BIS: Dear Giulia, thank you very much for taking the time to give us an interview. For all of those who don’t know you, could you please tell something about you and how you got involved with dogs?
Giulia: Dear BIS, thank you so much for this incredible opportunity. My background isn’t anything special. I started dog shows just four years ago because the breeders of my first Bullmastiff Ugo thought he could have a great career. During the first shows I was only a spectator because I wasn’t the handler of my dog, especially a Junior handler. At that time I didn’t know anything about handling in general and while I was looking Junior Handling Competitions I thought it was a great thing and I wanted to try.
BIS: When did you decide to try Junior Handling and if you remember your first steps in the ring, could you say to us how it was?
Giulia: My first competition was three years ago, with Ugo. We were at The International Dog Show Montichiari, Italy. The judge was very kind and helpful because she gave us much advice. I was in the second category, but I didn’t understand why! The tension was very high and I could only say that something had gone wrong and I wanted to get out the pre-ring. Some friends told me that I had to participate even if the others were more elegant and prepared. In the end I went into the ring: the judge was standing on the side of the ring so all of us had to enter with the dog on our right… A thing that I didn’t do! I was between the judge and the dog and all the others Juniors looked at me like I was crazy, I was very embarrassed! Finally I came in last place as I imagined because the others were incredible! I decided that I’d never give up and I thought that one day I would compete with them.
BIS: Of all wins, which one do you consider your greatest? (you can mention few of them if you would like)
Giulia: My greatest win is absolutely my third place at the World Dog Show in Milan. The weekend before I’d got sixth place at the Junior Handling Competition!
BIS: Most of the time we see you in the ring with your lovely Bullmastif “Ugo”. Can you please tell us something more about him?
Giulia: Your are right! I usually go in the ring with my sweetheart Ugo. He is my first Bullmastiff and all my family LOVES this breed for their temperament and intelligence. The first picture the breeders sent to us was when Ugo was three months old and we decide that he was the dog for us. When Ugo was a little puppy, he was very active and he always played with dolls or pillows! Now he is a big, red boy of four years, he gives me much satisfaction and I’m sure he will continue to give me more. Ugo has finished many championships and also he got the Reserve in the Limit Class at Crufts 2014. Sometimes I participate at Junior Handling Competition with him because I’m totally sure that he has fun and he loves running in the ring. For me, even without World titles, Ugo will always be the best dog of the world for me and without him I would’t be here!
BIS: Besides Bullmastifs, which breed is you favourite and you would like to own one day?
Giulia: I really like all the breeds in this world, but I’ve got my favorites! I really love Bullmastiffs, you know, also the Doberman fascinates me, especially the American lines for their class and elegance. Even if I’ve never had the possibility to show them, I really like Terriers! They have got a very strong temperament, in my opinion the strongest of all. I had the chance to stay with an American Cocker during the WDS all three days, and I really love their character. In conclusion, I like all the breeds!
BIS: We all enjoyed watching your fantastic performance in the main ring during WDS in Milan. What was it like to be in the top 10 Junior Handlers in the world and later on, to finish 3rd placed?
Giulia: There are no words to describe those moments… I cried a lot before, when I was selected in the best three on Sunday; I’ve never felt more emotional than that!
After the speakers told us to go immediately in the pre ring for the final. I was very excited, nervous also for Ugo who had been in the ring since 9.00 am. Fortunately there were friends who helped me with some water for him. The judge of the final recommended us to show our dog and not us, to have fun and enjoy the moment. When I came in the main ring I wasn’t thinking anything, really! The judge took a look and finally he started to chose someone. When he came next to me he indicated me and I immediately went to my place. I also took a look to see if all was real and I realized that I was in the top 10 with the most well-known junior Handlers in the world! I was happy that there were also three Italians in the runners up! After all the exercizes, fourth place had been called, and the judge came to me and he said: “YOU”. In that moment I touched the sky and I could only cry! After the photos on the podium we went out and when I saw some of my friends cry, I was thrilled! That part was the best one: see your friends crying for a win which isn’t theirs! I’ll never say thank you enough to Veronica Ciulla because she was ALWAYS with me! I’m also grateful to the judges Juraj Sokolic (best three of the day) and to Hugo Quevedo (final)! They understand the real objectives of the competition!
