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Melissa Hepler


I was born and raised in Long Island, NY and moved to Miami when I was offered a softball scholarship to attend Barry University in Miami.  Rather than return to northern winters, I remained in Florida and have lived in Punta Gorda, FL for the past 30 years.  


I have worked in the veterinary field for most of my life.  Inspired by the many unruly clients I met, I began my own pet dog training business in 2014. In 1995, I was looking for a German Shepherd and went to a local club and was introduced to Schutzhund.  I attended that club for a while, met a friend there, and we started our own club, Peace River Schutzhund Club, in 1997.   My first dog was a German Shepherd, and we earned our Sch1 and an AD.  I have also trained and titled a rottweiler from BH to 3 and competed with him at the International Federation of Rottweilers World Championship in Spain in 2004.  More recently, I have been trialing with Malinois.  I have trained and titled 3 Malinois from BH to 3.  


I became a judge in 2013 because I wanted to encourage new members, inspire them, and help grow our sport.  I believe a judge needs to be an active competitor to keep the feelings of handlers at heart.  It does not matter if you are a regular Nationals level competitor, you always remember the first time you stepped on the field for a BH.


I really enjoy judging national championships because I have often judged the dog and handler team before, for a BH, or for IGP1, 2, or 3.  It is very rewarding to see all their hard work pay off by stepping onto the national stage.  I consider it a privilege to have witnessed their journey and to be a small part of it.


I am looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  I look forward to seeing some great performances and wish all competitors success!

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