight to 10 dogs in a weekend.” A breeder of Collies since the late 1980s and Shelties since the mid-1990s, Jay has bred or co-bred 30 or more champions in both breeds. “It’s a small number, however I still believe quality trumps quantity,” he says.
Jay, who’s been handling professionally for almost 20 years, shares his thoughts on a sport that pits amateurs against professionals. “I’m seeing a lot of amateurs stepping up their game these days. I love to see the drive to do more than come to the ring ill-prepared and leave disenchanted because they didn’t win.” Jay believes that every exhibitor is capable of winning if he or she is prepared and always ready to put his or her best foot forward. According to Jay, “They are not only putting their best foot forward, they are high-stepping!” Although he cannot participate in the National Owner-Handled Series, Jay believes that the program has become a useful platform for amateur exhibitors who want to step up their game. “I think it’s awesome,” he says. “I love to hear of my participating friends’ wins and will continue to be their ringside support.”
David Murray of Valley Glen, Calif., attends more than 100 shows annually and is well known throughout the US for the Tibetan Terriers, Havanese and Lhasa Apsos he exhibits. “I have been showing dogs for other people since 2006, but I was fortunate as a breeder/owner to have had people help me financially with my own dogs since 2002,” David says. He usually shows one to three dogs that require the masterful touch of a breeder who also manages a hair styling business. What better résumé for a handler specializing in drop-coat breeds?
As a professional handler with a breeding program of his own, David can see both sides of the sometimes contentious relationship between amateur and professional handlers. “Sometimes owner-handlers are overlooked for professional handlers due to lazy, inept or political judging,” he says. “Sometimes they lose because their dogs are not as well presented and sometimes because the dogs are not as good as what a professional may have at the time.” David proposes that every novice exhibitor learn to improve his or her chances in the ring by studying the professionals. “I am lucky to have been in this game since the early 1970s,” he says. “I had great mentoring then and [also] when I returned after some time off in the 1980s. I was taught from a very young age [that] in order to be competitive at all as an ‘unknown,’ you will need to have a better dog that is better trained and better handled in order to win.”
It’s All Possible
Valerie explains the meaning behind her GSP kennel name, VJK-MYST: “The VJK is an abbreviation of my father’s kennel name, Von Jango Kennels. MYST is my co-breeder Yvonne Hassler-Deterding’s kennel name. Marilyn also mentored Yvonne and, upon Marilyn’s passing, she and I became partners.” In Whippets, Valerie breeds under the Winway prefix with Dr. Suzie Fosnot. Suzie is “my longest client of 20-plus years, [and] we have formed a wonderful friendship and relationship that is based on a deep love for the breed. It has worked out wonderfully, as I was able to tell her about dogs I’ve seen in my travels, and [she has] used my suggestions and ideas on breeding practices.”