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The Irish Setter Nationals
By Susan Schafer

This past June I attended our Irish Setter Club of America National Specialty held in Olympia, Washington, which is near Seattle. The site was gorgeous and I had a wonderful time with everybody there. The day before the junior classes were held there was a seminar. It was taught by Mr. Lauren Morgan and Mrs. Lorraine Bisso. Mr. Morgan shared some of his past experiences with the older and more experienced juniors while Mrs. Bisso spent time with the beginners teaching them how to hold the leads correctly and teaching the basics. Mr. Morgan said that we juniors are the future of the breed and that he loved to watch us. He also said that no one could say that a junior did a bad job, because we are always wonderful handlers. Mr. Morgan went down the line of people and had us do a normal L pattern and told us what we were doing wrong and what we could do to correct it. When it became my turn I was thinking in my head about what I should do and about what the other girls (and boy) did and what they did wrong to see if I could correct it myself. I did well, but I still had a few things to work on. It was fun to get to know the other Irish Setter junior handlers from around the country at the Juniors Party that the Irish Setter Club of America hosted for us. Thank your parent club of your breed if it has a good program that encourages you and other juniors.

As the next day approached everyone was a little nervous, but we all kept a cool head. The results of the next day were so exciting and to this day I can’t believe that I accomplished them. I won Best Junior Handler for the first time at a National Specialty with a dog I had just started to work with named “JJ” Rockherin Freedom Rings. I had shown JJ in the regular classes a few times and had been training him, but this was his first time in Juniors.

I want to thank Mr. Morgan and Mrs. Bisso for helping all of us so much the day before. We juniors need the more experienced handlers to share ideas with us so that we can continue to be better handlers. So many people have been by my side and cheering me on throughout my four years of showing.

The grooming of our Irish Setters before showing in juniors is important. Grooming can be a fun time with your dog and can be a good time to bond with your dog. Sometimes you have to be firm with the dog while it is on the table, but if you also try to make it fun, then your dog will think of you as a fun person to be with and will want to perform in the ring when it’s time to compete. Our Irish Setters need a bath and their nails trimmed at least once a week and we are always watching for matting that needs to be taken care of. The feet need to be cleaned and the neck and head and ears will need attention with clippers and stripping knives. I’ve worked on our retired dogs at home by myself but will still ask others to look over dogs I am taking in the ring. On the day of the show it is important to get to the show early enough to go over the dog, wash all the feathering and use a blow dryer to dry and straighten the coat out. I’ve gotten pretty good at this because I have helped get a lot of dogs ready on show days. After the grooming is done, you need time to relax a little with your dog and have some “fun” with the dog before going in the ring.

Junior handling was a goal for me since I was six years old. Our family obtained its first show dog in 1997 and I would go with my mother to dog class every Wednesday night watching the class teacher helping all of the Irish Setter “ladies” from the Irish Setter Club of Michigan learn how to show their Irish. I sat in a chair every week and watched wishing that I could show one of the dogs. But I was a little girl and the dogs were really big. Sometimes one of the ladies would bring two dogs and ask me to hold one while she was working with the other. Touching and handling as many dogs as you can is a great way to feel comfortable around dogs. While I was watching dog class, I was learning! As I got nearer to ten years old, one of the Irish setter ladies, Mrs. Barbara Popyk, asked me if I would like to work with her older dog, CH Shangrila Handsome Fortune. “Sully” was an experienced show dog but needed to be re-trained to work with me. So, I started working on the floor with Sully with the other Irish setter ladies and Sully and I became a team. We traveled together to shows and I spent as much time as I could stacking and gaiting with him. He really gave me my start in Irish Setters. About a year later I was lucky enough to start training a four month old puppy from Mrs. Katherine Wheatley and Mrs. Debbie Davis, who is now CH Rockherin A Moment In Time. “Tara” and I went to class every Wednesday night. Tara responded to me very well and we’ve had a great time together. I am very proud that I put all the points on Tara and finished her championship with a five point specialty win. Tara is focused on people and she watches every thing I do. If I go in the ring with another dog, she knows it and will bark. If you are able to get a dog that really likes to be with you and you spend time stacking, gaiting and training for little periods of time and always have fun, then you and your dog will become a team! The dogs that I’ve shown and I are friends and that’s really important.

My advice is that when you first start out in juniors you might want to start with an older dog that knows what he is doing and is at least halfway trained. Once you get the hang of things, if you are able to get a puppy of your own, then you can train each other. Watch what other people are doing in the show ring as well and at any dog class you can attend.

Counting down my years in juniors I have figured out that the year I age out of juniors Tara will be able to be shown in Veterans at our National. Let’s hope that there will be many more happy memories!