Search Menu

Junior Spotlight

Junior Report: Jessica Anichini

Junior handler Jessica Anichini

I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. My life as a Junior Handler did not begin with Professional Handler parents who were showing dogs every weekend. My journey started as a twelve-year-old girl passionate about dogs and a letter. I have always loved Bernese Mountain Dogs, with their breathtaking appearance and wonderful temperament; I knew this breed was for me. Five years ago, my school bus went past a house that had six Bernese Mountain Dogs running in the front yard! I found out who the owners were, and I wrote a letter asking if I could meet them and their dogs. That’s when I was lucky enough to meet an amazing woman, Lynne Farrell Washburn. She introduced me to the world of Bernese Mountain Dogs!

Lynne took me to my very first All-Breed dog show. I immediately fell in love and knew this was what I wanted to do. Shortly thereafter, I started conformation classes to prepare to show Tory, a bitch that Lynne owned in Junior Showmanship. Because I am not her daughter, she had to add me as a Co-Owner. Every dog I take in the ring, I must be listed as a co-owner, which can make my life as a Junior Handler difficult, especially since you cannot show a bitch in season. Cheryl Peterson was my very first conformation teacher, she taught me almost everything I know and do in the Juniors ring. Every Wednesday, I was excited and eager to learn from Cheryl. She prepared me for my first dog show. I earned a first placement in my class that day, and I became hooked.

I showed Tory in Junior Showmanship for almost two years when Lynne gifted me with the first pick puppy from Tory’s next litter. When the puppies arrived, I was there to help whelp. I was fortunate to be there from their very first breath to when they went to their forever homes. At the eight-week puppy evaluation, two of the ten puppies, orange, and yellow girls, were clearly the pick of the litter. My heart was telling me the orange girl was the one for me, and to this day that was the best decision of my life. I knew that this would be my Ophelia, my first Bernese Mountain dog, and I had big plans for Ophy! We worked hard together, practicing down and backs on my driveway. I wanted her to be that perfect girl in the 6–9-month puppy class that just stood still when stacked. She took winners bitch for two points at her first show!

My passion for the breed grew as Ophy matured. I would see many Bernese Mountain Dog owners competing in companion events such as agility, rally, and obedience. I told Lynne that I would like to start doing companion events with Ophy. I wanted to be that person with the Bernese Mountain Dog who had all of those titles after their dog’s name. This was my first dog, and I wanted to do anything and everything with her. What I wanted most for Ophy was to earn a BMDCA Versatility award.

Lynne was very supportive of this goal as were many other Bernese Mountain Dog people. Buffy Cramer-Hammann, the draft and obedience queen as I refer to her, was kind enough to mentor Ophy and I, so we could work towards titles needed for Ophy’s versatility award. I worked very hard to memorize the signs for rally, we earned our Novice Rally title at the 2019 BMDCA National Specialty. After the National, we began training for draft. Buffy would spend her weekends helping Ophy and I become acquainted with the cart and ensuring I knew how to safely harness and hitch. She was very patient with me. Eventually, we went on to working with narrows and backing up. Once we were comfortable, we attended our first draft test in Michigan. Ophy passed with flying colors earning her novice draft title.

A second performance title was needed for the requirements of the Versatility award. Agility sparked my interest, because not many Bernese Mountain Dogs competed in agility. I knew walking into my beginner’s agility class that Ophy and I were going to be the odd balls. She was the only large breed student amongst almost all Border Collies. That did not stop us from training for and earning our Novice Agility Preferred title. I was lucky enough to become a part of a dog training club where Jean Munger trained. Jean is also a Bernese Mountain Dog person, and she knew what Ophy and I needed in the agility ring. She has guided me to the open agility and jumpers’ classes where we are currently competing. With Jean’s assistance, Ophy and I have our sights on a PACH.

The remaining piece of the Versatility award puzzle was a Conformation Championship. Ophy had all her points, but still needed both majors. I am proud to say that I finished her championship with two- five-point majors as an owner handler! When the judge pointed to Ophy and me, it was one of the best moments of my life and I knew all of our hard work had paid off. Ophy had earned all the required titles for the Versatility Dog Award in the same year!

While Ophy and I were working hard and earning titles together, I was also striving to qualify for Junior Showmanship at the 2020 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (WKC). At the 2019 BMDCA National Specialty, Layal Bouaoun, generously allowed me the opportunity to co-own and show Brut as a junior’s dog. Brut and I instantly connected, and we won Best Junior Handler at the National Specialty! With the WKC Dog Show qualifying dates being from October to October, I had a late start with Brut, beginning our journey in May. Over the summer, Brut and I collected five more Best Junior Handler awards. As October presented itself with a final weekend of competition to qualify for WKC, I needed to win back-to-back Best Juniors to fulfill my dream of showing a Bernese Mountain Dog on the green carpet of Madison Square Garden. Brut and I were able to accomplish my goal for that weekend. The joy that filled my heart that day was unexplainable. This was the icing on the cake, a dream come true! I am looking forward to exhibiting in the Junior Showmanship class at the 2020 WKC Dog Show.

Though I have aged out of juniors I will continue with AKC events. As more dogs enter my life, I will continue to train them in AKC events because I believe it is a good bonding experience for the dogs and handler. AKC has offered me so many grand opportunities, that I feel it is only right for me to continue to support them through my life. Being involved with AKC events has taught me the love of competing at dog events. My dogs are my life and by doing these events, we only grow closer.

As a Junior Handler, I set several goals, some that I thought I would never be able to achieve. I have found that having my support system through it all was what kept me going. Without all these amazing people in my juniors’ career, none of the accomplishments would have been possible. Through my journey I have learned showmanship, sportsmanship and camaraderie. Thanks to everyone, it truly takes a village to raise a junior.