Interview with an Owner Handler, Laureen Camisi
My name is Laureen Camisi. My husband, Don, and I have had English Springer Spaniels since 1980. We’ve been showing under the kennel name, Sapphire English Springer Spaniels, since 1995. We’ve only had Springers after falling in love with the breed, and we raised our five children with them. Since starting in the dog show sport, we’ve had 45 homebred champions.
I have personally finished many dogs, and I owned, groomed, and finished the championship on the 2009 National Specialty Winner, BISS CH Twin Oaks N Sapphires Makin Waves (Chessie) who was bred and shown to this win by Tom Faust.
Where do I live? How many years have I been an Owner Handler?
Laureen Camisi: I live in Tabernacle, New Jersey. I’ve shown dogs since 1995, and for all of those 28 years my dogs were breeder/owner-handled. I got involved with the NOHS approximately ten years ago.
How did I get my start in my breed? In the sport?
Laureen Camisi: In early 1980, my husband and I were looking for a breed that was new to us both. We attended dog shows and saw English Springer Spaniels in the ring; both of us loved how beautiful they were. We then did some research on the breed and purchased our first Springer shortly afterwards. He was an amazing dog and we immediately thought, “How can anyone have any breed other than a Springer?” We have had English Springer Spaniels ever since.
I grew up with horses, multiple dogs, cats, and other animals, so my love for animals was huge. Growing up showing horses, my love for animals and competition was deeply rooted in my soul. Marriage and children made horses a difficult hobby, so I turned my attention to dog shows. After attending numerous shows, it was inevitable that I would go that route, but it was only after purchasing a “show quality” bitch from Katie Barrett of Holiday Springers in 1995 that I actually had a dog I could show. After my first match show, I was hooked.
Is there a story behind my decision to show my own dog?
Laureen Camisi: It was always my goal to present my own dogs as I had done with my horses. There was never any other option. I absolutely love my breed, and as soon as I was confident enough, I started showing my own dogs. I’m very proud of the fact that I have been a breeder/owner handler ever since. I always emphasize my brags or ads with “as always, breeder/owner-handled.”
Of course, I couldn’t have done any of this without the help of a few mentors along the way. Thomas Faust, of Twin Oaks Springers, influenced me the most. He became part of both our human and dog family and he has taught me so much. I seriously don’t think I would be where I am without his influence. I’ve also had the help of some very supportive professional handlers, Kellie Fitzgerald and Howard Huber, who have always been there with grooming or handling tips. Kellie has been a huge inspiration and friend when I’ve needed it most.
In turn, I have paid it forward and been a mentor myself, finding joy in the accomplishments of those I’ve nudged along. Thank you to Susan Souza, Kate Bremser, Arden Meyer, and Joanne Ford for going out there and doing it and making me so proud. Also, I have to mention Kate & Dan Cutts, and Jim & Diane Reiley who own and love some of the dogs that I currently show in the classes.
What makes showing my own dog so special to me?
Laureen Camisi: Showing my own dog is everything to me. It carries with it a commitment to the breed; the hopes, dreams, hard work, and of course, sorrows of being a breeder. At the end of my lead is a dog I am proud to show, and more importantly, a dog that I share so much love with. We are a team and that means the world.
In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?
Laureen Camisi: My secret is, of course, an adoring relationship with my dog, and the trusting and unconditional love my dog has for me. I guess the key words are love and trust. Everything else can be worked on, but these two components make the partnership.
Do I compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? If so, for how many years?
Laureen Camisi: During the ten years of my involvement with the NOHS, I’ve shown five different dogs, four bred by me:
- GCHB Sapphire n Twin Oaks Cabaret,
- CH Twin Oaks Olympic Freestyler,
- GCHB Sapphire n Twin Oaks From the Heart NA NAJ,
- GCHS Sapphire n Twin Oaks Sweet Charlotte,
- GCH Suncoast n Sapphires Great Scott, the dog I’m currently showing.
The latter was bred by Kathie Milne, Nancy Siver, and Ruth Kirby, and is owned by me and Kathie. Each of these dogs has been awarded multiple Bests in Show. Three have been in the Top 5 Owner-Handled multiple times and been invited to the AKC National Championship in Orlando, Florida.
The parent club started acknowledging the top 5 NOHS dogs or bitches a few years ago and these owner-handled Springers now compete at the National Top 20 Competition. GCHS Sapphire n Twin Oaks Sweet Charlotte (Charlotte), who is owned by Susan Souza and myself, was eligible twice, and GCH Suncoast n Sapphires Great Scott was eligible for the first time in 2022.
I have enjoyed every minute of the NOHS and I’m thankful that the AKC decided to offer it. Prior to 2012, dogs would earn their championships and you’d never see them again. But with the NOHS, more owners have had the confidence to have fun with their dogs in the show ring. It’s also offered a chance for those dogs/bitches to be seen and considered by others for breeding. This is a great opportunity to promote the sport, giving opportunities that weren’t there before.
Over the years, I’ve personally seen the NOHS competition increase, the quality of the dogs improve, and the presentation of those dogs becoming more and more professional. It’s quite common to have dogs and handlers go from the regular Group ring and then compete in the NOHS Group ring.
What goals did I set for myself and for my dog in 2022? What about 2023?
Laureen Camisi: Well, 2022 was the first year showing GCH Suncoast n Sapphires Great Scott in the NOHS. We started slowly in October of 2021, accumulating points for 2022. He finished the year as No. 2 Owner-Handled dog and No. 3 overall, and will be competing in the Finals in Orlando this December. For 2023, I hope to keep him in the Top 5 and, hopefully, get another invitation to the NOHS Finals in Orlando. He also has a few nice Breed wins and a few regular Group placements, so I’d like to continue to work towards that. None of this would have been possible without Kathie Milne entrusting me with this beautiful dog. He came along at a low point in our family and has been a joy. I can’t thank her enough.
Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?
Laureen Camisi: I am excited to be going to Orlando this December. It is always a thrill to have a top dog in any competition, but having a dog in the NOHS Finals means something more for me this year.
I was seriously ill in 2020 and we were also home for COVID. I had lost three members of my human family, including my mom. When I finally started showing Scott again as a Special, it took a while for me to be able to show him well, to get my head back into it, and for him to show well again. Therefore, it’s hard to put into words how emotional this year is for us. I am grateful to be alive and healthy and to have had a successful year in 2022, despite the setbacks.
So, this trip to Orlando holds much more meaning for me than the obvious accomplishment. I am humbled to my core!
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an Owner Handler?
Laureen Camisi: I sometimes throw bait up in the air and catch it to get my dogs attention. Well, I was showing to judge James White, in Orlando, quite a few years ago and threw a piece of bait up in the air and missed catching it. Instead, it flipped away from me and hit the judge right between the eyes. Thank goodness he had a sense of humor and laughed with me, saying that this was the first time an exhibitor had ever thrown anything at him. I was a bit mortified. Jim is now deceased, but I have fond memories of him.