Jessie where did you grow up?
Falls, Wisconsin, which is outside Milwaukee.
RC: How did you come to
want a Great Dane?
Deniston and I were friends in High School and we
had just graduated.
Debbie's family had a Great Dane, a fawn
bitch, that Debbie began showing. She was going to a show by herself
and asked me to go with her. I told her I wouldn't be caught
DEAD at a dog show. I went since it was her birthday, and the rest is
RC: How did you look for one? When
did you get one? Who did you get it from?
After going to a
couple shows with Debbie, I had met a few new friends.
Miriam, Bill & Molly Wigderson, who had Harls. Kitty
Hawkins who had Fawns. Miriam Fritzke & Bob McIndoe
who had Fawns and Brindles. Bob let me start handling
his Danes. When he bred his bitch, he gave me my first
Dane, a Brindle bitch, PRIDE. That was about
In the beginning, did that breeder help you learn about
caring for it?
Yes, he did.
Boy things were a lot different back then. Supplements
were a big issue. Diostate D, Calcium, Vitamins C &
E. I remember wondering what would happen to this poor
puppy if I didn't give her all these things. I used to
take her to training class for Carnell Gurrath to see so she
could advise me on how many and of what supplements to be
giving. I sure am glad we rely on the dog food
RC: Did you show her?
How did she do? Did you handle her or hire a handler?
Yes, I showed her,
myself. She got 2 points before I decided to find
another, more competitive puppy. She was a good
beginning for me though.
RC: Who did you notice to be
some of the leaders in your area, or people that you thought
to be successful?
Mim, Bill & Molly Wigderson, Mike & Trudy Muller, Ray
Cataldi & Steve Cochran, Sally & Ed Chandler, Carnell
Gurrath & Hugo & Sally Gamboa.
RC: How did you make contact with them?
gotten to know when I attended her training classes.
She used to run a pretty strenuous class. Showed me a
lot of techniques. There was no one that could stack a
dog like Carnell. She taught me a lot.
At those classes, I
met the Wigdersons. Mim asked me to show her fawn
bitch, Rosie, CH. JOKER'S WILD ROSE OF MIRAMOR.
Rosie was out of Ch. Sheenwater's Joker's Wild owned by
Sally & Ed Chandler. The Chandlers were very
supportive of me. Rosie won most of her points from
the 9 - 12 puppy class. I remember because that's also
when I met Mike & Trudy Muller. They had a cute little
6 - 9 brindle puppy bitch that always seemed to be my
competition. That would be Ch. Dagon's I'm Pixie.
I was thrilled since it seemed that it was either Pixie
taking reserve to Rosie or Rosie taking reserve to
Pixie. Rosie was the first Dane I finished. I was
hooked! Now it was time to breed Rosie. Mim
chose Ch. Ashbun Acres Avant Garde, owned by Hugo & Sally
Gamboa. In those days, it was not allowed to accept
money for handling unless you were an AKC recognized
Professional Handler, so Mim, to show her gratitude, put my
name on Rosie for the breeding and gave me a puppy, a fawn
male, Shorty. How original! Good thing he was
the opposite of his name! Mim kept a fawn male,
Tristan, CH. ROSIE'S TRISTAN OF MIRAMOR. Ray Cataldi &
Steve Cochran, I met around 1976, when I lived with a
friend, Faye Ringhand. Faye had Steve handle her
dog and we began going to shows together. Those were
fun days. Ah to be young again. I can remember
after showing, we would take care of the dogs and go out
dancing until all hours of the night, go back to the hotel
for a quick nap and then up again to show the next day.
RC: When did you think, or did
you always think you wanted to be a handler?
Once I began handling, I loved the competition. I also
enjoyed meeting all new people every where I went.
I didn't necessarily set out to be a handler but I did enjoy
working with the dogs.
RC: You developed a
relationship with Mike and Trudy Muller? How did that
met Mike & Trudy at the shows. Mike was handling Pixie
at the time. June
& Art Shafer had asked me if I would drive June to the
National. I don't remember the year but this was when
Nationals were always held in New York. Art had
a business meeting and would have to fly out to the
National. I was thrilled. This was to be my
first National. The plan was to drive to Ft. Wayne,
load my stuff into their motor home and drive to New York.
Only one problem, I had never driven a motor home before.
