Handler Couples: Larry Cornelius and Marcelo Veras

Meet this professional dog handler couple from Ocala, Fla.

By D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D. | December 27, 2012

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Larry Cornelius
  

Larry Cornelius shares dog handling duties with Marcelo Veras, his partner of 10 years. Photo by Jeffrey Hanlin.

Larry Cornelius and Marcelo Veras
Ocala, Florida

Did you meet through dogs?
Larry: Yes. Marcelo was visiting from Brazil in 1996. I think it was Westchester.
Marcelo: We'd seen each other around for years, but we were with other partners. I'd been going back and forth to the US for the more important shows. The first time we really met was in the revolving door at the Hotel Pennsylvania! Then after that I left my Wire Fox Terrier with Larry to show ... so of course we ended up talking on the phone a lot, and I finally just came up, and we got together in 2002.

How long have you been handling together?
Larry: Ten years.
Marcelo: Ten years (50 in gay years).

Did you have your own personal breeds when you met? Have they changed because of your association?
Larry: I grew up with Dobes, but when we met I didn't have a personal dog.
Marcelo: I've always had Dobes, and I had a Wire Fox Terrier when we met. Now we still have Dobes, but we've also bred Norfolk Terriers and Bull Terriers together.

WHO DOES WHAT?

Who drives?
Larry: Marcelo won't let me drive. One of the few times I drove the truck I got hit by a boat! Marcelo was at shows, I was at home, and the power was out because of a hurricane, so we were running the kennel off the truck generator. It needed gas, and I was on the phone with Marcelo, and he wanted me to wait for two days for him to be back and drive it to the station, but there wasn't enough gas to last. So I drove it to the gas station. I was on this narrow road, and here comes a huge yacht being towed! I pulled over as far as I could, practically stopped, but it still hit the back end of me!
Marcelo: Only me. I don't trust anyone else to drive. I've put over 200,000 miles on that truck, no accidents! Larry drives 4 miles and gets hit by a boat on dry land! Yeah, he pulled the front end off the road, but it's a long rig!

Who deals with clients (especially the ones nobody wants to deal with)?
Larry: We divide them up. A couple we both talk to. Nasty clients get fired!
Marcelo: Larry doesn't answer emails or phone calls! Overall, he tends to do the initial parts and also makes the final decisions, and I tend to explain the details of how things work.

Who does the paperwork?
Larry: Me. I've just always done it.
Marcelo: Larry. I don't do billings, entries or laundry!

Who trains?
Larry: Both of us ... it's probably one of our most equally divided things.
Marcelo: We tag-team it, but we don't train much at home. Most of our training is in the ring, in the show environment. At home we just let them run and be dogs.

Who picks out the better show outfits?
Larry: I do all the packing.
Marcelo: Larry hands me my outfits every day.

What about other things?
Larry: If one of us is specialing a dog, the other one has to do the things the dog doesn't particularly like, like nail trims.
Marcelo: Larry does most all of the grooming and trimming. It depends on the breed, but he likes it the most. I always cook. I service the truck ... Larry doesn't even have a clue it ever takes oil!

How do you decide who shows which dog?
Larry:
Sometimes the client decides, sometimes the dog decides, sometimes we arm wrestle! I stole Buddy from Marcelo. He believed in him before I did; I kept saying he's really nice, but a Skye Terrier isn't a Best in Show breed! Marcelo showed him and started winning Groups, but he already had the Afghan that was winning, so I kept ending up taking him in for Best. Then I stole him!
Marcelo: The dog mostly decides. We watch each other ... who the dog sparkles with. Sometimes the client insists on one of us over the other. We don't divide by breed, but I sort of prefer the big dogs, and Larry likes his little dogs.

Are you competitive with one another?
Larry: Oh yeah! We're both Aquarians, too, which they say shouldn't work! It's hard sometimes if he has a dog who really needs a certain win, and I might think my dog has a better chance, I want him to win for his sake, but I still want to win! If it's down to just the two of us, it's every man for himself; neither of us is going to give!
Marcelo: Extremely competitive! There may be times when Larry gets mad when he really needed the win, but we're also really happy for each other's wins.

Marcelo Veras
  

Marcelo says that a benefit of working with Larry is that there is someone to spend time with after shows. He says that although handlers stay busy, it can be a lonely life. Photo by Rick Meyer.

What are some perks of being in the handling business with a family partner?
Larry:

  • Nobody else would understand. I don't know how handlers do it when their significant other is not into dogs.
  • I can complain about work, and he always gets it!
  • We have another set of eyes. We're critical of each other's performance, and I can trust his judgment. He won't just try to make me feel good by saying "Your dog looked great!" That's not helpful. He'll tell me what I could have done better.
  • There are no sick days in this job. But we have a built-in substitute for when we just can't do it.
  • Being able to be with my partner when the job requires being on the road all the time ... We've been home maybe four days in the last six weeks!

Marcelo:

  • Somebody to talk to about things that come up.
  • Different opinions to discuss ... including opinions about dogs. We never agree on dogs. I think that's what makes us so successful. Type always comes first with both of us, but Larry is more detail-oriented, and I'm more about soundness and movement.
  • As busy as we are, it's actually a very lonely life, so it's good to have somebody else when the show is over.
  • He can make it to the ring if I can't.
  • If one of us gets ill and can't work, the other can support the family.
  • We can split up and take different dogs to different shows.

Name a challenge:
Larry: Spending 24/7 with your life partner and business partner is not always ideal for your mental health!
Marcelo: Think of it: 24/7 for 175 days a year, not counting travel days ... you can say whatever you want! And when you're sharing your living quarters with assistants, you can't even argue! When we get home, we go our separate ways. We text each other.

Are you together because of dog shows or in spite of dog shows?
Larry: We got together because, stayed together in spite of.
Marcelo: In spite of...

What's the most important thing your partner has taught you in relation to the dog show world?
Larry: To really stand firm for what you believe ... that I'm entitled to my viewpoint.
Marcelo: To always wait 30 seconds before you open your mouth. 

 

See more handler couples>>

 

From the December 2012 (2013 Annual) issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the December 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.

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