JUNIOR HANDLER Q&A
Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? At this time, breeding is not something that I have interest in doing. However, preservation breeding is very important. We’ve taken lots of steps to health test our dogs as well as get them titled in Conformation AND Field events. My dogs were bred to be fast and agile. It’s important to preserve that piece of them, and to keep that going in their lines, as well as good health. What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I know my future will involve animals. I would like to make sure that it also includes my artwork as well. I really enjoy dog sports and dog showing, and I don’t have any plans of stopping. I will continue to show my dogs and help to bring the best out in them—both in the ring and out. Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my cur- rent dog? My Juniors dog, Disco, was retired at the start of COVID. Since then, his son, Yoshi, has become my new Juniors dog. We are still a new Juniors team, and he can be QUITE SILLY. But, he does do his best. I do have to work extra hard to keep him engaged or I will lose his attention—fast. He will let me know if he’s having a “don’t touch me” day, and I have to adjust my technique to his mood. That being said, he’s a special boy with a lot of personality. He is my favorite “cuddler.” I know that we have lots to learn and grow, but I’m happy to do it with him. Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? There are a couple of times, when I either fell or almost fell, that were pretty funny. At the Borzoi Specialty, there was a hole that I didn’t see and I went feet up (dress and every- thing)! I was embarrassed, but kept going and did pretty well. I guess I can say that I learned you just have to ignore the small stuff. No one will remember your fall, but you will remember it if you let it ruin your performance. We only have a few minutes in the ring, so make them count. LAURA BUSSARD I live in Seattle, Washing- ton, and go to Nathan Hale High School. Do I have any hobbies or inter-
What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? I got into Juniors because my mom was starting to show Jasper, and I wanted to try showing too. Jasper was too headstrong and young for me to handle, so we decided that I should try Juniors with an older and more experienced Rhodesian Ridgeback. How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? The way I prepare my dog before showing varies depending on which dog I’m showing—and the weather. Maintaining their condition is some- thing that we take very seriously. No matter if I have a show or not, the dogs all get daily exercise. Before the show, the dogs get a “spa day” where I bathe them, do their nails, and curry comb them. On the day of the show, I like to get them really excited by talking and playing with them before we show. And right before the ring, I show them a special piece of bait and give them a kiss on their head. I nor- mally don’t need to do much to prepare myself mentally, aside from listening to music. As long as my dogs are prepared, I’m prepared. How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? I tend to not assess or assume anything about my competi- tion, we are all showing animals that won’t always be perfect. I try to go into the ring with the mentality that everyone will have an amazing performance, which pushes me to perform my best. In my experience, the majority of Juniors and their parents have always been very supportive and kind towards each other. I love how we help each other out, from giving rides to the shows and sharing bait and spray bottles ringside, to clapping and cheering each other on in Best Junior. What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? Overall, my experience with Juniors judges has been that they are really excited to see the future of the sport. Occasionally, a judge will come along and want a very particular style of handling, with a particular breed of dog, but the majority of time I feel that the judging is very fair and sincere. Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? I have assisted multiple Professional Handlers, includ- ing Andy Linton, Christy Marley, and Darcy and Anthony Cantor. All four have been incredibly supportive of my dog show journey. One of my mentors is Isabela Mailman, my Rhodesian Ridgeback’s breeder at Sweet Creek Rhodesian Ridgebacks. She has taught me a lot about Ridgebacks, conditioning, breeding, and training. Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? In 2018, I qualified to compete in Junior Showmanship at the 2019 Westmin- ster Kennel Club for the first time. I showed Jasper and made it to the final cut in the preliminaries. I was super proud of Jasper and really thrilled with how we showed. Other memorable wins include when we were ranked #1 Hound Junior Handler for 2018 and 2019, and in 2019, we ended the year as #5 Junior Handler All-Breed. How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? Rhodesian Ridgebacks, like any breed, have their own challenges surrounding showing, the biggest of which is that they are super smart. Every Ridgeback is so unique that you have to spend time and bond with each dog to know what will and what won’t work. In Juniors, I tend to show as I would in the regular Breed ring. I want the dog (not me) to draw the judge’s eye. In order to do this, I zone in on my dog and try to pick up on any shift in his concentration. I accentuate my dog in the ring by framing my dog and creating a “pretty picture.” Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than oth- ers? Overall, I would say, yes, but it depends on the Junior. For example, a lot of Juniors seem to choose breeds that are a bit flashy and obedient, but some Juniors also pick less popular breeds. Is there something that judges should know about judg- ing Juniors? Are all judges the same? One thing that I feel Judges should know about judging Juniors is that it is very help- ful when they explain what they were critiquing you on right before placements.
ests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? Outside of dog shows, I compete on my school’s varsity ten- nis and soccer teams. I am also a part of my school’s mock trial, FCCLA, and environmental club. My other
hobbies include horseback riding, reading, and hiking. Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? My family didn’t have any dogs until I was 10, when we got our first Rhodesian Ridgeback, Jasper. From that point on we fell in love with Ridgebacks, and went on to add three more to our family. Along with Ridgebacks, we have one Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I started competing in Junior Showmanship when I was 10 years old. Jasper was still a puppy and a bit of a wild child, so I took my breeder’s Rhodesian Ridgeback, Lottie, into Juniors. My very first show was at the Seattle Kennel Club. Leading up to the show, I practiced with Lottie and took a few handling classes, so I was really excited. I was also really excited to show Lottie because we were both 10 years old, and I thought it was so cool that we were the same age. I remember having trouble stacking her back legs because my arms were a bit too short, but Lottie was super patient with me. That day, I won my Novice Junior class, which got me hooked onto dog shows.
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