Interview with Owner Handler Katie Cecilio
1. When were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?
Katie Cecilio: I’ve been into purebred dogs as an intense interest since I was twelve years old. I was actually a registered junior handler, but never got to do anything with it. I knew Bedlington Terriers existed for a long time before getting one, and even knew a few that belonged to my sister’s friend’s family. It wasn’t until I became a professional groomer, many years later, that I settled on them as the first breed of dog I would own as an adult. I finally got my start in 2018 after purchasing my first Bedlington Terrier puppy earlier that year. Three Bedlingtons later, you could say that I’m hooked!
2. How many years in dogs? How many as an Owner Handler?
Katie Cecilio: I’ve been involved in the fancy for almost four years, all of those as an Owner Handler!
3. Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended any handling seminars?
Katie Cecilio: Before COVID began, I attended handling classes semi-regularly, fitting them in betweencollege and work. I haven’t been to any since, but now that my schedule has allowed for the time, I plan to go back! Nothing can replace the real thing, but classes have been very helpful in developing and fine-tuning my skills.
4. Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Classes? Videos? Websites? Social Media?
Katie Cecilio: I have learned a good deal of theory from online sources. Social media gives me the chance to expose myself to different techniques, pieces of advice and the like from other exhibitors. Ultimately, I run any new ideas by my mentors or experienced friends, but being exposed to new ideas gives me more tools to address new challenges.
I have learned a good deal of theory from online sources. Social media gives me the chance to expose myself to different techniques, pieces of advice and the like from other exhibitors.
5. Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
Katie Cecilio: Whenever it’s offered, I check the box on my entries. I do my best to reach, increase, and maintain my ranking, but I try not to lose any sleep over it!
6. In which class(es) are you most likely to enter your dog(s)? Why?
Katie Cecilio: Once a given dog ages out of the 9-12 Month Class, I opt to enter them in the Open Class. In my breed, I have been advised that they will receive the best possible consideration for Winners Dog/Bitch this way.
7. Is it a challenge to compete with your breed(s) as an Owner Handler?
In my area, the Terrier Group is often packed with well-known handlers on beautiful dogs. I’ve noticed that we get more consideration in the NOHS Groups, and it’s much more likely to find ourselves in the ribbons there!
Katie Cecilio: Bedlingtons are very Owner Handler heavy, with many seasoned and skilled Owner Handlers, so the breed ring can still be very competitive. This is especially true once you get to the Group ring—not only is the breed not one usually considered for Group placements, but we end up against many professionals! In my area, the Terrier Group is often packed with well-known handlers on beautiful dogs. I’ve noticed that we get more consideration in the NOHS Groups, and it’s much more likely to find ourselves in the ribbons there!
8. Are you intimidated by the Professional Handlers? By the Judges?
Katie Cecilio: If I said I never was, I would be a liar! Now that I’m more familiar and comfortable in a show environment, they aren’t as scary anymore. They’re just people—skilled at their craft and deserving of respect, but people nonetheless! I’ve gotten many helpful tips and comments from both Handlers and Judges. I’m even happy to call some Professional Handlers and their Assistants my friends.
9. Who have been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler?
Katie Cecilio: My dogs’ breeders, Gaby Gilbeau & Laurie Zembrzuski, have taught me nearly everything I know. Their success in Bedlington Terriers, especially as Breeder/Owner Handlers themselves, needs no explanation. I have also been very lucky to glean bits of valuable advice from Lydia Frey, Margery Good, and Brendan Coleman. The rest of Team Goodspice have also been a huge help over the years, including, but not limited to, my good friend, Amanda Ross.
10. How important is the Owner Handler to the future of the dog sport?
Katie Cecilio: Owner Handlers make up a significant number of the folks I see at any given show. Many find their start in our sport as an Owner Handler. Without these dedicated folks, I can’t imagine where we would be!
11. What are your goals as an Owner Handler? Is there a victory that has eluded you?
Katie Cecilio: Specifically, as an Owner Handler, I’m still aiming for an NOHS Best in Show! My current special definitely has what it takes… we’re just patiently waiting for our time to shine. Other than that, a regular Group placement and another Specialty win are my next goals.
12. Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as an Owner Handler?
Katie Cecilio: At Morris & Essex last year, our club held our Founder’s Specialty, and we went all-out with fun prizes and beautiful rosettes! I remember standing ringside after Puppy Sweepstakes, and a gentleman was in the ring, addressing the crowd. I assumed he was saying something about the Veteran Sweepstakes, which was next. But the next thing I knew, he and others were calling my name! I came into the ring, and I was handed a hat box full of goodies, plus a small crimson rosette—I had won Best Hat! It’s a beautiful navy blue tricornered-style hat with a fabulous, large feather adorned on the side. Friends later joked that I ended up winning the Breed that day because of my hat—clearly politics at work!