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Tampa Juniors Clinic: The Dog Days of Summer
by Dr. Mary Burch

“The Dog Days of Summer” had a whole new meaning on July 29, 2006 at the Juniors Clinic in Tampa, Florida. Rapidly becoming recognized as one of the largest and most well-organized training events for Juniors in the country, the day-long clinic hosted nearly 120 Juniors (aged 8 to 18) and their dogs.

Representing the American Kennel Club, Mari-Beth O’Neill and Michael Sauve got the clinic off to a great start with their opening remarks and by outlining the schedule for the day. Throughout the day, O’Neill and Sauve were present to answer questions and serve as resources for parents, future judges, Juniors, and 4-H leaders.

Juniors were divided into twelve different working groups to learn about all of the aspects related to competing in Junior Showmanship. Well-known, experienced AKC judges were on hand to teach critical, specific skills needed in the conformation ring. There were also sessions on “How to Groom a Dog” and “Dressing for Success.” In addition, Michael Sauve taught on-going Judges Seminars throughout the day. AKC Professional Handlers taught the proper presentation of dogs in the show ring and experienced AKC Junior Handlers instructed participants on how to perform patterns, good sportsmanship, and having a winning attitude.

There were booths with AKC information and in the afternoon, Dr. Mary Burch, the AKC Canine Good Citizen Director, gave a CGC presentation to the group. At the end of the clinic, Juniors participated in show classes and a winner was named from each group to compete in the final Best Junior Handler Class. Ultimately, the Junior who was named Best Junior Handler of the Clinic was Molly Miller from Venice, Florida.

Sponsors for the clinic included the Tampa Bay Kennel Club, Warlick Hall Engineering, the Clearwater and Inverness Kennel Clubs, and the Florida 4-H Dog Project. Jerry Manning, Weslie Alford, LaWayne Wyatt, Bruce Hutcheson, and Jeremy Cutchens were responsible for setting up and breaking down the event.

The AKC judges who gave up their Saturday, donated their time, and provided their enthusiastic students with world-class instruction were: Bill Cunningham, Leah James, Patti Neale, Christopher Neale, Peggy Hauck, and Melanie Williams.

Teaching the group some important lessons that come only from years of experience were professional handlers Sandy Herzon, John Mello, Sam Steding, Carol Kepler, Bruce King and Mary Wright who graciously filled in for another handler on very short notice.

It was clear at this clinic that several experienced Juniors are well on their way to becoming good instructors of both dogs and humans. Along with Junior Instructor Angela Pickett, Juniors Megan Mello, Lindsey Grinels, Jessica Herzon, Tanner Norris, and Cheslie Pickett led informative, entertaining sessions throughout the day.

But great instruction and fun weren’t the only rewards for attending this high-powered seminar. Product sponsors went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure every Junior went home with useful, high-quality products. Product sponsors included Purina Pro Plan, Oster Professional Products, Jarden Consumer Solutions, First Choice Pet Products, Fromm Pet Foods, Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company, Canidae, Solid Gold, Dogswell, Cloud Star, State Farm Insurance, April Smith, Sumter County Animal Hospital, and Leigh McBride.

Best Junior Handler awards were offered by TopCrates, Robert Buchhofer, Nancy Mulligan, South Florida Basset Hound Club, and Carol Siflinger.

Christina Pawlosky from Oster Professional Products sent shampoo and conditioner bottles for every single participant and flew down and spent herentire day demonstrating and teaching grooming. Bob Ekle from Purina Pro Plan got the product donations ball rolling by sending donations for prizes and goody bags.

Finally, every great event has a person (or people) behind the scenes who works for months to make sure everything runs smoothly at the event. In this case, the person with tireless energy and a strong commitment to providing this wonderful learning opportunity to the young people who are the future of our sport was Sally Alford Manning. Sally began working on this year’s July clinic in January and her hard work paid off. Written evaluations from the parents of children who were present to observe the clinic were overwhelmingly positive. Better yet were the thank you’s and comments from the Juniors. Comments from the Juniors as they left sessions included, “I know I’ll be better at this now,” “He (the professional handler) showed me some really good tricks,” “That lady judge said I was real good-I’m going to keep practicing,” and “Mom, I think we need another dog.”

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