Interview with Mr. Javier Gonzalez Mendikote • Interviewed by Jovana Danilovic
Published in Best in Show Summer 2015
BIS: Dear Javier, thank you for taking your time to do interview with us. Even you are very young, you are already one of the most famous and most successful handlers. Please, tell us for the beginning, how did you get involved with dogs? What was your first breed?
Javier: My parents were not dog lovers, but my uncle is a well know breeder and exhibitor and it was him who supported and enlarged my passion for the dogs. As a young boy I used to go every single day to his kennels to help him with cleaning and to play with his dogs, and it was actually him who bought me my first dog, black English Cocker Spaniel Roman de Galican aka Loti. And trust me it was not easy to persuade my mother to let me have my own dog at home, but after days and days of begging and fighting she gave her conditions and Loti came home.
BIS: When you started out, did you have a mentor? And do you mentoring any newscomers nowdays?
Javier: As I mentioned in my previous answer, my Uncle is a world known breeder of German Shepherds and it was him who taught me all the basics about the dogs and their structure. We spent hours and hours looking at the photos of the famous dogs and he was explaining me everything about the structure of the dog, importance of the upper arm, croup, angulations and everything else. At the end of each conversation he would always point out that the structure of the dog and all his virtues and faults can be best seen when watching the dog move. He has an obsession on shoulders of the dogs and certainly I got that from him. I think that the position of the shoulders gives all the elegance and makes the general picture of the dog. I am really obsessed with it and as soon as I go to look one dog or a puppy it is the first thing I look!
I really like to pass my knowledge, especially to the young people interested in the sport, but I am sorry to see many nowadays do not appreciate it or are even not interested to learn as they think after the first big win they have learned everything. Unfortunately I would say that also the system learns them that many other things are more important than the hard work. Nevertheless I give a lot of seminars all around the world about grooming and handling and I am always happy and give 110 % of myself when trying to teach other people. I know how important was the knowledge I got from my Uncle in my early days so I try to share mine with everyone who is interested.
BIS: Do you remember your first show, which dog did you show?
Javier: I do not actually remember which one was my first show, but I would think it was for sure a show somewhere near home as I used to attend those quite often in my early days with my Uncle. I remember when I started to go with him to the Specialties that all the German Shepherd breeders looked at me as I was completely crazy as of course I explained to my Uncle that the dogs need to be bathed and groomed for the show! Not something German Shepherd people do too often! I started to show dogs of my Uncle when he would need a person to help out for the breeding group competitions, but the first time I showed in the breed was in Medina de Pomar where I showed my Loti and he won his first CAC and reserve CACIB.
BIS: Till today you won numerious Best in Show wins. What about your first Best in Show and how did you feel winning your first BIS?
Javier: I remember winning my first BIS very vividly. I showed an American Cocker owned by my Uncle. His name was Carfi Titiritero aka Lord. It was in Ammurio show in Spain in 2002 and the BIS judge was Mr Joao Filipe Serradas Vieira Lisboa from Portugal. At that time I enjoyed quite often the company of my friend Igartxune, who was actually the first ìdoggyî person I became friend with. I remember the dog having a very difficult coat which was almost impossible to make straight and we spent all the morning ironing him. He was a dog with a lot of charisma, always happy and wagging his tail. I was so happy and proud to win that BIS, but then when I came home and saw the photos, I was so ashamed of how the grooming of the dog looked that I immediately started looking how could I improve that for the next show. Anyhow, at that time it was the best I could do as I never learned it from anyone.
BIS: What result do you consider as youíre the biggest and best one?
Javier: It is very difficult to say that as every show and every win with every dog is important and special. But I would say that winning BEST IN SHOW with the Lhasa Zentarr Morgan at the European show in Bucharest under Mr Petru Muntean was my first really important win. On the same show we won two more groups ñ with Roma the Wire Dachs and Vigo the Kerry. After that I won two groups at the World dog show in Helsinki, with the young Wire Dachs Dolce Fontana di Trevi and the Maltese Cinecitta Sacha Baron Colen who went on to win also reserve BEST IN SHOW under Hans Lehtinen.
BIS: At the moment you are working with two assistents. How important are them to you and what qualities do you appreciate about their relation with dogs?
Javier: While living in Spain I never used to have assistants but after moving to Croatia to work with Ante Lucin we realized that with so many dogs and so much travelling it will be impossible to continue working professionally without having an assistant. We started with having one, but now we already have two so one can join us for the shows and another one can stay at home to take care of the rest of the dogs. Having a good assistant is crucial in our job. I am spending almost all the day in the kennel grooming and training the dogs which means I need someone who will help with everything else, keep the dogs clean and happy while they are enjoying their time running free and playing with other dogs. I am really very demanding and I want it all always to be perfect so I would think that the most important thing is that you can trust your assistant. When travelling for the seminars or going to the long trips you must be sure your dogs will be kept well and you will find them in the same condition you left them. I always want to know everything that is happening at home if I am away so I teach them to call me for every little thing. I like to decide by myself what is important and what is not. The good assistant can be only a person who has the passion and love for the dogs and in the same time the strong will to learn. I always try to explain them that long hours of bathing, cleaning and training are the start. The glory comes much later. Many unfortunately think that to take a piece of food to your dog and dress well is all what it takes to win! Still, with everything else to have the dog shine in the ring he must be happy. Good assistants give the show dog a good life and love which makes him shine ñ that is a key of success. Most of our assistants when coming to work for us bring their own dogs along, but those or our own dogs have never had any priority or better treatment than the clientís dogs.
