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Is There Life After Junior Showmanship?
By Adam King

Your eighteenth birthday is approaching, a day that most people look forward to with anticipation. It's when you become an "adult," you receive more responsibilities, and a time where most people strike out on their own, either to college or into the work force. However, for Junior handlers, another feeling is mixed in. Once they turn the magical eighteen, they are no longer allowed to show in Junior Showmanship.

For Junior handlers, showing in Junior Showmanship becomes a big part of their lives. Some have shown for up to eight years in the competition, and the thought of that part of their lives being over with is something that is very hard to really understand until it happens. What to do now? Those early mornings driving to the show site to make those ridiculously early ring times are over, unless of course you are lucky enough to get those for breed too! And counting down your wins until you get the magic number for the AKC Championship and Westminster is done too. No more entering as many shows as possible at the end of the year just to make sure you are covered. Checking stats online to see what you're ranked this month is over too, no more worrying about getting a couple more wins to be number one. It is all over.

Even though Junior Showmanship is over, it does not mean that your involvement in the fancy is, or even in Junior Showmanship. Go and support all of your friends that are still showing in Juniors! Though I aged out well over a year ago, I always make an effort to be at ringside to cheer on everyone who is showing in Juniors. You could also "adopt" a new Junior, and help them out.

So many Juniors just starting out have a severe case of nerves, and are unsure of what to do with themselves in the ring. I am sure many of you can remember what it's like, standing there not knowing anybody else. After Juniors is completed, go over, introduce yourself, and offer to give some pointers. Coaching a Junior will also give you a good reason to remain active ringside, and give you someone who you can cheer on ringside. You could also volunteer to judge Junior Showmanship at local matches, not only helping out clubs, but also adding to your experience in the dog show world. After you have judged at several matches, you can go on to apply for your Junior Showmanship judging license, the ultimate way to keep contributing to Juniors. After all, who should know more what to look for in Junior Showmanship than a former Junior Handler?

Though you may be going to college and thinking you won't be able to keep being involved in dog shows, it's all about time management. I just recently completed my first year at Purdue University as an Animal Science major, and managed to keep my grades up while still attending shows and finishing my first Bred-By champion. I have not really slowed down at all, but my time management skills have greatly improved! And I always make sure that I get to the Junior ring in time so I can watch all of my friends who are still showing. In addition, I have also had the wonderful chance to judge Juniors at several matches as well.

Just because you have aged out of Junior Showmanship, it does not mean that your contribution is over too! Stay involved, and always be ready to give a helping hand. I am sure it will be well appreciated!