BIS: During you Junior Handling career, is there someone you can call your mentor?
Giulia: Absolutely yes! During my Junior Handling “career” I went to many handling classes of professional Handlers such as Alice Varchi, Richard Hellman and Mia Ejerstad. But the most important mentor for me is Gabriele Stafuzza who helped me and he taught me a lot of things, not only for dog shows, but also for real life. He always believed in me, even if I felt bad; he said that I mustn’t give up… Thanks Gabri, from the bottom of my heart!
BIS: Is there someone you admire?
Giulia: Yes, there se some people who I admire and I usually get inspired by them! One of them is Dorottya Záhonyi-Ábel. I saw her for the first time in the main ring of the World Dog Show 2015 and she really impressed me for her naturalness she had and for the tranquility with which she showed the dog! Mia Ejerstad is another important person. I had the chance to go to one of here classes this year in Rome. I learned so much, and I really had so much fun there! She is a very positive person, with clear ideas outside and inside the ring!
BIS: Traveling to the shows takes much time and it can be very exhausting. How do you manage your time besides shows? How about school and other activities?
Giulia: Certainly Dog Shows are very exhausting especially if the day afterwards you have school. I’ve never had problems because I do my best also at school and my parents said if I don’t get good marks, I can’t go to Dog Shows. This is a good thing, especially because it pushes you to do well in school so I have more satisfaction. Honestly I absolutely prefers dog shows, but school is always school. I study languages and I’m in an advantageous position because I can speak severally languages and I can interact with more people. Fortunately my parents support me in everything and one thank you is not enough. It’s obvious that sometimes I’m very tired at school but I’ll never give up!
BIS: After the WDS in Milan we were all able to read some posts on Facebook from different professional handlers and Junior Handlers as well, regarding rules that have not been “respected” during showing and judging in the finals. What is your opinion about this? Do you think Junior Handling needs those rules of changing hands, doing figures “8” and “T”. Or do you think there are some other things that Junior Handling should be looking for?
Giulia: I deeply disagree with those views. Patterns are useless in my opinion; the movement of the dog is interupted with all that handsswitching and it’s a way of stressing the dog. If I were asked to judge a jh competition, I wouldn’t ask for a T or an 8, because we won’t use them in the breed ring once we won’t be jh anymore. I would ask only an up and down (and you would be surprised how many juniors are able to do a perfect 8 switching hands quickly, but get the up and down wrong) or a triangle, because those are the patterns we’ll be asked to perform in the breed ring. I see many juniors, especially girls, with perfect and stunning suits, the leash with diamonds and glitters, perfect hairstyles, running perfectly, smiling, being so elegant but missing the point: TO SHOW THE DOG. They’re just showing themselves. During the final at WDS we were asked not to concentrate on hand-switching and patterns but just to SHOW THE DOG and HAVE FUN. That’s why nobody was careful about hand-switching or avoiding even for a second being between the dog and the judge. I’ve never seen “T”, “L” or “8” in the USA where their competitions are always of the highest standard.
BIS: Do you recall any funny story or episode that you would like to share with us?
Giulia: Of course! I was at International Dog Show Turin 2014 and I was putting the water into the dogs’ bowls. When I closed the water tank I made sure that the dogs were in their kennels, and so I went to get the numbers from the ring. When I came back I didn’t find Ugo in his kennel and I started to shout at my friend who was there! I screamed at her like crazy and then I tripped in a bowl of water. Later I saw my father arriving with Ugo and I calmed down, he said that he missed him… I looked like a fool LOL
BIS: Is there some advice you would like to impart to young people before their start?
Giulia: If you want it do it! Your dreams will come true if you start to walk with your own legs and your enthusiasm. You will meet many people, don’t forget to learn from all of them! Work hard, stay humble, keep being honest, never stop learning and be thankful always. I made my mistakes and I continued to work on myself and I’ll never stop learning. Never give up and the results will come, be patient! Enjoy every moment even your defeats, enjoy your wins and enjoy your dog! Remember be who you are and never stop dreaming!