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Thoughts From the Professional Handlers – Anna & Rich Mysliwiecz

Anna & Rich Mysliwiecz


Thoughts From the Professional Handlers – Anna & Rich Mysliwiecz

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live? How long have you been a pro handler for? How did you get your start? Who are/were your mentors and with whom did you apprentice?

While we reside South of Dallas, Texas, we travel frequently to Arizona and Colorado, our former homes. We have both been handling professionally for over 25 years, and got our start as Junior Handlers. Anna began in California working for Laurie Fenner (then Jordan) and several other California handlers. Rich followed in the footsteps of his parents, having been handlers as well. It would be safe to say that we have both taken things from lots of those who have gone before us, those we may have worked for, and some we may have just watched. But it’s truly our passion and love of the dogs that has brought us to where we are today. We have chosen to not show a lot of dogs at a time, but rather, the dogs become members of our family.


As a pro handler, can you share your thoughts on the sport today? Has judging changed since you first began showing dogs professionally? What do you think about the amount of shows today? Is social media good for the sport? Is it harmful?

I think a better word might be “evolved.” Like most things, the sport has evolved with the changing times. While, yes, there are more shows, and this has certainly affected counts at shows, our society has evolved and we are fighting the animal rights movement and the lack of “breeding kennels” anymore. For a variety of reasons, people simply don’t own the number of dogs they used to. The East Coast has always had a higher density of shows and this has not changed. Those of us further west have fewer shows to choose from, with farther distances. This is nothing new. Social Media has, for sure, changed our sport, though. Some for the good and some for the bad. While it has allowed much more rapid communication, it has also, I think, given people a curtain to hide behind. We are getting the opportunity to see dogs from around the country and the world that we might not have been able to see, but I think we’re also being hurtful and judgmental to each other. When we began, I think our professionals were much more supportive of one another, and we could beat each other in the ring all day and then go have dinner together at the end of the day. The sport, I think, as a whole now, has lost some of this. Now, we all run to social media to see what everyone else is doing. I think one thing we need to remember is that it’s ONE DOG FOR ONE YEAR! Next year, we’ll all have different ones but we will all still have to work around each other. Don’t let it affect our friendships.


Have the changes made to the Rules Applying to dog shows been good for the sport of dogs? Any thoughts on Reserve Best in Show? What about earning points through a Group win or placement? Do you agree that reserve winners at a specialty should earn championship points?

Like anything, there are pros and cons to rule changes. One of the notable ones being earning points through Group placements; yes, it is beneficial to the low entry breeds, but I could see it being detrimental as a dog may never defeat another of its breed to become a champion. Another is the addition of Reserve Best in Show. I do feel with this that if it is an award and we are going to give it that high a level of competition, it should have some value. I do believe dogs should be awarded points for this placement. Likewise, with points being awarded for Reserve at Specialties. I do think it is beneficial.


In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the show community as a whole today and how can these be addressed? What are some positive changes you’ve seen in your profession and in the dog show community over the past decade?

I, by no means have the magic “fix” for everything that is dog shows. But I do think we have some real challenges that, if not addressed, could slowly kill our sport. We are losing the meaning of a true “professional.” Not everyone needs to be a handler, but those who label and advertise as such should be willing to take on the responsibility that comes along with it. As a whole, our dogs have become ordinary. We can put a championship on just about anything anymore. Breeders are having a hard time finding trustworthy and interested novices to mentor. Some breeders themselves don’t want to mentor. Some breeders have chosen to not sell “show” puppies anymore because of the fear that a new home or “sharing” their line brings. Without a mentor, the next generation doesn’t learn and there is no one to carry on the legacy. We all had mentors. We all had those who took the time to teach us. For this reason it is equally important, if not more so, to involve our younger generation. They truly are our future. Future breeders, future handlers, future owner-handlers. Without them, our sport dies. Let’s support them!


Dog shows do not just drop down out of thin air. They require hundreds of hours and months/years of planning by many people.


And finally, do you want to tell us anything else about yourself or do you have any messages for the rest of the fancy?

Become involved! Be willing to share knowledge. I would challenge all handlers to get involved. Take a weekend off and help to put on your local shows. It’s one weekend a year. I promise, you will survive. Our clubs are dying because they, like the breeders, judges, and us handlers are aging. These clubs need the younger generation to be willing to participate, help, and learn. Dog shows do not just drop down out of thin air. They require hundreds of hours and months/years of planning by many people.