|Sunshine State Herding Group Junior's Jamboree
By Paige O'Donnell Vice President, SSHGA
On July 1st 2011 the first of our 60 juniors from Florida and Georgia arrived at the International Palms Hotel and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. The location was great for the convention rooms, the hotel rooms, and the relaxing afterhours amenities. The hotel was extremely accommodating, and had all the events in a localized area that was stress-free. The junior’s and their parents were provided rooms with monies raised by the generosity of multiple all breed and specialty dog clubs from Florida and Georgia, individual, corporate and company sponsorships. Twenty seven volunteers provided their expertise in areas such as Judging, grooming, Professional handling, peer mentoring and fashion assistance. And though we were in the land of Disney, this was no “Mickey Mouse” operation! This was an action packed, fun filled, educational 3 day experience for all involved.
Following this session the Novice group, broken into 3 segments, received a tutorial from Judges and Professional Handlers. The Open Group attended a grooming seminar. The second shift reversed the order. Parents and teachers got seriously involved indemonstrations of"what not to do" in the ring. Nothing like a visual to drive these points home! Too slow movement, too fast movement, covering dogs, dogs on the wrong side, and running up on dogs were only samples of the egregious behavior met with laughter and loud applause! Not to be outdone by his older peers, an ‘aged out’ junior was texting in the ring while showing his dog!
One Judge had this to say: “I can say that I witnessed a great group of children that were well-behaved. It was amusing to watch the kids walking their dogs, baggies in hand, and being overseen by their Moms and Dads. Hotel guests were overheard talking about all the juniors and their dogs, and I never heard a bad word. Many were excited to see the group, asking questions about their dogs and what they do. Hotel Guests were encouraged to pet the dogs and interact with them. What a great advertisement for our sport! Their enthusiasm was atomic in strength, and absolutely addicting! Hotel guests went away knowing what camaraderie we have in our sport, how we treat our children and our dogs. It was wonderful to see the children helping each other. They chatted and practiced together.When not in classes or practice sessions, the children ate their meals together, walked their dogs together. Many new friendships were made; email addresses and phone numbers exchanged. What made me smile, was over hearing two juniors saying: "hey, are you going to the next show? Oh, I'm glad, I'll meet you there!" That's something that our sport brings to the table: everlasting friendships. Our friends might be miles away, but we can ALWAYS meet at the dog show! Am I glad that my daughter and I went? Yessiree.She's meeting her new friend...at the next dog show!”
Juniors are the backbone of the future, whether dog show exhibitors, breeders, handlers or owners. We need to support juniors in their endeavor to continue in a sport that is slowly dying or dominated by older women. We have to encourage the juniors to pursue a subjective sport, which can be costly to parents. This sport teaches responsibility, manners, sportsmanship and above all; responsible dog ownership. SSHGA felt the Junior Jamboree was a way to contribute to the future, theirs and ours! One Junior Judge had this to say about his experience: “Having the opportunity to participate was not only invigorating, but it was a chance to help create the future of the sport. It is good to see so many children AND parents who are willing and wanting of knowledge. SSHGA provided a medium that allowed generations to interact for the benefit of all. I would gladly participate in all future events and would encourage clubs and cluster groups to follow suit.” And a Professional Handler’s words: “What a great learning experience for one and all. It was wonderful to see the older juniors helping some of the younger ones. I will always be at every jamboree to help where I can. Time well spent. They are the future in the sport of showing dogs. Great job to one and all.”
Personally, I was truly inspired by the team work of all of the volunteers. Everyone donated their time and experience for the singular goal of making this event a wonderful and memorable experience for juniors, CUDOS!