by Katie Konesky
Ever since I was seven years old, I found myself dazzled by the dog show world and the people within it. I thought of it as a big family that had gotten together almost every weekend and enjoyed doing the same thing. I soon became a member of the Golden Retriever Club of Western New York and the Golden Retriever Club of America with my mother, which allowed me to meet many people. I was thought of as the "young squirt" who was eager to learn how to become an ideal handler. Due to the fact that I was not very old, I was not allowed to participate in junior showmanship until I reached the age of ten, giving me a couple of years to develop my handling skills. I used this time to my advantage. For example, I attended dog class regularly and acquired a wealth of knowledge from a long time Irish Setter breeder known as Pat Nagel. To this day I credit her for who I became as a handler. She gave me the confidence I needed and taught me every aspect of junior handling. Over the eleven years I have known this woman, there has never been a dull moment!
Over the course of my handling career, I have had the privilege of working with and showing many dogs. The one that will forever have a place in my heart was my best friend Cash. This dog meant a great deal to me for the reason that I was able to start and finish his American Championship without the assistance of any professional handlers. It was not an easy road to his championship because the Golden Retriever ring is extremely competitive, but I was twelve years old when I put the last major on him. As we developed a great sense of teamwork, I regarded this dog as being the one who made it possible for me to become successful in juniors. I had the chance to go to both Westminster and the Eukanuba Classic Dog Shows with him, as well as two Golden Retriever nationals. Every time I showed this beautiful image of a dog, I treasured each moment. It, however, wasn't just about the winning that made this dog so special to me. It was the bond we developed while doing so. He, along with the many juniors I have met over the years, made junior showmanship worthwhile and memorable.
I plan to continue attending the University at Buffalo this fall and hope to apply to medical school in a couple of years, but it still is early for me to decide in which field I wish to specialize.
On the side, I will continue my passion for showing dogs and make an effort to travel to as many dog shows as I can. I look forward to carrying on my breeding program with my mother in order to produce golden retrievers that are fit to make their mark in the dog show world, as well as the family home. On a closing note, I see junior showmanship as a vital step that each young person interested in showing should take because the experiences one undergoes will only make that person a stronger and more confident handler. At least that is what has happened to me!