BIS: During your career till now, you made wonderful results with several different lhasas including Ch. Streptease DellíAlberico, Ch. Zentarr Morgan & Ch. Swingtime DellíAlberico.Tell us please what is the most attractive thing in this breed for you?
Javier: As you and many others know, Lhasas are certainly my favorite breed. They are so special that once you meet them and fall in love with them you will never be without at least one at home. They have incredible temperament; they are so intelligent and stubborn in the same way but never heavy or too demanding. Their silhouette is just everything I would like to see in one dog. They always have only one owner and they are ready to do everything for him. It is their special eyes that made me fall in love with them and after Najua (Swingtime) finished her show career I kept her as my pet and later on we kept also Strep. The two shaved oldies are now enjoying their life with us and they mean a world to me. I feel I really have a special connection with this breed and it is always special feeling to show a Lhasa!
BIS: You are very well-known as a handler specialized for long coated breeds. How did you find attractive working with long coated dogs?
Javier: To be completely sincere with you I must say that in the beginning I hated the long coated breeds. When my Aunt got tired of having so many German Shepherds at home she decided my Uncle should make one more prefix together with already famous Itxasondo, which he is still today using only for the German Shepherds, and start to breed some smaller breeds too. That was the start of the Kirikino kennel which became well known for the American Cockers and Shih Tzus. This is why almost no one in Spain calls me by my real name but by my nick name Kiri. I remember myself trying every day new cosmetics as I thought there was a special formula, a kind of a special shampoo or conditioner which will make the dogs having fantastic coat without working too much! How wrong I was! I remember on one of my first shows I heard breeders talking about having the coat treated in oil so on Monday after a long day in school I came home, bathed the dogs and put olive oil on their coat. It was summer and after few days they were full of allergies and tangles! So I learned my lesson! Anyhow, as I always wanted to be the best in everything I do, I guess I learned quite fast and hard work and good cosmetics resulted very soon with first Shih Tzu champions, then group winners with BIS placements. When Jovana asked me to do this interview, I looked for some old photos and realized that dogs years ago looked different than they look today after my grooming, but still I am glad today my dogs look much better, it would be a shame if it would be the opposite. I always say that hard work always pays back.
BIS: Working as handler demands lot of traveling, what is your favourite contry you have traveled to?
Javier: I love to go to Italy. My first and the most important clients live there and I always enjoy my time there. I love their food, architecture, language. It is not exotic but it is very charming and special. Still, if I would need to pick up just one city I would vote for Budapest which is really magical, especially during the night.
BIS: Do you have favourite show?
Javier: Yes. I must say that my favorite show for sure is Estoril in Portugal. We are always well treated on the shows in Portugal but there is something so special about Estoril. It is organized on the gorgeous show ground in front of the casino, during the summer, near to the beach. Everything looks so nice. The food is fantastic and we enjoy the famous caipirinas. Since I moved to Croatia it is also a perfect chance for me every year to meet on one place all my dear friends from Spain and Portugal. Also it proved to be my lucky show as among all the great results achieved there, two times I did a triple there with my dogs ñ meaning winning three BIS out of three in the same weekend! I did it with Morgan the Lhasa and Sacha the Maltese!
BIS: What part of your job you do like the least in this business?
Javier: Certainly this is the easiest question for me to answer. Just I cannot decide if I hate more packing or unpacking. After all the work has been done in the kennel it is horrible afterwards to pack the car but even worst is to come home tired after a long weekend and then have to unpack it all.
BIS: Have you ever had crisis which made you consider quitting this job?
Javier: Of course I had! Actually, especially lately and for the two reasons. First because being on the top as a handler has put my private life on the second place and second because more you are successful more you realize how mean and jealous people can be.
BIS: What would you do, if you didnít decide to be a handler?
Javier: After I finished my high school education I went to the University to study to be the industrial engineer, specialized in electro mechanics. So, if I didnít fell in love with dogs and dog shows I would probably finish my University and start to work in that profession.
BIS: What do you respect the most in judging skills?
Javier: I think first of all, one judge when judging a breed should know the type. You can easily follow the criteria if the judge has the same type winners from the first till the last class he judges. Second, they need to have a huge respect for the exhibitors and dogs. Finally the shows are there because of them.
BIS: Which dog was your favourite dog that you ever handled, and was this dog also your most successful one?
