Interview with Owner Handler, Erin Fogg
Where do I live? How many years have you been an Owner Handler?
Erin Fogg: I live in Portland, Oregon, and I have been an Owner Handler for four years.
How did I get my start in my breed? In the sport?
Erin Fogg: My start in the sport came before my start in Lagotti [Lagotto Romagnolo]. I am a groomer by trade. A gentleman walked into my salon with a 12-week-old Portuguese Water Dog, CH Cold Iron’s Warm Heart, and said, “This is my first dog and he has a show contract. I want him groomed every two weeks; can you help?” I was not taking any new clients, but you just don’t turn that opportunity away!
At some point, I met Wilson’s breeder, Robin Huested of Cold Iron PWDs. I mentioned I was interested in showing and she encouraged me to show him. I only did so a few times, but I got the bug! I will always be grateful to Robin for her encouragement and willingness to let me try. About the same time that I was catching the dog show bug, I also started to groom competitively. My wife and mentor in the grooming world, Michell Evans, encouraged me to seek out breeders and handlers to help me learn show grooming, which is similar to competitive grooming. Michell also introduced me to Irish Water Spaniels, which I would say is my original breed.
I met an Irish Water Spaniel breeder, Melissa (Missy) McMunn, on the East Coast who gave me an opportunity to help her show her dogs at the Maryland Sporting Dog show. I fell in love with one of her bitches, GCH CH All Green Wi’Envy V Alpha Nordic CD RE RATN DS CGCA TKN (Jade). Missy agreed to let me take “Jade” to the West Coast for the IWS National Specialty in 2019. Jade ended up staying with us for about five months and I had the privilege of showing her most of that time. The dog show bug had gotten a lot stronger!
Somewhere in all of this, my mother, Pam Fogg, lost her Yellow Lab, and about six months later, decided to get a new dog. She really wanted a non-shedding “mix breed.” I asked her to please consider a purebred dog. Mom took the AKC breed finder test and sent me a text in the middle of the night which read, “Lagotto Romagnolo.” She then discovered that it would be a two year wait!
We did some networking, and a friend of mine, Faith Langford, told me to contact Lynn Looper, a Border Terrier breeder, AKC judge, and past AKC Gazette columnist. Lynn was about to have her first Lagotti litter. I reached out to Lynn and told her how I really wanted to show dogs and would she consider my Mom and I for a show quality Lagotto? Well, Lynn took a leap of faith. Mom picked “Picasso” up in August and I began showing him in January of 2019!
Have I always loved to show dogs? Have I always been a dog person?
Erin Fogg: I did not even know about the dog show world until my early forties, but I have loved it since I discovered it! As far as being a dog person, I only remember a few times in my life without a dog by my side. I wasn’t happy. As a groomer, owner handler, and hopefully someday, a breeder, I can say unequivocally that dogs are my passion.
Is there a story behind my decision to show my own dog?
Erin Fogg: I wouldn’t have it any other way! At least not with Picasso. He is the first champion I finished myself. No one else has ever walked in the ring with him. There are a few times my mentor and friend, Stacy Duncan, and I almost chose for her to take him in because the struggle to finish him was “real.” But every time, Stacy would ask, “Will you regret it as soon as it is done?” I am so thankful that I listened to her, and to my heart, and finished Picasso myself! I had to learn a ton about how to present my dog, and have my hopes dashed over and over, but I am a better handler and human for the experience!
We lacked majors in the Pacific Northwest while I was showing Picasso to his championship. I had to travel to California and Florida to try to finish him. Every time we traveled to an opportunity for a major it would require him to go Best of Breed or Best of Opposite Sex at shows like Woofstock, the Northern California Sporting Dog show, or The National Championship cluster. Stacy kept teaching me and telling me that as soon as he gets out of the classes, you two will do great. Stacy was right!
At the National Specialty in 2022, Picasso finished his championship at the first supported entry as Best of Winners. He was awarded Select Dog his first day in the ring as a Special, and on his second day as a Special he was the first Owner-Handled Lagotto to win a National Specialty! Can you imagine the journey I would be missing if I had let someone else show him?
What makes showing my own dog so special to me?
Erin Fogg: Picasso is the culmination of my journey in the dog world today and the first step in my journey going forward. I have learned so much and been supported by so many people while learning and growing with him. He just loves to show and I love being at the end of his lead. He absolutely makes my heart sing. And to share him with my mother and have this journey with her, well, that has made it divine!
In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?
Erin Fogg: Great mentors! People you respect and can receive constructive criticism from. Even the best pros have mentors they rely on to help them tweak their dogs. I have watched it. When you think you have nothing more to learn is when you lose. Most of all, though, have a good time!
Do I compete in the National Owner Handler Series? If so, for how many years?
Erin Fogg: I do and I have, ever since I started showing Picasso in 2019.
What goals did I set for myself and my dog in 2022? What about 2023?
Erin Fogg: I left Orlando last year heartbroken that Picasso was not a champion and had not won the NOHS Finals in our breed, but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Stacy offered to teach me how to show Picasso, and I grabbed that and ran. My goal was to finish his championship and to return to Orlando as the No. 1 Owner-Handled Lagotto. We did that and more!
I don’t have goals yet for 2023. We still have business to finish in 2022. Orlando, here we come!
Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?
Erin Fogg: We are Orlando bound! It has been an amazing ride this year. The NOHS Group ring kept me driven when I was discouraged. I will always be grateful for a playing field to learn in.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an Owner Handler?
Erin Fogg: I have too many to pick just one! I want to thank my Mom for sharing Picasso with me and letting me travel the world with her best buddy! I want to thank Michell for always doing Picasso’s show grooming, and Stacy for never accepting anything but our best and knowing when our best could be better! I am so grateful for everyone who has cheered us on! The sky is the limit!
Erin we are so proud of you. The article was wonderful and so informative. Keep up the pursuit and the desire for excellence. I want to follow your path as you gain ore victories. Your mom and I are good friends and I know she is so proud of your accomplishments.