Handler Couples: Clint and Karen Livingston

Meet this professional dog handler couple from Brighton, Colo.

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

Clint and Karen Livingston
Brighton, Colorado

Clint and Karen Livingston
Karen and Clint Livingston travel to shows together with their young son Landon. The couple is expecting another child in January. 2013.

Did you meet through dogs? How?
Clint: Yes, we met through dogs/dog shows. Karen used to show Brittanys against me every time I came to the Colorado area back in the late '90s and early 2000s. I didn't know her back then, just as competition. She then went to work for Linda Clark in Tulsa, Okla., for four to five years, and we started talking at the end of 2005 and dating in 2006.
Karen: Yes. I remember watching Clint for many years in the ring when I was really young. I really wanted to beat that guy!

How long have you been handling together?
Clint: After we started dating, Karen worked for Linda for another year, and then moved back to Colorado and went out on her own for some of the shows, traveling with me to some. We had specials in some of the same breeds, so we started by mostly going to separate shows when that option was available. I believe we started traveling together full-time toward the end of 2007 and have been ever since.
Karen: We've been traveling together since 2006 and started handling together some time at the end of 2007.

Did you have your own personal breeds when you met? Have they changed because of your association?
Clint: Karen's breed has been Brittanys, and although I had shown many over the years, I had never bred a litter of Brittanys until I was with Karen. We co-bred our first litter in August of 2007. Before Karen, I had co-bred a litter of Pointers, Greyhounds and German Shepherds, but that involvement hasn't changed since marriage.
Karen: I was showing my Brittanys when I first met Clint. He was obviously showing many different breeds. My breed has not changed, and now Clint has to claim to be a Brittany person.

WHO DOES WHAT?

Who drives?
Clint: Karen is able to drive if needed, but I do most all the driving as she takes care of our 2-year-old son, Landon. Living in Colorado, we have to do lots of driving most weekends.
Karen: Mostly Clint. I can if I have to, but I cannot park! Plus I'm usually entertaining a 2-year-old.

Who deals with clients?
Clint: I handle most of the phone calls, emails and text-messaging with clients. Karen will occasionally text-message clients with results for me, but I do most of it as it's something I've always done.
Karen: Clint. His people skills are much better than mine!

Who does paperwork?
Clint: It's divided pretty evenly between us. I deal with most of the entries and figuring out our show schedule as to where we're going. Karen writes up most of the weekly judging program schedules. I do all the paperwork and expense envelopes to get billing ready, and she plugs all the billing info into the computer to send out to the individual clients.
Karen: Yuck. Both of us.

Who trains dogs?
Clint: We both train along with our assistants. Some dogs respond better to women, some men, and we just do our best to work them through any problems and make them show dogs.
Karen: Again we both do. Some dogs respond better to a woman at first, and others are more used to a man. It depends on what training needs to be done and which one of us has more time.

Who picks out better show outfits?
Clint:
I'm a clothes horse.
Karen: I'm going to have to say that Clint probably does. Although he always asks my opinion, he has great taste. I don't usually ask for an opinion; if I like it, I wear it.

Who gets baby duty?
Karen: On show days it's mostly me so that Clint can concentrate on the schedule, dogs and clients. We also have great assistants that help us juggle him. On our days at home we both get to enjoy him.

How do you decide who gets to show each dog?
Clint: We show many different breeds, so it usually depends on how the schedule works out. We have several clients who have been with me for 15 to 20 years, so of course they get most priority. Other factors are the races we are in with individual dogs and who shows better for who. Sometimes we even try to change it up just to keep the dog happy and on his/her toes showing for whoever is on the end of the lead and not getting too ring wise.
Karen: It mostly depends on the schedule and who can get to what ring when. Occasionally, it will depend on the dog himself; some dogs show better for me, others better for Clint.

Are you competitive with each other?
Clint: Not really competitive in that way, as I feel we are both cheering each other on. If either of us win, that dog still belongs in the same setup at the end of the day. I've had judges ask if I'm upset because she beat me before, but actually, I'm happy...
Karen: Of course we're competitive with one another. Winning is what we both want to do when we walk into that ring! That is my goal, and that is his goal. Fortunately, we're more supportive with one another than we are competitive. If I can't win, I want him to. And I'm always happy for him and the dog. Win or lose, Clint buys dinner! Our clients are usually very supportive of each other's dogs; the goal is to bring the big ribbon back to the truck.

Name some perks about being in the handling business with a family partner:
Clint: Being involved in the same business for support and advice. Actually, my brother (Brian) and sister (Colette) are handlers as well, and it's great to have so much family involvement in everything we do. Whether it's schedule or judge advice, helping each other cover dogs when we have conflicts, or even showing dogs for each other when traveling to different parts on the country, that is a real asset. And it's great to be able to spend time on the job with your family, something that many people don't get to experience.

Karen:

  • We get to spend a lot of time with each other! Most couples work 9 to 5 at different jobs and have to catch up on the weekends. We know everything about the other's day, and it makes it so much easier to be supportive and encouraging.
  • We both get to spend time with our son (and soon-to-be daughter). Landon gets time every day with his mom and dad, and for that I am so grateful. Time goes by so fast when you are watching your children grow.
  • We're both doing what we love! We have a real passion for dogs and dog shows. Working with the dogs in our care and seeing them succeed is what it's all about. It makes it worth all the late hours and early mornings.

Name a challenge:
Clint:
I think our biggest challenge is being on the road so much while we raise a family. It's been great to have Landon with us and be able to spend time with him every day; he makes me laugh every day, but as he gets older, I don't want him to have to be on the road all the time. And we are about to add a whole new scenario to the situation, as we are expecting our second child (a girl) on January 19. Being on the road with one child isn't always easy, but I love it. Having a second child is going to present many new challenges in traveling and even space. We are pretty sure one of us is going to be staying home most weekends.

As far as how we will raise our children, I think our eyes are open to the ups and downs of travel and showing full-time. I was only allowed to go to shows if I kept up good grades in school. I actually graduated valedictorian in high school and had a full scholarship to St. Mary's University, and I think my parents' direction and the desire to want to do dog shows helped me accomplish all that. Landon is only 2 and seems to love all animals just like I did. Not sure if that will change over time or not, but he will be free to choose his direction. Everyone says they can't wait to see him in Juniors, but he may not want anything to do with showing dogs as he gets older, and if that is the case, that is fine by me as well.

Karen:

  • We get to spend a lot of time with each other! LOL. This is not really a drawback and only a challenge because we live with two assistants and a baby in a motor home when we're on the road. As you can imagine there are no secrets in an 18-by-12-foot living space.
  • The other challenge is that we are never (or at least feels like never) home! If we get four days in a row at home, it feels like a vacation.

Are you together because of dog shows or in spite of dog shows?
Clint: I would say because of dog shows, but we would be together without them as well.
Karen: Both! Dog shows are what brought us together, and we stay together in spite of them.

What is the most important thing your partner has taught you in relation to the dog show world?
Clint:
That win or lose, it's just a dog show, and all I can do is try my best. There are always highs and lows when you are in competition, but at the end of the day my family brings much joy to my life, and that is the most important thing.
Karen: He has taught me so many things in relation to dog shows. He is an amazing man, talented in many ways. Just being able to watch him in the ring and the way dogs respond to him I learn so much. Clint has also taught me the importance of communication. We are blessed to have a number of wonderful clients because Clint makes sure to keep them informed. He's also helped me learn to keep things in perspective; people are not always nice, but as long as you do the best job you can, you can be proud. I'm so very blessed to have him as my partner in life.

 

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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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