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Best In Show Daily’s Who’s Who: Tonia Holibaugh

Professional handler Tonia Holibaugh lives in the Texas Hill Country near Austin, where, in addition to showing dogs for a living, she breeds Maltese and is involved in her local all-breed club and her parent club. She took a little time out to answer the BISD Who’s Who questions.

1. Where were you born?
Cheyenne, Wyoming

2. List the roles you’ve played in the dog world: breeder, owner-handler, professional handler, apprentice, judge, delegate, writer, publisher, photographer, artist, campaign manager?
I have owned, bred and shown my own Maltese since 1990. I have worked as a professional handler for 14 years. I worked as an apprentice for Barbara Beissel, Liz Tobin and Tina Yuhl. I am the president of the Austin Kennel Club and chairman of the health committee for the American Maltese Association. I have been elected to judge the America Maltese Association 2013 National Specialty sweepstakes. I have written a few magazine articles on health-related issues and prominent Maltese and Maltese breeders.

Tonia with the Smooth Dachshund Ch. Dynadaux Girls Gone Wild, bred and owned by Cyndy Senff, and Maltese Ch. Rhapsody’s Holier Than Thou, owned by Melanie Barnes and bred and owned by Tonia. Tonia handled both dogs to Number 1 in breed competition in 2006.

Are you the only person in your family who is involved in the dog show world?
Yes.

3. With what living dog person have you had the longest acquaintance, other than a relative?
I first got into dogs after meeting Kay Joiner at the veterinarian’s office where I worked. I traveled with her as she showed and finished my first champion. My second champion was shown by Peggy Lloyd and Denny Mounce. They were the first professional handlers I was around and inspired me to pursue a career in handling.

4. What breeds have you been personally involved with? What is your favorite breed?
I am primarily a Maltese breeder. I have shown many Maltese, Yorkies, Shih Tzu, Lhasas, Dachshunds and other Toy breeds. I also own a Great Dane.

5. Who inspired you in the dog world? In what way?
There are so many who have inspired me over the years. Peggy Hogg, Peggy Lloyd and Barbara Alderman are Maltese people who influenced my career. However, I am sure watching Vicki Abbott show Carol Frances Andersen’s Maltese ‘Henry’ (Ch. Sand Island’s Small Kraft Lite) when I first starting showing was my initial inspiration to want to show Maltese at a higher level of competition.

6. Are you taken, looking or happily unattached? If taken, by whom and for how long?
I have a fiancé and we are planning to get married next year.

7. What is/are your current house pet(s)?
I have a Rag Doll cat in addition to my Maltese and Great Dane.

8. What is your most prized possession?
My cat, Java.

9. What one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
That I can be quite shy around strangers.

10. Besides dog things, what are your favorite interests or activities?
I am an avid reader, and love to work on home improvement projects. I also love to visit national parks and study wildlife.

11. Other than your chosen profession, how would you like to have earned a living?
I went to college to be a computer programmer. I have worked quite a bit in the web design field.

Written by

Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly all-breed magazine ShowSight. This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier.