Interview with an Owner Handler, Christie Lisenbee
Where do I live? How many years have I been an Owner Handler?
Christie Lisenbee: We are from the Oklahoma City area. We have been Owner Handlers for five years. We started doing it a year after my husband’s stroke. He thought he would just give it a try to see if he could still show. So, we showed CH Heavenbound Little Stormy at the Oklahoma City Pomeranian Specialty in June of 2017. She took Best of Breed. So, we entered some more shows and then found out about the National Owner-Handled Series.
How did I get my start in my breed? In the sport?
Christie Lisenbee: I believe it was in the year 2002 when we bought our first show Pomeranian. We had searched for quite a while, trying to find a breeder who would give us the time of day. Most would not, but we were blessed by mister Ken Griffith of Lynette Pomeranians. We purchased a female that was bred, and later, a show male.
Have I always loved to show dogs? Have you always been a dog person?
Christie Lisenbee: My husband grew up showing horses and loved the competition. But showing horses became too expensive. He also loved dogs, so he changed from showing horses to showing dogs. I grew to love them as well, and I also enjoy the competition and the people.
Is there a story behind my decision to show my own dog?
Christie Lisenbee: Yes. At first we decided to show our own, trying to get single points, with a plan on sending them to a Professional Handler for the majors. But eventually we started winning majors ourselves. It was rough at first because we didn’t know much about grooming. I looked at other dogs and saw how they looked, and I tried to groom mine the same way. The first five shows or so were a complete bust, coming in dead last each time. Then I trimmed a little bit of hair off the rear and he took Winners Dog at the next five shows—we were “off!”
We went down to some shows in Florida where my husband was helping somebody show their dog because they had a Special to show as well. That dog won a 5-point major. My dog came in Reserve with me showing him, so we both did well. At the next show that we went to, our female puppy won a 4-point major. The following show our male also won a 5-point major.
That is when we decided to show ourselves. We wanted our dogs to be judged by their merit and not because of somebody’s name, so none of our dogs have ever been shown by a Professional Handler.
What makes showing my own dog so special to me?
Christie Lisenbee: To me, what makes it more special is when you have bred, trained, and shown your own dogs to their championships.
In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?
Christie Lisenbee: Yes. When the dog knows you love them, it makes them feel comfortable. When you show confidence, that runs down the lead. If you show fear or nervousness, that runs down the lead as well. So, you should always love and reassure your dog, and have confidence in yourself as well as in your dog. Then they will show their best if they are trained properly—and are not too tired. (Just thought I would include that last comment.)
Do I compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? If so, for how many years?
Christie Lisenbee: We started competing in the National Owner-Handled Series in June of 2017. In 2018, we had a male and a female that made it into the Top 10 in our breed but did not compete in Orlando that year. The first year we competed in Orlando was 2021.
What goals did I set for myself and for my dog in 2022? What about 2023?
Christie Lisenbee: The goals we set for 2022 was for “Peace” to be No. 1 Owner-Handled Pomeranian, if the Lord willed it. We knew it would be hard because we never show on Sunday. (25-plus percent of the shows fall on Sundays.) We save Sundays for God and are in church, but by His grace we kept that Number One through most of the year and then got it back at the end of the year with a Best in Show and a Reserve Best in Show.
Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?
Christie Lisenbee: Yes, we are going to Orlando. One of the things we wanted in 2021 was, because of COVID and all that people had been going through, we wanted them to see this name: GCHS Heavenbound He’s the Prince of Peace. We wanted people to know that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and that He gives the peace that passes all understanding. When my husband had a stroke in 2016, God gave us peace. And when my son passed away in June of 2022, God gave us peace.
It would have been a lot harder, and might not even have been possible, for us to have made it through Orlando 2021 without my son. He helped us in so many ways when things were all confused and moving really fast after Peace had won Best of Breed. He was instrumental in helping us get Peace into the Group ring, as was my daughter. It will be tough going back to Orlando without him, but we know that God will give us the peace that He promised as long as we keep our faith and trust in Him. We feel incredibly blessed that Peace has done so well.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an Owner Handler?
Christie Lisenbee: Peace was the No. 2 Owner-Handled Pomeranian the year he had beaten the No. 1 OH Pomeranian four times in a row, in Houston. But that did not happen in Orlando where the No. 1 dog won.
I had gotten upset with my family because they forgot to take pictures of our first show in Orlando. They told me that were going to be showing the following day, on Saturday, at the AKC National Championship. All the best dogs with their Professional Handlers were going to be there, and they responded with, yes, but we can still take pictures.
My husband wanted Peace’s name to be seen on the website for having won Owner-Handled. Instead, his name was put up three times! Not only that, the announcers on AKCtv focused on Peace’s name. Peace took Best of Breed, Best Bred-By Exhibitor, and a Toy Group Fourth. I got my pictures from professional photographers, but also from television cameras.
We were blessed with much more than we had ever dreamed.
Are you looking for a Pomeranian puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Pomeranian dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
Pomeranian Dog Breed Magazine
Read and learn more about the lively Pomeranian dog breed with articles and information in our Pomeranian Dog Breed Magazine.
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