Javier: That is a very difficult question. But if I would need to choose the dog I enjoyed the most showing that would probably be Streptease the Lhasa. There was something special about her, the way she was showing and her charisma were something you donít find so often. And Lhasas being my favorite breed made this choice a bit easier. Anyway, I should mention also the Smooth Chihuahua Misty Meadowís Orlando Furioso aka Luca because all he became in the show rings was a product of months of me trying to become his best friend!
And then at the end, the most winning dog I ever showed would probably be Cinecitta Sacha Baron Colen who was certainly a dog who won the biggest amount of Bests in Show and glamorous wins than any other dog I showed before.
BIS: What do you think about moving Eukanuba World Challenge from Orlando to Amsterdam?
Javier: We were really lucky to be Eukanubaís guests for the four years in a row. All four editions of the Eukanuba World Challenge we competed at (three in Orlando and one in Amsterdam) were top class events. Even if I achieved the best result in Amsterdam, I must say Orlando was very special for us. To travel to another part of the world, see the dogs you donít see every weekend and meet the people that you normally see only in the magazines was very interesting. You could really get to see the dog world from another perspective. Also travelling in December and leaving half meter of snow at home to come to the sunny pool in Hilton Orlando was a big plus. But in four years we learned also that EWC is such a special event and that no matter where it is organized Eukanuba team always did everything possible to make us more than welcome. We became a part of their big family and we were always treated like kings!
BIS: In my opinion you have two big skills in work that I admire the most ñ you are workaholic and very precise in grooming. Is that what you are only with dogs, or in you private life as well?
Javier: I think in other aspects of my life I am not even a half passionate or patient as I am with dogs. Usually I am very difficult to decide and sometimes it happens I do the things in the last moment. Knowing me all my life, my mother has also been shocked to see I could put so much effort into the dogs and grooming as in the other things I was never like that.
BIS: Do you have some hobbies beside dogs (if you have time for hobbies)?
Javier: I used to play the Spanish guitar, but didnít do it now for a long time. I love to watch and follow Formula 1 races and I enjoy the beach and the sun and everything connected to it, especially surfing.
BIS: Is there something in the life that you would like to do or to visit, that is your life dream?
Javier: I really hope one day I can breed and show my own bred Lhasas. I think this is really something that would make me incredibly happy.
BIS: Please tell us name or two if there someone whose skills you admire when it comes to breeding, showing, grooming or judging?
Javier: I think it is not easy to mention only few names as it would not be fair to many others who would not be mentioned and whose skills I really admire. We travel a lot and we meet a lot of people from different aspects of the sport and in each one of them I found people I truly respect and admire. Still, I must say that working with people like Franco & Stefano, Annaluce, Silvia, Francesco & Tuula I became very spoiled and learned to find in their home every time I come a dog better than the one I showed for them before. I think that makes them really special breeders who do their job with passion and knowledge and I am happy for all the success that enjoy.
BIS: How would you describe a professional handler? What are the most important skills for a handler?
Javier: I think a handler is a person who knows to understand the dogs, his virtues and faults, who knows how to point the best of him and hide what is not so good. Good handler should be just the end of the lead, not the star but an almost invisible guide who makes a dog being a star. Being professional means bringing always and exclusively top quality dogs in the best condition, nothing less than the best should be acceptable. There is always something new to learnÖ
BIS: What about Junior Handling and do you think that Professional Handlers and judges should work more with young people?
Javier: Absolutely yes. Not only the professional handlers but also the respected Kennel Clubs. There is no reason why each Kennel Club could not organize summer camps or educational programs for the young people done by the famous judges, breeders and handlers. We canít have a bright future if we donít invest in it. I also think that the junior handling rules are completely wrongly based and are trying to teach the young people rules which are not important. Not following the handling rules makes any handler being talented or special. It comes from the love and understanding the dogs. Also the show organizers should take care that the junior handling judges should be people who have experience with showing and breeding dogs, judges who donít have too much experience in that usually just stick to the rules.
BIS: If you could, what would you change in dog world?
Javier: First of all I think we should bring back the attention to the dogs and their qualities. We need to think of what each dog can bring good for its breed and we need to go out of this crazy labyrinth of politics and different interests that are slowly destroying our sport and have nothing to do with it. I also think everything should become more professional and organized ñ judges should be better paid as only than we will be able to ask from them professionalism, objectivism and fair judging. Handlers should be organized in an association with the strong rules and regulations which would not allow every other person in the sport calling himself professional handler. Also we need to come back to the basics when looking at the dogs, thinking primarily about the type and function of each breed. It canít be that today almost all the breeds move and look the same. Also I think all these no grooming rules should become more clear as I always hated the double standards. It canít be that in some countries it is not allowed to use almost any products and still all the winning dogs are full of them and every stand on the show sells forbidden products. I have a long list of the things I would like to change, but if I will be able to help at least one thing to improve and bring something good to the sport I will be more then satisfied.