Interview with Owner Handler Theresa Stilger
1. When were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?
Theresa Stilger: I purchased my first purebred dog in junior high. I loved 4-H and my dog, but I wanted to try AKC sports. That dog did not work out, but I fell in love with the world of AKC and purebred dogs. I first met a Mudi six years ago when I discovered, while researching them, that their specialty was two hours from my house! I went and fell in love. I was also fascinated by how dog breeds gain full recognition and I wanted to play a part in that process.
2. How many years in dogs? How many as an Owner Handler?
Theresa Stilger: I have done dog sports, off and on, for 30 years, but I just began conformation with the Mudis five years ago. I show the Mudis myself, but I’ve used a handler when I needed help with my Swedish Vallhund, because of health issues.
3. Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended any handling seminars?
Theresa Stilger: I have attended handling classes in our local area, but I have not been lucky enough to attend any seminars.
4. Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Classes? Videos? Websites? Social Media?
Theresa Stilger: I have used some videos, websites, and social media sites. I have found my greatest resource to be the Owner Handlers and Professionals in my community.
5. Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
Theresa Stilger: As we’ve just moved into the Herding Group, rankings are all new; very exciting and important.
6. In which class(es) are you most likely to enter your dog(s)?
Theresa Stilger: I try to enter my dogs in the most appropriate class for them, and in the classes that allow me to handle as many of them as possible myself.
7. Is it a challenge to compete with your breed(s) as an Owner Handler?
Theresa Stilger: I definitely feel we are at a slight disadvantage in the regular Group ring. But, as we gain experience, this will lessen.
8. Are you intimidated by the Professional Handlers? By the Judges?
Theresa Stilger: Most Judges and Handlers have been very welcoming and helpful.
9. Who have been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler?
Theresa Stilger: My friends who also compete in conformation have been my greatest resource and mentors.
10. How important is the Owner Handler to the future of the dog sport?
Theresa Stilger: I feel that Owner Handlers are very important to the future of dog ownership and the sport. Nothing fosters your love and relationship with a dog than working together to achieve a goal.
11. What are your goals as an Owner Handler? Is there a victory that has eluded you?
Theresa Stilger: I am just beginning in the sport, but I’m sure I share the same goal as many—to compete at Westminster!
12. Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as an Owner Handler?
Theresa Stilger: Let’s just say that I discovered the special use for Vick’s VapoRub the hard way while showing my male at a large show last year. It is not easy to gait a dog around the ring when it is wrapped around your leg.