Memorable Conformation Junior Handling Experiences from "MOM" Beckwith
Adults put yourself in the "nervous Novice" position. Nothing will scare a Junior Newby and send them running for the hills like the feeling that they have no friends in the Junior Handling ring. Over the years our little darlings have been considered ruthless to deadly. What a newby and oldie Junior needs are friends to encourage them to stick with it. The objective in the long run is, learn and have fun with the dogs in the sports we love.
Listen up kids, I am not talking about always learning from an adult mentor, parent or professional handler. What you will enjoy are many junior to junior friendships also. Let me share a favorite story.
Valerie, Graham, June, Skot, Andrew, Lindsey, Ashley, Amanda, Big John and Sara to name just a few, have literally grown up involved in AKC Junior Handling competition. When Best In Show was over at the end of the day these guys still had never had enough and would gather up somewhere and play. What did they play? What else? Dog Show!
Camping on the grounds at the Asheville North Carolina shows one year "the gang" (which grew 2-3 more each weekend) gathered in the evening to play. Play what? You know, Dog Show!! They had a pretty good looking class going on, guessing by the mixture of breeds it must have been for Best In Show. 1 judge, 3 stewards (helping) and 8 or 10 kids and dogs (only 7 groups? Don't tell the kids this!) Interesting to note here, these guys shared a lot of inside tricks and information with each other. No holes barred. Well 10 and behold here comes a real cutie on the scene. She must have been 4 years old and had a complying, just as cute, Dachshund in tow. Picture these short little legs in very nice symmetry with her little dog. Cutie was just hoofing it over to this bunch of kids playing with dogs. There was slight hesitation, as the newby became a little apprehensive. Fortunately a Big kid picked up on it and got her attention pulling her and the cooperating Dach into the "after hours Junior Dog Show. Well the usual routines went on, stacking, gaiting, L's, T's, down and back, fronts, rears, shoe laces. As things moved on I began rummaging in the camper. "Gotta be one here somewhere" A Best In Show ribbon? Not likely but surly something would do! There it was, a Best Junior Ribbon. I don't recall if it was Val June or Scotts, or the show it was from but decided it would do just fine. I took it out to the Kid Judge as things were wrapping up. The implication was instantly understood. As placements were given out, (all after hour BIS qualifiers win) there was a special award for Best Junior. As the short legged cutie with the Dach was handed the prize my heart was in my throat. Back teeth were floating too (if you know what I mean!) but I didn't want to miss the moment. When she was given the slightly worn ribbon her eyes beamed, the little dog jumped on her legs understanding what he had done for his mistress. She took off running swinging that ribbon in the air, Dach doing what he could to keep up! Her family sitting in a campsite nearby watching, were thrilled for the up and coming and now very encouraged, Junior Handler.
Are you an adult involved with a Junior Handler? Have you had a similar experience? Is this not the most rewarding part of the sport? Children learning to enjoy dog sports together. If you have missed this part you are overlooking the real rewards!
You don't have a Camper? We have often stayed in hotels and the children make friends to swim with, talk to, and sit outside with chairs and pups. There are lawns to play on, blocked parking lots with vans full of dogs providing practice space. Everyone is doing it. Get out and watch them play, watch and learn. Encourage your junior to go over and involve the Newby. If the friendship works, well great. If not, ok move on and look for another. "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold". Also get ready for the friendships to get strained from time to time. The kids are the ones to work it out. We can't do this for them. "Let em go, Let em learn. True friendships tend to last a lifetime in this sport.