Interview with Owner Handlers: Elena & Joe Metz
Where do I live? How many years have I been in Owner Handler?
Elena & Joe Metz: We moved from California to Sequim, Washington, in 2021. Elena started showing our foundation bitch, Mullaghboy Mocha on the Money, in 2005. Joe joined in the fun, showing Mocha’s son, Red Branch Mystic Druid, in 2008. We started competing in the National Owner-Handled Series when it began in 2012.
How did I get my start in my breed? In the sport?
Elena & Joe Metz: An Irish Terrier gave us that soul-piercing look at a show, and we were immediately hooked. Elena started showing soon after we got our first Irish. She was mentored by friends. Joe thought handling looked easy, so he jumped in and found out that things were not as simple as they appeared.
Have I always loved to show dogs? Have I always been a dog person?
Elena & Joe Metz: Elena was a dog person from the day she was born. Joe wanted nothing to do with dogs until he met Elena. She took Joe to many dog shows, looking for just the right Terrier breed. Once we started showing, we were completely drawn in by the constant need to learn and improve, and by the camaraderie with other exhibitors. One of our mentors said something that’s very true: When you show dogs, you lose a lot, you win a little, and you make lots of friends.
Is there a story behind the decision to show my own dog?
Elena & Joe Metz: Not really. We just wanted to see whether we were up to the challenge of showing our own dog to a championship. At first, we used handlers when we felt we needed one. As we gained experience and confidence, we relied on handlers less and less.
What makes showing my own dog so special to me?
Elena & Joe Metz: Bonding with our dogs as a team in the ring is special. It’s part of the whole process, from whelping to grooming, training, handling… and we enjoy competing against each other. Joe did really well with Red Branch She’s a Dilly of a Pickle a few years ago. This year, Elena and Red Branch Arco Iris really shined.
In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?
Elena & Joe Metz: Yes! Trust and consistency.
Do I compete in the NOHS? If so, for how many years?
Elena & Joe Metz: We have been competing in the NOHS for 10 years.
What goals did I set for myself and my dog in 2022? What about 2023?
Elena & Joe Metz: We wanted to get Grand Champion Bronze for our half-siblings, Red Branch Arco Iris and Red Branch Serrano. Both were strictly owner-handled from the beginning. Elena achieved that goal with “Iris,” but Joe still needs to put a few points on “Serrano.” Iris did very well at the Montgomery County Kennel Club weekend this year. Elena handled her to take Select Bitch at Hatboro, and Best of Opposite at Devon and at the ITCA’s 125th National Specialty at Montgomery. Iris also took Best Bred-By Exhibitor in the breed at Montgomery.
In 2023, we hope to complete Serrano’s Bronze Grand Championship and go to Westminster with Iris.
Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?
Elena & Joe Metz: Elena and Iris are going to Orlando this year. It feels great to have our dogs and our handling recognized at such a high level. This year, Iris is NOHS No. 3 Irish Terrier, No. 1 in Grand Champion points, and the highest-ranked bitch in the breed, with only 25 days of showing. Serrano is also ranked in the Top 10. We have had other top-ranked NOHS dogs, including Red Branch She’s a Dilly of a Pickle who was NOHS No. 3 Irish Terrier in 2016 and 2017, but this is the first year that we have opted to go to Orlando.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an Owner Handler?
Elena & Joe Metz: Once, in Santa Clara, Joe was showing “Druid” (who was doing well at the time) and Elena was showing his sister, Red Branch Ayfa Warrior. Joe was doing his best to convince the judge that his dog was the best in the ring. The judge walked right up to Joe and said, “Sir, you have a really nice dog…” Joe was thinking he was going to win, but the judge continued, “…but I like that little bitch over there better!” We still laugh about that one.
A few years later, Joe took Best Owner-Handled with “Ayfa’s” granddaughter, “Dilly,” also in Santa Clara. He took a nap before the NOHS Group ring, and woke up to find that the judging had already started. Joe ran into the ring with his hair uncombed and the Resco lead in front of one of Dilly’s ears. They ended up taking Group First.
We do not limit ourselves only to Conformation. Our champions have letters after their names as well. We have tried many Performance events, and our dogs have earned titles in Obedience, Rally, Agility, Barn Hunt, FastCAT, Lure Coursing, Trick Dog, and Scent Work.
It seems that Elena’s funniest stories come from the Performance ring. It’s amazing what kind of antics an Irish Terrier can dream up when on the spot, and how they can “improve” the way some tasks need to be completed.
Competing with our dogs has been a big part of our lives. We have had many memorable experiences together.