1. When were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?
Deborah Ahern-Ridlon: My name is Deborah Ahern-Ridlon and my kennel name is ADWERA. When I was younger, I was curious about dog shows but never had the opportunity to attend one. I was introduced to the sport of purebred dogs in 2002 when I purchased my first Rhodesian Ridgeback from Diana Barrie. Diana encouraged me to go to handling classes and try to show my dog. We never did much winning in conformation, but that pup went on to earn her CD! It’s been a complete love affair with the breed ever since.
2. How many years in dogs? How many as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder?
Deborah Ahern-Ridlon: I spent years in handling classes with that dog and many others, trying to improve my skills as a handler. Being a “newbie,” I was always nervous about going in the ring and would hand my dog off at ringside if the opportunity presented itself. You could say that I’ve been practicing showing for the last 20 years, waiting for the right dog to come along. “Pearl” will be the first dog that will be entirely owner-handled by me. I’ve been breeding Ridgebacks since 2007 and have been involved in this breed for twenty years this year.
3. Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended any handling seminars?
Deborah Ahern-Ridlon: I still attend handling classes every week when I’m showing. We currently go on Monday mornings and Thursday nights. I recently attended a two-day handling seminar taught by Rose C. Chandless. This actual hands-on seminar was by far the best training experience I’ve had in a long time. Rose is a wonderful instructor with many accolades under her belt!
4. Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Classes? Videos? Websites? Social Media?
Deborah Ahern-Ridlon: Any time I catch an online class or webinar I always learn something new. I’ve also found an abundance of medical information offered by prominent veterinarians online, as well as handling videos.
5. Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
Deborah Ahern-Ridlon: I do compete in the National Owner-Handled Series and hope to make some significant strides in the near future. Rankings in this competition are not important to me this year because Pearl just turned one and is still earning her championship. The NOHS begins at the Breed level.
6. How important is the Bred-By Class to you? How important are Specialties?
Deborah Ahern-Ridlon: Showing in the Bred-By Class is very important to me because I am very proud of my dogs and want people watching to see what I’ve produced. The Rhodesian Ridgeback National Specialty is right around the corner, but I’m still undecided if I will attend this year. I’m sure I’ll decide soon.
7. Is it a challenge to compete with your breed(s) as a Breeder/Owner Handler?
Deborah Ahern-Ridlon: It is definitely a challenge to show as a Breeder/Owner Handler because of the skillful Professional Handlers who show alongside us. It is for this very reason that I continually train so that my dog will stand out from the competition. I believe that if I want my dog to win, it’s my responsibility to always present my dog to the very best of my ability. There is no substitute for a well-trained dog that any judge would be honored to examine.
8. Are you intimidated by the Professional Handlers? By the Judges?
Deborah Ahern-Ridlon: I have learned to show dogs by getting to the shows early and leaving late. I watch other breeds and watch the Pros go from one breed to another, some altering their style drastically depending on the breed! That versatility takes skill to make it look so easy.
9. Who have been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder?
Deborah Ahern-Ridlon: My mentors as an owner/handler were Jim Shea, Mickey Rein, and Cotton Silverman. I have received sound breeding advice for many years from Bonnie Johnson of Shabani Kennels.
10. How important is the Breeder/Owner Handler to the future of the dog sport?
Deborah Ahern-Ridlon: I think the Breeder/Owner Handler is very important because Breeders are the ones who hold the sport up. That true dedication to a breed should be acknowledged. Committed Breeders are invaluable to the sport.
11. What are your goals as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder? Is there a milestone that has eluded you?
Deborah Ahern-Ridlon: My hope for the future is to produce offspring that are better and healthier than what I have now. This will always be my goal as long as I breed dogs.