|Remembering Junior Years
By Shannon Mort, Junior Scholarship Recipient
It seems like just yesterday when I was a novice handler in the sport of purebred dogs and felt so nervous every time I went into the show ring. I look back and remember those times and see how my handling skills have vastly improved and have been refined over the years. The sport of purebred dogs has been one of the biggest influences on my life. I have been able to grow so much as a person and meet a lot of new people in the process. When I look back at all of the things I have accomplished when showing dogs in both AKC and 4-H, I am very proud of myself and how I have grown up to be a more mature young adult.
My interest in the sport of dogs started when I joined a local 4-H club. I began showing dogs in obedience with my non-show quality English Springer Spaniel and was encouraged to try junior showmanship. I received a lot of help from my instructor Jimmie Lloyd. At first my dog Callaway did not like to show at all. Jimmie helped me to get Callaway's attitude up and helped me with my handling skills. This is when I first learned that you need to create a good team and relationship between you and your dog in order to be successful. All of the hard work paid off because my very first year in 4-H, Callaway and I qualified to show in the Maryland State Fair Dog Show and received third place out of over 20 handlers in my class. This was a very special win for me, considering how much time and work I had to put into training for the event.
As I improved with my handling skills, I was then encouraged.to start showing in AKC Dog Shows as a novice junior handler. At first I did not place very well but I hung in there, knowing that I had just started out and the competition in AKC is a little harder than 4-H competition. I kept training and working hard to refine my handling skills so that I could have a better chance at irn,proving my placements. After a month, I got my very first novice win and was very proud. I still remember standing in line to get my picture taken, feeling very accomplished. My second and third novice wins seemed to breeze by after that and before I knew it I was in the open junior class. I was happy that I did not let myself give up so easily in the beginning or I would have never been able to move onto the open class.
Callaway was getting older and was not show quality, so I got a new English Springer Spaniel named Demitre to work with in the open class. I found myself starting all over again, trying to establish a team with another dog as well as working hard to place in the open junior class. It took me longer than a month to establish a team and start placing in the open junior classes with Demitre. At times I did get quite upset and discouraged, but I knew that eventually my hard work would payoff.
4-H and AKC have both taught me a lot about sportsmanship. In my 4-H junior showmanship class, there is a particular exhibitor that goes back and forth with me as to who wins a particular show. We have both learned to be supportive of each other and to always say congratulations to each other. It pays off to be nice to someone because being a bad sport gets you nowhere. When judges and spectators see an exhibitor with a bad attitude because they did not win, it gives the exhibitor a bad reputation. The sport of purebred dogs is not always fair, just like any other sport and even life in general for that matter. You usually lose more than you win but you cannot give up.
In the future I would love to become a professional handler because I thoroughly enjoy the sport of purebred dogs. I want to major in marine biology in college but also explore the possibility of wanting to go into medical studies. This could include going to medical school or vet school after attending a four year college. At any rate, I know that my love of animals will probably lead me into something animal related whether it be a marine animal specialist, studying animals in biological field work studies, or possibly even becoming a veterinarian.
Thank you for the opportunity you have given me to reflect back on my involvement and growth as a handler in the sport of purebred dogs!