Interview with a Professional Handler, Amanda Yokum
Where do I live? How long have I been in dogs?
Amanda Yokum: I live in Tabor City, North Carolina. I have been in the sport of dogs for 25 years.
When did I decide to become a Professional Handler?
Amanda Yokum: It happened so organically, I’m not sure there was an exact moment. It is years of hard work and learning as you go, and there isn’t anything else I’d rather do.
Who did I apprentice under and for how many years?
Amanda Yokum: I am, for lack of a better description, “home schooled.” My passion brought me to it. I was fortunate enough along the way to get some of my education from “greats” like Frank Wolaniuk and Bob Clyde. Marilyn Draper put her world champion Great Danes in my scared young hands at every training class she could find, all while drilling into me, “If you can master a Great Dane you can show anything.” To this day, I still attend local handling classes with new dogs. It is good for the dogs and it’s a great way to connect with and encourage people coming into the sport.
How many shows do I typically attend each year?
Amanda Yokum: I typically attend two circuits per month; roughly 100-150 shows per year.
How many dogs do I generally show on a given weekend?
Amanda Yokum: If traveling alone, I try to keep my number at six. If I’m traveling with my husband or other qualified hands, it’s more. There’s only so much of you to go around, so you have to know what works for you and your dogs.
How do I decide which all-breed shows to attend? What about specialties?
Amanda Yokum: It’s the location and the quality of the judging panel for both.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Do I have a kennel?
Amanda Yokum: When my husband and I were young, we had a forty-run facility in Delaware. Now we keep a small hobby kennel at our home in North Carolina, and our guests mainly live in-house with us. Chaos, but happy dogs.
What’s it really like to be “on the road” with a group of show dogs?
Amanda Yokum: It’s a 24/7 job. There’s not a lot of sleep and a whole lot of laundry. I depend on a lot of lists and alarms on my phone. You need to travel with two of everything—and I mean everything. Comfort is key, yours as well as the dogs. Since the invention of BNB-style lodging, I more often find that that’s the route I choose when being on the road regularly. Being able to cook your meals (and the dogs’ meals) and just having a real yard makes everyone happier.
Am I going to Orlando? If so, what are my goals for my current string of dogs?
Amanda Yokum: Our last shows of the year will be in Pennsylvania—and I’m praying it doesn’t snow. My goals are, as always, to have happy and well-presented dogs; dogs whose attributes represent the hard work, love, and passion that their breeders and owners put into them.
My goals are, as always, to have happy and well-presented dogs; dogs whose attributes represent the hard work, love, and passion that their breeders and owners put into them.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Professional Handler?
Amanda Yokum: Yes, and it’s a most embarrassing moment. In between Breed judging and Group judging, a group of us went out for lunch. Like many handlers, I have bait stashed everywhere. That day, I completely forgot about the spare hot dog that I still had tucked into my skirt. So, when I visited the ladies room—to my horror—the hot dog bounced free from my waistband and flew across the restroom.
I nonchalantly said to four strange women as I retrieved it, “I’m a dog handler.” I then washed and dried the hot dog and put it in my purse. (I still had the Group ahead, and my Great Dane would only bait for hot dogs.) I could only imagine those women retelling the story to their dining companions: “Yes, the one over there dressed like a bank teller… A WHOLE HOT DOG.”