Interview with Owner Handler, Nikkei (Danielle) Lyons
I am Danielle Lyons but most people call me Nikkei. I am the one who holds the lead for a magical Black and Tan Coonhound named “Gabby,” or as she’s legally known, GCHB CH Gabrielle Rockytop Blossoming Meadow RN BCAT CGC TKN. When Gabby is not in the show ring, she enjoys going to my dog spa where she enjoys greeting customers dropping off their furry friends for their spa day. She also enjoys cuddles. (The word “needy” has been thrown around, but she prefers “cuddly.”)
Being at the end of her lead has been a huge honor and a dream come true. I will forever be greatful to Edith Atchley of Rockytop Black and Tans for being an amazing mentor and friend. Gabby and I have met so many amazing people and have loved becoming part of an amazing community of people. I am so excited for our future in this sport and to becoming a responsible preservation breeder.
Where do I live? How many years have I been an Owner Handler?
My name is Nikkei (Danielle) Lyons and I live in Kingsport, Tennessee. I have been an Owner Handler for three and a half years.
How did I get my start in my breed? In the sport?
Nikkei (Danielle) Lyons: Being a Tennessee girl, I was drawn to the Coonhounds. After meeting a Black and Tan Coonhound, I knew I had found my breed. After years of waiting, I was extremely thankful to have met Edith Atchley of Rockytop Black and Tans who offered to co-own a puppy she was getting from the Czech Republic. She has been an amazing mentor and has become family. I got my start in the sport about 13 years ago when my aunt bought an Afghan Hound and decided to get into dog shows, and took me along with her.
Have I always loved to show dogs? Have I always been a dog person?
Nikkei (Danielle) Lyons: I like to kid my mom all the time that it’s her fault I am a crazy dog lady, since all of my baby stuff was 101 Dalmatians. Now I am a dog groomer who spends all of my free-time traveling to dog shows. I have always loved to be in the show ring and I always look forward to my next show.
Is there a story behind my decision to show my own dog?
Nikkei (Danielle) Lyons: Since the moment I went in the Juniors ring with my aunt’s Afghan Hound, I knew I had found my home. I knew from that moment that, with any dog I got, I wanted to be the one to handle my dog.
What makes showing my own dog so special to me?
Nikkei (Danielle) Lyons: What makes showing “Gabby” so special is that she is my first show dog. I had to wait 10 years to finally get the dog of my dreams. You see, I was 16 when we first started showing the Afghans. However, not long after we got started, my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. So, we had to stop going to dog shows. I knew I would be back there one day, but I just had to wait till the time was right.
Ten years later, I met Edith and got my very first show dog. From the minute I laid eyes on my girl, I knew she was special. When I got her home, I couldn’t wait to show my aunt my show puppy. She was so excited for me and couldn’t wait to see us in the ring. Sadly, she passed away after her third battle with breast cancer, two weeks before we went to our first show. Gabby is so special because my aunt wanted to do all the dog show stuff with us. So, now, we do it for her in her memory.
In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?
Nikkei (Danielle) Lyons: I feel like there are so many different secrets/tips/tricks, but every single dog is different. What may work for my dog won’t work for someone else’s. I think Gabby and I work so well together because we have such a connection. She goes to work with me a lot. She’s in my house, on my couch, and we do pretty much everything together. We just know how each other works. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Gabby will do anything for food, ha-ha.
Do I compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? If so, for how many years?
Nikkei (Danielle) Lyons: Yes! We love competing in the NOHS. We have been competing in the NOHS for the last three and a half years. Gabby has won multiple OHBIS, OHRBIS, and OH Group placements. She has finished the last two years as No. 2 Owner- Handled Black and Tan Coonhound, and in 2022, she finished the year in the Top 100 among all breeds. She is also currently No. 3 in the breed for lifetime points, and last year she won BOB at the NOHS Finals.
What goals did I set for myself and for my dog in 2022? What about 2023?
Nikkei (Danielle) Lyons: For 2022, I set our goals for competing at Westminster, staying in the Top 10 Breed, All-Breed, and NOHS systems, and earning more titles. So far this year, Gabby has competed at Westminster, going Select Bitch in a beautiful line up of Black and Tans. She has stayed in the Top 5 in all the point systems, and earned her RN, CGC, and TKN, and is currently two points shy of her GCHS. She has crushed every goal that I have set for us.
In 2023, we plan on stepping back from the show ring and we are looking forward to whelping the next generation of superstars.
Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?
Nikkei (Danielle) Lyons: We are going to Orlando this year. It is so exciting to get the opportunity to go back and see all of our friends. Win or lose, the dog show community is so supportive of each other. I feel like this is especially true of the Owner Handlers.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an Owner Handler?
Nikkei (Danielle) Lyons: One time, when we were in the Owner-Handled Group ring, I went to move up in the line. We were, like, three dogs back from the exam. I pulled on the lead to move up and I feel a “pop!” The lead had snapped and broke. I reached down and held Gabby’s head, and hollered to my family sitting outside the ring to get our backup lead. There was this lady sitting outside the ring who was so very sweet and asked how she could help me. I handed her the broken lead and asked, “Can you hold this for me?” She laughed and said, “Sure.” Well, we went on to win an OH Group One that day. I have made sure since then that Gabby has a solid lead on, ha-ha!