Interview with Owner Handlers: Kim & Paul Norton
Where do I live? How many years have I been an Owner Handler?
Kim Norton: We started showing in 1990 when we lived in New Jersey. Paul and I now reside on five beautiful acres in Brooksville, Florida. We have been Owner Handlers for about 10 years.
How did I get your start in my breed? In the sport?
Kim Norton: I was brought up in the dog show community, as my mother bred and showed German Shepherd Dogs and Great Danes. Back in 1985, I acquired a spayed Whippet named “Kneehi.” She was the start of our passion for the breed. In 1990, we obtained our first show dog from Paris Whippets and it went forward from there.
Have I always loved to show dogs? Have I always been a dog person?
Kim Norton: I love to show, but I get more anxious in the ring than Paul. I have always been a dog person. I started to groom dogs at the age of 10 at my mother’s dog grooming shop. Paul got involved when we were dating. When we married, our dogs were in the wedding party.
Is there a story behind my decision to show my own dog?
Kim Norton: I did most of the showing, with Paul helping out on occasion when we had multiple dogs entered. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and could not show the dogs. Paul stepped in and took over, doing all of the showing himself. He went to handling classes to learn the technique to the fullest, learning from Debbie Butt, Anna Stromberg, and Laura Lynn Coomes. Following their advice, Paul has gained great success and many accomplishments.
What makes showing my own dog so special to me?
Kim Norton: Showing our dogs that we’ve bred is a great accomplishment. Watching Team Angel in the ring gives me such enjoyment and pride. We’ve worked so hard to learn and to breed quality dogs—success in the show ring is the reward for that hard work.
In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?
Kim Norton: Handling classes! Find a great instructor and LISTEN. Soak up every word they say and use it! They are our icons in the show world. Practice! Practice! Practice! Also, have a great mentor. They will share knowledge and information that you won’t get anywhere else.
Do I compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? If so, for how many years?
Kim Norton: We have been showing in the Owner-Handled Series for about 10 years now. We showed our Whippet “Angel” to No. 1 Owner-Handled Whippet in 2022. She was Best in Futurity and Best Breeders Sweepstakes winner at the 2022 National.
What goals did I set for myself and for my dog in 2022? What about 2023?
Kim Norton: Paul and I set and met our goal in 2022, with Angel ending 2022 as the No. 1 Owner-Handled Whippet. We are currently working on keeping her in the Top 20. This will be our first Top 20 dog! Paul’s goal at every show is to win Best in Show.
So far, he almost made it to the mountain. They have won a Reserve Best in Show, Multiple Best in Show Owner-Handled, and multiple Reserve Best in Show Owner-Handled, and many
In 2023, we would like to show Angel’s brother, “Donte,” and rank him in the Owner-Handled competition and Breed ranking.
Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?
Kim Norton: Yes, we are going to Orlando! Last year, we missed the ranking by one rank with our dog, “Dio.” It is a dream come true to get to No. 1 Owner-Handled and to be able to participate this year.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an Owner Handler?
Kim Norton: About 25 years ago, I was at an outdoor show with my mother and son, Paulie, who was five years old at the time. We all know how unpredictable children can be. Well, I was in the show ring, about to do my down and back, when I looked over to the corner and saw that my young son had decided to pee ringside. Needless to say, I was mortified… but I kept showing my dog.