Best in show: FDU alumna shows canines at Westminster Dog Show

Gracie with one of her dogs
Above: Anna Gracie, FDU alumna, dog lover, and digital media manager for the Westminster Dog Show, with one of her dogs. (Photos courtesy of Anna Gracie)

Interview by Dan Landau

Anna Gracie, BA’16 (Flor), came to FDU with visions of Broadway lights dancing in her head. Since attending theater camp at age eight, she’s been interested in acting. At FDU, she studied musical theater and was involved in all the student productions, but after graduating, she found a way to combine theater with an even older childhood passion of hers: showing dogs.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., resident now works as the digital media manager for the Westminster Kennel Club.

In a recent interview, she shared stories about her dogs, acting, and working at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (which is the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the country, behind only the Kentucky Derby!).

FDU: How did you start showing dogs?

Anna Gracie: I grew up showing dogs with my mom. She started as a teenager and introduced me to it when I was five. I’m almost 24 now, and I’ve devoted my life to showing dogs. I missed a lot of parties and sports events to do dog shows because that’s what I loved. I would stay up late after doing my homework to groom my dogs!

Gracie at an earlier dog show
Left (bottom): A five-year-old Anna Gracie shows her dog Angel at a dog show in Canada. Right, Gracie at 16, showing her dog Christopher at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

FDU: Tell us about your dogs.

AG: I have six bearded collies at my family’s home in Maryland that I bred and trained. They were my brothers and sisters growing up.

How did you land the job at the Westminster Kennel Club?

AG: Besides taking every theater course I could at FDU, my mom made me take some business classes. That helped me land a marketing internship at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, N.J., after I graduated. After doing the internship, I was looking for a new job and the Westminster job appeared on my screen. They were looking for someone who had grown up in the sport, knew a lot about dogs, and had marketing experience.

I’ve shown at Westminster in the past — my dogs and other people’s dogs and I’ve worked there for professional handlers (the ones who exhibit the dogs in the show).

I thought I would be an actress, but this was too good pass up! As a kid, I was like, “I’m going to work for that dog show!” It was just a dream though. I didn’t think it was ever going to be a real thing.

What do you do for the Westminster Kennel Club?

AG: I help edit the website, manage social media and create content. One project in particular is a video series called the “Road to Westminster.” We’re introducing the general public to handlers’ stories, what it means to be a breeder or handler and giving tips on dogs for grooming, exercising, etc. It gives the show context, so when people watch the show, it makes more sense and has more meaning. It’s not a beauty contest.

Gracie on video
Above: Anna Gracie (right) with colleagues Kathy Wright (left) and Gail Miller Bisher (center) in Atlanta, GA, filming a video for the “Road to Westminster” series.

FDU: How did musical theater help you get where you are now?

AG: Studying theater was so helpful and I’m so happy that I did it. Through my acting training, I learned how to talk to different people and how to be empathetic. I learned how to be a better ensemble member, which translates to being a better team member at my job. I learned how to contribute in any way to put on the best production possible, which is just like Westminster, because it is a huge production. I don’t think I would have gotten this job if I hadn’t pursued theater.