Interview with Owner Handlers: Dolores Ferrero & John Flora
Where do I live? How many years have I been an Owner Handler?
John Flora: We live in San Ramon, California (the San Francisco Bay Area), and I have been an Owner Handler for over nine years. In that time, I’ve finished 10 champions, eight from the Bred-By-Exhibitor Class, and four grand champions. Three of our girls have gone on to successful Specials careers. They all love the coursing sports, and one of our girls boasts an Agility title. They’ve done it all with me by their sides.
How did I get my start in my breed? In the sport?
John Flora: Dolores was born into dogs, sharing her playpen/stroller with one of the top Cocker Spaniels in the early 1970s. We wanted a lower maintenance breed, and I had fond memories of a neighbor’s Boston Terrier while growing up.
Have I always loved to show dogs? Have I always been a dog person?
John Flora: I’ve always loved dogs, but I never had one growing up because my sisters and I were allergic to dogs and cats. Fortunately, I outgrew that!
Is there a story behind my decision to show my own dog?
John Flora: I attended my first dog show in the spring of 1996 and was fascinated by the activity. I told Dolores that if we ever owned a dog worthy of showing, I wanted to give it a shot. This was fine with her… she’s much more comfortable behind the scenes.
What makes showing my own dog so special to me?
John Flora: Before getting into dogs, I taught a form of ballroom dancing for over thirty years. Dolores and I frequently refer to the training and practicing that I do with the dogs as “learning our dance,” and it’s a good analogy. Every dog learns differently… needs different things from me… and responds differently. Each one of them makes me a better handler simply by being different.
In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?
John Flora: Lots of time and lots of love.
Do I compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? If so, for how many years?
John Flora: Yes, I’ve participated in the NOHS since our foundation bitch finished her championship. “Banjo’s” grandmother, “Rebel” (GCHS CH Campbell Clan’s Bad Reputation CAX BCAT CGCA ROM), was the No. 5 NOHS Boston Terrier in 2015, competed in the Finals in Orlando twice (2015 & 2017), and was awarded Best of Opposite Sex at the 2015 Finals. Her mother, “Bacall” (MBISS GCHS CH Delphi’s Put Your Lips Together & Blow CA DCAT CGC), was a finalist three times, competed in the Finals in Orlando twice, and was Best of Breed at the 2020 NOHS Finals. This is “Banjo’s” first trip.
What goals did I set for myself and for my dog in 2022? What about 2023?
John Flora: Our goals for Banjo were to finish as the No. 1 NOHS Boston to qualify for an invitation to the NOHS event in Chicago, in January 2023, in conjunction with the Windy City cluster. We also hope to finish in the Top 20 Breed & All-Breed; she’s No. 22 Breed & No. 13 All-Breed as of October 31, 2022. She’s also only one point away from her Silver Grand Championship, so we’d like to finish that this year.
Banjo is taking maternity leave in 2023, and I’m starting with a new special in January. Among other things, I hope to be in Florida next December with my fourth finalist.
Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?
John Flora: Yes, we are. It’s very rewarding to have our dogs’ merits recognized. California is an intensely competitive environment for dogs in general and Bostons specifically. Several of the top-ranked, professionally handled Boston Terriers have had their homebase in California for the entire duration of our participation, so this is one way to get owner-handled dogs some of the recognition they deserve.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an Owner Handler?
John Flora: Way back, during my first few months of showing, I was still learning how to stack my girl for the table examination. At one particular show, I nailed it. Absolutely exactly what I wanted. I didn’t have long to admire it, though, as the judge came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. I had put my dog on the table from the wrong side. Of course, the second try wasn’t nearly as perfect, but she still managed to win a Puppy Group Two.
Enjoyed reading your story, John! See you around the circuit in the near future!