|Growing Up in Juniors
By Chelsea Brandenburg, Junior Scholarship Recipient
My family has been involved in Australian Shepherds since 1980. Before AKC recognized our breed we showed our dogs in Australian Shepherd Club of America shows. Personally, my experience in the ring began in 1989 at an ASCA show as a "Pee-wee" handler. Since then I have learned countless lessons that can be applied to many different parts of my life.
Most of what I learned in juniors was from observations and mistakes. Before I turned ten I would sit with my family to watch my sister show in juniors. I listened to their critiques and stored them away for the day I would be in that ring. I was so excited when I turned ten, and in just two weekends Bonnie and I were able to move from Novice to Open Junior.
In 1997 I was given a champion male Basenji, named Blaze. We worked very well together and by 1998 we were ranked Number 2 Basenji junior and I qualified for Westminster for the first time. That summer I traveled to England for 5 weeks to stay with friends of ours. During that time I showed a dog that we bred in junior handling. Even though I had to adjust to their style of handling and learn what the judges were looking for, I was able to fine-tune my handling quickly and win two first places over 70 other junior handlers. In 1999 I was surprised and excited to learn that I was ranked Number 1 hound junior. From the years 2000-2002 I kept my title as Number 1 Basenji junior, and showed at Westminster each year. In 2001 I showed at the 1st annual Eukenuba Classic Dog Show and made the cut to the finals. The highlight of that year was a Best Junior Handler at the ASCA National Specialty over approximately 87 juniors. Also that year I finished in the top 20 all-breed junior handlers.
My accomplishments are not all in the junior ring, even though that is what I have enjoyed the most. I have finished many Aussies, along with winning a group fist. Last year I won Best in Futurity at the USASA National Specialty. I have also enjoyed working for Registered Handler Stacy Snyder. She is a great person to work for and a role model to me. Stacy has taught me many aspects of showing purebred dogs such as the care and condition of traveling with show dogs and the grooming and handling of different breeds.
I am not sure what the future holds, but I know that I want to stay involved in purebred dogs and dog shows. I would love to be a junior handling judge some day. I would like to be a role model to my junior handler exhibitors as my judges have been to me. I also have a passion for photography and would like to study it in college. My dream is to be an accomplished dog photographer like Gay Glazebrook.
Through my life with dogs I have become a talented handler, had the chance to travel all over, and have learned many important lessons. I am thankful for everywhere I have been and all that I have done. Showing dogs has made me a better person and I cannot imagine my life without it. I have missed out on many things like school dances and games, birthday parties, and festivals. However, those things do not even compare to what I have gained from showing dogs. I have felt the disappointments and heartbreaks in the dog world but I have also enjoyed the joy and rewards of it. And that, I believe, has made me stronger.