I'm not sure how I did it, but I convinced Mike Muller to
teach me how to drive his motor home. Wow, I wonder
how I did that???????? Anyway, Mike called me and said
that they were going to a training class and if I came down,
they would take the motor home and he would let me drive.
Excited but panicked, I headed to Illinois. Mike had
me stand behind him while he drove. He explained what
to watch for etc, and then as we approached a toll booth, he
put the motor home in park, got up and said slide into the
drivers seat. Trudy sat in the passenger seat laughing
at me the whole time and Mike stood behind me ready to grab
the wheel if I made a mistake. It was the longest 45
minute trip I had ever taken. I was shaking like a
leaf. We made it! Mike then let me drive a
few more times and said that he would caravan with June & me
to New York. The day before I was to drive to the
Shafer's, June called to cancel. I was terribly
disappointed since I could not afford to go on my own.
Mike & Trudy extended the invitation for me to go with them
and Mike offered to pay my expenses if I helped them with
the dogs they were taking. We
carried 6 dogs, one being Dagon's Versailles. Mike
tried to show him at one of the shows before the National.
Versailles was not cooperating with Mike so he told me to
give it a try. He won a class of 12 at the specialty
before the National and then went on to Best Puppy in
Futurity. That was the beginning of my handling for
Mike and Trudy.
RC: How were
they to work for/with?
They were excellent clients.
When/ where/ how did you and John meet?
John and I met in 1980. We both worked for the same
company. I worked in the office as the M.I.S.
director. John was a 2nd shift supervisor in the
foundry. One night I was working late to get my annual
forecast done. I had a hard time reading one of the
reports I was inputting so I called the foundry to ask
whoever submitted the report to please print more legibly.
It happened to be John that sent me the reports. After
our conversation, he typed the report and hand delivered it
to me. We talked a while and then went out on our
first date about 2 weeks later.
RC: How did that progress?
John & Jessie:
We got married in 1982.
RC: John, where did you grow up?
John: I was born in Milwaukee. When very young
we moved to a rural suburb of Milwaukee, and when 12 to a small town in
Central Arizona where I attended high school then on to the University of
Arizona in Tucson.
RC: Did you have animals as a boy?
John: As a child I recall having a Boxer, a
German Shepard, and a Collie. Later when living in Arizona I worked after
school as a stable hand for a couple that had along with many horses,
Standard Poodles and Bulldogs that they showed. At the time I really enjoyed
the Poodles as wonderful companions and could not understand at all what
would possess someone to trim them as they did, still don't.
RC: When and how did you begin your activities together as a team?
John: When we met Jessie had a Great Dane and a Saluki living with her
in an apartment. I understood very early that if I was to win her heart I
needed to convince the dogs first. There have always been dogs in our life
together, when Jessie's handling for others precluded her from showing our
own dogs I asked if she minded if I showed them, the rest has evolved from
RC: How was it for you, coming
into something Jessie was already somewhat established in?
John: I could not
have had a better mentor. We do not always share the same opinions which I
believe gives us an advantage being able to see another point of view
regarding breeding, judges, etc.
RC: Did you two have a plan or
did things more or less “evolve?”
John: The "game" of dogs has
changed so dramatically since I began in it that if we had a plan it
would have been changed long ago. One thing neither one of us
compromises on is that a Great Dane is truly a distinctive, majestic,
and noble creature and that our breeding needs to insure that we do not
lose these unique qualities.
ELAN GREAT DANES--BREEDING
RC: How many
champions have you bred?
RC: Have you
mostly out-crossed, line-bred or done in-breedings and why?
I would have
to say that the number of out crosses and the number of line
breedings are about the same. We have not done any in-breedings.
RC: How many dogs
do you think you two have finished?
We finish an
average of 12 per year. Some years we had as many as 18, so
I'm guessing we've finished between 200 - 250. That's just
Danes. We've also finished Saluki's, English Foxhounds,
Irish Setters, Dobermans, & Rottweilers.
The amount of time spent traveling has to be the hardest
part. We've had people comment about the handling fee vs.
the amount of time you are actually in the ring. Those are
the people who do not understand all the preparation that
goes into this line of work. It's much different than
punching a time clock.
RC: What are some
of the hard parts of being successful handlers?
