Interview with an Owner Handler, Michelle Ewing
My name is Michelle Ewing, and I am an Owner Handler of Whippets on the West Coast. Dogs are my passion and I have loved dog shows since childhood. I have enjoyed showing my Whippets to Group wins, multiple Group placements, and multiple NOHS Best in Show wins. I am currently looking forward to co-breeding my first litter and continuing to grow in the sport.
Where do I live? How many years have I been an Owner Handler?
Michelle Ewing: I have lived in Southern California all my life and have been an Owner Handler since 2018.
How did I get my start in my breed? In the sport?
Michelle Ewing: I started with Doberman Pinschers when I was in junior high school in the 1980s. My first show dog ended up being a pet, but the second one finished his championship quickly with Professional Handlers showing him. In early 2016, after a 20-plus year hiatus from dog shows, my friend asked me if I would consider getting a Whippet and if I was interested in showing it. I got my first Whippet later that year from Mandy Clevenger and she finished his championship, with most of his points coming from the Puppy Classes.
Have I always loved to show dogs? Have I always been a dog person?
Michelle Ewing: I started dreaming about getting a show dog when I was 12. I spent the summer with my uncle and grandmother, and I got a pet Doberman without asking my parents. I’m pretty sure they were thrilled! After that, I bought every book on Dobermans that I could get my hands on, and I started taking my dog to Obedience classes. I was obsessed with everything Doberman and with dog shows and dog sports. I think it took me about a year to convince my parents that we NEEDED a show dog.
I started going to match shows and met some breeders who suggested to my parents that I should take a handling class that Bill Shelton was teaching. I ended up working for Bill as an assistant through high school and into college. We traveled to dog shows all over the Western US. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from Bill and so many other Doberman handlers and breeders. Those were great times.
I have always loved showing dogs, but it hasn’t always been easy for me. I suffered from extreme anxiety for a very long time, which made it extremely uncomfortable for me to show my own dogs. About three years ago, however, I realized that most people weren’t even paying attention when I was in the ring, and it really helped me to get past the anxiety and present my dogs better. It was also at this time that I joined Lee Whittier’s Dog Show Mentor program which has really helped me to improve my mindset and focus, and to become more successful in the ring.
Is there a story behind my decision to show my own dog?
Michelle Ewing: I have shown both of my Whippets to their Grand Championships. They were both young when they finished, and their breeders, who are Professional Handlers, had suggested it. It has been a great way to gain experience in a lower pressure environment. Both of my Whippets have done well in the regular Group and NOHS.
What makes showing my own dog so special to me?
Michelle Ewing: I love spending time with my dogs, and achieving wins with them myself makes it even more special.
In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?
Michelle Ewing: Yes. Have fun with your dog! There is a lot of hard work to be done in order to be successful, but it should also be fun for your dog and for you.
Do I compete in the National Owner Handled Series? If so, for how many years?
Michelle Ewing: I have competed in NOHS for four years. It has been a great experience. I have learned so much and have made many friends.
What goals did I set for myself and for my dog in 2022? What about 2023?
Michelle Ewing: My goals for this year were to finish in the Top 20 in Breed points and Top 5 in NOHS. My current Special finished the 2022 OH year as the No. 2 Whippet. “Carly” is a multiple Hound Group winner and a multiple NOHS Best in Show winner. The highlight of this year was Carly and her sister, “Desiree,” winning Best in Show at the prestigious Santa Barbara Kennel Club Breeders Showcase. It was such an honor to represent her breeders, Lori Lawrence and Lori Wilson-Paust, at this event.
We are hoping for the arrival of Carly’s first litter in late February 2023. Goals for the last half of 2023 include obtaining the last 20 points toward her Silver Grand Championship and competing at more Specialties.
Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?
Michelle Ewing: We qualified to go to Orlando for 2021 and 2022. I was really looking forward to going to Orlando this year, but we have breeding plans around that time.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an owner handler?
Michelle Ewing: Well, there was that time when my shoe flew off my foot! Now I always make sure that I come prepared with extra inserts for when there is a temperature change.