|Emma Echols' Crufts Trip 2012
In December 2011 I went to Orlando, FL, to compete in the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship where I had to compete against 168 other junior handlers to make it to the final 12 where one of us would be given the title "Best Junior Handler 2011".
It was mid afternoon when we finally arrived in England. The weather was a mildly warm 55 degrees, and partly sunny. A pretty decent day for England.
We took a train from Birmingham to Coventry, where we were staying, and walked to our hotel to settle in. After we'd unpacked, my mom and I both went straight to sleep. We were exhausted from the flight and very jet lagged. We spent most Wednesday trying to get over our jet lag too.
Thursday was the first day of crufts, and we took the train straight into the NEC (National Expo Center) where crufts was being held. I was completely overwhelmed by how huge the expo was. 250,000 sq. ft.! Yorkshire Terriers were being shown that day, and I was very interested in what the breed was like in Europe and how they showed them.
The way the breed is over there is a lot different than the way they look and are shown in America.
They have long tails and the grooming is a lot more low maintenance than it is in America. Instead of stacking them on the ground like we do in America, they stand them on little red velvet boxes. There were 115 yorkies entered, so we were there ringside watching all day.
Once they were finished, mom and I explored the NEC and looked at all the vendors and watched some other breeds briefly, and the obedience and agility rings.
Friday was the day that I had to go back to the NEC to sign in with the press booth and let them know that the United States junior was there, and then I had a brief interview with the IJH coordinator about my hobbies and ambitions. A few hours later, myself and the other 37 International Junior Handlers were all told to meet back at the press office, where we'd then be brought into the area where we'd be showing Sunday morning and evening, and we were shown how we'd enter the ring and basically the procedure of what we would do. After that was done, we all went to the Juniors banquet where all of the juniors had a nice dinner and made a speech introducing ourselves followed by a gift exchange. We also got to meet our finals judge and he gave a speech about what he liked in a handler and gave us tips on things that he said "May increase your chances of winning."
It was very different getting to mingle with the judge prior to our competition.
The dinner was a lot of fun, and I loved getting to meet people from all over the world. Getting a bunch of different gifts from different countries was really cool too!
We did a lot of walking and looking at a lot of old buildings and houses and we went and visited the Coventry Cathedral, which was very, very beautiful, along with England in general. It's a very beautiful country.
Sunday was the big day. Sunday was the day I finally got to meet the dog I would be showing in the competition, as you aren't allowed to bring your own dog to compete and everyone only meets their dog an hour before they show. I was extremely nervous about this, because you just never know if you're going to be given a dog who won't work well for you and may not even want to walk for you! The entire trip I was stressing over that one thing for the most part. It was very nerve racking.
When I arrived at 7:00AM Sunday morning, I was given an Australian Silky Terrier, named Gabriel. To my enormous relief, he was a very well behaved, well trained, and very socialized dog. After I met him and worked him and saw how well he and I bonded immediately, all the stress and nervousness I had felt previously went away. I knew then that this was not going to be any different than other dog shows I'd competed in before.
At about 9:30AM all the juniors were organized into alphabetical order and were walked into a room just outside the area where we all sat and waited anxiously for us to be told we were going in the ring.
When that time came, I was at the end of the line, so I was the last to be called into the ring. I started to get butterflies and my heart was racing as I stood at the entrance of the ring and waited to hear "And the United States of America!"
I walked into the huge ring, with green carpet, and what was going through my mind was "oh my gosh, don't trip, please don't trip." Haha!
Being at the end of the line, I had a long wait before it was my turn. Me and my silky, Gabe, just relaxed until I had about 7 dogs left until my turn. Then I started to try and get Gabe excited and ready to go by playing with him and walking him up and down behind the juniors.
Finally, it was my turn and I was motioned to go ahead and put my dog on the table just as the girl from The United Kingdom was taking their final run around the ring.
I had my dog perfectly stacked and ready just as the judge was coming to examine us. Gabe stood perfectly still the entire time and I was so pleased. The judge asked me if I knew how old the dog I was given was, and thankfully I did! So I told him he was 18 months. He then asked me to do a triangle and Gabe and I walked around and did a very nice, smooth triangle, and then came back to the judge and he nailed his freestack! I was so happy and thankful I was lucky enough to be given such a well-behaved dog.
After I returned to the end of the line, we were all told to leave the ring and then we'd swap dogs and return.
I was swapped with the girl from Australia's dog which was an Australian Shepherd.
His name was Casper and he was 16 months old. He was the complete opposite of the silky I had. He was very hyper and if he wasn't jumping all over me, he was trying to sit down. So he was a bit of a challenge. All the juniors only had 5 minutes to work with our new breeds before we entered the ring again.
I'd never shown an Australian Shepherd before, but I knew how they were supposed to look stacked and how to do it and all that so that wasn't going to be the hard part. The hard part was trying to get him to stand still after I'd stacked him haha!
Luckily for me though, I managed to get him stacked and standing still just as the judge came to me to briefly look at the dog then send us down and back.
Casper and I did a very nice down and back and I paced myself well with him.
As we came back to the judge and I stopped to get Casper to free stack, he did a PERFECT free stack and I was so happy I got him to behave in time for my turn. I thought I did a very nice job handling an Australian Shepherd for the first time, that I'd just met.
My mom and I had a long wait before we'd have to go back and show, since it was barely 11 when we'd finished and we weren't needed to return to our benches until 4:30. So mom and I did some more exploring and bought some crufts shirts, and mom got some new grooming supplies. Eventually we ran out of things to do and went back to our benches where I curled up and took a short nap and got something to eat.
4:30 finally started approaching and all the other juniors from other countries began to return to their benches.
Finally we were called to return to our seats outside the area and sit in alphabetical order with our original breeds we'd shown that morning. We went in before Best In Show so the area was packed with people, and it was being aired live on tv all over the UK.
They announced us into the ring one by one in alphabetical order. And again my heart was racing with anticipation as to what was going to happen. I hear again "And last but certainly not least, The United States of America!" and I walk into the ring and to the end of the line up. The judge took one last look at all of us before the announcer began reading out the judges short list.
"Australia, The Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Monaco, New Zealand, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, and... The United States of America!"
I couldn't believe it! I made the short list! I was so happy and so proud to have been able to make it that far and that I was able to make my country and all my friends proud. It was an incredible moment that I'll remember forever. I was so honored to get to be there, representing the USA. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The judge then began making his placements...
The winner was Portugal, 2nd was Sweden, and 3rd went to Monaco.
The whole thing was amazing. Congratulations to all, and thank you to the wonderful AKC for my huge Eukanuba win, giving me the chance to go to Crufts and represent my country.