A Day in the Life of a Handler’s Assistant – Katie Seppi
In every breed recognized by the American Kennel Club, there is a small collection of kennel names recognized as the most heralded contributors to the breed.
Where the Shetland Sheepdog is concerned, two of those that come to mind are Kismet, owned by Guy Mauldin, whom one will hear several Sheltie people refer to as “The Godfather,” and the other is Karisma, a breeding program started by Mendy Gleason, who dropped everything as a teenager to move from Colorado to Texas to learn under Guy.
Down the line of this story in which Mendy has become one of the most successful Sheltie handlers in the country enters Katie Seppi, who happened into the dog world not affiliated with the sport of conformation or even purebred dogs.
In a world in which so many people who participate in such a sport are “born into dogs,” it’s important to remember those who did not take the traditional path who have, perhaps, some of the most interesting stories of all.
“When I was younger, I had a Sheltie-Pomeranian mix who was incredibly smart,” Katie says. “I enrolled us in my local 4-H dog obedience course. The instructor saw something in me, and coming from conformation, he had me go to some AKC shows and show his Rough Collies.”
After that first step in the ring, the rest has been history for Katie.
“I have had the bug ever since,” she says. “It’s been amazing because of the support system I’ve had and the quality of dogs I’ve been around.”
She showed multiple different breeds in the North after starting with her instructor’s Rough Collies, gaining experience and then heading down South to learn more about Shelties under Guy and Mendy, ultimately becoming an assistant for Mendy and starting her own breeding program with a Karisma dog she calls “Tiffany.”
Katie, who is also now serving in the military (a strong family tradition in her upbringing), has enjoyed her time in the show ring and continues to be involved both as a breeder and a handler.
“There’s no question that these are long hours that we work as an assistant, but it’s all for the dogs,” Katie says.
There’s no question that these are long hours that we work as an assistant, but it’s all for the dogs.
“I wake up early to let everyone out and make sure their needs are met and then having to keep everything in order with them together while I work. It’s rewarding how much they just want to be with you. Feeding time comes around, and that’s obviously everyone’s favorite. And when the show day is all said and done, then they get to spend as much time as they want outside.”
Garnering a little bit of praise and attention of her own while she is still working her way up the ranks both in the real world and the Sheltie world, Katie feels honored to be aligned with some of the most renowned names in the breed.
“It means the world to me to be associated with those kennel names,” Katie says.
“Shelties as a breed mean everything to me. No breed so perfectly matches me inside and out the way these dogs do. The variety of color, the different personalities, Shelties really have something for everyone. If I didn’t have my Shelties, I don’t know what I would have because they really are perfection.”
Outside of the ring and the rankings, though, it all comes down to one thing: dogs being dogs and lifelong companions more than anything else.
“They are dogs we can have up and out of the ring for a while until they mature and are perfect,” Katie says. “Then, it’s easy to finish their championship and put a title on them purely because of what they are.”
“At the end of the day, I love spending sunsets with my girls, and the time we have together is the most valuable thing to me,” Katie says.