Meet the Handlers' Assistants: Olivia Hodgkinson
Meet Olivia Hodgkinson, a dog handler's assistant, and learn about her background in life and dogs.
Allan Reznik |
Posted: Mar 14, 2014 8 a.m. PST
Our sport is rich in noble traditions. Among the
strongest is that of hard-working assistants
apprenticing for successful professional handlers in
the fancy. Anyone with stars in their eyes about a
life of glamour is quickly disabused of those
notions when they learn that the dogs always come
first for top handlers and that partying is never a
job perk. Many handlers' assistants aspire to stay
in the sport and strike out on their own one day.
Others are happy to remain exhibitors while pursuing
other career paths. We reached out to handlers'
assistants to get better acquainted. — Allan
- Briefly tell us about your background,
including your age, where you grew up, if you came
from a doggy family and if you have siblings who
also show dogs.
- If you didn't come from a family that showed
dogs, where did your interest begin?
- What handlers have you worked for in the
past, and for whom are you working now?
- Is this a live-in position, or do you live
elsewhere during the week?
- What are some of the best things about being
a handler's assistant?
- What has been the most memorable moment in
your dog-showing career?
- What was the greatest disappointment?
- How could the sport be improved?
- What's the biggest misconception about
- Is your goal to go out on your own and
become a full-time professional handler one day?
Assistant for Amy Rutherford
- I am 24 and was born and raised in Washago,
Ontario, Canada. My parents breed Cavalier King
Charles Spaniels under the 'Carver' prefix. My older
sister, Alex, and I would attend a few shows a
month. I was hooked on dog shows the minute I saw
the Standard Poodle Dawin High Falutin, 'Lutin,'
handled by Allison Foley.
- I worked for Allison Foley for as long as I
can remember. I started by just following her
around. Once she realized I wasn't going to stop,
she gave me small tasks. I would clean crates and
fill water buckets before I graduated to holding
class Poodles while they were trimmed. I helped
Colin Brownlee for about a year while I finished
school and was preparing to move across the country
to be a live-in assistant for Allison. I have been
working for Amy Rutherford for almost 2 years
- I live at Amy's and work at her kennel
during the week.
- Some of the best things about working for
different handlers have been: being able to work as
part of a team and to really appreciate how
important teamwork is and just how rewarding it can
be. On top of that I have been part of a team that
piloted several different dogs to record-breaking
heights. To realize that goals like this are only
attained when everyone involved rises to the task is
something that will stay with me forever. Being able
to travel everywhere in North America, from frozen
ice rinks in northern Canada to Beverly Hills, is
something not everyone has done. Finally, getting
experience with many different breeds has provided
wonderful life lessons.
- The most memorable moment in my career as an
assistant was when Allison Foley won the Non-
Sporting Group at a large show in Ontario, Canada,
with Standard Poodle Vetset Kate Winsit, 'Kate,' and
minutes before Best in Show, she handed me the
armband. I went on to win BIS under Denys Jansen
(Bogotá), which put Kate in the No. 1 Non-Sporting
position. To have the person I admire most in dogs
cheer ringside while I showed her main special meant
the world to me.
- I don't have a particular moment that I find
disappointing, but I find it disappointing that
people can get so wrapped up in a campaign year that
they jeopardize lifelong friendships.
- I have only been in this sport a minute
compared to many, but I do think that the sport
could be improved by perhaps having fewer shows that
were still held over several days so that breeders
and exhibitors really had the chance to evaluate
breeding stock themselves and go look at young
puppies and older stud dogs that are at the shows.
Instead we are continually at four-day clusters
where we show in the breed, run to the Group and
maybe remember to look up the parents of that
promising puppy on our 10-hour overnight drive to
the next four-day cluster...
- I have found that people think professional
handlers are unapproachable. The handlers that I
have been lucky enough to learn from have always
been more than happy to help or talk with fellow
exhibitors. Usually this means that exhibitors have
to wait until after Best in Show or during the
Groups, but the professional handlers are still
willing to help!
- I do plan on becoming a professional
handler. I see myself always showing Poodles but not
limiting myself to just that.
- More Handlers' Assistants -
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