Maintaining a private life separate from our public life is
Clients? A few words about some of the clients?
Jessie: We've been fortunate enough
to have many good clients who have bred and owned many wonderful
animals. A great many of these clients have become great friends.
Class dogs, Specials?
Jessie: We've handled class dogs &
specials for kennels, top breeders, judges, & relatively novice owners
from the U.S. and other parts of the world. I think we've learned many
things from them all and I hope they have also learned from us.
What about politics?
Jessie: Yes, there are days when the dogs are judged
before they ever enter the ring. As much as we wish politics
did not exist in the dog world, we would be foolish to think
it doesn't. We've had situations where we have won due to
who we are, won due to who owned the dog and, unfortunately
we have also lost due to who owned the dog.
RC: Do you each play particular roles
in your handling business?
Jessie: I, for the most
part, manage the business. I take care of the dogs, the
phone calls, the entries, sending out the schedules, bills
and organizing who goes where and in what class. We work out
the schedule together, we work the dogs together to see the
best way for the dog to be presented. John does all the
roadwork, that's why he's in better condition than I am!!!
RC: Who has the best
Jessie: John has the business mind but we do discuss
everything and share our opinions with each other.
RC: When you sell dogs, do
you usually take on the handling of those dogs?
Jessie: Not always. Many times an existing client will
purchase a puppy from us and then, most definitely we handle
them but we have puppies in all parts of the country where
logistically it would be impossible to show them all.
RC: John, you have another
full time job. What do you do?
John: I manage a foundry operation.
RC: John, did you ever
think of making a living just in dogs and leaving your other
job? (Or visa-versa?)
John: No. The dog business is a wonderful diversion
from what I do for a living.
RC: What do your families
think about this thing that consumes so much of your lives?
Jessie: John's family doesn't understand it at all. My
family has finally come to grips with it and are finally
understanding if they want us present for some family
function, they need to give us at least a month's notice. We
do explain it as it is our job and our job requires us to
work weekends. In the beginning, the dog shows always came
first. I even missed my Mother's wedding due to the
Regional. Now, we try to do more family things.
RC: Do they understand
about the success you’ve achieved?
I think they try to. I do know they understand about the
amount of time that is necessary for us to spend.
RC: You’ve been breeders,
handlers, involved in local club activities, involved in
parent club activities, done some sweeps judging and both
have judged the Futurity. What parts have you liked the best
and what parts have been the most rewarding?
Jessie: I would have to say, for me the most
rewarding as a breeder is to have bred a top dog or bitch,
not just in the show ring. I am extremely proud to have bred
Nash & Redford and how successful they have been as stud
dogs. As a handler, I would say a successful campaign
of a special. The ultimate for me was to be chosen by my
peers to judge the Futurity, the showcase for our breeders.
John: I have been fortunate to have been
recognized as the handler for several top dogs owned by
great clients. My greatest satisfaction comes from the
inclusion of dogs that we have bred in the breeding programs
of people that I have a very high regard for.
RC: What do you expect of
John & Jessie: We expect them to know our standard,
judge the animals fairly and to the best of their knowledge
and in a professional and courteous manner.
RC: What do you expect of
John & Jessie: The same that we expect from the
judges. Do your job, do it well and in a professional and
RC: What do you expect of
John& Jessie: Actually, we could say the same here
too. We expect them to know their dogs and be realistic
about their qualities, have them trained and in the best
RC: How do you feel about
the breed as it stands today?
Jessie: I think every decade has it's issues. We make
some improvements and lose ground in other areas. I think
the commercialization of championships has led to an era of
more common and generic dogs. Overall, I do believe the
health of the breed has improved.
RC: Would each of you
(separately) describe an ideal Great Dane?
John: Majestic, regal and unmistakable from any other
breed of dog.
Jessie: One that is as close to the standard as possible
with the attitude of a true showman.
RC: Do you think the AKC
is on the right track or should they be doing things
Gee Ray, these
are some tough questions.
Jessie: I thought their function was to be a registry
of breeding stock. It seems at times they have drifted from
that. They may finally have a handle on the requirements and
testing for people wishing to become judges, but they need a
way for those judges to continue on, if they desire, without
judging the breeds they really do not care for. We know of
many judges who really do not care for Great Danes. There
ought to be a way for them to climb the ladder but not HAVE
to judge our breed. How can they do a good job if they don't
John: I agree with Jessie but would need to see the
current mission statement to decide whether they are on
track or not.
