Fond Memories, Bright Future
Animals have always played an important role in my life. While other kids' first words are usually mommy or daddy, mine was "goggie." Growing up, I would always bring home dogs that I found, and then beg my parents to keep them. I knew at an early age that I wanted to be a veterinarian, and at the age of 22, that still has not changed.
Unlike many other kids in the dog show world, I did not go to my first dog show until I was about 10 years old. Before that, my idea of a dog show was our local pet contests where our dogs would win titles such as cutest mutt or largest dog. It was not until my mom started participating in obedience classes with our Golden Retriever that my idea of a dog show changed. My mom enjoyed the obedience classes and decided to enter Sandy in her first dog show. I went with her of course and found myself completely fascinated with the whole show. My interests soon turned to the conformation ring. I remember watching the junior showmanship ring, and I knew that this was what I wanted to do.
Soon after, I began showing my new Labrador Retriever puppy Molly in both junior showmanship and the conformation ring. After several shows we realized that Molly was not conformation material, so I decided to start working with her in obedience. After a lot of hard work, we began winning in the junior ring, and Molly was performing well in the obedience ring. Before I knew it I was hooked on dog shows.
My family supported the fact that I found something that I loved and soon every weekend was spent at a dog show. I think that every junior can relate to what the typical weekend is like. I know for me every Friday would come around and all my friends would be deciding what they were going to do that evening. I instead would usually be in the office obtaining a pass to leave school early because we had a long drive ahead of us that night. This became routine though, and my teachers and friends became used to it. I spent many long Sunday drives home cramming to finish all my homework that was due the following day.
Early on in my showing experiences I was also introduced to the world of hunt tests. It is different from the juniors ring because there are not many kids, so you must gain the respect of the adults that compete there. Of course, my dogs absolutely loved doing this, and I found it very interesting to be able to see the dogs doing what they were bred to do. I already knew the breed standard for Labradors, but the hunt tests let me see first hand exactly why labs need dual coats or thick tails in order to perform their function in the field.
Now that I have aged out of juniors, I look back with many fond memories.
Dog shows not only taught me good sportsmanship, but I also met many wonderful people that will always be special to me. Although right now school takes up most of my time, dog shows are still very important to me. Since I can not go to every show anymore, I have often found myself as a spectator rather than an exhibitor. Sitting back and watching a show rather than being in the ring was a very hard adjustment for me. It has made me realize how much I truly love this sport. Because of this I decided to obtain my judging license for junior showmanship. I received my provisional license to judge juniors about a year and a half ago, and I was given the opportunity to judge junior showmanship for the first time last April. I was asked to judge juniors at the Labrador Retriever specialty in Southern California, and I found this to be both an extremely fun and rewarding experience. The club that hosted this specialty also asked me to hold a handling seminar for kids that wished to participate after the show. Here I was able to help juniors perfect their handling skills and gave them tips on how they can improve. I had both advanced junior handlers as well as children that had never shown before. I had a lot of fun helping all of them, and I hope I was able to encourage each junior to continue participating in the sport.
I graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University in December 2003, with a bachelor's degree in biology in three and a half years. During part of high school and all of my undergraduate coursework I worked at a local animal hospital as a veterinary technician. I worked there for over 6 years and loved being able to educate people about their dogs. I think that the knowledge I brought from dog shows enabled me to teach people about their different breeds and to give them training tips.
Currently, I am attending veterinary school at Colorado State University. I was recently married in March and my husband and I moved to Colorado in August. Moving to a new state has been a big change, but the town is growing on me. Veterinary school has been very challenging, but knowing that this is a field that I definitely want to be a part of motivates me every day. I look forward to being able to focus more on the breeding aspect of shows once I am a veterinarian. I want to be able to apply my education to the breed, in hopes of one-day eliminating some of the problems that plague large dogs.
Before I moved to Colorado, I was working with my 9 year old Golden Retriever, William, as a therapy dog. William never liked being in the spotlight of the show ring, but I think I found his passion being a therapy dog. We volunteered at a local heart hospital to visit patients and a retirement center to visit with the seniors that lived there. Therapy dog work was very rewarding because I was able to see how responsive people are towards the company of a dog and how much it can truly help them recover. Since William is approaching 10 years old, I did not take him with me to Colorado. Instead, my mom has continued taking him to the hospital because he loves visiting the patients so much. I now have a 16 month old chocolate Labrador Retriever named Rylan that I am training for therapy and obedience. I am also a member of an organization at school called Students for Human Animal Relationship Education or S.H.A.R.E. One of the primary functions of the club is to teach people how much pets can positively impact their lives. Once Rylan is ready for therapy work, I hope to take her with me when the club attends retirement centers.
I not only learned a lot from junior showmanship, but also from the obedience ring and from participating in hunt tests. Even though there were many times when I struggled because I may not have had the lifetime experiences of growing up in the dog show world like many other kids, I think the fact that I had to learn through trial and error made me appreciate everything more. I know that this sport will always play an important part in my life, and I look forward to being able to contribute back to it.