December 7, 2004


Feature Interview


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RC:  Jessie where did you grow up?
Jessie:  Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, which is outside Milwaukee.


RC:  How did you come to want a Great Dane?
Jessie:  Debbie 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 history.

RC:  How did you look for one? When did you get one? Who did you get it from? 
Jessie:  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 1972.

RC:  In the beginning, did that breeder help you learn about caring for it?

Jessie:  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 companies now!

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?

Carnell, I
had 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 occur? 

Jessie:  I 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?

Jessie:  They were excellent clients. 

RC:  When/ where/ how did you and John meet?

Jessie:  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? (Breeding/handling)
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 that.

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.



How many champions have you bred?

Jessie: 31, so far!


RC:   Have you mostly out-crossed, line-bred or done in-breedings and why?

Jessie:  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. 



 How many dogs do you think you two have finished?

Jessie:  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.

What are some of the hard parts of being successful handlers?
Jessie:  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.
Maintaining a private life separate from our public life is also difficult.


RC:  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.


RC:  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.






RC:  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 business mind?
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 a Judge?
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 other handlers?
John & Jessie:  The same that we expect from the judges. Do your job, do it well and in a professional and courteous manner.


RC:  What do you expect of the Clients?
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 possible condition.


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 differently?

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 like Danes.
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 GDCA?
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 breeding?
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 cropping?
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 the breed?

Jessie:  I 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 more breeding?
Jessie:  Yes, most definitely.

RC:  Do you aspire to become judges?

John & 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 add?
Jessie:  Thank you so much for this opportunity. I commend you on doing a great job and wish you all success with your venture.

Jessie & John Gerszewski