RC: You have been active
in many parent club activities.
What do you think are the most serious issues regarding the
Jessie: Due to the loss sustained by last years
National, I think the GDCA needs to develop some guide lines
to better monitor the financial status of the Nationals. The
GDCA can't afford to have this kind of loss.
I do want to compliment this Board and especially Jane
Chopson on one issue that I think is key, COMMUNICATION.
Rumors are started from things that are unknown. Put the
information out there to the membership and who knows, you
may get some really great suggestions.
RC: Some think the
existence of their show, as we know it, is doomed? Do you
think there’s anything to that opinion?
Jessie: I do think our entry is getting such that it
is becoming impossible in every region, to find a facility
with the requirements we now hold. I see nothing wrong with
hosting a show at a facility other than a hotel. We can have
all the necessities, Top 20, Futurity, Performance Events,
Specialty, Auction & Presidents dinner at the show site or a
designated spot and let everyone be responsible to find &
book their own rooms just like we do each week for every
other dog show.
RC: What about this
so-called “health testing?”
Jessie: I assume you are referring to the idea of only
accepting futurity nominations from dogs and bitches that
have been either OFA'd or Penn Hipped. I'd like to know the
reason for this idea. Do we feel there are dogs winning the
futurity that are dysplastic? Hasn't it been proven that you
can take two OFA clear animals and produce a dysplastic get?
RC: What about mixed-color
John & Jessie: If done by conscionable breeders who
are willing to properly take responsibility for their
actions, we have no issue with it.
RC: What about ear
John & Jessie: We have finished many dogs with natural
ears as well as cropped. Our preference is the cropped look.
If we are forced to use veterinarians to do our cropping, we
need them to understand that we are not just looking for
someone to cut the ears, we are looking for the artistic
flair which can make or break our dogs' look. For those
breeders who choose the uncropped look, they need to be
aware of what proper ear set, shape & length are.
RC: What about “breed
type” or the absence of it?
Jessie: Now as in years past, I think the ratio of
dogs with and without type is about the same. I find it
interesting that there are people who claim to breed or show
or judge based on breed type but will then argue that there
is too much emphasis on the head. If the description of the
head takes up the largest portion of the standard, how can
you exclude the head?
RC: As a breeder and as a
handler, what do you think about “the Judging” at shows?
Jessie: Interesting that we should be answering this
question today. We just found out that The Gregory's are
unable to judge the Dallas Specialty preceding this years
National. When I called around to find out who would be
replacing them, I was asked what my thoughts were on having
an all breed judge. My answer was, the great entry they
received was due to their choice of having two well known,
well respected breeders, Hazel & Bob Gregory. We have the
luxury of having so many breeder judges to choose from that
I felt it would be a shame not to pick a breeder.
RC: Do you think handlers
are adding or subtracting from the over-all betterment of
would hope they are helping or adding. We always try to be
honest with our clients about their dogs potential. We also
try to suggest possible breedings.
RC: How much to you think
people (breeders, exhibitors, handlers, judges) actually
know about dogs and dog conformation?
Jessie: I'm constantly amazed at how many people are
not aware of their dogs faults.
RC: What advise would you
give to a younger person wanting to become a Great Dane
Breeder and/or professional handler?
Jessie: First, I would say it doesn't happen over
night. Find a successful mentor and talk and ask a lot of
questions of them.
RC: Are your future goals
the same as each others?
Yes, I hope!!!!!
RC: What do you think
might be in your future regarding dog activities?
Jessie: The answer to this question changes regularly!
It depends on my knees, the string of dogs, the special, and
sometimes just what side of the bed we got up on!
RC: Do you plan on doing
Jessie: Yes, most definitely.
RC: Do you aspire to
Jessie: No. We enjoy judging sweepstakes and the
Futurity but to hop on and off planes does not appeal to me.
RC: Do you think your experiences have been
different from the standpoint of being a man or a woman in
the sport of dogs?
Jessie: I don't think it has any bearing what so ever.
RC: Is there anything else you would like to
Jessie: Thank you so much for this opportunity. I commend you on
doing a great job and wish you all success with your
Jessie & John